Cannabis is becoming more and more legal throughout the world, and this could have a severe impact on your beloved pet.
“Cannabis is very much in the vogue with regards to treating all sorts of ailments, from cancer to itchy skin. Not much of this is supported by actual science though,” says Dr Omar Mehtar of TAH Somerset West.
“There are currently no medical grade cannabis products registered for animal use. Any use towards pets is going to be ‘off label’, where the pet owner accepts the responsibility and risk of the product,” he adds.
Interesting to note that, in countries where cannabis has become legal, there was a sharp increase (by 4-5 times the original amount) of cannabis toxicity or accidental ingestion amongst pets. Dogs are also far more likely to eat the products than cats, as cats are fussy eaters at the best of times.
Signs of toxicity:
- Appearing ‘slow’ and lethargic.
- Cannot focus well and may stumble and trip when walking.
- Appearing to fall asleep when standing.
Severe symptoms include:
- Inability to control core body temperature.
- Severe agitation (can cry, howl or be extremely restless).
- A very fast or very slow heart rate.
- Less receptive to pain, which can cause major issues
- Coma and death have been recorded in a few cases.
No cannabis oils and other herbal remedies are registered for animals use and none have been shown to have any value to animals (or humans). When you decide to take the risk to apply these products to your pet, look out for low THC or THC free products as these would be the ‘safer’ products to use.
THC is the compound in cannabis that gives humans the high or psychotropic effect. Dogs and cats do not experience a ‘high’ but can still be affected by THC.
CBD (cannabidiol) is the other major compound in cannabis and is what is currently being studied for human medication. It has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the worst childhood epilepsy syndromes, like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to anti-seizure medications.
In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and in some cases, it was able to stop them altogether. Recently the FDA approved Epidiolex, the first ever cannabis-derived medicine for these conditions.
CBD is commonly used to address anxiety and for patients who suffer from insomnia, and studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.
It may also offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. A study from the European Journal of Pain using an animal model, indicated that CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain – two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. More research on humans (and animals) is needed in this area to substantiate the claims of CBD proponents about pain control.
There is thus some evidence that cannabis can help with anxiety, pain control and seizures, but not in the natural form that some people enjoy, and certainly not to be smoked!
“If you have a product that you would like to try on your pet, for whatever reason, rather ask your vet who can discuss the pros and cons of trying out untested and unregulated products like cannabis, on your beloved pet. There are some products in the overseas market that are aimed and tested for pets and pet owners should rather be seeking these than anecdotal products found in the unregulated human market,” Dr Mehtar concludes.