Updated: Feb 26
Have you ever tried to discuss treating your dog with CBD or Cannabis with your vet only to get silence or a non-commital answer in return? Here's why.
There are a couple of issues when it comes to talking Cannabis with your vet, the first is that they are legally not allowed to. They can be legally penalized for even talking to you about cannabis products for pets.
Cannabis and the law
Back in 1972 as part of the 1970 "Controlled Substance Act" put in place by the Federal Government of the Nixon Administration, Cannabis was designated as a Schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 means that a drug has no acceptable medical uses and has a high likelihood for addiction. At the time, this was supposed to be a temporary designation until further research could be done confirming otherwise, however as of 2022, Cannabis still sits in the Schedule 1 designation.
Schedule 1 Drugs
Schedule I is the most restrictive level and includes other drugs such as Heroin, LSD and Ecstasy. Compare that the the fact that cocaine and meth are at a lower level, Schedule 2 as they are considered medically useful when taken under the supervision of a doctor.
Cannabis for Pets
While cannabis laws are slowly changing state by state, because cannabis is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level, and because there are no laws at state level explicitly allowing vets to discuss medical cannabis, veterinarians are hesitant to even talk about using it for your pets, out of fear of being fined, fired, or having their licenses revoked.
California is leading the way
In most recent news, California passed a bill that now allows veterinarians to discuss medical marijuana for pets with their clients. They still may not dispense, administer, or prescribe it, nor can they discuss dosing protocols, but this is a big step forward and we hope to see this expand across the country as Cannabis laws are reformed and using the healing properties of medical cannabis use in both humans and pets becomes more common and widespread.
The recent discovery of the Endocannabinoid System
The second issue is that most veterinarians were not taught about cannabis as a medical treatment option. The Endocannabinoid System, (ECS) a cell signaling system that pairs perfectly with molecules in the cannabis plant, and found naturally in the body of all animals including vertebrates and invertebrates, was only very recently discovered in the late 1980's and has yet to make its way into mainstream medical biology education.
That means that most vets, and even most doctors, don't understand how cannabis works with the body's ECS to help heal and treat symptoms from illnesses and other common medical conditions. Most medical professionals are hesitant to talk about something that they don't fully understand, and for that, you can't blame them.
Mythbusting: THC is not fatal To Dogs
It doesn't help matters that there is a prevalent myth out there that THC is fatally toxic to dogs. This is simply not true. THC is intoxicating at high levels for animals or humans, but that doesn't mean it's fatal. In high doses, THC may cause symptoms in dogs that would concern owners such as Ataxia, a condition where the dog may walk with a wobble like they are drunk, or in extreme cases, stand rigidly and rock back and forth in an attempt to move. They may drool, have dilated pupils and appear to be fearful. This is basically the dog version of a "bad trip". Owners may rush their dogs to the vet for emergency treatment, however there is no "antidote" for cannabis, and most treatment centers around keeping the pet comfortable and hydrated until the "trip" passes usually within a few hours.
A Rise is cannabis related vet visits
There has been a rise in vet visits related to pets ingesting cannabis, particularly in states which have legalized cannabis, however, the majority of these are due to accidental ingestion from a dog getting into edibles or cannabis inadvertently left by the owner within snacking range of the dog.
The danger of that is not really the cannabis itself, so much as the other ingredients that may be included in the edible. A common form of edible cannabis is "pot brownies". Unfortunately for dogs, chocolate is highly toxic and can be fatal. Another ingredient known as "xylitol", a sugar free sweetener is also extremely toxic to dogs, even in small amounts. A dog that has gotten into a gummy edible that contains xylitol is in extreme danger of dying, but not from the cannabis.
Even CBD oils can have ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Many CBD oils on the market have additives such as essential oils for flavoring to mask the weedy taste of the CBD oil. However, essential oils such as citrus and peppermint, two common flavoring additives, are poisonous to dogs and can have serious consequences if ingested.
It's easy to see though how cannabis could be blamed for dog intoxication from edibles, although in fact it is just a scapegoat. Vets seeing an uptick in cannabis ingestion emergency visits may be hesitant to discuss giving cannabis to pets based on that fact alone, but may not be taking into account the additional ingredients that may have been involved.
Dosing is the key
However, when cannabis is properly dosed based on the dogs size and diagnosis (as is done with a custom dosing protocol from The Healing Project), serious side effects will be rare. The same mild side effects as if taken by humans may occur, dry mouth, mood changes, appetite changes, fatigue etc. however they will pass as the cannabis leaves the system. Check out our blog Is CBD Safe for Dogs for more information on this.
If you are interested in scheduling an appointment to create a diagnosis specific cannabis dosing plan for your dog, click here.
Keep all these facts in mind if you try to discuss cannabis with your vet and they are hesitant to give you a straight answer or don't jump on board with your plan to treat your dog's medical conditions with CBD or Cannabis. Hopefully in the future Cannabis will become a common option when treating illnesses and ailments for both people and pets.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, veterinarian or other qualified clinician and is for informational purposes only.