Why People Are Giving Marijuana to Their Pets

October 16th 2015

There's been a lot of excitement over pot in recent years, and a lot of that is the product of numerous studies on the health benefits of marijuana. Nobody wants to depend on treatment options that are addictive and dangerous, as many prescription medications are, and apparently, the same goes for pets.

Yes, pot for pets is one of the latest developments to come out of the legalization movement, the San Diego Union-Tribune recently reported. More than three dozen California dispensaries offer a liquid cannabis supplement for dogs, cats, and other household pets. Pet owners say it is both safer and more effective at treating a range of animal health issues.

VetCBD, the company behind the "veterinarian-formulated" product, says that the non-psychoactive supplement can be used to treat pain, anxiety, inflammation, nausea, and loss of appetite. The same health benefits of marijuana apply to humans, too, of course, but this brand specifies the dosage for dogs and cats.

"We've had a lot of owners transition from these prescription pain meds to CBD and non-psychoactive cannabis because it controls their pain better, and it has fewer side effects," Dr. Tim Shu, the board certified veterinarian who created VetCBD, told ATTN:.

RELATED: Marijuana Could Literally Replace These 5 Prescription Drugs

Because pets suffer from many of the same medical conditions that humans do, there are similar concerns about the health effects of pharmaceuticals in animal care. Shu brought up separation anxiety in pets as another example.

"When owners leave for the day, dogs will freak out because they don't like being left alone, and, with that, frequently we prescribe all kinds of different medications, like sedatives, benzodiazepines, and SSRIs," he said. "But what we've been doing with CBD is use it for these patients that have anxiety, and the owners are really, really happy because it actually takes away their anxiety without sedating them."

Though many pet owners in California swear by the cannabis product, celebrating it in testimonials, animal rights organizations such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been more reluctant to endorse CBD for pets, pending further research.

"If proper administration of marijuana can truly relieve dogs' pain, then they should be given the same consideration that humans in pain are given, with regular doses to help reduce their misery," Daphna Nachminovitch, a PETA senior vice president, told the Union-Tribune. "But it's an entirely different matter to amuse oneself by getting the cat drunk or the dog high."

Though household pets have endocannabinoid systems that function similarly to humans, meaning that they would respond to cannabis in a comparable way, there is currently no research on the subject. Lab animals are frequently used in cannabis research, but not dogs or cats specifically. 

Indeed, part of Shu's mission is to showcase the responsible use of cannabis for pets—specifically highlighting the health benefits of non-psychoactive CBD. Dogs and cats aren't getting high off VetCBD, they're getting treatment, he said, and the owners incorporating cannabis into their pets treatment regimens say they're keeping the animals' best interests in mind.

"Given that the national movement for humans' use of medical marijuana has been going so strong—and we're just starting to show the world what medical marijuana can do for pets—I think there's a huge, huge market for it," Shu said.

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