Cannabis for Canines

Updated: Feb 16, 2019

It's 2018 and in some states, the legalization of recreational marijuana is not just a measure on the ballot anymore. Like the old days of Prohibition, people celebrated the news in excess and pet owners are left wondering if they can use cannabis for their canines.

Just to be clear, I'm not recommending any pet owner to use cannabis on their pets until they clear it with their veterinarian.

Similar reactions between humans and dogs

The same goes for dogs as it does for humans who choose to intake cannabis: size matters. It's crucial to know your dog's body weight to determine a non-lethal dosage of cannabis to intake.

The effects of marijuana on dogs is listed below:

  • Lethargy

  • Breathing problems

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Abnormal heart rhythms

  • Loss of balance

  • Urinary incontinence

  • Panting and/or pacing

The difficulty in determining the right dosage is that you won't know if your dog will have this reaction without trial and error. That's why it's so important to always consult your veterinarian.

Cannabis consumption

See the video above showing a Siberian Husky named "Loki" have a reaction to eating his owner's cannabis-infused rice krispy treat.

There are only two ways that dogs will be able to intake cannabis: ingestion or secondhand smoke. It's really important to exercise caution when having your dog ingest cannabis because the risk of marijuana poisoning in dogs is moderate to severe, according to the Pet Poison Helpline.

At this point, it's important to define the two key chemical compounds found in marijuana, which are: THC and CBD. THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive portion of the marijuana plant, while CBD (or cannabidiol) extracts are said to help with anxiety, chronic pain, stress, and seizures, to name a few.

Cannabis edibles that are especially appealing to dogs include brownies and cookies. It's important to note that the wrapping and foil around the edibles are not enough to deter your dog from getting into your stash. Most dogs will just eat through the packaging, which introduces butter, sugar, and metallic substances to your dog's stomach, in addition to cannabis. Most cannabis intoxication cases are accidental and typically ingested by a curious pup who go into their owner's stash, marijuana plant leaves that are reachable, or discarded products (i.e. joints or roaches) on the ground that are quickly consumed by the pets on their walk.

If your dog has consumed an unknown amount while unsupervised, it's imperative that you call your veterinarian or Animal Poison Control immediately. Consuming high levels of cannabis can be dangerous and often life threatening for your dog.

An added level of difficulty when dealing with canine cannabis consumption is that the effects and serious symptoms often look the same. Serious symptoms include:

  • Severe depression

  • Walking drunk

  • Lethargy

  • Coma

  • Low heart rate

  • Low blood pressure

  • Respiratory depression

  • Dilated pupils

  • Coma

  • Hyperactivity

  • Vocalization

  • Seizures

  • Heavy drooling

  • Vomiting

  • Agitation

  • Tremors

  • Convulsions

Medicinal benefits

In cases where your dog has chronic pain (i.e. arthritis), disease, or is terminally ill, marijuana is an option for pain management, decreases nausea, and increased appetite. It's important to note that different strains of marijuana and levels of THC will provide different results. With some many similarities between humans and dogs, it's no wonder why we're naturally best friends.

So far, there is very little research about the effects of marijuana on dogs. This is making it extremely difficult for pet healthcare providers to have a definitive stance on the topic.

Cannabis controversy & headlines

Between 2015 and 2017, the FDA had issued approximately 44 warning letters and test results for cannabidiol-related products. The FDA is aware of pets consuming various forms of marijuana; however, they have not directly received any adverse event reports associated with giving cannabis to animals. Currently, the FDA is collecting information about cannabis and cannabis-related products being marketed for animals.

According to an article from USA Today, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, Westchester County, introduced legislation that would change state law to allow veterinarians to prescribe medical marijuana to animals. This has also spurred Nevada and California to consider legislation which legalizes marijuana for animals with the intent to aid those pets with chronic illnesses.

VETCBD is bringing CBD oil products for your pet exclusively to California dispensaries. The website feels very comprehensive as they offer basic CBD information, blog posts, testimonials, and locations of dispensaries that carry their products.

An Oklahoma long-haired Dachshund named "Oscar", who was a breeding dog that spent most of his life in a puppy mill, was unable to use either of his hind legs. That was until his owner and veterinarian decided to use a combination of spinal surgery and CBD oil as treatment. Afterwards, Oscar was able to stand for several seconds at a time, which is amazing considering he was facing odds of never walking again.

Institutions such as the University of California, Davis' veterinary department is currently conducting research and gathering data on the use of cannabis for pets. Participants in the survey have reported their pets were benefiting from non-psychoactive CBD oil, as some owners have notice a reduction of their pet's pain, anxiety, and seizure occurrences.

In Alaska, an owner of a 15-year old Arabian horse named "Gus" was able to calm his horse down with CBD oil treatment during a fireworks show that had initially set the horse in panic mode.

The topic of using cannabis for dogs is definitely raises a heated debate between pet owners. Divisive cases range from owners who are medicating their dogs without veterinary approval or supervision to particular marijuana dispensaries selling dog treats with cannabis. The truth is, we won't know the full benefits and consequences until more research is conducted. Currently, the use of cannabis for canines is not approved by the FDA, AVMA, ASPCA, or any other organization.

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