Ca­nine Cannabis


Is CBD ther­apy right for your pooch?

Though a three-time cancer sur­vivor, it was iron­i­cally arthri­tis that fi­nally started slow­ing down Joy Dock­rey’s 10-year-old Bull Mas­tiff, Sammy. The 120pound se­nior pooch could no longer jump into the car by him­self and was suf­fer­ing lots of age-re­lated aches and pains.

When the strong painkiller­s pre­scribed by Sammy’s vet­eri­nar­ian start­ing “hurt­ing his gut” and caus­ing stom­ach is­sues, Joy, a pal­lia­tive care coun­selor for peo­ple, sought out a more holis­tic al­ter­na­tive to tra­di­tional pharmaceut­ical ther­a­pies.

“I thought, there has to be some­thing else other than these painkiller­s that have these se­vere side ef­fects,” she says.

That’s when Joy dis­cov­ered what she calls “the magic” of cannabis ther­apy for pets. She started with cannabid­iol or CBD-in­fused dog­gie bis­cuits, later adding a ba­con-flavoured CBD tinc­ture to Sammy’s kib­ble. After in­tro­duc­ing CBDs, she says the dif­fer­ence in her dog’s de­meanor was dra­matic—and al­most im­me­di­ate. “He’s got more of a spring in his step and a much greater

joie de vie. It’s in­cred­i­ble,” she says. Joy is not alone. Much like the rise in pop­u­lar­ity of med­i­cal mar­i­juana treat­ments for peo­ple suf­fer­ing from pain and disease, more pet own­ers are turn­ing to these nat­u­ral treat­ments to help the ail­ments of their ca­nine com­pan­ions.

A quick ex­plainer: CBD or Cannabid­iol is a pri­mary com­po­nent of the cannabis plant. It’s non-psy­choac­tive, which means it does not pro­duce a “high” the way that mar­i­juana does. That’s be­cause it only con­tains a trace amount of THC—or Te­trahy­dro­cannabi­nol—the mind-al­ter­ing chem­i­cal in mar­i­juana that pro­duces psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects. The plant is non-toxic to pets.

Pet own­ers us­ing CBD for­mu­la­tions say the prod­ucts have helped with ev­ery­thing from chronic pain man­age­ment and arthri­tis, to seizure dis­or­ders and anx­i­ety is­sues.

An­other cannabi­noid treat­ment for an­i­mals that’s mak­ing waves is THCA. Like CBD, THCA is a non-psy­choac­tive cannabi­noid. It’s found in raw and live cannabis and, like CBD, has been re­ported to help dogs with can­cers, ease anx­i­ety, and act as a sig­nif­i­cant anti-in­flam­ma­tory and an­ti­con­vul­sant.

To clear up any po­ten­tial con­fu­sion, THC, which is psy­choac­tive and po­ten­tially harm­ful to dogs in large amounts, and THCA prod­ucts are not sim­i­lar, de­spite hav­ing


a sim­i­lar name. When the cannabis plant is heated or cooked, THCA slowly con­verts to THC, a process called de­car­boxy­la­tion, but THCA, when left in its raw and un­cooked state, only has a trace amount of THC, mak­ing the prod­ucts sim­i­lar in safety to CBD prod­ucts.

Avery Rose, the founder and owner of Love Grass (love­g­, a THCA prod­uct for dogs, cats, horses, and peo­ple which is made with raw un­cooked cannabis oil and or­ganic co­conut oil, says the ther­apy is safe and has all the ben­e­fits of cannabis with­out the high.

“We've re­ceived tes­ti­mo­ni­als of tu­mours (both be­nign and ma­lig­nant) shrink­ing, an­i­mals be­com­ing seizure free, and an­i­mals achiev­ing in­creased mo­bil­ity caused by in­flam­ma­tion, hip dys­pla­sia and arthri­tis,” says Rose.

In ad­di­tion to re­duc­ing pain, THCA has also been found to be ef­fec­tive for hot spot re­lief and curb­ing car sick­ness, she adds.

At The Medicinal Cannabis Dis­pen­sary in down­town Van­cou­ver, Canada, the de­mand for pet-spe­cific items has grown so much it re­cently launched a sep­a­rate divi­sion for pets, with prod­ucts in­clud­ing a CBD-rich oil meant to re­lieve in­flam­ma­tion, spasms, and nau­sea, and dog treats made with CBD, co­conut oil, and peanut but­ter.

“Peo­ple and an­i­mals share the same en­do­cannabi­noid sys­tem in our brains and ner­vous sys­tem. Cannabis medicines are good for us, so it’s a log­i­cal ex­ten­sion that it’s good for our pets,” says found­ing di­rec­tor and long­time ad­vo­cate Dana Larsen. Rec­om­mended doses are tied to the an­i­mal’s weight. Drops and tinc­tures are eas­ier to mea­sure than bis­cuits that need to be cut into pieces for smaller pups.

When used in con­junc­tion with other pain re­lief, own­ers can re­duce their an­i­mal’s de­pen­dence on pharmaceut­ical painkiller­s, many of which are opi­oid-based, says Larsen.

Dana touts the ther­apy for speed­ing up the re­cov­ery of his daugh­ter’s eight-year-old Mal­tese, Bi­jou, after spinal surgery.

“She still goes to the vet and was on other med­i­ca­tion as well. I just found I was able to lower the dose of the opi­oid base by of­fer­ing the cannabis drops,” he says.

But is there science be­hind the treat­ment? Well, not much and not yet, which is trou­bling to many vets faced with clients clam­our­ing to try it out—and ask­ing for ad­vice on dosage.

Be­cause of the cur­rent le­gal­i­ties around mar­i­juana in North Amer­ica there have been few vet­eri­nary stud­ies look­ing at the safe and ef­fec­tive doses for CBD treat­ments. So with cannabis not le­gally avail­able for use by vet­eri­nar­i­ans in North Amer­ica, at this point the ev­i­dence is largely anec­do­tal.

“There are no stud­ies on the ef­fi­cacy of the long-term con­se­quences,” says vet­eri­nar­ian Dr. Adrian Wal­ton, owner of

the Dewd­ney An­i­mal Hos­pi­tal. “It re­ally is the wild, wild west out there right now.” With­out rec­om­mended dosage in­struc­tions from reg­u­la­tors, it’s also dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine how a dog will me­tab­o­lize the prod­uct, he adds.

Vet­eri­nary col­leges are also find­ing them­selves in a unique po­si­tion of hav­ing to take a stance on a treat­ment that falls in a bit of grey zone le­gally, even in ar­eas where medicinal mar­i­juana for hu­mans is per­mit­ted.

The Amer­i­can Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, or AVMA, has not re­leased an of­fi­cial po­si­tion on CBDs, but has pub­lished pos­i­tive anec­do­tal tes­ti­mo­ni­als from vets and pet own­ers on its web­site, say­ing the topic war­rants more sci­en­tific-based re­search.

See­ing a rise in com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ing oral vet­eri­nary prod­ucts with CBD for com­pan­ion an­i­mals, the Cana­dian Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion says "it will still be some time be­fore an­swers will be avail­able" be­cause re­search is still in its in­fancy.

"We ac­knowl­edge that we are in the midst of rapid change in this area and will con­sider de­vel­op­ing a po­si­tion as we move for­ward," a spokesper­son told Mod­ern Dog in an email.

The Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Holis­tic Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (JAHVMA) pub­lished a sur­vey about CBDs in a 2016 is­sue. It found that 64.3 per­cent of dog own­ers polled felt the con­sump­tion of hemp prod­ucts helped their pets ei­ther mod­er­ately or a great deal, and re­lieved med­i­cal con­di­tions in­clud­ing in­flam­ma­tion, anx­i­ety, ner­vous and di­ges­tive sys­tem prob­lems, nau­sea and/or vom­it­ing, tu­mours, con­vul­sions, skin prob­lems, and pho­bias, in­clud­ing fire­works and thun­der­storm fears.

Vet­eri­nar­i­ans that al­ready pre­scribe CBD to ail­ing dogs say it’s a god­send when it’s used in con­junc­tion with a com­pre­hen­sive treat­ment plan.

Dr. Maja Ko­vace­vic-MIladi­novic of Heal­ing Paws Vet­eri­nary Care cur­rently has around three-dozen pa­tients on CBD ther­apy and she’s pleased with the progress. If your dog has pain symp­toms and seizures and you’ve tried con­ven­tional ther­a­pies, you should con­sider CBD along with other ther­a­pies like acupunc­ture and laser ther­apy, she says.

The most suc­cess has been seen with dogs ex­pe­ri­enc­ing chronic pain, mainly os­teoarthri­tis, as well as with pal­lia­tive care for ca­nine cancer pa­tients. CBD can even sup­press and slow down the growth of cancer cells, she says.

Seizure pa­tients have also made great gains when CBD is added to their diet, re­duc­ing the strength and fre­quency of at­tacks, she says.

“With one dog that had mul­ti­ple seizures a day, the own­ers started adding CBD oil and al­ready they’ve seen less seizures, and he’s re­cov­ered from them in a much shorter amount of time,” she says.

The holis­tic vet stresses CBD should be con­sid­ered the same as in­tro­duc­ing any other new med­i­ca­tion for dogs. Her ca­nine pa­tients are given blood tests be­fore­hand and have reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ex­ams dur­ing treat­ment to en­sure their safety.

“You have to get it from a rep­utable source with a vet script and dosage,” she says. “But if you do it right you can see great gains.”

One of her great­est suc­cess sto­ries is a 15-year-old Shep­herd cross with such se­vere os­teoarthri­tis and joint pain the own­ers con­sid­ered putting him down.

After try­ing a range of treat­ments, in­clud­ing laser ther­apy, acupunc­ture, and painkiller­s, they added CBD oil to their dog’s diet.

The dog was walk­ing bet­ter in just three days, and when he comes in for his acupunc­ture ses­sions, Ko­vace­vic-MIladi­novic says it’s like see­ing a whole other an­i­mal.

“He’s full of life now. He’s able to jump on the bed and they’re go­ing on longer walks,” she says. “It’s def­i­nitely im­proved the dog’s qual­ity of life.”

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