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Your dog might respond well to cannabis. Photo: Alan Levine

Your dog might respond well to cannabis. Photo: Alan Levine

There was the bulldog that spent two years either in repose or up-throwing but played like a puppy after being given cannabis. And the boxer whose skin cancer disappeared after the application of cannabis oil. And the elderly Labrador suffering from liver and lung cancer that become more himself, regaining his appetite, after being given a cannabis tincture. And the woman who readied herself to have her dog put down on account of how much pain he had to endure, but the day before, she gave the beast a single cannabis cookie and soon he was acting normally.

There is an ever-growing raft of such tales of cannabis-assisted healing in pets. But, in the United States, veterinarians played no official part because, while cannabis is legal for medical purposes in 23 states and the District of Columbia, this is true only for humans, and although doctors are immune to prosecution, vets aren’t, and they could lose their licences. Even suggesting cannabis for pets can lead to trouble. At least in the state of Nevada, a bill is being debated that would permit vets to prescribe cannabis for pets.

So, which pets?

Dogs experience many of the same health problems as humans. Like humans, dogs have cannabinoid receptors, the bits that are receptive to cannabis. So do other mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. Dr Tim Shu established VETCBD around one year back, selling low-THC medicines for pets. Conditions including arthritis, anxiety, nausea, pain and seizures were treated. Dr Shu has experience of guinea pigs, horses, mice and rabbits.

But not too much, OK?

When it comes to cannabis for pets, it’s possible to overdo it: a study that featured in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care turned up the fact that the number of dogs treated for cannabis overdoses at two veterinary hospitals in Colorado quadrupled after medical marijuana was legalised there. Tina Wismer, medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, tells that nearly a quarter of the dogs became “quite agitated.” There have even been some deaths. Sometimes, the administration of cannabis was unintentional, with the dog stumbling upon it.

Hemp is a poor substitute

Hemp is cannabis with almost none of the funky tetrahyrocannabinol which makes you stoned, but it does include cannabidiol (CBD), which leaves you unstoned but has medicinal properties. A survey that featured in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association looked at 632 people and found that 72 percent reported having used a hemp product on their dog (and 16 percent with their cat) and 64 percent felt that it helped. But hemp doesn’t stimulate appetite and can be harmful to animals with a compromised immune system. Allison Ettel founded Treatwell, which purveys cannabis health products, and was not long ago invited to treat seals at Sausalito, California’s, Marine Animal Center. She’s all for cannabis for pets but declared, “We believe hemp can have more negative effects than positive.”

How much to do it

When giving cannabis for pets, herbalist Rita Hogan recommends commencing with a low dose: one drop of CBD oil per 10lbs of the dog’s weight a day. After a week, this is performed twice daily. An extra drop is given each time every week until benefits become apparent. Adverse side effects include disorientation, hyperactivity or lethargy and vomiting, and if any of these comes to pass, it’s time to stop and restart the process.

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