Medical Marijuana for Dogs?

Medical Marijuana for Dogs

by Cate Burnettet, RVT

Please Note: This article is not an endorsement for medical marijuana use in pets, and is only intended to provide pet owners with information on a possible new veterinary therapy.

With 20 states enacting laws that allow humans to consume medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription, the veterinary community is looking into the possible use of the plant in the treatment of various illnesses for pets.

Dr. Douglas Kramer, a small animal veterinarian in California, admits to using marijuana to help his cancer-stricken Siberian Husky. “Nikita was wasting away, and she’d stopped eating,” he recalls in the article. “I’d exhausted every available pharmaceutical pain option, even steroids. At that point, it was a quality of life issue, and I felt like I’d try anything to ease her suffering.”

Dr. Kramer started feeding Nikita a small amount of marijuana daily and he reports that her appetite returned and she seemed to be much less painful during her final months.

Because of his own experience, and the tales from a number of his clinic clients, Dr. Kramer is pushing to bring veterinary medicine into the debate regarding the use of medical marijuana. He believes the evidence is clear that marijuana can be successfully used as an alternative or adjunctive treatment for pain and palliative care in animals. “The veterinary community needs to address the issue, but we don’t want to talk about it, even though it’s clear our clients are giving marijuana to their pets, with good and bad effects,” he says in the JAVMA article.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association provides anecdotal evidence that marijuana may be proving to be effective as an analgesic (pain relieving drug), an appetite stimulant and an anti-nausea medication in dogs with cancer and osteoarthritis.

According to the article, a senior Labrador Retriever-type dog named Miles was diagnosed with advanced splenic cancer and given 2 months to live. His veterinarian prescribed Tramadol to relieve his pain. But, Denise, Miles’ owner, did not like the residual effects of the Tramadol on her dog.

“Every time we gave it to him, he would just sleep; he wouldn’t even move. He’d just lay there like he was dead,” said Denise, who asked that her real name not be used in the article.

When a friend suggested that she give Miles a tincture of marijuana sold as a pet medicine in legal marijuana dispensaries throughout southern California, Denise tried it, thinking it could not be any worse than the drugs he was already taking.

Within an hour of ingesting the medical marijuana, Miles’ appetite was back, he was no longer vomiting and within a couple of wees he was running at the beach and back to his old self. “It couldn’t have been a coincidence,” Denise says in the article.

In the same article, other pet owners have reported similar results when giving their pets medical marijuana for chronic pain. Ernest Misko, who noticed the palliative effects marijuana had for his own back pain, used the same tincture as Denise on his 24-year-old arthritic cat, Borzo. Within a few days, Borzo was walking better and appeared to be pain-free, reports Misko.

Becky Flowers’ 20-year-old Paso Fino horse Phoenix was diagnosed with a degenerative ligament disease that was so painful she eventually could no longer walk and had stopped eating and drinking. None of the conventional veterinary pain medications helped for very long. In desperation, Flowers gave her horse a small amount of marijuana to eat, and, according to Flowers, within an hour Phoenix was up walking, eating and drinking. She continues to feed Phoenix a marijuana-laced butter once a day and says the horse is “doing incredible.”

At this point, however, the AVMA has not come out in support – or rejection – of the medical benefits of marijuana in animals citing a lack of statistical research. Dr. Dawn Boothe, director of the Clinical Pharmacology Laboratory at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology notes that veterinarians shouldn’t discount marijuana’s potential therapeutic effects simply because it is a plant or a controlled substance. Morphine is both, and its effect on humans and animals has been thoroughly studied. Dr. Boothe says that has not happened as yet for marijuana, and owners who give the drug to their pets may be unintentionally putting their animals at risk.

In Colorado, where recreational marijuana use is now legal, veterinarians are seeing a definite increase in the number of pets being brought in to clinics and emergency hospitals suffering from marijuana poisoning after ingesting pot-laced edibles.

An ABC News Report quotes Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald of the VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver as saying that since 2010, the number of poisoning cases seen at the hospital have grown from “roughly two cases a month to one every other day.”

Dilated eyes, drooling, and appearing drunk are all symptoms that your pet might show with an overdose of marijuana. Eaten in high levels, it can lead to seizures. In even higher levels, death has been known to occur.

“There’s no antidote for marijuana,” says Fitzgerald in the report. “The only way we treat is just be supportive, we watch for seizure and measure body temp and then put them on fluids to try and expel it quicker.”

After noticing that some of her animal patients were overdosing on their owners’ attempts to use medical marijuana for pain and nausea, Seattle veterinarian Sarah Brandon has spent the last five years developing a hemp-based product that has many of the same beneficial compounds as pot, but without the THC that causes the problems. Called “Canna-Pet” and sold at $1 a pill, the compounds feature all the natural components of marijuana, without the high.

According to Brandon, the results have been dramatic. “We’ve had a 100 percent positive reaction. We’re seeing cats and dogs experiencing discomfort walking or even moving around significantly improve.”

For dog ownerswho don’t live in areas where medical marijuana is legal, or who are averse to giving pets an unfamiliar drug, you can try an all-natural herbal tonic developed to relax and calm anxious, nervous dogs. With just a few drops of tonic in your dog’s mouth daily, the compound begins to work in about 20 minutes. Used in conjunction with veterinary analgesics, you can help your painful dog unwind enough to allow pain meds to work quickly and more effectively.

For dogs experiencing painful arthritis, hip dysplasia and luxating patellas, you might try an all natural herbal tonic also containing collagen. This mixture can help patients in as little as a couple of weeks.

What do you think? Should veterinarians be allowed to provide medical marijuana to their patients or is it too risky?

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  1. if it helps to alleviate pain and or discomfort in my dog or any animal it should be used. I’m all for it!

  2. If everyone would stop looking at marijuana as an illegal drug and start seeing it for the benefits that it can have; these conversations would never have to take place. It’s benefits far out weight the negatives. It really is that simple.

  3. Yes I feel like they should give pet owners that options. As a person whom has had to nurse several pets over the Rainbow bridge, I know the effects of normal prescription medications. Many of them (in my experience) have more drawbacks than positives. If the meds make them sleep all day and vomit, what sort of quality of life is that? If pot can give a better quality of life to sick or dying pets, it needs to be investigated and studied. Our pets deserve the very best we can give them – we are their voices and their guardians. Who are we to withhold medical Marijuana if it will make our pets better or ease their pain?

    The pain meds one of my dogs was prescribed to manage his pain from cancer had horrible side affects. He went from being still active, loving, and wonderful to a fearful, shaking, vomiting mess within 48 hours of starting the medication. The same week he lost control of his bowels and started nipping and whining constantly. I took him of the pills and it all stopped. He did show pain and I ended up putting him to sleep to end his suffering. I wish medical Marijuana would have been an option for me.

  4. I believe dispensing of marijuana for pet use should be regulated by a vet. Medical marijuana is regulated by a Dr. Moderation is the key to use of anything. I find the idea of improving a pet’s quality of life in their end days appealing and humane. My dog is a dog; but to me he is family and deserves any and every treatment available to him so he can be pain free until his last breath.

  5. I think if it helps the human or the pet medical marijuana should be approved, dshould be legal, alcohol is definitely worse than marijuana, people are so hung up on the illegal aspects of marijuana but they fail to see God said he would provide all our needs and I truly believe anything he has, natural is better than this pharmaceutical junk!

  6. I agree with Dr. Kramer. A friend’s cat was given 3 months to live… 2.5 years ago… the doctor has no idea how the cat, who is blind and cancer filled, is still alive… and doesn’t appear to be in any immediate pain… our theory is second hand marijuana smoke… so why not take it one step further? Likely not for every pet but would work for some…

  7. no, would not take for myself nor would give to my dogs….i prefer homeopathic meds and solutions. no one knows the end result of any of this.

  8. I think it is a great Idea ! I would use it for my dog in a heartbeat if it were available . I know it works for people , and so many of the Drugs that the dogs and humans are giving have so many side effects such as Liver, kidney , other organs damage . I wish I could of have it just a week ago I had to put my one dog Tank down and believe me I think it would have helped him … The meds we did try made him lifeless . SO please I pray that one day it can be used for our best friends / 4 legged children .

  9. Yes,If it helps,better then some of the medications out there.

  10. I have severe osteoarthritis, to a point that the prescribed medication doesn’t work to keep me out of pain, but enough for me to get around, if Texas would legalize medical Marijuana, or Marijuana I would definitely try it even though I’m disable, for the fact that the medications I take now are so harmful for my body like: can cause kidney failure, liver damage and so on, i know its the same for dogs, i had a dog with diabetes who took shots every day and it caused her kidneys to fail. I’ve never heard of Marijuana causing that. So I think it would be better for humans and animals to live a pain free, and healthier life with out all the side affects.

  11. I am all for it. Anything that can help should be tried. Too much of a stigma is placed on Marijuana as a get-high drug and not enough credit is given for its therapeutic value.

  12. As long as it was medically controlled by my vet then yes why not – I’m not in favor of drug taking but it helps my fur-babies I’d be willing to try it.

  13. Marijuana is as natural as one can get in treating ailments. I think it’ a shame that our Government has deemed it a dangerous drug when studies have proven that it is effective in treating many issues. Back in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, marijuana was used regularly without stigma or penalty but now in the twenty first century Big pharma and big government has stifled the rights of the people and even common sense. This is a wonderful, natural drug that can provide relief to ourselves as well as our pets and it should be approved for veterinary use. I have Canna pet on hand just in case I need it for my dogs. I do think it’s over priced but I have yet to see it’s effect so I cannot attest to it’s usefulness.

  14. How could anyone not want the best and newest treatment for our family pets.Watching my dog go blind and with painful eyes there is not much that can be done maybe this would of helped I know it does in people to slow it down My dogs have a wonderful eye doctor but I really would like more treatments ,its very hard to give them pain pills with they don’t like .

  15. I spent 6 years of my life as a Registered nurse working in a full care facility for geriatric and Alzheimer patients. My heart would break to watch these sweet souls wait by the door of their bleak, dark rooms hoping a family member would come to visit. More often than not in the final hours of their lives when they were in the most pain, suffering vulnerable and scared it was my hand they held, with no family member around. When they took their last breath, I was the one holding them, reassuring them that their life mattered and their pain had finally come to an end.
    In the 6th year of my career I got hospice certified and began home nursing for patients at the end of their journey. Some of my patients were younger than myself. The end result was always similar, family members were seldom around, I believe reality and a guilty conscience was the main reason. Their pain and fear was real and sometimes hard to bare. Again, I would hold their hand, pray with them and be there as they took their last breath.
    I moved to N.C. with my husband and decided I needed a change. I had spent my life around animals and loved them all. I left my nursing career to work at a vets office bathing animals. I LOVED every minute of it! It was soon after I started that the office manager came to me and asked if I would like to train as a vet tech. ( I never used my R.N. status to get me any where) I happily agreed and I began the best journey of my life. It was such a joy to give an animal relief from their pain, to see people love their dogs, cats, and others as much as their children. Yes, and in the end , to be able to humanely put them to sleep if they were suffering. To allow them their dignity as they crossed over to The Bridge.
    It is almost 20 years later, I own a 10 acre rescue farm. I have brought my children up to know that if a being has a heart that beats, it feels pain and needs to be respected and treated with love and humanely at all times. I have rescued and rehomed over 3oo dogs and cats, I have given over 100 ducks, geese, chickens and most recently a pot bellied pig a loving, caring home that would have otherwise been put to sleep.
    My point is, if we as humans have an alternative available that can eliminate or at least subside pain for our fur and feathered family members, why wouldn’t we? In a day when there is so much violence, pain and suffering it seems to me we would cling to the miniscule pieces of hope, love and humanity and embrace them. Sincerely, Beth Charnetzky

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