When someone talks about giving their pet cannabis, some of us immediately jump straight to images of stoners sitting around blowing smoke in their pets face. Such cruel behavior is inexcusable, and is a misinterpretation of pets utilizing cannabis.
Cannabis has many positive effects on elderly pets. I personally give my dog, a 15 year old chihuahua mix, marijuana on a daily basis. I adopted Reena about 12 years ago and though absolutely precious, she has been living in chronic pain since I adopted her. After doing some research on the use of cannabis to help Reena’s livelihood, I decided to give her daily doses of marijuana, and she has never felt better.
Though I’m reluctant to admit it online for fear that a future employer will see it and deem me an unsafe hire, you can consider me a big fan of medical marijuana, especially when it comes to pain management and treatment. I’ve seen too many family members struggle with arthritis, chronic back pain, tingling in the legs and other nagging, chronic pains to argue against anything that might ease their discomfort. This is also true with my pets.
Similarly to humans, as our pets age they often lose mobility and experience muscle and joint pain. Humans are given a myriad of treatments for these aches and pains, from arthritis medicine to glucosamine and other supplements, sometimes even strong pain medication. We do the same for our pets, but a lot of these treatments also come with some potentially harmful side effects that their bodies can’t handle. For my little girl, those side effects came in the form of four extra pounds.
For years I had been giving Reena a glucosamine supplement prescribed by my vet. Though it helped her move a little bit, it did little to give her more mobility and energy overall. Because glucosamine is very calorie-dense due to its high sugar content, I’ve had to drastically reduce the amount of food she’s allowed to eat to ensure that she stays at a healthy weight. Considering over 50% of cats and dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, finding ways to provide relief without the risk of weight gain should be a priority for pet owners and veterinarians alike.
So, where does cannabis come in?
First, it’s important to note that there are two primary chemicals in cannabis that make it a “drug.” The first is THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the chemical that gets people high. It also helps relieve muscle and bone pain, alleviate nausea, and might even aid in weight loss. The second chemical we’re going to discuss is CBD (or cannabidiol), which lacks the psychotropic effects of THC. THC might get you high, but CBD won’t. CBD is used for pain, in addition to treating anxiety and depression, along with several other medical conditions. The stuff is golden! In fact, if you’re ever high yourself (like too high), CBD will help you come down off of it.
Because I want to maximize the therapeutic traits of cannabis and not the psychoactive effects, I only give my dog cannabis products that have a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD, or even skip the THC altogether. Most recreational cannabis products boast a much higher THC to CBD ratio than I would feel comfortable giving my pet: some as high as 10:1.
As funny as it would be to watch my dog get the giggles and eat an entire bag of Doritos while binging on reruns of Gilmore Girls for the thousandth time, it’s just not humane to put your pet in an impaired mental state. Your pet won’t know what’s happening, and instead of providing any relief you are just as likely to cause severe anxiety and impaired motor skills in her, which could cause more harm than good.
What I use for Reena is a cannabis capsule that has a 1:1 THC to CBD ratio. Each meal period I open the capsule, dump roughly ⅛ of the contents in the capsule on her food, and then simply feed her. Afterward, I just pop the capsule back together for another meal period. Within half an hour, she’s running out the door and around the yard like a dog half her age. In the past, I’ve used cannabis drops instead of the capsules, which I found easier but less effective. In states with legalized recreational cannabis use, products like these can be purchased from any recreational marijuana dispensary. Just ask for products that are high in CBD or low in THC, and your budtender will be happy to help. Explain that the product is for your pet, and they’ll be happy to help further narrow down your selection.
While your pet can safely ingest the contents of cannabis capsules and the cannabis drops, it’s unwise to give your pet recreational edibles from dispensaries. Unlike the capsules or the cannabis drops, food made with cannabis can take much longer to take effect in your pet than other products, making it difficult to correctly portion your pet’s medicine. Not to mention they’re really high in calories, which isn’t good either. Another thing to keep in mind is that our pets are much smaller than we are, thus, they need much less cannabis than we would for similar levels of pain relief.
Since adding cannabis products to my pet’s meals, I’ve seen a huge turnaround in her overall health. She’s lost weight with cannabis in a healthy way, she has more energy and she’s able to run and play with a vigor she hasn’t had for about 5 years. And these results aren’t unusual; There’s an entire industry forming around cannabis for pet health.
While pet health care may not be the siren call needed to get more people on board with the medicinal uses of cannabis, it serves as a great reminder of what humans have to gain by decriminalizing the drug for medical uses. In products with a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD, there is so little risk of psychoactive side effects and too much to gain in the way of pain relief to keep denying cannabis to sufferers of chronic pain. It’s really mind boggling why we deny this to people who could really benefit from the pain relief.
Though my experience has been all positive, I still advise you to consult with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet or care. I have no doubt that caring pet owners with the best of intentions will experience significant pushback hesitation from veterinarians about giving their pets marijuana, but it’s important to maintain the health regimen your vet prescribed for your pet, including diet and any over-the-counter medications.