Pet owners can now tap into an unlikely resource for improving the health of their pets; marijuana.
Lisa Mastramico tried various supplements for her twelve-year old tabby, Little Kitty, that proved ineffective. The cat, who has arthritis, would spend extended periods of time hiding in the closet, and no treatment seemed to make her more social. Eventually, she turned to Women Grow, an industry group for cannabis entrepreneurs.
She was not sold on the idea right away. “My concern was that it’s not my place to get my cat high,” she said. As her tabby became more isolated, she felt she needed to give it a try. She got a medical marijuana card and obtained two edible oils for pets that are derived from cannabis that she squirts into her cat’s mouth.
Now, Little Kitty is more active, returning to her former self. When I’ve given it to her, she’s never acted high: falling face-first into her food bowl, chowing down,” Ms. Mastramico said. “She comes out and socializes, wants to be in your lap, wants to be petted. It’s a very noticeable difference.”
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of cannabis for pets, as there still isn’t enough research on its effectiveness. Veterinarians are not allowed to write prescriptions for cannabis based products. Except for a proposed state law in Nevada that would have allowed for veterinarians to prescribe cannabis to pets that ended up failing, the conversation is still one that few are willing to have.
Still, pet owners aren’t discouraged from using cannabis on their pets. Rachel Martin, a dog trainer, uses VETCBD for a variety of her dogs’ ailments. “All of them have very complex and detailed medical issues,” she said. A Jack Russell terrier named Shadow has had multiple surgeries; Sophie, a rat terrier, had a diagnosis of cancer; and Petri, a Chihuahua-mix, suffers from fear-based anxiety.
Not all cannabis is made equal. The cannabis plant contains dozens of cannabinoids, two of the most common being THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is the strain that produces the sensation of “getting high,” and is toxic to animals. With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in some states, veterinarians have been reporting an increase in cases where pets will swallow products containing THC.
“Most pet owners who end up bringing their animal in are in denial,” Dr. Steve Blauvelt, a veterinarian in Bend, Oregon said. But eventually, he said, “they come clean and say their dog ate one of their brownies.”
Stephen Katz, a New York assemblyman and veterinarian has been teaming up with the University of Pennsylvania’s school of veterinary medicine to conduct clinical trials on a trio of hemp based powders called Therabis, a product he created to treat anxiety, mobility and itching.
“I had a lot of clients who did a lot of flying,” he said. “They wanted tranquilizers so they could carry their dogs in their lap.” He worried, though, about the harsh effect of sedatives on the dogs’ cardiovascular and respiratory systems and thought his clients’ animals would benefit from hemp.
Katz treats a number of pit bulls suffering from allergies and separation anxiety at his practice in the Bronx. “Those dogs scratch an itch down to the bone,” he said. The products’ cost is on par with prescription drugs, he said: about $20 to $40 a month.
At the forefront of the surge in cannabis products for pets is California, where medical marijuana has been legal for two decades. Some pet owners have been acquiring medical marijuana cards so that they can have access to the products for their pets, finding them at places like Sweet Leaf Shop.
Melinda Hayes, who opened the dispensary in 2014, started treating pets a year ago. She said she now aids 40 animals, and about half of her calls these days are about pet care.
“I go as often as I can to meet the pet,” Ms. Hayes said. “Owners look at their loved ones through rose-colored glasses. People can verbalize their reactions. Animals cannot.”
She also gives cannabis products to her own pets: her boxer-terrier mix, Diva, who tore a ligament in her right knee; Snoop, her pitbull-Shih Tzu mix, who has allergies and anxiety; and Tug, a box turtle who suffers from disorders of the shell and the bones.
Her goal is to have a full service storefront where people can take their pets for consultation and care. “This way,” she said,
“I can combine my two favorite things: dogs and pot.”