Pet parents are increasingly turning to cannabidiol, popularly known as CBD, a cannabis compound, to soothe their four-legged friends’ pain, anxiety, inflammation, and a variety of other ailments.
Even though there are hundreds of anecdotal accounts of cannabinoid therapy working as an effective treatment for animals, how does cannabis really affect pets and what scientific evidence do we have substantiating those claims?
Virtually none, as it turns out.
There are less than 60 papers and studies listed on the online medical database PubMed regarding cannabis and dogs. Most studies relate to the toxic effects of accidental canine cannabis ingestion, consumption of synthetic cannabinoids, or studies of toxicity via experimental administration. There are a few studies in which CBD seems to have possibly been effective in improving symptoms of pain and reducing epileptic seizures in dogs. But those studies have been small and few.
Dogs possess a larger number of cannabinoid receptors than humans making them potentially more susceptible to the toxic effects of the drug than their human counterparts. In one study from Colorado, two dogs died after consuming edibles containing high-THC cannabis butter — there are no verified reports of cannabis causing an overdose-related death in people.
For now, researchers and veterinarians agree that more research is needed with regards to the administration of cannabis products to pets.
“There are differences in the CB2 receptors and in the metabolism of cannabinoids in dogs compared with humans and veterinary medical researchers should ensure that they become involved in parallel research on the potential value of marijuana for treatment of animal diseases,” writes Ontario Veterinary College professor Carlton Gyles, noting that “marijuana cookies may well find a place in the veterinarian’s arsenal for treatment of epilepsy and the side-effects of cancer.”
As for other pets such as cats, horses, and rabbits, there is even less information about the effects of therapeutic cannabinoid treatment. Meanwhile, veterinarians in Canada are not legally permitted to prescribe cannabinoids but other countries such as the UK are exploring the possibilities of CBD in veterinary medicine.
While companies such as CannaHorse are working to research safe and effective veterinary applications for CBD, no pet parent should administer cannabis without first consulting a qualified veterinarian.
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