Growing cannabis, or what we now more commonly refer to as marijuana or weed, is becoming a booming business in the United States, especially after the passage of legislation supporting the use of cannabis. Not only is weed being legalized for medicinal purposes, but several states have also legalized the recreational use of cannabis. But what does this scenario of weed legalization in the US hold for pets?
The question for many pet parents today lies in whether they can use cannabis with their own pets, primarily dogs and cats. Pet parents, businesses and vets say yes, but more research is still needed.The ‘cannabis for pets' market is growing, and there are now edible weed dog treats available for your pets to consume. Apart from these cannabis pet treats, there are also weed capsules and supplements available online. These capsules are intended to be used as a treatment mechanism for aging and sick dogs or cats with chronic pain or impaired appetite.
“Just want to say how much this product has helped my animals. Bug, 18-year-old cat, is playing, sleeping next to me at night, being curious and exploring… her back pain is nearly gone.“
Case in point: a woman in Fort Bragg, California had already resigned herself to the fate of putting down her dog because of his extreme pain. A day before the dog was to be put down, however, she tried giving him cannabis pet treats. Within a short while, the dog was up, acting like nothing was wrong.Results like these have led to a significantly increased interest in research into cannabis used for treatment of a variety of illnesses in pets.
That being said, what is cannabis?
Cannabis is a naturally growing plant that is commonly known as marijuana, although it boasts a host of other colloquial names in different parts of the world. Almost every region has its own term for cannabis, and in most cases street names are coined to conceal the presence of cannabis and to make it harder for law enforcement to identify the users (or at least that's what it used to be like).
Cannabis is a chemical that induces a variety of feelings in users; these sensations normally differ from one person to the other. Some will feel relaxed and happy, while others end up feeling anxious and agitated, losing control over their actions. Users often feel as though time is moving slower than usual. There's a list of minor side effects that may or may not present themselves when cannabis is used.
From a medical point of view, the use of cannabis involves many potential benefits. Medical marijuana, also referred to as medical cannabis, refers to the use of cannabis as a therapeutic alternative when prescribed by a physician. It is normally administered to treat chronic pain and discomfort associated with medical conditions or procedures such as invasive operations. In some cases, cannabis has been recommended for the sole purpose of lessening the side effects of conventional medical treatments.
Generally, the use of medical marijuana in humans is for the following reasons:
- To ease vomiting and nausea
- To enhance appetite, especially in patients suffering from AIDS
- To ease pressure on the eyes in patients struggling with glaucoma
- To manage chronic pain
- To help with insomnia
- To treat gastrointestinal conditions
- and many more.
Several compounds in marijuana have contributed to its medicinal value, leading 24 states to legalize the use of cannabis. With more than 500 chemical compounds noted so far, cannabis has nearly 80 compounds that have been recommended for and applied in medical science. Some of the most important compounds in cannabis are:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – This component has psychoactive effects in the body. Its function lies in inducing sleep and pain relief, and it may operate as an antioxidant.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) – This component helps to relieve anxiety, nausea, congestion and inflammation. It is also effective in the inhibition of cancerous cells.
- Cannabiniol (CBN) – This compound hinders the spread of cancerous cells.
- Based on recent polls, more than 80% of Americans support the proposition to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis to patients. This is a major increase, as slightly over 60% supported the cause in 1997.
Smoking anything – whether it's tobacco or weed – is harmful to the body, and as a result, the perception that cannabis can be taken through smoking makes it more confusing. However, in many cases medicinal cannabis is administered to patients through a number of means, such as cannabis pills, baked food or inhalers. As a matter of fact, these alternatives are far safer and healthier, and have helped relieve patients of their pain more effectively than the prescribed medication that is used in hospitals.
Public perception of cannabis for pets
For many years the legalization of marijuana has sparked great debate across the country. Currently, the use of medicinal marijuana has been legalized in 24 states, while 4 states have also legalized the recreational use of marijuana. As a result of this, the public opinion of the use of cannabis may be shifting from castigation to acceptance. But what happens when pets are involved?
The use of marijuana for pets may be taking the same route as previous legislation prior to the legalization of cannabis in parts of the country. Back in March, the state of Nevada introduced a bill in the Nevada State Senate which seek to allow pets, and in particular cats and dogs, to be prescribed medicinal cannabis. The bill was heralded by Senator Tick Segerblom. Unsurprisingly, the bill was not passed into law, so pet owners will have to wait a little longer before they're able to acquire weed treats for their dogs and cats legally.
Management of pets' chronic pain with marijuana
Although more people are beginning to appreciate the benefits of using cannabis to manage chronic pain, several studies on the subject are currently underway for pets. As a matter of fact, cannabis is considerably more effective in managing chronic pain than a number of other forms of treatment medication, which tend to have varying side effects, a study from 2010 has demonstrated. A non-profit organization Morris Animal Foundation has recently received a grant for funding scientific studies of marijuana's effect on pets, and particularly dogs.
Of course, the obvious side effects of using cannabis cannot be ignored either. When introduced into the body, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) — the main active ingredient in marijuana — blocks pain signals in the central nervous system from traveling to the brain, acting as an effective alternative for pain relief.
“Pot eased his Siberian husky's pain during her final weeks, after she had surgery to remove tumors. Not only did Nikita stop whimpering while using cannabis, but she started eating, gaining weight and meeting him at the door again.“
While limited research is available on the use of cannabis to help dogs and cats alleviate pain with marijuana, Los Angeles veterinarian Doug Kramer documented the use of cannabis to relieve his pet’s discomfort after it underwent invasive operations to remove tumors. As a matter of fact, cannabis further assisted in helping the pet gain weight and manage pain.
Dr. Kramer is not the first or only individual who has observed these benefits. Many people are becoming increasingly liberal with their views on the use of cannabis for their beloved pets. Many commend cannabis for dogs' pain relief, especially after cancer treatments or any invasive operation. Because cannabis is a naturally occurring substance, those who are looking for pain-relief alternatives for their cats and dogs can appreciate the use of cannabis as a promising alternative.
Controversies surrounding the legalization of cannabis for pets
First things first, cannabis is a controlled substance. For that reason alone, professionals within the medical industry will not willingly or openly comment its effectiveness, at least not until after years of testing. In addition, we all know that the legalization of marijuana has been a contentious issue in the political arena. Few medical practitioners are willing to put their careers on the line just yet.
In many cases, however, marijuana has helped pets overcome chronic pain, but even with that realization, the effects are still unclear to a much wider extent. Most people assume that what is good for people will work for pets, but without further and conclusive research, this might just remain an opinion with a bunch of anecdotal evidence.
One of the major concerns with the use of edible marijuana by pets lies in the recommended dosage. Most people share their own dose with their pets, sometimes unwittingly. However, the human dosage is definitely not the same dosage that should be given to animals who process cannabis differently to people. With regards to this concern, the point of contention does not lie with the substance being consumed, but rather with the quantity of marijuana being ingested by the animal.
However, unlike a host of the other pain relievers available for pets, some sources claim that fatalities have yet to be reported from an overdose in the use of cannabis by pets, but a journal in 2012 has mentioned death of two dogs from an overdose on marijuana. Pets may feel uncomfortable for a number of hours or behave oddly after ingesting high amounts of cannabis, but nothing has gone beyond that point as far as we know. In situations of potential cannabis overdose, pets should receive proper medical attention and professional observation from a vet. While the chances of a dog or cat succumbing to an overdose of cannabis are low, which is a claim that few industry pain relievers can make, the results of ongoing research may be promising. But overdoses do happen, and with the increased usage of the substance, the number of cases where pets have overdosed on marijuana have also risen.
Similarly to humans, the cannabinoids target the endocannabinoid system of the animal. This system causes different effects as compared to the biochemical reactions of other medications available for pets use.
If your dog does overdose on marijuana, in most cases, an overdose of industrial hemp should not last longer than 90 minutes according to a few questionable sources, during which the pet can lapse into a comfortable nap. The best course of action at this stage is to of course consult a veterinarian and possibly give Pet Poison Control a call. As is the case with any other medication, stop usage immediately and seek professional help if any warning signs appear.
Many cannabis pet products currently do not include the THC component, but they do contain other cannabis components. There are also a number of regulations in place to ensure that the pet owner and the pet in question are able to access these cannabis products without breaching the law. For example, the owner of the pet must be a resident of the state in which the use of marijuana is legal. In addition, a licensed vet must determine that the pet is struggling with a condition that can be alleviated through using marijuana.
Industrial hemp for pets
One of the most important things to appreciate about industrial hemp (high-growing varieties of the cannabis plant and products like fiber, seeds and oil) is that it is not necessarily designed to create a psychedelic sensation. This makes it one of the finest alternatives for pets experiencing post-surgical pain.
However, industrial hemp is still associated with several side effects.
The key risks of industrial hemp for pets
Using controlled substances like marijuana is still a controversial subject in the United States, not just for humans but also for pets. This is always a concern for those who decide to use marijuana. Humans have a choice whether to use cannabis or not to treat their medical conditions. Pets, however, do not have a voice in what treatments they receive. The choice of whether to treat our beloved dogs and cats with cannabis rests entirely on the vet and the pet owner. For this reason, it becomes challenging to see the effects of an overdose, especially when induced accidentally. Several side effects have been associated with the use of cannabis for pets, as discussed below.
Marijuana overdose in pets
When administering cannabis to pets, owners should be concerned about overdose signs. Interestingly, most vets are more aware of the common signs of overdose than of the benefits of these drugs in pets.
In most cases, more dogs are taken in for marijuana overdose than cats. What the vets look for are signs like staggering, low blood pressure, and a slower heart rate. Additionally, dogs may show signs of drooling or incessant salivating. Some might have eye twitches or dilated pupils. There might be different reasons or causes for the symptoms, but it is still important seek professional help. Some dogs will vomit or have diarrhea, or have a combination of both. Bladder control might be a problem, and some pets might also experience muscle tremors.
If a pet has a history of fearfulness, it might also develop a heightened sense of anxiety. This is understandable, as the animal is experiencing a state that it has no clear understanding of. This induces tension in animals, making them demonstrate exaggerated reactions to common noises or sudden movements. Unpredictable reactions might also become dangerous, because neither the pet nor its owner understands what is happening. These symptoms indicate that the animal is past its limit of cannabis.
Slow heart rate
One of the first organs affected by cannabis in the system is the heart. The active compounds contained in cannabis block pain sensations from getting to the brain, giving the animal a sense of relief from chronic pain.
Vets have in the past cautioned pet owners who administer cannabis to their pets to monitor the animals’ heart rate, liver function, and kidney function to ensure that everything is okay. A slow heart rate causes reduced blood pressure and other systemic reactions as the body responds to new stimuli.
A slow heart rate and low blood pressure can cause disorientation, anxiety, lethargy, and weakness. Many people have not experienced these sensations because they restrict consumption to the acceptable bodily limits of cannabis. Consequently, individuals who use cannabis on their pets must do so under careful observation.
When cannabis is ingested by a dog or a cat, the pet is able to fall into a deep and comfortable sleep, which is perhaps one of the after effects of a slowing heart rate. Every other organ in the body slows its role, and sleep becomes easier.
Treating an overdose
If an animal has ingested excessive amounts of cannabis and is demonstrating problematic symptoms, take him to the vet immediately. Thankfully, there have been only two reported deaths with respect to an overdose (a case that still needs to be looked into), but it would still help to see a professional.
“Long-term complications from exposure to marijuana are very rare. However, pets suffering from marijuana intoxication may injure themselves due to lack of coordination. Dehydration can result when pets are unable to consume water,” says Eric Barchas, DVM.
First, the vet will try to determine whether your pet is in any danger by monitoring its vital organs and administering a dose of activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is a good alternative not just for marijuana, but also for any substance that might have been ingested accidentally. Activated charcoal prevents the body from absorbing toxic compounds. It may induce vomiting if the ingestion was recent; if the ingestion took place several hours ago, the vet can administer a laxative to help in eliminating the contents of marijuana from your dog's digestive system.
The challenge of THC in the system
Out of the more than 80 cannabinoids discovered in cannabis so far, THC is perhaps one of the most toxic, considering that it acts directly on the nervous system. Because recent legislation allows more people to grow their own marijuana, it is expected that more pets, and in particular dogs, will experience cannabis overdose. After all, few people are aware of what their dog does when it runs off to the garden.
In pets, the most common clinical effects of using cannabis are depression and ataxia. Dilated eyes, hypothermia, and loss of balance will also occur as a result of a lack of motor coordination. In most cases, the effects of ingesting cannabis will be visible in one or two hours, but they will only last for at most 12 hours. Since the cannabinoids are stored in fat, the effects might take days to wear off.
Another challenge that arises with the use of marijuana for pets is that if this is to be legalized, people may begin to use their pets as an excuse to get cannabis for personal use. Ultimately, this begs the question of when will cannabis be legalized all across the country for humans and animals alike, because with this rapid move towards heavy usage of the substance for medical reasons with proven effectiveness, there's simply no way around it.
How cannabis affects pets
Pets, like human beings, face many health challenges in the course of their lives. As they grow older, they go through pain and dogs are often suffering from arthritis; for pets that have cancer, it becomes unbearable to watch them waste away or to see them suffer pain. After all, our dogs and cats are a part of the family, and it hurts to see them go through pain alone.
These situations have led lots of pet lovers to consider the use of marijuana to help their animals live with less pain. One of the things that has popularized the use of cannabis in animals is the relaxed legal confines for human use of cannabis. For the use of cannabis in animals to be legalized, two major challenges have to be overcome: political bickering and legal issues.
Experimentation in this field is another major challenge, particularly because of the increasing awareness of animal rights. Due to these issues, most of those who have had good results with the use of marijuana for their pets will probably share the information through word of mouth to a select few to avoid the attention of federal agents.
Controlling the brain receptors
Marijuana functions in pets in largely the same way that it functions in humans. The cannabinoids that are found in marijuana imitate several normal sensations in the body, making them stronger and longer-lasting.
The natural cannabinoids in the body of a pet are anadamide and 2.AG. Once these compounds are present in the body, they stimulate the brain of the pet, and the response is felt throughout its body. When these cannabinoids get into the system, they affix themselves to the receptors in the brain that sends and receives neurofeedback. However, when they attach to the receptors, they do not let go, which causes their effects to last longer.
Over time, the effects of the cannabinoids on the pet's body will wear off. This happens because the liver will process the cannabinoids into compounds that can either be stored by the body as fat or excreted in the form of urine or through other means. While these receptors are able to affix the cannabinoids, their longer-lasting effects help the body handle pain with much more ease. This creates positive sensations, helping a dog overcome chronic discomfort.
Areas under further research
Legislators throughout the country are debating the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and as a result, many states have already legalized weed. While no conclusive reports exist on the use of marijuana with animals, most people tend to rely on the results that are associated with human use. As a result, many issues still need to be addressed by continued research into the use of cannabis by these animals.
In human beings, marijuana can help reduce inflammatory sensations throughout the body by acting on CB2 receptor cells within the brain. This happens through the cannabinoids’ function. However, no conclusive studies are available in this area when it comes to animals. Cannabis also helps humans by improving their appetite, making it easier for them to gain weight. But again, there is not much research into this when it comes to animals, thus a lot of veterinary studies still caution against this usage because of lack of evidence. Some individuals have administered edible cannabis butter or liquid extract to their dogs and observed the appetite of their beloved pets improve significantly, which is a good sign.
Even though all of these cases are considered as anecdotal evidence, it's being predicted that their exponential growth will soon start gaining more weight, and with a significant amount of studies on use of cannabis with pets currently on the way, the picture should become clearer in the next year or two.
Administration of cannabis
Despite contention over animal-based research, pain research is still performed with rodents. Over the years, studies have examined how arthritic rats can benefit from the administration of the THC cannabinoids that are commonly found in marijuana; the results are impressive so far. However, not all types of pain associated with pets are the same. For this reason, what works for one pet may not work for another.
Different cannabis dog products can be used to administer marijuana to pets. The opinion on which marijuana pet products to use is split among health professionals. Some veterinarians recommend synthetic cannabis, while other vets advise against using synthetic marijuana formulas. Those pro-synthetic formulas claim that in most cases the strength of their activity in the pet is already set, and this is backed by some research and relevant studies. Therefore, accurate dosing is possible for most pets.
As the article in the last reference notes, cannabis products for pets such as Nabilone, Nabiximols and Dronabinol can be used for this purpose. Often, however, people simply infuse dog biscuits with cannabis.
Benefits of using cannabis for pets
Many pet owners have started using cannabis for dogs and cats as a means of pain relief. While some might consider this treatment unorthodox, those who have witnessed their pets’ improvement are in favor of the use of medical marijuana in pets, and the numbers are growing.
Older pets, particularly older dogs, have a hard time dealing with symptoms of growing old, such as dog arthritis, inflammation, epilepsy, and tumors. Even an ultra-right media outlet like FoxNews admitted to the effectiveness of cannabis when used with pets. Generally, the administration of cannabis for this purpose helps pets feel better because its compounds block the pain receptors in the brain from registering any painful sensations.
Studies of marijuana's use in pets are still lacking, but we already know from research with people that cannabis not only helps to relieve chronic pain, but also pain that's been associated with Multiple Sclerosis, mood enhancement as well as nausea caused by chemotherapy treatments. Overall, this is still a case for more studies, and privately backed research as well as nonprofit organizations are starting to take care of that.
Neither people nor animals want to live with chronic pain. Some may worry that using cannabis for pets is simply letting animals use recreational drugs. This, however, is not the case. As a matter of fact, hemp-based capsules are available on the market that only contain trace elements of THC. One of the most highly recommended hemp capsules is Canna-Pet, a marijuana pet supplement that is designed to help pets deal with anxiety and pain.
Looking at the success of Canna-Pet and the response from pet parents — even without strong scientific evidence — cannabis and cannabis-based compounds such as the ones mentioned above and below appear to be very effective in helping dogs and cats deal with pain and other health problems.
Cannabis has also helped many pets get back their appetite, especially those with some medical conditions or after surgical operations. This is a common occurrence with pets that are undergoing treatment for cancer. In addition, similarly to humans, medical marijuana can help pets regain weight. The animal will often show signs of improvement a number of days after using cannabis. After treatment, pets will often appear to be in a better mood, stay active, and enjoy greater health.
With all of that being said, there are still challenges that impede the use of cannabis – Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA, or any federal agency for that matter, are strictly against the use of marijuana as hemp seeds are still considered a controlled substance. We've even seen the DEA seizing shipments of hemp seeds, such as the high-profile dispatch that was headed to Kentucky from Italy. Luckily, after filing a suit against the federal government, Kentucky is now able to plant hemp seeds. Well that worked out!
Even so, most pet owners will still face a big challenge when trying to acquire marijuana for their pets. Fortunately, with the growing market of pet cannabis products, more pet startups are emerging onto the scene to help out cat and dog owners in need.
Cannabis for pets and the case for startups
With cannabis being legalized in more than 20 states across the country, entrepreneurs will likely start taking advantage of this new business opportunity. In fact, they already have. More and more cases appear with investors funding cannabis related startups, and for a good reason. DEA have already admitted to marijuana not being as harmful as either tobacco or alcohol, and we're undoubtedly moving towards legalizing the substance across the whole country. Moreover, with successful cannabis pet product companies like those mentioned below, and the extremely positive response from pet parents, the only rational solution for aspiring entrepreneurs is to move towards two of the booming markets — pets and pot.
After Founders Fund decided to invest $75 million in Privateer Holdings, a company focused on educating consumers on the production of legal or medicinal marijuana and its distribution, many other entrepreneurs quickly followed suit. Since then, a multitude of other companies and venture funds have invested in cannabis research, production, and distribution, taking advantage of the laxity in state legislation that has allowed medicinal pot in 24 states and recreational pot in 4 states so far. Rarely do we get 80% of Americans to agree on anything, but statistics indicate 85% of the population concur that medicinal pot should be legalized.
It is not just the big companies that are running into this cannabis business, but private individuals also take interest in the pot industry. For example, Calvin Broadus, Jr. (you may know him better as Snoop Dogg), is planning to raise $25 million for investment in the marijuana industry. Perhaps of all the celebrities, this one was rather obvious.
And for pet owners looking to dip their toes into the cannabis products for dogs and cats, there are a few online resources for either information purposes or where you can purchase of this marijuana goodness to relieve your animal's pain. Some of the more successful startups that have been widely accepted by most pet parents are companies like Treat-ibles who manufacture cannabis dog treats, Peak Pharmaceuticals [PKPH:OTC US] (or their sub niche of Canna-Pet) that specialize in cannabis supplements for animals, and the already mentioned Canna Companion. As we slowly approaching 2016, we'll probably see even more competition in the market of cannabis pet products.
Note, however, that FDA was particularly unhappy with some of these companies making the scientifically unsupported claims about the health effects of marijuana products for animals, and have even sent them a nasty warning letter. In short, always do consider labels as the one below before purchasing anything for your pet:
FDA Disclosure: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products and statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
The use of cannabis is becoming widespread throughout the country, with California leading the way for legalization of cannabis for pets. These victories give hope for the use of marijuana with pets too, albeit more research is definitely needed.
The use of cannabis for pets is not a new concept. It has been going on for a while, though most pet owners cannot openly admit it for fear of being scrutinized and reprimanded. Society has held cannabis in disregard for so long that most people are simply oblivious to its benefits. Over the years, though, pet owners have become increasingly aware of the benefits of cannabis for pets. Vets have also started recommending products that contain cannabis for pain relief, most notably animal weed supplements like Canna-Pet.
Public perception on the use of cannabis for pets is polarized at the moment. There are those who support this cause, while others feel it will do more harm than good. There are individuals whose concern stem from the fact that making cannabis mainstream can easily be abused. Pet owners would need to get a license to administer cannabis to their pets. It is not clear, however, how this would prevent anyone from using cannabis for personal reasons.
cannabis is becoming more popular among pet owners and vets alike, and all the signs are pointing to further expansion of this industry for the better of pets.
Both individuals and pets can use cannabis to numb chronic pain, and the substance can be used to manage the pain — as well as a variety of other health related issues — very effectively, most of which is supported only by anecdotal evidence. Pets that have undergone invasive operations will greatly benefit from this treatment, and aniamls that are suffering from arthritis can also experience less pain when they ingest marijuana.
The controversies surrounding cannabis will not end any time soon. There are bound to be political debates, discussions in online forums, while all of us cat and dog parents are in desperate need for additional scientific research into the use of cannabis for pets. While we've seen multiple cases of marijuana's positive effects, only published results from credible scientific research can be used to discredit any unsubstantiated claims on cannabis for pets.
Industrial cannabis is already being produced, and it is available in select facilities across the country. Some vets already recommend specific cannabis products directly to pet owners without hesitation, while others do not openly admit to doing this. It's suspected that most of the vets who shy away from administering cannabis for pets do so out of fear of their licenses being revoked for malpractice.
While success with cannabis use for pets presents a valid argument for mass production and legalization, pet owners must be careful. They must monitor the animal before, during, and after administering cannabis products. Any administration must be done with the consent of a licensed vet and at the prescribed dosage. Even though deaths caused by inducing marijuana are uncommon and highly unlikely, if pet owners notice unusual behavior or reactions from their animals, they must contact the vet or Pet Poison Control center for further advice in order to avoid accidental overdose.
The largest issue right now are the legal battles, as a result of which there is uncertainty concerning the legal requirements for administering cannabis to pets, and most pet owners will not openly admit to their pets overdosing on cannabis due to possible backlash. However, it is important to be open about such incidences, at least when discussing a case with your veterinarian. This way, the vet can run tests and administer the best course of action to help dogs and cats recover faster.
Pot for pets businesses are booming. The industry for cannabis products for pets is just starting to grow, and analysts predict a much bigger rise in 2016. There is a lot of room for investment, diversification, and most importantly scientific research into safer and more effective ways of making marijuana available for pet consumption. As Warren Buffet has taken charge on investing into cannabis growing facilities, other investors such as the Founders Fund have already taken a keen interest in cannabis for pets, and for a good reason. The next few years could bring about additional competition that will spur growth and more research in this sector and, which is great news for pet parents.
Medicinal cannabis for people was once a thorny subject, but at the moment over 20 states have legalized medicinal marijuana. In this light, it's a valid opinion that the same can be expected of the market for pet cannabis.
References, sources, links used and further reading: