There are few vets out there who have not had a client or friend ask them if they should use medicinal cannabis, e.g., cannabis oil for pets, to help their beloved companion animal with a problem. ?
Why Talking About Cannabis Oil Makes Vets Uncomfortable
This may cause the veterinarian to become a little uncomfortable. Why?
The possibility for cannabis in a therapeutic setting is intriguing for anyone keeping up with the latest research and anecdotal buzz around this topic. ?As I sat down to write about this, I realized just how complicated the matter is to explain.
To be clear, the cannabis plant has many components and derivatives but the focus of most discussions is around THC and CBD.
THC is the abbreviation for the compound that is generally known for its effects on mental status and is the source of most recreational objectives but there are medicinal uses in people as well.
Pets are much more sensitive to this than people and they can have some significant problems when they ingest it. ??This is usually where we tend to see related toxicities. We will visit this again in a minute for all of you out there who are asking “for a friend” about what happens if their pets have accidentally ingested some of their edibles.
The other compound of interest is known as CBD, or the cannabinoid, which is where much of the focus is in the medicinal research for veterinary patients.
A Quick Word About Cannabis Toxicity
A quick aside about cannabis toxicity, which is primarily from the THC portion of the components. “The states where recreational cannabis is legalized are seeing many more reported cases of accidental ingestion and toxicity than prior to legalization.“
This is particularly true with edibles that are more commonly available commercially than in the past.
THC toxicities are generally slightly more complicated because the edibles in question (think cookies, brownies, etc..) commonly contain other substances that are also toxic to pets like chocolate.
This makes the treatment and diagnosis trickier because there is a wide range and timing in symptoms for THC poisoning without complications but if you add in other substances it becomes even harder to predict what will happen exactly.
Some signs of cannabis toxicity include lethargy, slow breathing, low heart rate, blood pressure changes, uncoordinated walking, drooling, low body temperature, dribbling urine, and in very severe cases coma or death.
They’re clearly a wide range in the severity of these symptoms, the time it takes to see them after exposure, and how long they may last. It really depends on how much of the active compound the pet ingested.
If you suspect your pet or your “friend’s pet” may have gotten into the edibles (mostly talking to the dog owners out there) or the plant parts (talking to the cat owners especially here) please call your veterinarian immediately and be honest about what you think was eaten… we’ve likely heard it before.
Animal Poison Control
We are not here to judge the situation but to help your pet have the best outcome given the situation. If for some reason you can’t contact a veterinarian and you think the pet may have ingested a harmful substance the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s Phone Number is (888) 426-4435. ?In the meantime, make sure the edibles are WAY out of reach of your furry friends.
Back To CBD (The Good News & The Bad News)…
But what about the CBD cannabinoid that comes from hemp and that everyone is talking about for medicinal use in cannabis oil for pets.
As with most medical innovations, there is good news and there is bad news.
The good news first: research from the human side of medicine making its way towards veterinary research and there are studies that are showing promise in the areas of epilepsy, pain management, cancer support, anxiety, severe skin problems, and a few others.
It does not seem to be a cure-all for every condition but there is a lot of dialog about the possibilities for research that will help create more clarity around specific compounds and appropriate pharmacological doses.
The bad news is that cannabis is still in a tricky spot legally as it is considered a Schedule I narcotic drug. Does this mean it is considered by the federal government under the Controlled Substance Act to be illegal?
While there are many states that have legalized it for medicinal use and even recreational use, it is still considered illegal from the federal government’s perspective.
Bottlenecks & Bureaucracy With Cannabis Oil and Animals
Also, the changes in the state laws apply to people, not animals. This means that it is more difficult for researchers to conduct well-designed studies on marijuana and even the industrial hemp derivatives for animals because there are some bottlenecks in the bureaucratic process necessary to approve the controlled testing that scientists are hoping to do.
This again is part of why it has been tricky to get products that meet the requirements of the Food Drug and Cosmetics Act that allows consumers to know that the manufacturers of these types of products are being held accountable for what they are claiming their labels.
Vets Can’t Even TALK About Cannabis Oil In Most States
So the upshot is that under federal and state laws at this time veterinarians may not administer, dispense, prescribe or recommend cannabis or its products for animals.
Yep. The exception is that in California there was recently a law passed that allows veterinarians to talk about cannabis more openly with their clients without fear of having their DEA license put in jeopardy.
This is largely why, for most of you, your vet dances around the subject and offers alternatives when you bring it up.
What About All The CBD Oil For Pets Products Out There?
But you may be thinking, What about all those products available with CBD in them being marketed to pets?
There are some veterinarians in other countries that seem to be less inhibited by the bureaucratic tension that US veterinarians experience. “Without any specific cannabis oil for pet products currently able to make it through the current forest of federal, state, DEA, and our FDA processes in the United States these cannabis derivatives are considered unapproved animal drugs.“
This means that like many other alternative products they have not been shown to be safe for their intended use.
Hmmm, so what is the issue with that?
CBD Oil For Pets Products: Quality Control?
Well, it is tricky because there is a wide range of quality controls in place at each manufacturer and they are not well regulated in this space outside FDA approval.
There are some studies that have shown huge differences for the majority of cannabinoid products tested in what the labels on these products say is inside and what is actually inside the bottles. ?
Also, there is uncertainty around if they have tested appropriately for metal and biological contaminants that could be harmful to pets.
The companies that make these products are in charge of labeling their products honestly and some may certainly be doing that but right now it is hard to know exactly who that is and what standards they are using.
I choose to hope they are all striving to create and manufacture products that will help their clients but I struggle to find transparency in the current market and there could be a bad apple in the bunch.
When dispensing medication, quality control is everything. “As a doctor, you have to know how much medicine you are supposed to be giving your patient and how likely you are to experience undesired side effects.“
What works for a 7 lb Chihuahua might not be the same as for an 80 lb Labrador or perhaps a cat.
If you can’t tell your client how much of a product to give, and the amount of active compound that is safe to put in their beloved companion then veterinarians become extremely uncomfortable because it erodes the confidence your clients’ place in you.
We want to help, not cause more problems and toxicity from the intended product or contaminants beyond the legally challenging space cannabis is in. So for now, we are super twitchy about the whole topic.
The Future Of Cannabis Oil For Pets
I am so excited to see where the future of cannabis oil for pets goes. ?The possibility of being able to add another tool into my battle against discomfort and disease fills me with hope.
Many pet owners seem pretty comfortable with the idea of cannabis as medicine which makes me even more interested in finding out the best and worst ways to apply these compounds.
So, stay patient and stay tuned. Your vet is on your side but the details have to get worked out.
Luckily, the public interest is driving the development of this faster than is normally seen. The federal government may be making more changes in the coming months to help open up the ability of veterinarians to discuss this with clients.
We are so fortunate to be able to watch this emerging medicine take shape and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.