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Use of Cannabis in Dogs and Cats

With more governments choosing to decriminalize marijuana and the recent surge in medicinal use in people, many are discussing its use in other species. Cannabis may well become the next wonder drug, but right now we have limited information on its therapeutic use in our pets.

We have certainly been treating lots of dogs who have consumed too much of their owner’s cannabis products recently, which probably relates to how those products are prepared and packaged. The availability of edible products in the marketplace has provided tasty marijuana-infused sweets and treats which our pets will consume as readily as we do. Generally speaking, these patients will recover with standard supportive care. I do not think there have been many animal fatalities associated with marijuana intoxication. But the bigger question is whether we can use these products medicinally in pets as is being done with people.

Currently, there is a small number of veterinarians who are experimenting with cannabis and cannabidiols in small animals. To be clear, there is absolutely no standard dose or safety information on these products in small animal medicine, and all use is experimental. Further, there is absolutely no rationale for use of a psychoactive or hallucinatory product in small animal medicine. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid that may have positive effects for control of pain and aiding in the treatment of some diseases, such as epilepsy. There currently are a handful of scientists studying CBD as therapy for small animal medical problems. This will likely lead to more widespread use in veterinary medicine. A story was published by CBC regarding veterinary related cannabis use in pets.

One thing I can say is if you plan to use a cannabidiol product on your pet, start low and go slow. I do have a small number of clients who have indicated to me that they have made to decision to use these products on their own pets. Many have done so out of frustration with a prescribed product for their pet, or from their personal history with chronic disease. If you purchase a “pet labelled” product on the internet, please be careful. It is also important to consider, and current Canadian legislation is always not clear, that it may not be legal to purchase these materials from certain vendors.

As a provider of pet health and information, I wish I had all the answers to this one. I think cannabis products will become more widespread for use in our pet populations, but it will take time. I do strongly advise consumers of cannabis to safely store their products out of reach of their pets. And I do encourage the start low and go slow approach if you decide to dose your pet with CBD related products.

Written by: Dr. Kip Grasse, Veterinarian

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