October 17th, 2018. It’s finally here. Cannabis is officially becoming legalized, medically and recreationally. As veterinarians, we strive to do right by our pets and make recommendations based on quality science and evidence. Unfortunately, there is currently no good evidence or studies supporting the use of cannabis in our pets. Perhaps in a few years when it has been studied we will have more understanding of the effects it has on our pets for better or worse, but at this time we have no scientific basis to recommend its use. There have been a few stories anecdotally suggesting that it may help with anxiety, but it has yet to be studied to determine efficacy and safety. Due to the lack of knowledge of what effects cannabis may have, we have to recommend avoiding its use in animals until we have a better understanding of its effects.
As veterinarians, we have no ability to prescribe medical cannabis. Pet products have no legal requirements for quality control etc, and thus there is no guarantee of product purity and quality. We do know our pets, dogs especially, are much more sensitive to the effects of marijuana, with or without THC being present. THC is the chemical compound in marijuana that causes the hallucinogenic effects, which is supposed to be removed from medical cannabis. Dogs have more receptors to cannabis compared to people, and thus they are much more sensitive to its effects. Side effects and signs of cannabis toxicity can range from drowsiness to vomiting, ataxia/wobbliness, loss of balance, muscle tremors, seizures, and loss of bladder control. As a precaution, we recommend keeping all cannabis products in a safe location which is not accessible to animals. Keep them in secure locations, and not on the countertop where counter-surfing animals may find them. Avoid their use until a better understanding of its effects has been acquired, and safe dosing recommendations have been developed.