Cannabinoids for our Furry Friends?


12027675_10153474798733481_5434507519956799983_nGladys, a six-year-old Chihuahua-Pug mix was struck by a car. If it weren’t for the good Samaritan who brought her to the local animal hospital, she would have died that day on the side of the road. She was bleeding from her mouth, eye, and toes. The veterinarians did everything they could to save her life, and Gladys survived her accident, but now Gladys has a few disabilities.

After the surgery, she began to experience cluster seizures. She also suffered brain damage which causes her to walk off balance. These issues stayed with her even after her physical wounds healed. When nobody came to claim their pet, Harlee’s Angels, a rescue located in Topeka, Kansas, took responsibility of Gladys.

“The cluster seizures were getting really bad,” said Lee Stevens, president and founder of Harlee’s Angels. The veterinarians tried everything to reduce the seizures. Nothing was working.

Stevens had been looking through a magazine one day when she came across an ad for Canna-Pet, a company that offers cannabinoid-based products for dogs, cats, and horses. After further research on the product, Stevens decided to discuss using the product with Gladys’ veterinarian. Because nothing else seemed to be working, they gave her the okay to try the pills made specifically for dogs under 20 pounds. “Within 24 hours, Gladys’ seizures reduced,” Stevens said. “It’s only been a few weeks, and Gladys has stopped having seizures.”

CannaPet products are very low in THC. They have a high concentration of CBD, which makes them legal in all 50 states. CannaPet says their products are made to give pet owners a more natural choice to be used in conjunction with or without the use of pharmaceuticals.

“Our products are not made with medical marijuana but rather with hemp, which is a critical distinction,” said Dan Goldfarb, an executive for Canna-Pet. “The results have been overwhelmingly positive,” Goldfarb said. “We have had clients that have used our products for several years now, and they’re always sharing updates of their pets with us.”

The argument against medical marijuana for pets gained a lot of attention after Stacy Meola, a Colorado veterinarian, released a five-year study on marijuana indigestion by dogs.  The study also claimed that marijuana exposure to pets has gone up, with the Pet Poison Helpline also claiming they’ve had an increase in calls regarding marijuana indigestion. Over the five years of the study, two dogs died and all other dogs documented survived. Other literature contradicts the research. In a May 2013 article published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association, claims from both veterinarians and pet owners say that medicinal marijuana can be beneficial to an ailing pet.

CBD works for pets because they have similar endocannabinoid systems like ours, meaning your four-legged buddy can be physically and psychologically affected by the plant. The plant can come in many different forms — oils, biscuits, and pills — just like it can for humans. When given in proper dosage and correctly, these products may have very positive results.

Lisa Daniel, DVM of Austin, Texas has joined others that have seen the benefits of hemp-based medicinal products in pets. Her own 15-year old dog Marley’s case stands out, in particular.

When Marley was 13, her health started to decline rapidly. “She was in severe pain from her arthritis and then went into kidney failure because of an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) I prescribed for her arthritis pain,” Dr. Daniel said. Marley was on a diet of seven different drugs to control her symptoms of pain, inflammation, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, and a personality change. Dr. Daniel’s sweet baby girl started to snap and bite at her. “Modern medicine basically failed my dog,” she said. Dr. Daniel had come to a point where she thought she would have to make a pet owner’s most difficult decision. “I began to consider euthanizing her because, in spite of intensive medical management, she was miserable, depressed, barely ate food, and was reluctant to move from her dog bed,” she said.

She had seen a few news stories on the use of CBD on pets and decided to try it with Marley. “Marley went from depressed and lethargic to up and running around the living room, playing and barking all in the span of 45 minutes,” Dr. Daniel said. “It was one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen as a veterinarian.” She took Marley off of all prescription medications the next day and said she has been thriving ever since.

This turnaround had Dr. Daniel think of the good it could do for others. Her company, CanineBioDynamic, creates hemp-based medication for pets. CanineBioDynamic is an oral liquid hemp oil extract that is high in cannabidiol (CBD). The product is dosed based on the weight of the dog. “I have given hemp oil to a lot of pets for a variety of conditions including arthritis, seizures, separation anxiety, pain, cancer, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and for hospice care,” Dr. Daniel said.

Many of her colleagues and veterinarian friends have contacted Dr. Daniel about the use of CBD for their cases. She says that they have reported positive results, especially in seizure patients. “Pet owners seem to be very receptive to the idea of hemp oil because they have seen media stories about its use in children and they want it for their pets, too,” Dr. Daniel said. “People like the idea of a holistic, safe, all-natural non-toxic yet effective treatment for their pets.”

Dr. Daniel wants more research on the use and effectiveness of CBD medication on domestic animals, as do other veterinarians, and is doing long-term research herself, tracking each client that uses the treatments. She has also submitted blood samples of patients on CBD to the College of Veterinary Medicine for further study. The CanineBioDynamic website also includes videos and testimonials by pet owners who swear by the product.

“I think CBD will be widely accepted and used in human and veterinary medicine within the next five years,” Dr. Daniel said. “I believe it will be a first line treatment for many diseases…it will be turned into an injectable drug that can be used for pain and inflammation in a veterinary clinic setting.”

While the veterinary world will wait on the results of Dr. Daniel’s research, it is clear that the subject of the safe use of CBD products for pets is something that is finally becoming part of the healing discussion. In the meantime, to pet owners like Dr. Daniel and Stevens, the improved condition of their pets is all the proof that is needed that these products can improve the health and quality of life for their family members.

Cover photo courtesy of Javier Brosch

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