Is it okay to get your pet high?
Like humans, dogs and cats have an endocannabinoid system with receptors that react with cannabis to regulate pain, appetite and mood
Way back in the days of my misspent youth, a fellow pot head used to blow his dog super tokes.
He’d take the burning end of the joint, put it in his mouth, grab the dog by the snout and blow a stream of thick smoke into one of the dog’s nostrils. It wasn’t just for kicks, he’d say. It helped to calm the dog’s epilepsy. It seemed to have had a calming effect on his pet.
Earlier this year, a popular CBD brand for pets out of Colorado announced the expansion of sales of its lotions and other products for dogs and cats in 1,000 PetSmart stores across the U.S. But there are currently no legally regulated cannabis or CBD products for sale for pets in Canada.
What you can buy are products with hemp, which contain only trace amounts of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. There are products like CBD oil for pets available online. Some claim to be lab-tested, but they are not regulated by Health Canada. Your vet may be able to offer advice.
In fact, the use of cannabis in pets goes back more than 20 years. The Ultimate Pet Health Guide published in 2017 by California-based holistic practitioner Gary Richter includes an entire chapter on cannabis.
Richter has used cannabis and hemp to treat animals for anxiety, gastrointestinal problems and seizures. He describes cannabis as “the most powerful and effective medicine that is not embraced by the medical community.”
That’s because, like humans, dogs and cats also have an endocannabinoid system in their bodies with receptors that react with cannabis to regulate pain, appetite and mood. The system works to keep bodies “on an even keel,” writes Richter, from the emotional and physical stresses caused by injury or inflammation. Dogs in particular have a high number of endocannabinoid receptors in their brain stem, which controls their heart rate, respiratory functions and coordination.
While there has been much published on the benefits of cannabis and its effects on the human body, there have been comparatively fewer studies on the plant’s effects on dogs and cats.
Richter writes that there are THC to CBD ratios you should keep in mind when deciding what’s best for your pet. Generally speaking, the more severe the condition, the higher the THC to CBD ratio. The size of the animal also plays a part in deciding dosing. For smaller animals, the less-is-more rule should be kept in mind. If you’re not sure, err on the side of CBD, whose use generally involves very little to no side effects.
There are risks, Richter cautions, with giving your pet an “ineffective product,” or one that causes toxicity, which is why it’s a good idea to consult your vet. But he says that in the two decades he’s been using cannabis to treat pets, he’s never experienced a case that’s required medical attention.
It’s reassuring to know my friend wasn’t just blowing smoke.