8 Tips on talking to your veterinarian about cannabis

When Cotton, a 3-year-old Maltese, was battling a chronic intestinal disease, her owner, Sabrina, began to consider cannabis as a possible treatment.

Sabrina, a military veteran, was using it for post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues, so she was curious whether it could help her dog. She was getting bits of information online and from other sources but was reluctant to speak to her veterinarian about it, due to the negative stigma that persists.

When Sabrina finally asked her vet about using cannabis, the prospect was rejected. These feelings can result in frustration, confusion and worry. Additionally, it’s creating an alarming trend, where pet parents are forced to seek information elsewhere, oftentimes from unreliable sources.

Pet parents need reliable information. Many cannabis companies are jumping onto the pet product bandwagon, but not all products are high quality or safe for use in animals.

Cannabinoid Receptors in Canines

Amid a rapidly evolving cannabis industry, pet parents are seeking guidance on the pros and cons of the plant from the veterinary community. We are seeing huge changes within the cannabis marketplace, with innovation in products and shifts in perceptions and attitudes.

Some of the most common medical issues for which pet parents are exploring cannabis are pain control, neurologic disorders (seizures, dementia, neuropathies), behavior disorders, and cancer.

Current research is beginning to demonstrate that the medicinal benefits of cannabis are available to our pets as well. The anecdotal reports about the benefits of cannabis in animals are overwhelmingly positive.

However, while some cannabis products seem to be very well tolerated by animals, cannabis does have interactions with other drugs and can cause side effects. Cannabis can be a powerful and effective medicine. It needs to be utilized by pet parents with the support, guidance and oversight of the veterinary team.

To ensure positive outcomes, collaboration between the pet parent and the veterinary team is essential. Your pet’s health care team has the knowledge and medical training to guide you through this process while monitoring the health and safety of your pet.

Here are some tips to get the conversation started.

  1. Mention that you want to discuss cannabis, either when you make an appointment or when checking in. If you are already using a cannabis product, say so when asked about your pet’s medical history and/or supplements.
  2. Work with a veterinarian that is “cannabis-knowledgeable.” Not every vet is trained in cannabis topics or is comfortable providing guidance about its use in your pet.
  3. Keep a journal. Record simple information such as when and how much you give, any changes you notice or anything you think may be relevant. Documenting changes with photos can also be useful. Bring these materials to the appointment. A journal can be useful in identifying subtle trends, both positive and negative.
  4. Bring the packaging to the cannabis product that you’re using for your pet. It can provide essential information about product sourcing and manufacturing, active and inactive ingredients, and concentration and strength.
  5. Bring a list of any other products—herbal supplements, over-the-counter medications and any special diets.
  6. Enlist your pet’s health care team in choosing a product that is safe to use and easy to administer.
  7. Work together to set realistic goals and track the success of your pet’s care. Utilize their knowledge to help avoid any potential drug interactions or adverse effects.
  8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Realize there may be bumps along the road and expect periodic visits to the clinic for monitoring of your pet’s health and potential adjustments to the treatment.

The decision to investigate and potentially use cannabis as a treatment option for your pet is a personal one. Knowing where to look and how to get reliable information is extremely important. By working with your pet’s veterinary team, you can help “weed out” the bad information from the good.

Navigating the law

  1. Veterinarians are not authorized to prescribe Schedule 1 drugs, including products that
  2. contain more than 0.3 percent THC.
  3. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, there is a clear distinction between marijuana (containing more than 0.3 percent THC) and hemp (containing less than that) and veterinarians may have more flexibility when working with the latter. However, there remain state- and even clinic-specific restrictions that the veterinary team and the pet parent must navigate together.
  4. Cannabis products derived from either hemp or in certain states, marijuana, may be legally obtained and administered to an animal by a pet parent. That is your right to decide as your pet’s guardian.
  5. Once you have decided to treat your pet with cannabis, you can initiate the conversation with
  6. your veterinary team to seek guidance and education on product safety as well as administration and monitoring plans.

Dr. Casara Andre is veterinarian and director of the Colorado School of Animal Massage and the founder of Veterinary Cannabis Education & Consulting.

Icy Watermelon Pups

Icy Watermelon Pups

  • 4 cups seedless cubed watermelon 
  • 2 cups coconut water 
  • Red Belly Honey, as discussed with your vet

Puree watermelon and coconut water. Pour into ice cube trays; add your pet’s regular dosage to each cube and give each a quick stir. Freeze until solid. 

Adapted from Sweet Paul Magazine

Photography & Styling by Paul Lowe