He might benefit from cannabis. Photo: yornik Heyl
He might benefit from cannabis. Photo:
yornik Heyl

Now that more people in the United States are using medical marijuana, vets are getting in on the act. The drug is an ever-more popular option for the treatment of ageing, aggression, allergies, arthritis, anxiety, cancer, chronic pain, a compromised immune system, depression, epilepsy, fear of loud noises such as fireworks, glaucoma, lack of energy, excessive barking, nausea from car rides, seizures and skin irritation in pets. Animals covered include not only cats and dogs but also horses and pigs. This is the market segment to watch.

There are edibles and oils containing cannabidiol (CBD), one of the major ingredients of cannabis but which doesn’t get you high. The other biggie is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gets you high but is toxic to animals. CBD is widely believed to possess healing properties minus the drawbacks of conventional pharmaceuticals: Tim Shu, a Californian vet and creator of Vet-CBD Oil, specified kidney or liver damage and upset stomachs. Dr Betsy Hershey, a veterinary oncologist who runs Integrative Vet Oncology in Phoenix, Arizona, advocates medical marijuana for pets and believes cannabis also has anti-cancer properties, with much research afoot. As for the advocating, Dr Hershey has to be careful because vets are prohibited from recommending cannabis, so she has to make her words educational information rather than medical advice.

Some anecdotes

It was medical marijuana in the form of Vet-CBD Oil which saved Rachel Martin’s dog, Sophie, who was struck by cancer. A vet gave Sophie just two months to live, making things into what Martin described as “a race against the clock.” Having expended thousands of dollars on regular medicine, she resorted to Vet-CBD Oil, adding a few drops to Sophie’s food. There was “a complete turnaround” within two months, with Sophie coming “back from the brink” and getting “a new lease on life.”

Lexi Davis employed medical marijuana to reduce the anxiety of her pitbull, Essie. The effect was “awesome,” and now Essie is “loving life so much more; she’s like playing with her toys more.” There were no downsides.

Rex, a pitbull boxer mix owned by Dirk Johnson, was diagnosed with a nasal tumour around 14 months back. Rex’s nose bled perpetually. Johnson sought the best possible treatment, which he decided came from Dr Hershey. She sees the same cancers as in humans, and the treatment options are also the same; she recommended CBD. Rex had lost all his muscles and resembled “a walking skeleton,” but he started to eat much better when he was given CBD.

When it comes to obtaining medical marijuana for your pet, a direct approach doesn’t work. 53-year-old video editor Pallas Weber’s 12-year-old chow-shepherd mix was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2012 and had to have one of his front legs amputated. The painkiller prescribed by his vet left him too weak to support his 75lb frame on just three legs. Weber wished to use CBD on her dog, but her cannabis doctor wouldn’t comply. So she said she had insomnia.

Medications for pets have the same CBD to THC ratios as would be found in medications for children: much CBD and almost no THC. It feels like taking a mild painkiller or muscle relaxant. CBD is not a fast-acting chemical, and it will be hours before an effect is felt and days before inflammation is reduced. Since animals can’t smoke, the drug is administered as an edible or oil.

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