Curious about how to help your Tripawd with veterinary cannabis, but aren’t sure where to begin? We feel the same way! That’s why the experts at Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting are here to help you get started.
People say cannabis can help with everything from pet allergies to muscle pain. But knowing the difference between facts and a sales pitch is tough. How do you know what’s working and what isn’t? Expert guidance is necessary for any treatment plan to succeed. That’s why the team at Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting exist. They’re training veterinary professionals in this emerging field, and consulting with pet parents to create effective cannabis treatment plans for dogs, cats, and other animals.
Need a vet expert to help your Tripawd with cannabis therapy?
Scroll down to learn how you can get free or low cost help!
Episode #101: Get the Facts (and Get Help) with Cannabis for Your Tripawd
Today’s episode of Tripawd Talk Radio Episode #101 dives into how cannabis can treat common health and behavior issues in Tripawds, and so much more! Tune in or watch below to get the truth and the facts about cannabis for pets, and what it can do — and can’t do — to help with certain conditions.
Veterinary experts discuss effectiveness of cannabis for pet pain management and other conditions, such as reactivity, anxiety, and navigating new situations/environments. You’ll discover what Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting does for pet parents, veterinarians, and the entire pet community.
Get answers to your questions about veterinary cannabis pet therapy:
- Can cannabis for pets extinguish aversive memories created prior to amputation?
- How can it control pain/inflammation from injury/surgery/muscular compensation?
- What about controlling phantom pain? Or hyperalgesia?
- Does cannabis help a dog or cat adjust mentally and emotionally to limb loss? Or accepting a prosthetic?
- What is the difference between CBD, THC, and other components of the cannabis plant?
- And how these experts can help your Tripawd with cannabis, at low or no cost!
Our Special Guests:
Dr. Casara Andre, DVM, cVMA
Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting
CCPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, BA (Applied Behavior Analysis)
Elevation Behavior Dog Training & Consulting
Get the Facts about Cannabis for Pets with Veterinary Cannabis Education & Consulting
Listen to our podcast with Dr. Andre and Erin Lukacovic, download the episode here, or watch the video below.
Tripawds Needed for Veterinary Cannabis Case Studies
THIS JUST IN! The Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting crew is seeking Tripawds members interested in cannabis therapy for their pets–at free or low cost!
Members will partner with veterinary technicians and other professionals who are training to be a Veterinary Cannabis Counselor (VCC). In exchange for becoming a student’s case study, pet parents can receive customized cannabis treatment for their dog, cat, or other animal.
- The process can be done entirely online.
- It doesn’t matter where you live. But your location might determine which cannabis products are selected for treatment.
- Pet parents must have the patience to work closely with a VCC student in training.
- Four-legged pets are also welcome, as well as birds, reptiles, and any other vertebrates!
Students are really in need of case studies. Your participation can further the understanding of cannabis treatment in the veterinary field. If you are interested in helping more veterinary professionals to understand cannabis therapy and help it become more mainstream, please check out this Tripawds Discussion Forum topic, or contact us for details!
Watch the Video: Facts About CBD and Cannabis for Pets
Learn more about CBD and other cannabis products for dogs and cats
How to Help Your Tripawd
with Veterinary Cannabis Experts
TRIPAWDS: Welcome to Tripawd Talk Radio. For anyone watching on the Tripawds YouTube channel, please check the show notes for a link to this podcast episode #101 and info about our guests. Today, we have a Denver-based positive reinforcement dog trainer Erin Lukacovic from Elevation Behavior, and Dr. Casara Andre Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting, an unbiased agency focused on product safety and evaluation of CBD products for pets. Thank you for joining us.
DR. ANDRE: Absolutely. A pleasure to be here.
ERIN L.: Very nice to be here with you today.
TRIPAWDS: Share a little about how it got started and your involvement.
DR. ANDRE: The name Cannabis really came of the need from our health-school-based community. We run a co-working space in Denver for veterinary practitioners and so those practitioners had their clients asking them, “What is this cannabis this? Could I use it? Do I not use it? Like what is going on?”
As a community, we really decided we got to be on top of this. We need to figure out what’s going – what in the world is happening here. And so, I was actually had the space and time to be able to do some research. It has just kind of taken off from there of being the one to digest all the information that’s coming out because there’s so much that’s new and there’s so many ways that we’re going to have to use this and endocannabinoid system just like mind-blowing stuff!
It’s often hard for practitioners to digest and figure out, “What do I do with all this new information?”
Veterinary Cannabis is trying to answer that need of:
- What’s the science that we know, what don’t we know? Because there’s still a lot that we are learning.
- How do we do this safely in the interim where there are still a lot of questions?
- And then what can we actually use it for? How can we actually start to use this in a clinical manner?
And then Erin actually has her own business and I’ll let her tell you more about that. But we intersected because I have a really personal and professional interest in anxiety, emotional trauma both on the human and animal side. I think cannabis hold some really amazing possibilities for us to leverage in those areas.
I was looking specifically for a trainer who is really open to trying some new ideas, new tactics, working with cannabis, and it has been such a pleasure to work with Erin over a couple of our case studies and then to be doing groups like, podcasts with her. So, I’ll let Erin tell you a little bit more about what her business is like.
ERIN L. All right. Yes. So my business (Elevation Behavior) is mainly just training but I come from both a theoretical and a practical background. And there are portions of that research-based section built into that.
I got introduced to Casara through a colleague and found it very much in my avenue. And so, we’ve been kind of working together ever since to figure out exactly as much as we can about cannabis.
DR. ANDRE: What’s going on, like what actually can we use this for? Because I will emphasize which you all already know.
There are so many holes, there are so many gaps in what we truly know. You really need to come in with a strong science-based data collection to be able to sort through all of the murkiness. And if you just go at it willy-nilly and let’s give my pet some cannabis off the grocery store shelf, you just – there are so many pitfalls. We don’t know what’s happening a lot of times.
So Erin’s ability to really bring that data-driven aspect has been so amazing because it lets us see what’s actually happening and not just, “Oh yeah, I think it’s working.” We should look at some number or try to, that’s what we are trying to push for.
TRIPAWDS: So many people they have these really positive experiences with CBD. Are the pets really doing well with it? Are we just being hopeful?
DR. ANDRE: I would say (and Erin, I’m interested here what words you put on that), but I think what we are really doing now is pre-study even. we have to design some protocols because there is so much that’s new in order to be able to create a repeatable pattern.
Our goal was to really create some protocols that allow other trainers, veterinary professionals, pet parents to know:
- How to begin to enter the cannabis journey?
- How to do it safely?
- What things should we be tracking particularly when we are dealing with emotional conditions, anxiety? There are so many aspects to that.
- What are we asking the pet parents to track? What’s the measure of success? That’s so hard because sometimes it’s a moving target, “Well, I just want them to not destroy the house or now I want them to be able to walk nicely and on a leash.”
We really have to put some of those parameters in place first. So I would say we are doing a lot of the pre-work to be able to design some protocols. Then we can really put some regimented protocols in place.
TRIPAWDS: OK. That makes sense. Erin, did you have anything to add to that?
ERIN L. No, very much the same data in the field of behavior science is it’s sometimes a lot less rigid than in a lot of sciences. There are some things that we can track like frequency and duration. But a lot of those more qualities that we are looking for in this study like the degree of fear or excitement or those types of things are a lot more subjective. And so, finding those objective things that we can actually measure and quantify is a bit of a trial and error type of method.
TRIPAWDS: What about CBD? Which products are available? How effective are they? How do they work? It sounds like you teamed up to get those answers.
DR. ANDRE: Yes, absolutely and really trying to focus on the case study piece now so that we can put something repeatable in place. And I’ll add to the list that you gave us there. Yes, we are interested in product safety, which molecules are of most benefit because all the products have different molecular profiles. They are going to do different things clinically.
But also, the timing aspect, which is really important in emotional trauma, anxiety cases, behavior cases. It’s a piece that I don’t really see a lot of the rest of the cannabis industry focusing on. There’s so much else to learn and to implement. But particularly when we are trying to establish some new behavioral patterns.
Essentially, we are trying to develop new neural pathways, new ways that neurons fire together. When those molecules are used and then what happens when those molecules are on board really is seeming to be quite important in cannabis medicine, because of how it works. Its mechanism is very based on the neurons, on behavioral patterns. Which makes it so cool as a modality but it means that there are a lot of moving pieces.
TRIPAWDS: And one of those I presume is going to be dosage because every dog is different. Someone with a Chihuahua might be asking that question and someone with a Great Dane could be telling them, “Take CBD,” and then at some point, there’s going to be too much or not enough, right?
DR. ANDRE: Absolutely. And not even a body weight-based problem. We deal with that a lot, right? We always have patients who are 50 pounds heavier than the other one so that’s not actually new in veterinary medicine.
However, what we know about the endocannabinoid system, so the system within mammals that cannabis works on like really the reason we care about cannabis to begin with is this ECS. What we are learning about it is really different from a lot of the other receptor systems. The number of receptors can change really dramatically in an animal.
For instance, if you have an injury, a fall downstairs, if I tripped and fell here, the number of receptors would change in my body pretty rapidly and be more prevalent in the areas of inflammation. So even if I had two medium-sized dogs, exactly same body weight but their experiences in life were different. Their ECS systems might be completely different from each other.
When you start thinking about, OK, how do I dose for that? There’s a lot of stuff, there’s a lot of question marks on there. wWe are learning more like genetic testing is going to tell us a lot, figuring out how to identify these receptors a little bit better.
But at the moment, what we really base our dosing on is the titration model. So start very low, work up slowly, and incorporate training as you go with really careful journaling and keeping by the pet parent. And in reality, that is our dosing model in cannabis. What does the patient need? It’s really not based on body weight.
TRIPAWDS: And every case is different.
DR. ANDRE: Exactly. Every day can sometimes be different.
TRIPAWDS: How do patients connect with Veterinary Cannabis?
DR. ANDRE: Veterinary Cannabis consults on a global scale to talk about cannabis just because every country is feeling these growing pains. Every practitioner no matter what country they are practicing is, “What do I do with this?” And so there’s not actually that many of our patients that I will physically see.
We are in Colorado. But I love when I get to work on these types of cases, particularly when I can Erin into them because it lets me see what’s happening with the animal. I can put my hands on them. So I love my other consulting pieces that I do. I love the ones that I can work on because that’s me getting me to be my vet but also pull all these new pieces together. So yes, it is through our organization but they do have to be in Colorado at the moment. But we are hoping to make a protocol that can expand further geographically.
TRIPAWDS: Oh, that’s terrific. So you’re doing hands-on work with these dogs?
DR. ANDRE: Yes, because we are just – we are too new, right? Erin and I are too new in that protocol piece for us to be able to disseminate that out. But that’s the goal for us to have a training protocol and a cannabis protocol that is easy for other people to use, other trainers, other professionals, other pet parents. There are just so many pieces to figure out at this beginning stage.
TRIPAWDS: But are you also consulting with veterinarians and is that done remotely?
DR. ANDRE: Yup, absolutely. So if we consult with veterinarians or Erin and I would love to be able to consult with another trainer who is on site and give them some guidance. As long as there is someone physically present with the animal that can really say, “What’s going on with you today?” Again, that goes back to the dosing paradigm and that’s just – I can’t say, “How much does the dog weigh? Give him this much.” We really need feedback from the person on the ground to say, “Today, there’s a lot of anxiety.” Like we are really reactive to the environment. There’s a lot going on. New stressors have come up. What do we do about this? At this stage, you really have to have that very close connection to the patient.
TRIPAWDS: What’s the veterinary cannabis pay off other than no anxiety? I mean is it like is it now pharmaceutical? What are you – are you using the outcomes yet?
DR. ANDRE: Yes, absolutely. I think that’s kind of a good segue into maybe talking about some of the cases we’ve been playing with because the goals that the pet parent come with can be very different. It might be:
- “I need there to be peace in my house. I need this inner animal aggression just to – everyone’s welfare is being affected,” that’s what we want to work on.
- Or, “I need to be able to go for a walk with my dog.”
- For your audience, “I need my animal to be able to adjust to a new circumstance in life.”
Something has changed dramatically and we can’t necessarily explain that in words to this patient. But how do we make sure that they are OK and they are well – they are set up for success and well-being?
When we think about cannabis or really the model that I’m working on is, how do we teach an animal to adapt to new circumstance, whatever those might be?
And in your audience’s case, sometimes an amputation, an injury, working past emotional trauma from a prior experience, things like that. So yes to all of those things that you asked. Often, we can’t get them off pharmaceuticals but I will emphasize that’s not always the goal. There are so many times when we need to use the strength of a pharmaceutical to get something to happen in the body. But, supplement with cannabis to really be able to adjust it to the environment as it changes. Sometimes we do get them off pharmaceuticals but that’s not always the immediate goal.
I will also say that sometimes the goal is the achievement of a better well-being of life for everybody. Everyone is a little bit happier.
I will add my own personal sort of goal that I love is that :
We are learning a lot about human emotional trauma from what we are learning on the animal side and a lot of the work in cannabis is translational medicine. So because cannabis is a mammalian medicine, it works pretty much same across all mammals. I am hoping to create a lot of data that human practitioners can use for PTSD victims, emotional trauma. I’m a military veteran myself so there’s a lot of the people I love and care about are dealing with these issues.
What I can do from the veterinary side that strengthens that and then pull also from their research? It just makes everything better and it moves faster, right? We got to learn – we got to push science for it as fast as we can.
TRIPAWDS: Where do cats fit into veterinary cannabis? Is that next or would that come after people or …?
DR. ANDRE: For me, it’s right in the middle. Erin probably has some fun things to say about that. We absolutely work with cats all the time on our general consulting line. Cats respond amazingly well to cannabis. Talk about that inner animal kind of aggression technique like adding a new animal to the household and how stressed our kitties can get. Older kitty is great for pain control so cats are absolutely there in the middle.
I think from the training aspect, a lot of people think about dogs first but Erin, you might have something to say about that.
ERIN L.: The biggest part of our work is looking at each animal kind of more holistically, right?
We are looking at them physically.
We are looking at their environment, their family, and their training history as well and trying to fix each component. Not just the mental brain chemicals that you might fix with Prozac but also those other components. Trying to modify those so that the animal can actually have a different association with those things that bring them anxiety or cause them issues in their household.
It’s very much all together and whether that would be working with the dogs in the household, working with the cats in the household, working with humans in the household. Or, all of the above, because sometimes the anxious dog is not the problem in the household. They’re really just the whatnot manifest the problem.
TRIPAWDS: A well-thought out CBD plan could have complemented the Prozac (our dog) was on for so many years . . . There were times when we tried CBD of different types at different times without consulting people like you to determine how to go about doing it the best way.
DR. ANDRE: A really useful thought I think for people, particularly pet parents to have their mind when they begin saying, “Which avenue should I explore? What are my – what are the options that are open?”
When we use something like Prozac, any behavior-modifying medication, it doesn’t matter what it is, really we’re trying to put kind of a Band-Aid on something that’s happening. To stop that from getting worse. And that’s absolutely appropriate, right? We need to do that sometimes. And sometimes we have to bring those anxiety levels down enough so we can actually do some actual work.
There is absolutely a place for the pharmaceutical side.
But what we are trying to accomplish with – especially the combination of cannabis and training is teaching the animal to respond regardless of what that new circumstance might be. So teaching them to walk into something new and be able to be OK with whatever it is. Does that make sense?
It’s not, “You’re OK when you walk on this road. You’re OK when you go to this park. OK, I can only do these two things and that’s all.”
Instead, we are trying to go further back and say, “When you are afraid, what do you do? How do you communicate with your pet parents that, ‘Oh, this is not good!’” Pet parent, how do you listen in a way that allows your animal to communicate with you?
Thinking about the root cause of further back one, I think it’s really useful to understand what we are trying to do with cannabis medicine. What cannabis is perfect for, of teaching new behavioral patterns. How it works on the neurons is really to create a state of. We call it neuromalleability. It means that neurons are able to receive a new type of message.
When we put that animal in a neuromalleable state with cannabis on board, then we put them in a training scenario where we are controlling the environment, setting them up for success. It means that now we have a new pattern that’s positive.
We unfortunately see a lot of pet parents use cannabis a little bit offhand. Toss you a treat before I go out the door, if a mailman still comes, the neighbor kid still is mean whenever he comes home from school. We didn’t change the environment and sometimes we can actually make those anxiety behaviors worse. We had a neuromalleable state but we put bad information in.
I think it takes a lot of care to actually think about how we are using cannabis particularly in behavioral conditions.
TRIPAWDS: Basing all of that on just dosage or body weight alone was just like throwing something at the wall and hoping it sticks.
When it comes to amputation and recovery, one of the things that we as a community have always said is, “Well, our pets are so resilient. They just go on.” But there are some animals who do have a tougher time with recovery. And it has always been our thinking that, well, maybe it was the pet parent who is making it harder for the animal. The animal was not having an easy recovery because of person was so nervous. But that sounds like that’s not necessarily true?
DR. ANDRE: I think that’s definitely true that it’s not necessarily the – there’s not going to be one answer. And that’s really at the crux of definitely the work that Erin and I want to do. But I think really just at the heart of what Erin does as a trainer is what’s actually going on here? And it can be many pieces.
It can be the pet parents, the animal, the housemate, the human housemate, the animal housemate. There are so many factors that are involved there. If we think about it as a point in time treatment fix, we are going to be wrong.
It has to be a process that consistently grows with the patient and adjust to their needs as they essentially enter different life stage. The time post-surgery is very different than two months post-surgery, six months, five years post-surgery.
If we aren’t adapting what we are doing in the animal’s environment medically to where that animal actually is, we are not being good practitioners. That’s on us as veterinarians, as veterinary professionals to be able to say, “We are not going doing a good job here.” But then for everyone to be on board and say, “It’s a long process.”
It’s growing with our animal through whatever they are going through. Let’s walk with them through that piece.
Do you want to add there, Erin? I feel like that really intersects your world a lot.
ERIN L.: Yeah. I think one of those pieces. Oftentimes – any time we are dealing with a different species or even individuals of our same species that we don’t have a same language with. It’s very easy to assume that we know what’s going on.
The really nice part about our work is that we are working with multiple professionals from different perspectives. And, we can find out exactly what is the issue.
- Is the issue that they are experiencing pain?
- Is the issue – their household?
- Is the issue that their brain isn’t physically set up at this moment to be able to learn a new thing?
We can adapt each piece individually and then work with rehab professionals to make it a structure that works for that animal, that works for that family. Particularly too because I can really easily say, “You need to go home and work with your dog an hour every day.” But, that doesn’t mean that that’s possible for that family to do.
Part of what we do is making it something that fix their structure, right? Do I need to give you something that you can do in 5 minutes every other day rather than what I would prefer my ideal scenario to be? Really just working at it from that individual’s kind of perspective. But also, looking at it eventually what pieces we can take and develop more as a protocol as well.
TRIPAWDS: Does CBD address pain itself or does it address more the behavior associated with the animal wondering, “Why am I in pain?”
DR. ANDRE: I love that you asked that question because I love to talk about the answer. It’s so exciting.
My cat is sitting right here on her little cat tray and telling me that she is hungry. But she’s actually a great example to talk about this. She has dealt with anxiety for the past 4 years that I’ve had her from her prior situation.
She is also really painful and she has a younger housemate who is like, “Let’s play! This is amazing! I want to play with you.” And his idea of play is, “I’m going to jump and grab you and I’m going to roll with you together and this is going to be amazing!”
But if you think about that scenario, if she was a younger animal, “Great! Let’s go.” But because she is painful, we are not actually able to ever get to the point of, “Maybe I like it, maybe I don’t,” because it hurts.
So we started thinking about, “Well, what are the barriers for even opening up the opportunity for these two to get along?” And controlling pain, controlling discomfort has to be at the base of all of that.
We know in medicine in general, we always look for pain first. Whenever you start to have a behavioral disorder, anxiety, it doesn’t matter what it is. We always look for a medical condition. And many times, it is at the root of it.
We can absolutely use cannabis and not just CBD.
CBD absolutely does have some pain control effects but there are so many other molecules.
- THC in particular being really important in controlling some of our chronic wind up pain, nerve-base pain, post-surgical pain.
- There are other molecules, CBG, CBN, CBDA which is really good as a COX-2 inhibitor.
- Maybe instead of using like a Rimadyl, we are actually going to use the molecule that’s a lot safer. And, a little bit more effective in some cases.
We essentially have this smorgasbord of molecules we can work with. We can construct a really tailored pain control protocol.
But here’s the kicker that’s amazing about cannabis. At the same time, these molecules are also working on systems like serotonin, dopamine. So we have these anti-anxiety effects at the same time we have pain control.
Let’s again take my case scenario, my two cats who are learning to be great friends. If I can control her pain but also lower her anxiety levels, when my younger cat wants to play, she is much more likely to, “Oh, this is kind of cool. Sure, let’s give it a go.”
She is much more willing to accept a new idea. Then I can come in with some training. We play with the laser pointer and we work on like behavioral patterns. Be nice, and like asking permission and all those pieces.
But if I didn’t have her pain under control and if I didn’t have her anxiety under control, I wouldn’t be able to get to the point where she could learn something new.
When Erin says that about is the brain chemistry set up in a way that we can actually put a new thought in place? I think it’s a really important question that we don’t think about a lot of time.
Post-surgery, let’s talk about after an amputation. Is that the time to teach an animal to interact with a whole new environment? Along with other new animals? Probably not.
We need to make sure we are dealing with pain, absolutely controlled, then how they are interacting with themselves, they are interacting with the environment, and then beginning to branch out.
The staging process, you’ll hear me and Erin just talk about it like it’s just – if you don’t think about it as a long process, you’re probably not headed in the right direction.
TRIPAWDS: There are so many molecules, so many cannabinoids. Where do people begin?
DR. ANDRE: It can be overwhelming because there are so many options.
I think that that’s the first place for a pet parent to think about:
- What type of help do I need?
- Do I feel comfortable kind of beginning to do this research on my own?
- Or as soon as I learn that there’s more than CBD, does that become overwhelming?
And if it is, then that’s the perfect time to reach out for a consult. It doesn’t matter who it is, with your vet. We are training a group of technicians to be able to answer some of these questions. It’s OK to be confused. Because when I say it’s a new science and a new field with mind-blowing potential, it’s absolutely true about cannabis medicine.
Figuring out which molecules will be best for the condition is the first place to start. And you have to have a diagnosis for that. Are you working on pain? Are you working on anxiety? Are you working on muscle spasm? What actually is going on?
We always encourage pet parents to start with something pretty easy, pretty basic.
So CBD-dominant, so a hemp-based product is something that you’ll find over the counter. But a lot of times they will reach a point where as you’ve mentioned a couple of times. “It’s not working. It’s not working. I don’t see any change.”
Well then, that’s the point to go back and say, “OK, something else needs to change.” We either need a different molecular profile. We need to change our training, plan. It is always a trial and error basis. But that’s kind of where I would have like – that’s usually where we start most of our pet parents.
TRIPAWDS: Where do you get the data from? How do you measure what’s happening with your clients? How do you put veterinary cannabis protocols together?
DR. ANDRE: It’s an interesting stage because we are trying to identify the patterns that we can track consistently. And so at the moment, it’s very pet-parent-focused.
- Pet parent, what did you see this week?
- What happened today?
- Was your animal more or less anxious?
- When we try these molecules, what did you see?
I think unfortunately, that a lot of pet parents are not as used to that very, “What do you want, what do you see? Let’s talk.” They’re not quite as used to that heavy interaction. Which is a little bit unfortunate but it is the cornerstone of cannabis medicine.
One of my favorite cases that Erin and I have worked on, it was so interesting to work with this particular set of pet parents. They were human-based therapists, counselors, so they kind of have some experience on working with human mammals in terms of working their anxiety cases. Their journaling was really interesting to read. They were sort of picking up on some sort of subtle signals as soon as Erin gave them terminology and the communication to be able to figure out what’s going on. To be able to read their journals and see what was actually happening and then how they started to change, sort of their interactions, in order to facilitate this new communication that was happening.
It is very much reliant on the pet parent’s journals, being able to pull from that, and then put some terminology in place.
- Do we have more anxiety, less anxiety?
- Are we painful? Are we not painful?
- What’s the mobility score like?
Erin, you gave some really interesting parameters as we were talking about – do you want to talk about 101 things to do with the box?
ERIN L.: That was the most interesting thing for me at least of this case study. We initially introduced the kind of – that was just a training game of 101 things to do with a box. Essentially a training game where you teach the dog to interact with a novel object in any way that they see fit, right?
There’s a lot of possibilities there. And it’s a way for them to deal with novel or scary things. But also just a way for them to learn to learn.
A lot of our dogs that struggle with behavioral issues. It’s not easy to train them because they don’t know how to try to use shaping methods. It’s just a really big struggle for them. And we introduced this initially as a way to take extra data. We could look at them each session they came in. We could play this game and see how open the dog was to building new behavior time after time, session after session.
But we actually saw a lot more behavioral changes from that exercise than we anticipated. The dog being able to handle noises, novel things in their environment, lots of new changes. Just being a lot more resilient than they were before.
It gave us not only a different kind of way to look at things from training perspective but also gave us a different way to take data. To kind of look at that subjective piece of OK, this individual, how resilient, how adaptive are they. Or, how are they willing – how much are they willing to explore their environment. Those are those things that are extremely hard to put down to a specific number.
But, it’s very easy to see when you’re doing just something as simple exercise as like I put a random cone in the middle of the room and can you go over and touch it. And at very first she was like, “No, weird thing!” But over time, very much turned into, “Wow! This is just a really cool thing where I can earn lots of treats.”
In the long run, it gave her a different way to be introduced to new people as well. For her, that was a huge thing! Beginning to work with a new person allowed her to build trust with them as well. So, we really saw a lot of different things from that exercise.
DR. ANDRE: One of my very favorite things that came from the entire case as a whole was some of the building blocks of what I’m going to call sort of “the medicine of wonder protocol.” The ability to be curious, the OK to have – want to know something about the environment.
I think that we see a lot of times in anxiety and stress no matter what mammal it is, human or dog, cat, doesn’t matter, they become so close to external stimuli. “It’s too loud, I’m going to ignore it, I’m just – I can’t focus. I can’t …” Resiliency is the word that I love that Erin used of, “I can’t handle anything new because it’s going to put me off balance. I don’t know what’s going to come to it.” They’re so used to blocking out what’s coming into them from the environment.
What I really want to teach them to do with cannabis is push out.
- What happens if you touch that?
- What happens if you let your pet parent know you’re hungry?
- What happens if you go explore that corner?
I’m really interested in the flip of mindset. Instead of, “I just have to survive the barrage of things that are coming at me from the world.” Instead it’s, “Oh, I can actually change my world. I can actually do something that makes me feel empowered to step away, to move back, to I don’t have to stay in this environment.” Cannabis I think is really key to allowing that to happen.
Because as we talked about my cat, lowering anxiety, taking care of pain, allowing the brain to receive new information. For this one case that we are talking about, there was a lot of concern about some old injuries. But I couldn’t put my hands on the animal. I cannot put my hands on her because she was so, “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!”
So we worked through 101 things with the box. Teaching her to be curious. Teaching her to reach out to the world of being able to receive massage and touch in a different manner. We are able to work her up to being seen by a rehabilitation veterinarian. By the time we got to actually seen the rehab vet, her entire posture had changed. Instead of being like this all the time, she was actually carrying herself like this.
When I think about your amputees especially, we have to teach them how to carry themselves appropriately. Sometimes it’s like, “But I don’t have that balance piece.” But you have to be curious.
- What happens if I balance on this other limb?
- What happens if I fall but I catch myself?
Those are training pieces that I don’t know that we think about enough. But I believe are really, really core to getting this consistent level of well-being in an animal who is introduced to a new circumstance, a new environment.
TRIPAWDS: We’ve had members whose dogs or cats too who started to get their mobility back. But the animal just kept falling over on one side.
DR. ANDRE: Yup.
TRIPAWDS: And they would say, “It’s like they can’t figure it out.” And my thought was like, “Well, they need rehab.” They do need rehab but that little aspect of getting their mind into a place where they can be comfortable with the rehab is key, is what I’m hearing from you.
DR. ANDRE: Exactly. Absolutely. It’s something new.
Nervous system is amazing. Biology is amazing. We see humans and animals adapt to the craziest things, right? It’s amazing what they can adapt to. But they have to give the nervous system a chance to figure out what to do with this new world.
If they are not trying something, they’re always going to fall to the same side because it’s not the same. Something is different and if they are not willing to experiment with what their new environment is, we are not going to make a lot of headway.
We need from the training aspect to set up a protocol that allows that safe – to be – learn safely.
We don’t want them just the day after surgery like run across the field. We still have to do it really carefully. But cannabis plays a really important role from all those pain control, anxiety control, new ideas. It’s just a beautiful intersection that I as a veterinarian just am flabbergasted by.
I’ve never studied anything in my career that I’ve loved or been as fascinated by as endocannabinoid system and cannabis medicine.
TRIPAWDS: I can hear that excitement in your voice and you’re getting me excited about it too! Tell us how pet parents and their veterinarians can find you.
DR. ANDRE: VeterinaryCannabis.org is our website. That’s where – if anyone is looking for a consult particularly on those molecules like what do I need to do here? What’s the next step? That’s where I would sort of push everyone to start because we really have to evaluate what are we working on.
- Do we need to take care of pain first?
- Do we need to do that medical research of is there a UTI underneath?
- What’s actually going on?
Erin, you can find through her website, Elevation Behavior.
I would always do a medical evaluation first to make sure that if she is working with a trainer or another veterinary professional that she knows where we are pushing this, like where is the case going.
You just need to have your bedrock of a diagnosis or what are our goals in place. First, know your molecules, and then set up your training plan. When you can do those together and particularly if someone like Erin has goals, treatment plan, and our product all ready, it just makes it so much easier. Because we all are headed in the same direction. We are all in the same page.
TRIPAWDS: Wow! This is really exciting. I can’t thank you both enough for being here. And I’m sure at some point, we will talk again.
DR. ANDRE: Thank you.
ERIN L.: Thank you for having us.
TRIPAWDS: Many thanks to Erin and Dr. Andre. Before you try random CBD products from Amazon on your pet or believe what you hear on social media, visit VeterinaryCannabis.org to consult with a professional. And learn much more about how to help your Tripawd with veterinary cannabis for pets, in our many articles, interviews, and videos at Tripawds.com/tags/cannabis.
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