Treating Your Pets With Cannabis

A little CBD can lead to healthier, happier, more cuddly critters.

As marijuana becomes more accessible, more people are integrating it into their lives—and, naturally, into the lives of their pets.

Now we all knew that asshole in high school who blew bong rips in his pet’s ear just to watch it freak out and then sleep for 10 hours. This is not that. We’re talking about treating animals with medicinal cannabis—addressing a pet’s medical problems with tinctures and balms made primarily from hemp-derived THC-A or CBD, neither of which are psychoactive. Just as cannabis and its family of molecules can relieve human sufferers from the symptoms of arthritis, epilepsy, and cancer, folks are finding, with much smaller doses, the same type of relief for their furry friends.

This is not a new idea. There is evidence that the ancient Greeks treated their horses and perhaps other livestock with cannabis for a wide host of ailments, from nosebleeds to tapeworms, especially skin conditions and wounds. The U.S. Cavalry used cannabis to treat intestinal problems in their horses in the late 1800s.

On the downside, basically zero clinical research has been done on any of the effects of cannabis on any nonhuman animal. And because cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug, veterinarians in some states are forbidden even to discuss it as a treatment option, so figuring out what a safe dosage is could be tricky. Almost the entire body of evidence in favor of this experimental treatment is anecdotal.

But that evidence is astonishing. Many stories come from pet owners who want to relieve their pet’s suffering during their last months or weeks with terminal diseases. The pharmaceuticals that vets are allowed to prescribe often rob their pets of their joy for life, and some even make the problems worse. Pet owners who switch to cannabis report an ability to manage their pet’s pain without the side effects of traditional medicines like tramadol. Pet owners often report an increase in appetite, a desire to play and snuggle, and a general sense of “returning to normal.” Treatments are even starting to turn up in shops, with dispensaries in California offering high-CBD or THC-A tinctures from Dr. Douglas Kramer, a veterinarian specializing in cannabis treatment for pets. Specifically created for cats and dogs with high inflammation, severe pain, and end-of-life issues, the tinctures are available to people with medical cards.

And cannabis isn’t being used only for dogs and cats. Brian Walker and Ed Breslin in California created a modern version of those ancient Greek hemp-derived horse remedies in a line of poultices and tinctures called Lame Away.

Hopefully in the future law will relax and more research can be done. And one last note: If you have pets and you use cannabis, I recommend keeping some activated charcoal in the house. It’s a safe treatment for a worst-case scenario of a curious pet getting into the weed stash. And if you have to go to the vet, be honest about what happened. They just have your best friend’s interest in mind.

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