One of the hottest topics in cannabis culture today is letting pets use pot. As more people are looking for more natural treatments for their healthcare, many pet owners are hearing about the potential benefits that cannabis offers and wondering if it can be applicable for their furry friends.
Civilized recently spoke with Samantha Wormser - Rescue Manager for Pet Conscious and a spokesperson for Canna-Pet, which makes CBD-infused treatments for cats and dogs. However, she says the word “treat” has to be used carefully.
In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to Canna-Pet about their marketing practices. The issue was in Canna-Pet claiming to “treat” health ailments. The FDA had concerns about its website content and labelling specifically in respect to the fact the company’s claims were around treating medical conditions and therefore the product would be considered a drug. As a result, Canna-Pet changed their wording to state it can ‘help’ with certain ailments, which alleviated the FDA’s concerns.
According to Sam, there is a laundry list of ailments that the cannabis extract CBD can help with, including epilepsy, seizures, cancer and tumour growth, anxiety (particularly in pooches), allergies, and skin irritations. In Sam’s work with rescue animals, she’s seen it be very successful in treating animals that have been abused to address pain and inflammation.
Canna-Pet’s company started as a result of its owner Don Goldfarb's love for his rescue cat Mariano, who was experiencing gastro-intestinal issues. While researching hemp during his studies at MIT, Goldfarb created a product that helped Mariano. After distributing among friends and family with ailing pets, a business was born.
“The idea of using components of cannabis to treat our pets has come a long way since we started five years ago,” Wormser told Civilized. “Initially, we weren’t even able to ship to some states such as Colorado or Utah. The stigma around it was so strong, that we had a really hard time getting media to even talk about our product as they all had the connotation of it being marijuana.”
She shared that while the general public seem to be becoming more comfortable and receptive to the idea that cannabis has health benefits, more needs to be done to destigmatize CBD as a treatment option.
“Some people think when you’re talking about CBD, that the person or animal will be getting high,” Wormser said. “However, CBD does not produce a high or intoxication. The products we offer have none of the psychotropic side effects and so many positive health impacts when dealing with certain ailments.”
While clinical studies on the impact of CBD and animals have been limited, there have been recent advancements and more studies are planned. Canna-Pet has worked with Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital to determine what hemp products pet owners were purchasing for pet health, why they were making these purchases and the perceived value that owners placed on the products’ impact to their pets’ health. This was to serve as a basis for further research on using medical cannabis to treat pets.
The same university also started studies in 2017 on the safety and efficacy of CBD in dogs with epilepsy and arthritis. And now, the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University in Alabama - one of the leading Veterinary Colleges in America - is starting a study that will specifically look at the impact of CBD on dogs, and depending on how the research progresses, ideally open up to exploring CBD on other animals as well.
“This study will help provide proper dosing that can be recommended by veterinarians and become part of the scientific backing that CBD does work, which will hopefully contribute to legalization everywhere. Currently, when discussing dosage with pet owners, while it doesn’t generally cause harm if too much is given, it’s more of a rule of thumb that we say if it makes your pet sleepy, then scale back on the dosage you’re giving.”
While she can’t comment on whether or not studying the benefits of medical cannabis on pets could help advance the movement to legalize recreational marijuana for humans, she believes that having these clinical studies will help de-stigmatize the product, provide quality assurance guidelines and help clarify dosage for the animal medical community. She also recognizes that CBD treatment for humans is becoming a lot more popular, which is turning pet owners’ attention to its benefits.
Canna-Pet’s CBD product has been used to help treat pain and anxiety on dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, macaws and tigers.
Despite the work that’s already been done, the research that is set to continue and the wealth of testimonials you can find from pet owners online who have used medical cannabis to successfully help their pets, Wormser points out that it will likely be at least a few years before we will see medical cannabis officially recognized as a treatment for pets. The study at Auburn University could take at least one to three years, and there will be a desire for more clinical studies before it’s officially approved as a medical treatment option.
In the meantime, it is clear pet owners are demanding different options outside of traditional medical options to help their furry family members in distress. Cannabis may just hold the answer.