Veterinarians voice concerns over growing trend of cannabis treatment for pets
Some pet owners are turning to cannabis therapy for their pets, but without regulations or guidelines for usage, some veterinarians are raising questions about whether medical marijuana is safe for animals.
Cannabis products for pets are often used to treat osteoarthritis pain, anxiety and seizures.
Pet owner Kyle Neilsen says he started giving his Leonberger Anna cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound found in marijuana, to help her deal with a painful birth defect.
“From her shoulder down is all deformed,” he told CTV Vancouver. “With how many surgeries she had, it was always sore. She's now much happier. She seems less depressed. She has a lot more energy."
And he’s not the only pet owner looking for alternative ways to soothe their animals.
Dana Larsen, founding director of the Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary in Vancouver, sells products for canines that contain CBD, including oils and dog treats. He says it’s only a “small proportion” of his overall client base” who purchases the products but insists the treatment is gaining popularity and can help.
“It can provide all the same treatments that you get for people," said Larsen.
But many veterinarians are warning of potential risks associated with giving pets pot due to a lack of guidelines or scientific research on the use of CBD in animals.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has yet to take a position on the use of CBD with pets.
"As a veterinarian, we don't have neither the legal backing nor the scientific research to really be able to prescribe it to these animals," Adrian Walton with the Dewdney Animal Hospital told CTV Vancouver.
And even vets that support the use of CBD therapy for canines say it is not without risk.
Maya Kovacevic-Miladinovic , a veterinarian at Healing Paws in Port Moody, B.C. says tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient in marijuana that provides the high, is a problem. Pets that have ingested THC can overdose.
“It can actually be quite toxic and fatal to our patients,” said Kovacevic-Miladinovic.
Both vets also agree that even too much CBD can be fatal if owners aren’t careful with the amount and dosage they give their animals.
“My main concern would be cats,” said Walton, explaining that cat’s livers can only process meat products, not plants.
The BC SPCA advises pet owners who are considering trying this therapy on their pets to call their vet first. It adds owners should make sure they have a pure product and have blood tests done on their pets to ensure the product is safe.
With files from CTV Vancouver