With the legalization of cannabis (marijuana) in October, there have been many questions about the legality and efficacy of medicinal marijuana products in pets.
Cannabis is the common name for the plant cannabis sativa. Cannabis contains many different chemical substances which are collectively called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are stored on tiny hairs that stick out from the flowers and leaves of cannabis plants. One type of cannabinoid which has been most extensively studied in humans is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the cannabinoid which is responsible for the high and intoxication side effects of marijuana. THC does have some therapeutic effects but also has negative side effects, which increase when the dose of THC is higher.
Cannabidiol (CBD oil) is another cannabinoid which does NOT produce a high or intoxication, and actually has been shown to decrease effects of THC. Preliminary research suggests that CBD oil has the potential for therapeutic effects in many different areas in both human and veterinary medicine.
In humans, cannabis has many potential therapeutic uses including analgesia (pain relief) for both acute and chronic pain, arthritis, anxiety, sleep disorders, and appetite stimulation.
THC is toxic for cats and dogs; however, CBD oil may have potential therapeutic uses in our pets similar to those that are being explored in humans. Many studies are in progress, but there are very limited published results on the effects of CBD oil on cats and dogs. One study recently published by Cornell University has found a significant improvement in pain scores in dogs with osteoarthritis that has been given CBD oil compared to a placebo control group. No negative side effects were noticed at any of the doses tested. A study is currently underway testing the safety and efficacy of CBD oil in cats at Cornell University as well.
Currently, there are no CBD products approved by Health Canada for veterinary use, so veterinarians are unable to prescribe CBD oil legally. However, with the promising research coming from Cornell University and other research groups, we will hopefully see a veterinary product coming to the market in the future.
- Update on medical marijuana
- Cannabis-based medical pet products closer to fruition
- Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) and the cannabinoids [Health Canada, 2013]
Written by Dr. Connie Tuck, DVM