Would You Give Medical Marijuana to a Chronically Ill Pet?

Despite a lack of research, many are turning to pot to treat ailing pets.

Medical marijuana isn’t just for humans anymore. All around the country, pet owners are turning to pot as a way to alleviate their furry friends’ pain and suffering. Whether their cats are dealing with arthritis or their dogs are suffering from pain and inflammation, more and more people are looking to marijuana as an alternative medication.

Cannabis and Sick Pets

The cannabis plant is a complex botanical with more than 400 known natural compounds, containing at least 64 phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabinoids). These cannabinoids, according to the National Cancer Society, activate specific receptors found throughout the body to produce pharmacologic effects, particularly in the central nervous system and the immune system.

The most well-known of these compounds are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which provokes a “mind-bending” psychoactive response (giving you that “high” feeling), and cannabidiol (CBD), which has several well-documented biological effects, including anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties. There are also terpenoids, which not only help give the plant a distinctive odor, but taken together with the other cannabinoids, are also believed to make a meaningful contribution with respect to pain.

However, there is little research showing medical marijuana’s effectiveness. Because of this, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved cannabis for pets.

Veterinarians also find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Though some hear personal stories of marijuana’s effectiveness, they yet aren’t allowed to write prescriptions for it. And, in states where marijuana is illegal, vets are cautious of even bringing it up to their patients – not only because of the legal consequences, but also because there’s so little evidence-based information.

Despite the lack of proof, some pet owners still swear by medical marijuana for pets. They claim they’ve seen first-hand the noticeable effects marijuana made on the health of their animals and believe, if given the opportunity, it could help many more.

More Research is Necessary

Medical marijuana – for both people and their pets – remains controversial and a highly debatable issue. Just last year, a proposed law was defeated by the Nevada legislature that would have made it possible for veterinarians to prescribe cannabis to pets with chronic illnesses.

Regardless of personal opinions on the matter, it would make the most sense to focus on attaining more evidence-based research. Only with controlled studies that determine marijuana’s therapeutic and medicinal properties in veterinary medicine can we legally and safely make this a potential resolution in aiding our four-legged companions.

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