Pets and Cannabis

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Pets and Cannabis | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education
Cannabis Institute - CEUs | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education
Pets and Cannabis | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education

No, This Article Isn't About Getting Your Animal High

In fact, if you're getting your animal high purely for your enjoyment, it's highly unethical and could cause your pet to be very uncomfortable and anxious. Rather, this article is about the emerging market and uses of cannabis in veterinary medicine.

The endocannabinoid system in the human body is thought to regulate sleep, hunger, inflammations, autoimmune function, and more. It produces endogenous, or naturally occurring, cannabinoids, which are very similar to the phytocannabinoids present in cannabis. Because we have receptors specifically designed to receive cannabinoids, it makes cannabis a very effective and safe medicine for humans. And all vertebrate animals -- from snakes to elephants -- have this endocannabinoid system.

Using cannabis to treat animals is in the very early stages right now, but there is some history of its use. In the early 1900's, veterinary medicine used cannabis tinctures to treat herd animals for bloating, dysentery, and other gastrointestinal conditions. Due to prohibition, however, research on the efficacy of cannabis use in veterinary medicine has been limited, and professional organizations are unwilling to support its use, so licensed veterinarians are understandably hesitant to recommend cannabis therapies to pet owners.

But advances in developing cannabis for different medical applications in humans have resulted in the introduction of cannabidiol, or CBD, which is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that can be extracted from both cannabis and hemp. Because it doesn't have an intoxicating effect, CBD-based medicine for pets has been slowly gaining traction.

While more research is required, many anecdotal stories from pet owners and some veterinarians about the benefits of CBD in pet care have increased the interest of pet owners around the world. The potential that this therapy could help heal their pets -- with possibly few side effects, when compared with more intensive pharmaceutical therapies -- is quite exciting.

As interest increases and the success stories are shared, a variety of CBD-based pet treats are being introduced to the market. CBD can be derived from both cannabis and hemp, however, its future is currently uncertain. The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) recently stated that it is reevaluating CBD -- even if it's extracted from hemp -- and may include them in their drug scheduling. This is contrary to the Farm Bill signed by President Obama, so a lawsuit has already been filed to challenge any move to make CBD illegal by the DEA.

If you're considering using cannabis-based medicine with your pet, please do so under the professional direction of a licensed veterinarian. This can present a bit of a challenge, however, given that the industry has not yet come out in support of using cannabis with pets.

In general, it's a good idea to go 'low and slow' to avoid overdoing it when trying to establish the appropriate dosage for your pet. Be sure to monitor their behavior and reactions closely, as well.

Additionally, I encourage you to only use products derived from organic, US-grown hemp in order to avoid the pesticides and heavy metals sometimes found in Chinese hemp.

Do you have experience with using cannabis to treat your pet's medical condition? If so, please share in the comments below!

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Trey Reckling is the founder and operator of the Academy of Cannabis Science. He works in collaboration with Seattle Central College's Cannabis Institute to offer quality, science-based education to members of the burgeoning legal cannabis industry.