Cannabis for pets: is it good or bad?

Pet owners are praising cannabis products for helping treat pets with behavioural issues and symptoms of cancer, but are they actually safe?

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Although there have been few formal studies completed in North America focused on the health benefits of CBD and Cannabis for pets – one study from Cornell University found that CBD significantly decreased pain in dogs with arthritis, with no observable side effects – the anecdotal evidence is vast.

It’s little wonder, then, that in Canada and the United States the use of CBD-infused treats and oils for pets are now on the rise.

From bacon-flavoured cookies containing a mix of hemp cannabinoids and terpenes, to CBD oils infused with peanut butter extract and coconut oil, pet owners are praising cannabis for helping treat pets with behavioural issues like separation anxiety, and medical conditions including arthritis and symptoms of cancer.

Are these Cannabis for Pets products actually Safe?

Veterinarian Sarah Silcox, who is the president of the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine (CAVCM), says one reason cannabis has the potential to affect a wide range of conditions is because it interacts with a number of receptors in the body.

She notes that many owners report using CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, for chronic pain, in their pets to help treat anxiety, sleep problems, inflammation, seizures, nausea, skin disorders and also as part of palliative care. Despite popular belief, THC isn’t actually toxic for dogs, although they can cause some adverse effects even in low doses.

In Canada, veterinarians aren’t included in the Cannabis Act, which means they can’t legally prescribe medical cannabis. That also means that the weed-infused biscuits and oils that are easy to find online or lining the shelves of boutique pet shops aren’t technically legal, either.

And since they’re not legal, there is no system in place to regulate their production and safety, says Silcox.

“Consumers need to be aware that they may contain contaminants, and may not contain the level of CBD that is labeled,” she says.

Silcox and her organization are advocating that veterinarians be included the Cannabis Act.

“We want a legal pathway to be able to recommend, authorize and provide oversight to any treatment that may improve the quality of life for our patients,” says Silcox. “Being able to authorize medical cannabis or CBD helps to ensure that its use for animals is done as safely as possible.”

More concerning, says Wilcox, is pets accidently consuming cannabis products intended for their owners, whether that’s dried flower, freshly-baked weed cookies or cannabis-infused body balms.

“While dogs can certainly become intoxicated if they get into the dried stash,” says Silcox, “discarded roaches, concentrates, topicals and edibles pose an even greater risk. These products frequently have much higher concentrations of THC in them and can be particularly attractive to dogs.”

If your pet does eat too much cannabis, they may show symptoms including sleepiness, agitation, vomiting and increased salivation. Your vet will be able to assess the proper treatment, which could be hospitalization or your pet managed at home with close observation. If your pet does ingest these products, it’s important to take them to the vet as soon as possible – and to be completely honest about the type and amount of cannabis consumed.

If pet owners want to purchase CBD-infused products for their pets, Silcox recommends they ask the manufacturer for a Certificate of Analysis, an independent laboratory test that shows the cannabinoid and terpene content, microbes, heavy metals, pesticides and solvents for each batch.

cannabis for pets

The CAVCM has a few other tips for pet owners who want to try giving their furry friends CBD: avoid any treats with chocolate, raisins, xylitol that are harmful for dogs, and any treatments involving smoke. And, for dosing, remember the golden rule – start low and go slow.

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