Treating pets with cannabis

by Patty Templeton

A young Golden Retriever is low energy. He’s not eating. He has cancer, and the chemo decreases his appetite.

A Calico cat is old, kind, and tired. She has hip pain and wobble-walks to the couch where she winces when she jumps to her sun spot.

A beagle cowers under a shoe pile in a hall closet every time a storm thunders through. Her body shudders with anxiety for the hours and hours of the bad weather.

What do these three pets have in common? Their maladies could be lessened if treated with cannabis.

Before you blow Super Lemon Haze smoke rings at your chinchilla or feed your puppy illness-inducing caramel edibles, let’s get a few facts straight.

All cannabis is not OK for petsDr. Robert Silver, retired veterinarian, current chief medical officer of Rx Vitamins, and author of “Medical Marijuana and Your Pet: The Definitive Guide,” said that there are two main ways that pets receive cannabis. One: pet owners dose their pets with marijuana from a dispensary. This can result in the pet receiving a high level of THC, to which dogs are especially sensitive to. Two: through hemp-based products that do not need to be bought from a dispensary. Silver said, “Hemp has all of the medicinal benefits of medical marijuana without the possibly harmful THC.”

Got that? THC can be harmful to your pets. Your vet isn’t allowed to prescribe a Schedule 1 substance to you, anyways. Do not let your arthritic hamster cram a dank nug in his maw. If you want to help your animal companion, start with a veterinarian-recommended cannabinoid (CBD) product.

Why you can’t feed your Guinea pig a pot brownieSaddest possible scenario: You give your pet marijuana hoping to ease pain and you accidentally kill it. Dr. Karlene Stange, a veterinarian at Animas Animals, said, “A dog can die. It’s rare, but they can get so stoned that they vomit and vomit and vomit.” It is called intractable vomiting. That means repeated vomiting that resists treatment and causes severe dehydration. In extreme cases, this cyclic vomiting can cause a stupor, then a coma, then death. Stange continued, “Even if it is just vomiting a lot, you can end up at the vet and the vet is expensive. It’s an emergency call that involves IV fluids.”

If you give your pet what you consider is a controlled dose of THC, it still isn’t good for their mental state. “Pets aren’t supposed to get high. They don’t like it. They feel uncomfortable,” Silver said. “Medical Marijuana and Your Pet” states that your pet’s eyes can glaze over and they can start excessively drooling or rapidly breathing. The pet may fall over with their legs still straight, lose bladder or bowel control, or they may paddle their legs and whine while laying down unable to get up.

“The problem with the medical marijuana is that the THC is borderline toxic to dogs unless they’re being given the right approach to dosing,” said Silver. “There was a paper published in 2012 [by Dr. Stacey Meola in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care] that found a positive correlation, in the number of people who got cards for medical marijuana and the number of admissions to dogs to the ER. People get their edibles and they leave them out on the table and a dog comes by and snarfs it up and they get a huge dosage, much larger than a therapeutic dose, a toxic dose. Plus, a lot of the edibles have chocolate in them. Chocolate is definitely toxic to dogs as are raisins and macadamia nuts.”

Bottom line: If you don’t want to cause your pet discomfort or a toxic reaction, avoid anything containing THC.

CBD treatable health issues in pets “The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) stance is that there are a lot of benefits to cannabinoid oils,” said Stange. Examples of what CBD can treat in pets are:



bone healing



neurodegenerative diseases





CBD is not a cure-all. It should be taken in low doses and only as directed. You should speak with your vet to see what combined approach is appropriate to treat your pet.

CBD as a pet supplementProper doses of CBD through treats, tinctures, or what have you, can be used every day or as needed.

For example, if you have a pet with separation anxiety, that pet may benefit from administrations of CBD for several days before you leave on your trip. While you are gone, having your pet-sitter continue that dose could ease your animal’s angst. Then you get back, your pet is fine, and it doesn’t need CBD until you travel next.

“At the same time,” Silver said, “if you have a pet with pain and arthritis, you could use it every day. Maybe stop a day or two to give your pet a break, but everyday usage would be recommended.”

Researchers like Silver are beginning to notice that, “Interestingly, though it has drug-like effects, it also has hormone-like effects, in that tiny amounts of it get things moving … We are finding that lower doses may work better. Which is good because it makes it more cost effective.”

I’m not wasting money on something not researched, right? There’s no such thing as a perfect cure. Some animals may experience adverse side effects or lesser gains than others but, in the second decade of the 21st century, “It’s about time we look at the beneficial effects of these plant substances and take advantage of them,” said Stange. It is also good to consider the side effects of traditional pharmaceuticals and weigh them against the side effects of plant-based options.

Silver said, “There are still many difficulties in terms of the research, but it is not true that you can only do research in states where there is medical marijuana or legal hemp … You can do research at any supportive academic institution, but in order to be able to handle the research materials – the cannabis or the hemp – the (Drug Enforcement Agency) requires that you get a Schedule 1 license. They also require that you source your materials, marijuana or hemp, only from them.”

Experts can do marijuana research for pets or people in states where it is illegal to sell or consume it, but many companies choose to conduct research in legalized states where their research options are wider open.

Additionally, not all research is created equal. Companies that financially back academic or independent studies are to be scrutinized. “We have to look very carefully at the research to make sure that it does not contain bias within it – the company trying to create a study that will better market their product,” said Silver.

More success stories, please.CBD is popular with owners of older pets that struggle with inflammatory diseases. Sayrah Sims, manager of Animas Herbal Wellness Center, said, “I personally have used CBD Pet ReLeaf treats to aid my dog Zorra in her recovery from masticatory mitosis, an inflammatory disease of the jaw muscles. I did so in addition to using the steroids that the vet prescribed her.”

“I am retired from practice, so I don’t get to have as many pets to work with as I used to, but I do get to talk to a lot of veterinarians who are encouraged and happy to have HempRx in their hands,” said Silver. “One vet said that she just can’t believe it. She had a patient on three different anti-convulsion agents and the animal wasn’t doing well. She gave it the hemp at a moderate dosage and now it is off all of those medications and is seizure-free.”

Silver continued, “I have a rescue dog of my own, Ollie. He must have been pretty badly abused because even though he loves me and wants to be around me all the time, he is still very nervous and jumps when I go to pet him. I’ve been working with him and working the anxiety, and I’ve noticed that when I give him the hemp, he is more likely to come up to me and ask to be petted.”

Pet ReLeaf CBD products are getting good feedback at Pet Haus. Manager David Davis said that Edibites treats are the most popular. “There have been a lot of stories that come back to us about it helping with seizures, anxiety, and inflammation. We’ve even had customers say that, in conjunction with additional treatments, that tumors shrink when using CBD … The CBD products have been great. We haven’t had any negative feedback.”

And rememberClean up the crumbs from your edibles. Don’t leave pot on the coffee table. Don’t leave a crunchy, delicious bag of CBD treats where your pet can tear into them. But if you accidentally do, and your pet eats a whole bunch of what it’s not supposed to, call the vet immediately. Use the smallest dose first, no matter the size of your pet. Avoid THC. Wait at least three hours before administering another dose if you think the first one didn’t work and, talk to your vet first, not only when an emergency comes up.


One Response

  1. I loved how you said that it can help with treating arthritis. My dog was diagnosed with arthritis a couple of weeks, so my husband and I want to find ways to help her feel comfortable so that she isn’t as in as much pain all the time. I appreciate you helping me learn more about the benefits of cannabis for pets!

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