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Is Marijuana Safe for Dogs, Cats and Other Pets?

If your dog or cat has cancer or chronic pain, you may be wondering if cannabis products like edibles and oils can make them feel better.

mariujuana bud
“ST-3-bud” by Hupu2 – Horsma*

To be honest, we’ve wondered about marijuana for pets too. After all, humans consistently report satisfactory pain relief with cannabis and marijuana products, so why not our pets?

To answer that question, we looked at a couple of reputable resources about cannabis for pet pain and here’s what we found:

Pet Cannabis Dosage Guidelines are Lacking

In a VetStreet article by acclaimed holistic veterinary researcher Dr. Narda Robinson, “Is Medical Marijuana Safe for Pets? A Case for More Study” she says:

A Deadly Uncertainty

Lacking rigorous scientific evidence, veterinarians cannot determine safe dosages and THC/CBD ratios of medical marijuana for dogs, cats and other animals. Veterinarians and owners are left relying on anecdotal reports, trial and error and companies’ claims. If the tolerable and safe dose, whatever that might be, is exceeded, an animal may land in the local veterinary emergency clinic, and there are no antidotes for THC poisoning. While many insist that marijuana overdoses cannot kill, the consequences of cannabis can indeed turn deadly in dogs as the result of  THC overdose.  . . .

Today, inadequate oversight of the amount of THC that producers are putting into each serving of edible marijuana is resulting in injuries, as is the lack of guidelines for and availability of testing, labeling and protective packaging. Consumers are confused about how much to eat and whether one batch of cookies or candies will produce the same effects as the next, turning self-medicating into a game of wild guessing.

cannabis for dogs
What’s the right dose for cannabis for dogs?

Dogs are More Sensitive to Pot Than People

In this February 2015 Psychology Today article “Marijuana for Dogs? by neuropsychological scientist Dr. Stanley Coren, he states:

Many of those people who have access to medical marijuana give it to their own dogs, with the rationale that “If it works for me it will most likely work for my dog who has a similar problem.” Unfortunately this practice can be dangerous. Most people feel that marijuana is safe, and never really all that toxic. The neurological literature shows that dogs have the same kind of endocannabinoid receptors that allow humans to benefit from the therapeutic effects of marijuana. The caution comes from the fact that this same research also says that dogs have a higher much concentration of these receptors in their hindbrains then humans do. Basically this means that dogs can develop severe neurologic effects if they receive an overdose of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the active chemical in marijuana.

Research has shown that when dogs (but not other laboratory animals that have been tested) get a high enough dosage of THC, they have a unique reaction known as marijuana toxicosis. One disturbing part of this is a condition called static ataxia. When it occurs the dog stands rigidly and rocks back and forth as if he is trying to move but cannot. The dog will drool, its eyes open very wide, pupils dilate, muscles get very tense, and the dog looks much as if he might be suffering from unpleasant, fear provoking drug induced hallucinations—the sort of situation that used to be called “a bad trip” back in the 1960s and 70s.

. .  . the increased sensitivity of dogs to THC could have lethal consequences. READ MORE

The AVMA Says No Pot for Pets

According to this Today @ColoradoState article, “Veterinarians advise: Just say no to pot and pets:”

The American Veterinary Medical Association, standard-bearer for the industry, does not yet have an official position on veterinary marijuana, according to the AVMA website.

Members of the AVMA Scientific Activities Division have noted the following:

  • Veterinarians making treatment decisions must use sound clinical judgment and current medical information, and must be in compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations.
  • Medications do not necessarily work the same in animals as they do people, which underscores the value of extensive studies showing safety and efficacy, and also the value of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process for drugs used in animals.
  • There are possibilities of adverse reactions, including toxicities and failure to treat the clinical condition at hand.

With no solid research and the scary prospect that any dog could go through a horrible THC overdose with even a little bit of pot, we feel marijuana for pets is not worth the gamble. Do you?

Instead, let’s fund marijuana use studies led by groups like the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, which does advocate for more research on the uses of pot for pets.

Recommended Reading

Tripawds Discussion Forums: Marijuana Supplement for Dogs
Veterinarians advise: Just say no to pot and pets
Pot for Pets: Medical Uses of Marijuana in Companion Animals

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