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Owners are most often hoping that pot will help relieve their pet’s pain and/or work as an appetite stimulant. Marijuana has also been used in the treatment of anxiety, nausea, and seizures, primarily in dogs. But here’s the rub: even in the pot-friendly state of Colorado, medical marijuana is only legal when a physician recommends it for a human patient. Veterinarians cannot prescribe marijuana for pets.
Recreational marijuana is widely available, but I worry when I hear of owners giving it to their sick pets. Today’s varieties have a much higher percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and are therefore MUCH stronger than what used to be available a few decades back. In fact, a friend’s dog recently suffered through what could only be described as a “bad trip” after ingesting a tiny amount of marijuana off the sidewalk in their neighborhood. The dog recovered, but the outcome could have been different if he was already critically ill.
Another option that is available to interested owners is cannabidiol (CBD), which is derived from hemp plants (hemp is basically marijuana that doesn’t make much THC). CBD has recently garnered a lot of attention duet to its apparent ability to control seizure activity in people. According to a paper that explored its potential usefulness in human medicine, CBD “displays a plethora of actions including anticonvulsive, sedative, hypnotic, antipsychotic, antiinflammatory and neuroprotective properties.”
Unfortunately, research into the potential usefulness of CBD in pets is lacking. The only studies I have seen found that CBD is very poorly absorbed after oral administration in dogs. “In three of the six dogs studied, CBD could not be detected in the plasma after oral administration. In the other three, the oral bioavailability ranged from 13 to 19%.”
So, while CBD is available to pet owners (some companies are even making CBD dog treats!), it’s hard for me to recommend its use. I doubt CBD supplements are dangerous, however. I suspect the biggest risk is to your wallet.
Have you treated a sick pet with marijuana or CBD? What’s your experience?
Dr. Jennifer Coates writing for PetMD.