Cannabis for pets? Sure, but old Fido won’t lose all motivation and vigilance; Felix won’t stop bringing half-dead mice into the house; the bird won’t start spouting philosophy; and Seabiscuit would still win races. There is no cause for alarm or skepticism, because this stuff only contains cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive cannabinoid in Cannabis sativa.
Cannabinoids have been found throughout the animal kingdom by scientists. Called endocannabinoids, they are distinguished from the phytocannabinoids (phyto=plant) derived from cannabis. These naturally occurring compounds are produced by our bodies and circulate in our bloodstream, binding to cannabinoid-specific (CB) receptors in our brain and peripheral nervous system to regulate certain vital functions like higher thought, sleep, and appetite.
CBD, however, has no affinity to CB receptors, instead prolonging the effects of our body’s own cannabinoids. Without this affinity, there is no psychoactivity, and hence no euphoric narcosis. What is more, CBD has been found to mitigate the effects of delta-9 tetrohydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid in marijuana that gets us high.
Having anti-oxidant and antipsychotic properties, CBD has been proven effective in the treatment of many otherwise pharmacoresistant ailments including cancer, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, and migraines. There are also no known adverse side effects related to the application of CBD. As we humans occupy our own niche in the animal kingdom and have similar cannabinoids in our biological systems, there is no reason to believe that CBD wouldn’t help our pets as well. And the anecdotal evidence is starting to pile up.
Denise, a woman living in West Hollywood, had a 12 year-old Labrador-mix, Miles, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and on the pain medication tramadol. As a result, Miles was suffering in a sustained, acute, and painful lethargy, with no appetite and severe nausea. However, within an hour of giving Miles a CBD tincture recommended by a friend, the dog became more alert, his appetite returned, and his nausea abated.
“The other great thing is that in the last couple of weeks, Miles has been going to the beach, he’s been running, he’s being himself. If Miles was on the tramadol, he’d be in bed, and he wouldn’t be enjoying anything or eating anything, and he’d probably be dead. I’m just really grateful we found this.”
Southern Californian Becky Flowers owns a 20 year-old Paso Fino horse, named Phoenix, who suffered from degenerative ligament disease for years and, becoming unresponsive to traditional therapies, eventually laid on her side and stopped eating or drinking. Considering euthanasia, Becky decided as a last resort to give Phoenix a small amount of marijuana. Within a short time, the horse got up and began walking, eating, and drinking normally. Since then, Becky gives a homemade cannabis-infused butter to the horse once a day as a preventative medicine (As an aside, she also gives it to her Chinese-crested dog, Tripper, who stopped neurotically chewing his feet).
“With cannabis, I don’t worry about potential liver damage as with bute. I also don’t worry about her overdosing, as I only give her a small amount. She never appears panicky or disoriented. She’s just her normal, happy Phoenix,” Becky said.
Because of accumulating research citing CBD’s immense utility as a pharmaceutical in humans, along with the growing number of people with stories similar to those above, some veterinarians are understandably intrigued with its potential application in their field.
Dr. Douglas Kramer had an experience similar to Denise when his terminally-ill Siberian husky’s quality of life markedly improved after being given CBD. Though it is still illegal to prescribe cannabis to animals, Dr. Kramer nevertheless favors continued research into the plant.
“I don’t want to come across as being overly in favor of giving marijuana to pets. My position is the same as the AMA’s. We need to investigate marijuana further to determine whether the case reports I’m hearing are true or whether there’s a placebo effect at work. We also need to know what the risks are.”
A Seattle-based veterinary couple has developed a line of supplements, called CannaPet, containing non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids, flavenoids, and terpenes derived from cannabis. Though developed for preventative health and well-being, Dr. Sarah Brandon, CannaPet’s creator, claims amazingly positive results in ailing patients.
"We've had a 100 percent positive reaction. We're seeing cats and dogs experiencing discomfort walking, or even moving around, significantly improve."
Another company called Treatibles has developed a cannabiscuit, which contains 1mg CBD per treat, that was developed for the health and wellness of all those unwavering canine companions out there that have our backs. Apparently, we could do the same for them by feeding them CBD, ameliorating the unseen dangers of this dog-eat-dog world.
The evidence suggests that it couldn’t hurt.