Cannabis and Your Pet

Over the past few weeks I have received many calls and inquiries about my opinion on the use of cannabis for ailing pets. This past Sunday the New York Times published an article touting the benefits of it’s use, but overlooking the risks and possible negative side effects of use.  First things first, veterinarians cannot recommend, prescribe, or dispense any cannabinoid products to our patients. The reason for this is simple – cannabis is currently a DEA schedule 1 drug. These are substances defined by the US Drug Enforcement Agency as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other substances in this same category include LSD, ecstasy, and heroin to name a few.  Now, whether people agree with this classification or not, it is the rule and veterinarians are not licensed to use Schedule 1 drugs.  Therefore, if we were to ever recommend, prescribe, or dispense such products we would lose our license to practice veterinary medicine.  Also, due to the Schedule 1 classification, research for our pets is very, very limited.

The products that are primarily gaining attention are the cannabidiol (CBD) oils and treats.  CBD is one component of the cannabis plants, and is not considered psychoactive like the THC component.  The argument is that the CBD oils and treats pose no threat to pets. This is an unfounded claim and here are our concerns:
  • We know that pets are very sensitive to THC, and as a profession we have seen more pet THC toxicities as the use of medicinal marijuana has become more accepted.  There is no regulatory body to guarantee the purity of these CBD products and no quality assurance that there are not traces of THC in them.
  • There are no peer reviewed journal articles about the use of CBD, it’s safety margins, potential drug interactions or unwanted side effects, nor is there any scientific evidence to support the claims of it’s benefits.
  • The FDA has not studied the CBD products, nor given any clearance for it’s use in animals.
  • Purchasing the CBD products from dispensaries or online is another risk as pets are being “dosed” by employees who typically have no animal health knowledge whatsoever–this is not only careless but dangerous.  These individuals are dispensing a schedule 1 drug without a degree in veterinary medicine and are therefore highly unlikely to have any education on potentially dangerous drug interactions in animals.
As our clients know, Rosemont always tries to be at the forefront in providing complementary therapies and offering our clients and patients access to the latest developments in veterinary medicine as quickly as possible.  However, we only do this in a safe and prudent manner, when we are convinced by the evidence that there are real benefits to our patients that outweigh any potential risks.  Until these cannabis derived products receive FDA approval, and there is plentiful peer reviewed research to support their efficacy and safety, and clear legislation about our role in prescribing or dispensing such drugs/supplements we are simply unable to recommend their use for our patients. This is both for the safety of our patients and our veterinary licenses.
Please call us or better yet come in with your questions! We are always happy to talk about any issues facing our clients and their pets!
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