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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