Cannabis and companion animals


Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and in Washington, DC.

Legal for people, that is, not pets.

As far as the medicinal benefits of marijuana for pets go, the jury is still out. In fact, there hasn’t even been a trial. But a researcher at the University of California–Davis School of Veterinary Medicine thinks there should be.

Jamie Peyton, DVM, DACVECC, CVA, and chief of small animal integrative medicine at the school, is the primary researcher behind a new survey to measure the use of marijuana on pets.

California was the first state to legalize pot for medicinal use in 1996 and in January is slated to become one of the latest states to legalize the sale of pot for recreational use. Peyton said that between increasing use of medical cannabis nationwide and the upcoming launch of recreational use in the Sunshine state, interest in using marijuana medicinally for pets is growing. The goal of the survey to start a conversation on the use of cannabis products for pets.

According to UC Davis, very little is known about what role or use cannabis may play in the health and wellbeing of companion animals. Currently, no states allow veterinarians to prescribe or recommend cannabis products for pets.

Peyton said, “This survey is not recommending or supporting the use, therapeutic or otherwise, of cannabis.” She points out that would be against the law, as cannabis and all its other products including CBD are classified as schedule I drugs by the DEA. “Our goal is to collect information from pet owners already giving these products to their animals to determine what they are giving, who they are getting advice from.”

The survey is anonymous, in case anyone taking it is worried about a late-night knock on the door by the DEA. Questions include:

  • Why does your pet need a cannabis product?
  • What is the name of the hemp/cannabis product?
  • Is the amount of Cannabidiol (CBD), Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or other cannabinoids in product listed?

CBDs and THCs are the major players in the composition of marijuana, and the main difference between the two is that THCs will get you high while CBDs won’t. CBDs also have significant medical benefits, which is why they’re of such interest to both researchers and pet owners.

The survey also asks respondents if they would be interested in participating in an eventual study on the physical effects of marijuana on their pets.

Pet owners taking the survey might be hesitant to say yes, given the widespread belief that marijuana is toxic to pets. But once again, CBDs versus THCs is the big story here.

In states that have legalized recreational marijuana, pet owners can buy biscuits and other products containing nonpsychoactive cannabinoid compounds (e.g., CBD), and anecdotal reports indicate that some find cannabis products helpful for pain, arthritis, seizures, or anxiety in both dogs and cats.

No wonder pet owners are interested.

And wary. According to a 2016 study on marijuana toxicity in pets conducted in Colorado, a state where both medicinal and recreational marijuana use is legal, two dogs that ate baked products made with medical grade marijuana died. But THC, not CBD, was the active cannabinoid in both cases.

“CBD is relatively nontoxic from what we’ve seen so far,” said Narda G. Robinson, DO, DVM, MS, FAAMA, and co-author of another 2016 study on consumer’s perceptions of hemp products for animals by researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. “It’s the THC that veterinarians are concerned about.”

Robinson, president and CEO of CuraCore Integrative Medicine and Education Centers in Fort Collins, CO, says, “Our profession as a whole needs to be far more proactive in recognizing and educating our clients about the risks, benefits, and research on plant-based medicines. Otherwise we are abdicating our responsibility to our clients and patients.”

Photo credit (c) Roxana Gonzalez

NEWStat Advancements & research News Interesting/unusual