Using cannabis for pets is a hot topic. It comes up in my practice daily. Now that marijuana is legal in Colorado, more of my clients have access to and use cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. In this article, I am going to cover the basics of cannabis and how you can use it for your dog. If marijuana isn’t yet legal in your state, keep reading. Everything I am going to teach you is legal in all 50 states.
Don’t worry cat lovers, the next installment is for you! Cats are not small dogs and don’t metabolize this herb in the same way. They deserve their own post!
Is it hemp or marijuana? What’s the difference?
I was initially confused by this! So, I am going to break it down in the simplest of terms.
First, let’s consider dogs. We classify all domestic dogs to be one species, Canis lupus. Within this classification we have different breeds. For example, a Rottweiler is a different breed than a Chihuahua. While they are both in the same species (Canis lupus), they have very different properties such as size and demeanor.
Let’s get back to cannabis. Cannibus sativa is the term for the plant. It is a very general classification. There are different strains of Cannibus sativa. This is where we can differentiate hemp and marijuana. They are both cannabis but have different properties. For example, some strains of cannabis sativa are designed to make industrial hemp fiber, while others are designed to make psychoactive marijuana.
Wait, is this legal?
To answer this question, it’s important that you understand what makes cannabis medicinal. There are two main components to consider.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This is the part of the plant with psychoactive properties. In other words, this is the part of the plant that causes you, or your dog, to get ‘high’. There are medicinal properties to THC as well.
CBD (cannabidiol). This is the part of the plant with NO psychoactive properties. Instead it has only medicinal properties. Your dog cannot get high from this component of the plant.
It is legal to buy and use products in all 50 states with THC concentrations below 0.3%.
Keep reading to find out what products I use and where you can buy them.
Will my dog get ‘high’?
Dogs have many, many more THC receptors in their brains compared with humans. It takes a small fraction of THC to get a dog ‘high’ compared with a human. For some people, consuming THC, causes paranoia and anxiety. Obviously, we don’t want that for our dogs.
If you stick to the preparations that are legal and have less than 0.3% THC, this won’t be a problem.
Don’t share your marijuana with your dog!
When should I use cannabis for my dog?
As always you should work with your veterinarian when deciding on a treatment plan. We still have a long way to go to fully understand the medicinal properties of cannabis. Most of the information we are using in veterinary medicine about cannabis comes from human studies. This isn’t ideal and hopefully more animal studies will be done in the future. At this point we have a lot of anecdotal evidence in dogs. Anecdotal evidence isn’t the most reliable but it’s a start.
Here are some common uses of cannabis in veterinary medicine:
Anxiety – CBD has been shown to improve overall tranquility and feeling of well-being in people. It’s calming effects may be due to an increase in GABA and serotonin, both calming neurotransmitters. I also like using l-theanine and magnesium to help manage anxiety.
Arthritis – The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can be a great addition to a pain management protocol. Consider using cannabis in conjunction with acupuncture and massage.
Epilepsy – There is a lot of interest in the anti-seizure effects of cannabis in human medicine. A quick web search reveals many people that are treating themselves with cannabis and successfully controlling seizures. It is very important that you never discontinue medications for dogs with epilepsy.
There have been reports of cannabis helping heart disease, reducing allergies and reducing symptoms of IBD. Right now the possibilities are endless.
Where can I get it?
There is one brand I use for dogs, HempRx by Rx Vitamins for Pets. What’s wonderful about this product is that they offer an oil or chew. You can add the oil to your dog’s food once or twice daily. It’s formulated by a veterinarian and has a pleasant smell. If your dog doesn’t mind chews, that’s another great option.
It’s important that you know the quality and strength of the cannabis product if you decide to use another product. Some of the commercial products I see are just not potent enough to see great results. I always use the maximum dose with my patients and generally see results within four weeks.
Want to learn more? Check out this book written by Dr. Robert Silver, DVM. It is really user-friendly and is extremely comprehensive.
I would love to hear from you! Are you using cannabis for your dog? What results have you seen? Is it legal where you live?