Categories: drugs

Can Pot for Pets help end the suffering of our companion animals?

Although in traditional medical circles using marijuana to treat people remains a controversial topic, why can’t this popular weed help alleviate the constant suffering and intractable pain that is endured by companion animals who are terminally ill?

Photo (modified): Dank Depot on Flickr

Colorado and Washington State have already legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Thousands of people are taking advantage of the herb to alleviate pain, to deal with devastating illnesses and to counter the miserable side effects of chemotherapy. Additionally, many other patients claim numerous benefits with the judicious use of marijuana.

Since it appears that medical marijuana has been helping people deal more effectively with a wide variety of medical problems; as of January 2015 twenty three states and the District of Columbia have already legalized the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of many chronic conditions in spite of the fact that the mainstream veterinary profession remains skeptical and extremely concerned about whether the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of pets is warranted.

But according to HuffingtonPost.com, California resident Laura Bugni-Daniel loudly sang its praises. After watching her aging bulldog vomiting and suffering for two years, she was able to help relieve his pain considerably with the small, measured amount of cannabis she put in what she called her “magic cheese.”

Dubbed the “Vet Guru”, veterinarian, Dr. Doug Kramer 38, also speaks out in favor of the use of marijuana to manage pain in terminally ill pets. Kramer said,

“I grew tired of euthanizing pets when I wasn’t doing everything I could to make their lives better. I felt like I was letting them down.”

But is it a good idea to use this mode of treatment? Kramer thinks the answer is that it depends on whether your pet could be classified as a medical marijuana patient.

Years ago, Kramer treated his own dog, a Husky named Nikita. When she had cancer, his homemade pot tinctures helped her regain her appetite and alleviated her pain. He said “I do think there are therapeutic benefits to it.”

But Kramer is one of the very few veterinarians who are willing to even talk about using medical marijuana in the treatment of pets. Kramer claims that since rats and dogs have been used in many medical studies on the effects of marijuana in place of humans, with results that suggested that “mammals have the same cannabinoid receptors as humans do”, doesn’t it stand to reason that pets “would benefit in the same ways?”

Kramer has been doing extensive research on the use of marijuana for pets and has accumulated over 500 case studies. In his research he has used surveys distributed at marijuana dispensaries and other positive feedback. Most of the people who are treating their dogs and cats with marijuana are using it to ameliorate their pet’s pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. Kramer has also received many phone calls from other veterinarians who are curious about medical marijuana treatment for pets.

Pot for Pets. Photo: Flickr user Kayla Sawyer

While the use of medical marijuana in pets may hold some promise, there remain many veterinarians who not keen about the use of medical marijuana treatment for pets citing that with the concomitant rise of humans using the drug there has been an increase in cases of accidental marijuana overdoses in companion animals.

Barry Kellogg, senior veterinary advisor to the Humane Society of the United States said,

“Sometimes public sentiment and activity gets ahead of the scientific background and that can be dangerous.”

At the same time, managers of marijuana clinics claim that bad reactions can be prevented with proper dosage, and there are a growing number of veterinary practitioners who feel the drug has great merit.

Even though there is a growing interest in the use of medical marijuana for pets who are appropriate, the jury is still out until sufficient research can back up the claims of its worth. But advocates are highly concerned that it may be a decade or more before researchers can scientifically attest to its efficacy and safety.

In spite of the plethora of positive anecdotal reports from pet owners and the handful of veterinarians who are using medical marijuana in their practice at this time, according to Critterology cannabis is considered to be highly toxic to cats, dogs and other animals. So before pet guardians think that it is okay to share their medical marijuana with their pets, since presently it is not considered to be safe for pets, great care must be taken not to expose them to this substance.

What are your thoughts about the use of medical marijuana for pets? Tell us in a comment.

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Jo Singer

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  • This is a good point. Unfortunately, many people who think it's "dangerous" would prefer to use vet prescription pain killers, but we know how dangerous they are. All we need to do is look at the statistics, and pay attention to the "warnings" of potential side effects on the advertisements of the drug companies themselves.

    • Most presciption pain killers whether they be for humans or animals are opiate based. Not only do they have some horrendous side effects, but many are highly addictive.

      For the most part, THC (the drug in cannabis) has never been thought of as a deadly drug. Even when used recreationally, a fatal cannabis overdose in humans would take 40,000 times the amount of THC that it took to get them high in the first place. By comparison, it would only take 5 - 10 times the amount of alcohol it takes to get drunk, to kill you through alcohol poisoning.

      Obviously I don't know if the same is true of cats, but I do think medical grade cannabis could potentially be of help to some cats.

  • I find this discussion very interesting, considering that we trust our vets to give drugs with well known detrimental side effects to our pets. Of course, we
    don't usually ask about the side effects, and most vets may not even tell you.

    In the last 3 months, my cat has had serious reactions to drugs used in ear cleaning. One was the anti-biotic Tresaderm, the others were those given to sedate/anti sedate her. Serious side effects resulted.

    This was my first experience with this kind of thing. I found out later that one of the drugs had actually been recalled only a year before!

    I trust direct plant medicine over synthetic drugs, and wouldn't hesitate to use cannabis for my cat.

    Think about the health issues and death caused by prescription drugs. Compare that with any health issues and death associated with cannabis.

    Know any drug that cures cancer,epilepsy? Cannabis does, in many cases.

    It's interesting that people who know nothing about cannabis think it's dangerous, in spite of all the information available.

    It's like dry cat food that is recommended by many vets, when the information on how "dangerous" it is for our pets, is available. We choose to rely on our vets, who don't know much about nutrition.

    • Doctors in Holland can legally prescribe medical cannabis to treat patients. They even have 3 different grades dependant on the level of pain relief, muscle spasm control etc., required by the patient.

      It's used to treat a wide range of ailments such as therapy resistant glaucoma, nausea, chronic or actue pain - including phantom limb pain.

      We know that declawed cats and those with missing limbs can also experience phantom pain, so perhaps medical cannabis or hemp could help them too?

  • I know the effects of weed on people and it is not positive in the long run. I would be very cautious about using it with my fur children

  • My family members on both sides, for the most part, did not believe in allopathic (Western, symptom-treating) medicine and avoided it, which may be the a reason most of them enjoyed good health. I follow their example, both for myself and for my loved ones, who get the best diet I can afford for them and a good life, all things considered. As for giving cannabis to cats, I believe we simply cannot ever deduce levels of discomfort in cats, nor should we administer a substance which may be harmful to them simply to assuage our own feelings, as I have read in the past.

    • You sum up the problem with using cannabis in last paragraph. Too many unknowns and therefore too much risk. You can take risks with cat health unless the cat is desperate but how do you know?

  • Serbella,

    I am so sorry to read about Angel. I agree with you that euthanazia is sometimes the kindest gift we can give our cats- the decision can be so hard- but we must always first think about our cats and not let them suffer when there is no hope.

    As I mentioned above we are giving Hush Puppy Traumeel which our holistic veterinarian recommended. It works really well and is very safe. We do not want him to be in pain ever.

    Elderly cats can develop some pretty painful conditions which I believe can be helped with hemp- or other holistic remedies that also are safe and that work. It's so good to see you here.

  • Good morning, Jo! Thank you for the link. I would certainly try hemp for Samirah if/when she needs it. I've noticed that sometimes her right leg almost buckles but she moves right out of it. I can certainly sympathize with her because I have the same problem with arthritis. I'm giving her Dasaquin and she has a vet appointment in 2 weeks.

    The only way I would prefer euthanasia over hemp in regards to a terminal illness would be breast cancer. Years ago I had a beautiful little Turkish Angora named Angel. Angel was fixed when she was a kitten. 9 years later she developed breast cancer. I didn't know it was breast cancer at the time; there was a mass hanging out of her anus. I thought it was hemorrhoids and so did her vet at first. We were wrong. Once he examined her he told me the mass was all through her body. He took samples for a biopsy but he warned me that it didn't look good. Angel was sent home and she seemed to rally for a day or so, but she died three days later. If I had known then what I know now I would've had her euthanized on the spot. She was not going to recover from that, the cancer had invaded her system so quickly there was no hope. I fooled myself into thinking things weren't that bad, and my poor little girl suffered for it.

  • Jo, Thank you for bringing this up for discussion. As most of us may know by now, there are 2 kinds of pot that are helping humans deal with numerous problems. One has THC, and the other doesn't. (CBD)

    I find it interesting that vets seem concerned about the use of pot, but not so concerned about the food they are "prescribing" that's really harmful. Could it be "concern" for the animal, or
    "concern" for their bottom line? We don't need a vet to prescribe pot.

    Vets don't hesitate to use drugs on pets, some with heavy side effects as I've seen in my own cat, over the past few months.

    There are many reasons to try pot with your pets, if you have access to it. As with anything, trying a small amount would be wise.

    I've used pot to alleviate pain from arthritis, and to lift my mood. I've grown it, and made edibles. I've seen it help with nausea, depression and many other symptoms.

    Rick Simpson is famous for sharing information on hemp oil (with THC). If you haven't seen Sanjay Gupta's 2 research reports, check them out. He was outspoken against pot until he witnessed the results of a little girl being relieved of epilepsy. She had over 100 episodes a day before her parents were able to get cannabis for her.

    I see hemp as nature's gift to all of us. Look up the hundreds of uses for it. At one time, it was illegal not to grow it!

    Pets will get diseases that create pain, like arthritis, but we don't usually euthanize them. Instead, we try various methods of pain relief. Pot is one that I believe has less side effects than most,if any. Read what pet guardians say about how it's helped their animals.

    Remember the "BOTTOM LINE" with most vets. If they can't make money from it, I doubt they'll recommend it. They don't learn about nutrition except 2 weeks in vet school, from HILL's and ROYAL CANIN. What do they push? Take a guess.

    If you're considering trying it with your pet, I recommend http://www.Canna-Pet.com

  • Good morning, Michael,

    It seems that hemp is what many veterinarians are using since it is related to the marijuana plant closely, but is genetically different and doesn't get patients high or stoned.

    Here is a really good article on the difference between marijuana and hemp.

    Many humans have gained a great deal of success in treating certain illnesses using hemp- and there are several veterinarians who are using this substance for the same purposes- without getting their patients "stoned".

    I do think that many cat guardians who know their cats and understand feline behavior and can recognize when their cat is suffering, and take prompt action to help alleviate their pain. Perhaps hemp may become one of the other resources that veterinarians will start using to help their patients without having to use opiate drugs. Although these drugs do help our cats considerably, their side effects such as extreme lethargy, poor appetite and constipation can be difficult to handle.

    • Jo, Could you share more about your cats? What are they suffering from, and what are their symptoms? How are you dosing them? How much are you using?
      How long have you been giving it to them?

      I'm also curious about what you feed them, and if they're indoor only. Short or long haired?

      Since I'm with my cat mostly all day, in the same room, I can notice subtle changes that other people may not. And cats, as we know, are masters at hiding pain.

      My little cat has been constipated for over a year, and I've tried many remedies without success.
      Constipation is usually related to diet, as with us humans, unless there's a mechanical obstruction.
      Anal impaction can also be a problem, even in cats. My cat has had her anal glands expressed twice in a year. I never knew this happened in cats.

      She's long haired, and I've seen fur in her stool.
      Yes, I break them open to investigate! Recently, I've been using a "de-shedding" tool which seems to help. I'm going to talk more about this in another post.

      Thank you again for bringing this topic up.

      • Hi Sandra,

        Just to be clear I am not giving our cats cannibis. At this time there is no need for even considering it. But of course I am interested in learning more about it should the need ever arise.

        Both cats have borderline kidney disease- my cat Sir Hubble Pinkerton- a white Oriental Shorthair age 14 is further down the line than his full brother- Dr. Hush Puppy- age 15 (same parents different litter). Hubble also has pancreatitis which is in remission at this time. That was extremely painful and he was given Buprenorphine for pain management. We keep this medication on hand (oral) just in case it is needed. Hubble was vomiting and cringing in pain-was rushed to the vet in fact-and treated in-patient for three days.

        Dr. Hush Puppy has had major dental problems over the years. Most of his teeth have been extracted- and within the past year two upper canines were removed- which has caused nerve damage and he is in pain- has difficulty eating. He is receiving a holistic anti-inflamatory/pain med called Traumeel- made for humans but works extremely well in cats.he gets one pill a day now. It helps him to eat much easier.

        They are strictly indoor cats and both shorthair:)
        Dr. Hush Puppy tends to constipation. We use miralax when necessary 1/8 tsp a day mixed in baby food. It generally works well. He has had anal gland problems- had two bouts of impacted/infected glands which were surgically treated-his ducts were too narrow- veterinarian stretched them and since then (knock on wood) he hasn't had a recurrence.

        Both cats are fed Darwin's Raw chicken diet which is nutritionally complete for two meals a day, and two meals ( we feed four small portions a day-total 5 1/2 oz a day) a species appropriate wet canned cat food. They love the raw food.

        We keep them intellectually stimulated and have a window box area set up for them to watch the great outdoors-the back yard has lots of wild-life running by that entertain them- and they enjoy taking rides on my power wheel chair with me:) Both now sit on the chair with me- which is lots of fun for all of us.

        Constipation is a big problem in cats so I am reading- already had a cat with megacolon- another story for another time.

        Miralax is really an excellent product. It forces fluid into the lower intestine. It is safe too.

        Hope this answers your questions. I really can tell if they are in pain and take swift action to help them of course.

  • Good topic of discussion, Jo. Three reasons come to mind why it is not used by vets more. Do we know the exact effect of it on cats? It is probably similar to the effect on us but there are unknowns.

    Also it is difficult to know how much a cat is suffering, as we know. We are in the dark.

    I suspect that most people euthanise their cat if she is suffering with a chronic illness rather than think about alleviating pain and dragging out their life. This is not necessarily correct but it is the current way of thinking.

    Euthanasia currently beats pot as a way of dealing with long term terminal and painful illnesses.

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