Cannabis, hemp, medicinal marijuana; it's a topic which is becoming more common place recently due to the upcoming legalization of marijuana. And it's a topic which we in the veterinary field need to address to ensure everyone is well informed. Long story short, there is little known about the safety and efficacy of cannabis in animals. Here's a quick run down of where things stand at this time.
We know first hand that marijuana ingestion by animals can cause severe toxicities characterized by depression, hypotension, coma, loss of balance, seizures and tremors. THC - one of the chemical compounds in marijuana - is known to cause psychotropic effects in people, and can affect animals negatively as well. It is important to keep marijuana away from your pets, and if ingested, please seek medical attention and inform your veterinarian about it right away. We are here to help your pets, and knowing this history will help us to provide the appropriate care for them.
Lack of Research
There was an article by CBC News a little while ago which I'll quote here since it was worded very eloquently.
"The jury is still out when it comes to medicinal benefits of cannabis for humans, and when it comes to using cannabis-based products for animals, there is very little research. "At some point in time they may be useful, but I would only recommend them once they've been studied appropriately and we know for sure what the safety profile of these kinds of things are in pets," said Shane Bateman, associate professor at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College.Bateman said there are similarities in the pain pathways and the biochemistries in animals and humans, but it's too soon to draw any conclusions."Obviously we wouldn't want to use an untested substance in ourselves," he said. "We want to hold the same standards for our pets as well.""
There is some thought that using hemp products that contain cannabidiol (CBD) compounds and don't contain any THC will avoid the psychotropic effects of marijuana while potentially providing some of the anxiolytic or pain relieving properties. The efficacy in both people and animals remains unproven for these purposes, and safety studies are still incomplete. As of now, there is little to no research evaluating the efficacy or safety of CBD oils in our pets. There are anecdotal reports from individuals that have tried using CBD products in their pets for anxiety and cognitive dysfunction syndrome, although this remains an untested and unproven therapy. There are always safety concerns with new unproven therapies, and until such a time comes when these studies are completed, I'd have to caution against trying them.
Minimal Regulation of Supplements and Nutraceuticals
There is very little present in terms of regulations and monitoring of supplements and nutraceuticals in general. It is the same when it comes to many hemp products. Currently medical cannabis is a controlled substance that requires a special license to be prescribed which as veterinarians we do not carry. With such loose control of other products, quality control is very difficult to monitor and know. Combined with the uncertainty of cannabis safety and efficacy at this time, as well as known toxicities that may arise, I'd recommend avoiding its use in pets at this time. This may change as further research and studies are done, but until then, I'd recommend avoiding it.
Current Recommendation: Avoid it until safety and efficacy studies can be completed