Is Medical Marijuana Safe For Pets?

By Ashley Tyler

We've all seen the videos of kids plagued with having hundreds of seizures a month until they're prescribed a daily dose of high-CBD medical marijuana (usually in oil form) and suddenly they're practically cured. It's not just for seizures though, it's also known to help everything from inflammation to pain management without the nasty side-effects that traditional medicine brings.

What if it could help your suffering pet in the same way? Well, here's the good news — you can!

Dog under blanket
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THC vs. CBD

So what do all these abbreviations actually mean? The cannabis plant contains over 60 different chemicals called cannabinoids. Of those 60, the main two types are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the one you want if you're sharing a joint with your friends at a party. CBDs are the therapeutic ones that won't make you high.

In the cannabis plant, CBD and THC generally have an inverse relationship: The more THC a particular plant or strain has, the less CBD, and vice versa. So, just because someone is prescribed medical marijuana it doesn't mean they just want to get high.

All mammals have what's known as cannabinoid receptor sites — primarily in the brain, central nervous system and our peripheral organs (your lymph nodes and spleen). The whole things is called the endocannabinoid system.

CBD for Humans

Morning migraine is my biggest problem
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There are numerous studies proving that many cannabinoids have tremendous therapeutic qualities in mammals (most of the research is on humans or mice) for all kinds of ailments from inflammation and pain management to seizures and schizophrenia, even cancer.

A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that giving CBD to children experiencing convulsive seizures resulted in "a 39 percent decrease for the cannabidiol group patients, compared with a roughly 13 percent decrease among the placebo group" over a two week period. Five percent of the children were even seizure free the whole time.

Mikhail Kogan, the medical director of the George Washington University Center for Integrative Medicine told the Washington Post that CBD is "a really powerful compound. I've seen it work for a lot of my patients." Another doctor out of New York who studies childhood epilepsy, neurologist Orrin Devinsky, also told states that she's "found significant positive effects with CBD." And researchers from California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco even found that CBDs can block cancer cells from metastasizing.

But Francisco Guimaraes, a pharmacologist at the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil, put it best — "[CBD] is a Disneyland for a pharmacologist. There are so many possible mechanisms, so many possible ways it can be useful."

CBD for Your Pet

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While there is plenty of scientific evidence on the effectiveness of CBD in humans, there is much less research for the use in dogs and cats and your vet isn't allowed to prescribe it to you either. That doesn't stop owners from seeking it out for their ailing pet and believing in its therapeutic abilities though. It's been known to help dogs and cats alike with some of the same problems it helps humans with.

The late-Dr. Robert Kramer, aka The Vet Guru, was the first real advocate for medical marijuana (high-CBD strains) for pets. In an interview he did with VICE, he explained that he too was apprehensive at first when a patient suggested it for her dog who was unresponsive to other pain meds. However, after seeing the positive results he decided to use it on his own dog after she was diagnosed with untreatable cancer. "At the first dosage, she was up and around. I didn't cure her. It was just a question of increasing her quality of life and putting off inevitably euthanizing her. "

How to Get It

Golden retriever dog sitting at front door with letters in mouth
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You can order pet CBD based products online like these Canna-pet capsules or these seizure support drops. And yes — these are legal in all 50 states since they're derived from hemp, not marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are both strains of the same plant, but the main difference lies in the THC content. Marijuana usually has a THC content of anywhere between 5-**30 percent**. Hemp has to have 0.3 percent or less by law.

If you want CBD oil that's derived straight from medical marijuana plants (vs hemp), you're going to live in a state where you can obtain a medical marijuana card. And even after you go through all that, you're still going to have to figure out the dosage yourself. Canine herbalist, Ruth Hogan, suggests "starting with one drop of CBD oil per 10 lbs of your dog's body weight per day" and slowly increasing as you see fit. This dosage, however, is not regulated or approved by the FDA.

For some though, it's this unregulation that makes them weary altogether. "The lack of oversight, quality control and utter inability to know what is actually in the product is what bothers me," Dr. Lisa Moses, a Massachusetts-based veterinarian who serves on the board of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management.

Don't fret though because it doesn't actually matter if the CBD is derived from hemp or medical marijuana. Franjo Grotenhermen of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines has said that "CBD is CBD. The body does not care where the molecule comes from."

Cooking with cannabis
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No matter what you decide, just don't be a jerk and blow pot smoke in your dog's face the next time you light up thinking it's going to help just the same. Dr. Kramer would not approve, "to me, it's animal abuse, really. It kills me because it devalues what I'm trying to do."