While all marijuana use remains illegal at the federal level, there is no question that its use for medicinal purposes is booming countrywide. With medical marijuana now legal in 29 states plus Washington, D.C., more and more people are discovering its myriad health benefits for themselves. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of cannabis for pets, and the laws allowing for its medicinal use do not extend to animals. Nonetheless, the boom in sales of medical marijuana for humans has been mirrored in the world of pet lovers.
Since pet owners cannot legally obtain marijuana for their animals, they are forced to obtain medical marijuana cards for their own use so that they can have access to cannabis. Many are more than happy to do so, though, convinced that it spares their pets the adverse effects of prescription medications.
“Other medicines can take a toll on an animal’s kidney, liver and other organs,” says Melinda Hayes, founder of Sweet Leaf Shoppe, a medical cannabis delivery service in Los Angeles.
Other pet owners turn to cannabis to treat their furry friends because it costs far less than many pharmaceutical veterinary drugs.
Animal lovers have turned to marijuana-based products for a host of different pet maladies, including anxiety, pain, seizures and inflammation. And it’s not only dog- and cat-lovers that are trying this natural alternative; these treatments are being used for domesticated wild animals, lizards, turtles, alpacas, pigs, horses and other farm animals.
A lack of clinical trials into the effects of marijuana on animals means we have to turn to anecdotal evidence to judge its merits – and there is certainly plenty of that.
Lisa Mastramico, a public access television network director from Long Beach, California, swears that marijuana provided relief for her cat Little Kitty, even when nothing else worked. At the age of 12, Little Kitty started suffering with debilitating arthritis that left her cowering in a closet all day. Having tried many different supplements and medications, Mastramico turned to cannabis in desperation, and started squirting two different cannabis-derived oils into Little Kitty’s mouth each day. The results have been astounding. Little Kitty no longer hides in the closet, but spends her days lazing in the sun like any self-respecting cat should.
“When I’ve given it to her, she’s never acted high: falling face-first into her food bowl, chowing down,” Ms. Mastramico said. “She comes out and socializes, wants to be in your lap, wants to be petted. It’s a very noticeable difference.”
Cate Norton, from Springfield, Vermont, drives over the border to New Hampshire, where medical marijuana is legal, to obtain a hemp-based product called Canna-Pet for her Rottweiler Leia who suffers with seizures and anxiety. Norton says that after eight months of treatment, she has noted a “great reduction in the severity of [Leia’s] seizures.”
After Brett Hartmann, a former epilepsy-sufferer who lives near Los Angeles, California, used marijuana to overcome his seizures, he no longer needed his service dog Cayley to accompany him everywhere. When Cayley started exhibiting signs of stress and separation anxiety, Hartmann started giving her the marijuana extract cannabidiol (CBD) twice a day.
“Ever since I started her on CBD her separation anxiety has disappeared,” says Hartmann.
It would seem that cannabis shows real promise for the safe, natural treatment of pets. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware that the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which gives marijuana its psychoactive properties can be toxic to some animals, particularly dogs. The New York Times reports that many pets have ended up in veterinary hospitals panting and in distress after gaining access to their owners’ marijuana stashes.
It is always advisable to discuss any new course of treatment for your pet with a trusted veterinarian or natural animal health expert.
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