Now that recreational use of cannabis is legal in Oregon many pet guardians wonder about whether using this plant may be beneficial for their pet’s ailments and they turn to their veterinarians for advice. However, many Oregon veterinarians will not be able or willing to give any advice on the medicinal use of cannabis due to a lack of knowledge about herbal medicine or because they are afraid of possible negative legal implications.
Q: Is it Legal?
A: Yes; however, while marijuana use is legal in Oregon, it is still federally illegal for all veterinarians to prescribe to their patients. However, medical marijuana laws do not apply to veterinarians, only to human physicians. In Oregon, humans can now legally share their “stash” with their pets within the limitations of potential animal abuse complaints. Because of this grey area, Oregon veterinarians recommending medicinal marijuana for a specific patient are required to get written consent from their clients.
Q: What’s the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?
A: Hemp is high in fiber and CBD and low in the psychoactive element of THC and does not offer any psychotropic effects. Marijuana has a different combination of chemicals that makes it psychoactive.
The psychoactive chemical THC bings to CB1 receptors in the brain, and dogs have the most of any mammal (including humans), making dogs very sensitive to THC. Therefore, and in dogs in particular, the low-THC hemp plant is much safer to use in pets than the high-THC marijuana strains. Some herbalists believe that hemp may be medicinally superior to marijuana because it is botanically closer to the original plant.
Q: What can medical cannabis treat?
A: In our clinic, we have seen beneficial therapeutic results in our patients using CBD products derived from industrial hemp, particularly in pets with arthritic pain and anxiety issues. Other conditions that could benefit from cannabis include seizures, inflammation, dermatitis, cancer and behavioral problems.
Q: What are some of the risks?
A: When given too much of THC, dogs can develop “static ataxia”, a condition where the animal is swaying from side to side, drooling, urinating on itself and acting disoriented.
Be aware, that many edible cannabis products for humans contain ingredients toxic to pets, such as xylitol, macadamia nuts, and chocolate.There have been two cases reported in the literature of dogs dying from marijuana, both of these dogs ingested cannabis products containing chocolate, which appears to have a negative cumulative toxic effect. Always keep our own edibles and your pets’ cannabis products safely stored away from pets and children.
Q: What are the dosing guidelines?
A: There is no final determination on what a proper cannabis dose is for pets. It is best to start with the lowest amount possible and to gradually increase the dose every 5 days or so until the desired effect is seen. If undesired side effects such as excessive sedation, disorientation, excitement, vomiting etc. are observed, the cannabis dose is too high and administration should stopped immediately. After the side effects have worn off, the animal can be restarted at a lower dose.
Because of the need to start at the lowest possible dose, consider starting with .05 mg per kg in weight of your animal. A 50 lb. dog, for instance, should be started on about a 1 mg dose. We can always provide best practices and a dosing guideline for your pet. Please contact us!
Once the pet has received the same dose over about 1 week without undesired effects, the pet has developed a tolerance and the dose can be gradually increased.
Q: Should I use a commercial product or can I make my own?
A: We are happy to provide recommendations of commercial products, and offer a great guide on creating your own herbal oil infusion.
Q: Where can I learn more?
A: Always feel free to contact us with questions, and check out the links below:
Veterinary Marijuana – JAVMAnews
Bad Medicine or Natural Remedy? – JAVMAnews
Dr. Robert Silver on Medical Marijuana in Pets