Since most people are as solicitous to the health and care of their pets as they are to their own health, it is not surprising to find that those who utilize medical cannabis to benefit their own health would also want to provide medical cannabis to their pets as well.
Just like humans and almost all vertebrates, pets have an endocannabinoid system that can benefit from the use of the supplemental cannabinoids. Since most people will be using cannabis for canine and feline companions (not for the avian varieties), this article focuses on providing cannabis specifically for the 186 million dogs and cats that are comfortably ensconced in American homes.
Cannabis can be as safe for pets as it is for people, but there are negative consequences that need to be taken into account. The most common negative effect is the same as it is for humans—overdosing. The average size dog weighs less than a five-year-old child, and the average size cat weighs less than a six-month-old child, so providing your pet with too much cannabis can easily occur.
In the February 2013 journal Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, researchers reported that “The minimum lethal oral dose for dogs for THC is more than 3 g/kg.” That is a high dose of THC, but still caution is the watchword when dosing your pets.
Canines are more sensitive to THC than are humans, as they have more CB1 receptors in their brainstem. It is unlikely a dog will die from an overdose with the few reported cases usually resulting from a dog getting into the owners stash and consuming a quantity of edibles that would knock out a sumo wrestler. Although the quantity of cannabis consumed can be dangerous, it is the chocolate, raisins and macadamia nuts found in the edibles which are often the most lethal—especially for dogs.
“When administered properly, dogs and cats can benefit from using cannabis for the very same ailments used to treat humans . . . ”
Most likely the overdose experience will be extremely uncomfortable physically for your pet and emotionally for you as you watch your devoted pet enter a state of lethargy, hyper salivation and/or difficulty standing and walking. If your pet’s behavior is unusual, bringing them to a veterinarian for an evaluation would be advisable. Prevention is always best, so keep your cannabis locked up and out of reach of not just your kids, but your pets as well.
When administered properly, dogs and cats can benefit from using medical cannabis for the very same ailments used to treat humans—seizures, nausea, stress, anxiety, osteoarthritis, back pain, symptoms of cancer and gastrointestinal issues.
Once you’ve decided to treat your pet with cannabis, the next question is, what’s the best way to provide cannabis to a pet? Smoking is obviously not a viable option for dogs and cats. Exhaling directly into a pet’s nostrils is not at all recommended, as the particles in smoke can be harmful to their airways and correct dosing is impossible to ascertain.
The best way to provide a measured dose is to use lab-tested cannabis oils or tinctures with cannabinoid potencies listed on the label, then mix them in with your pet’s food. Use one of the cannabis products made expressly for dogs and cats, which have specific dosing information included. If your dispensary doesn’t stock any, tell them to get with the trend, or find one that does.
A variety of factors must be considered such as the cannabinoid ratio and the concentration (mg/ml) of the product being used, the weight of your pet and the condition being treated. Consultation with a medical professional familiar with pet cannabis therapy is a necessary course of action.
Since the American Veterinary Medical Association has taken the position that cannabis needs more study before it is given to pets, it is essential to consult your pet’s veterinarian before starting them on a cannabis regimen. Some veterinarians may be reluctant to discuss this subject as, unlike medical doctors, state law often prohibits veterinarians from even recommending cannabis therapy for animal patients.
But that may change soon in the future. In California for instance, Assemblymember Ash Kalra, recently introduced Assembly Bill 2215, instructing the state Veterinary Medical Board to develop guidelines for discussing the use of medical cannabis for pets and to “protect state-licensed veterinarians from disciplinary action for discussing the use of cannabis on animal patient clients.”