Marijuana has become a hot topic in the media in the past few years. With Colorado and California legalizing recreational use, and legalization in Canada looming on the horizon, it’s easy to start wondering about the benefits of this plant.
There is anecdotal evidence in humans showing the benefits of marijuana as a pharmaceutical product. From alleviating chemotherapy side effects, chronic pain, and anxiety to name a few. Even pet owners are using tinctures and edibles to help treat their pet’s illnesses with promising results. The only setback with these claims is that there are very few studies in people proving these benefits, and almost no studies on marijuana use in pets. Marijuana has been a taboo subject for decades, which means that funding and access to the product was very limited for researchers. Most research companies would not be interested in studying as well, with fears that their name would be tied with an illegal substance. In order to prescribe a medicine or treatment, human and veterinary doctors need concrete data behind the product to show that it will help the patient with minimal side effects.
While doctors may not have the power to recommend marijuana as a treatment, it does not stop pet owners from trying themselves. There are dispensaries offering medical marijuana products advertised for pets, and some are even offered cannabinoid (the non-narcotic but medically beneficial part of marijuana) products as well.
Our pets cannot smoke the product, so the only viable way of giving it to them is by ingestion. There are several worrying factors when it comes to this. Edibles purchased from a dispensary can vary wildly in potency. There are no regulations or standards placed into effect with these products. In addition, THC (the compound in marijuana that gets you ‘high’) behaves differently when ingested. When metabolized by the liver, THC is converted to a different compound that is more effective in crossing the blood-brain barrier, causing a more intense and longer lasting high. This is concerning in our pets due to their smaller size, it is easier for them to experience toxicities/adverse side effects from marijuana ingestion.
Cannabinoid products are a new phenomenon, but like edibles, there are no standards or regulation in effect to control what goes into these products. While there are no known negative side effects of a pure cannabinoid product, variations in concentrations as well as the potential in unnecessary additives could make this purchase a waste of time and money.
Marijuana as a potential therapeutic product is a very exciting prospect in veterinary medicine, but more information and regulation is needed before it can become a recommendation. If pet owners wish to use marijuana on their pet for a medical reason, they should be aware of the potential risks before doing so.