The state of veterinary medicine has advanced significantly in recent years and thanks to the availability of more effective medicine, many pets are living longer than they would have years ago. With age however, comes the onset of problems such as arthritis and other forms of pain and inflammation. Conventional pharmaceuticals commonly used to treat pain sometimes have a negative impact on the immune system, GI tract, liver, and kidneys. Additionally, they don’t always work as well as we would like them to – for humans as well as our pets.1
Of all the uses of cannabis in human and veterinary medicine, pain relief is perhaps the most well documented. Research trials have shown profound pain-relieving effects from cannabis for a variety of medical conditions. Extracts of THC and CBD have been shown to provide relief in human patients with advanced cancer pain2 as well as in those with nerve related pain.3
Studies evaluating the efficacy of cannabis in treating arthritis in dogs have been completed as well. A recent study from Cornell University showed reduction in pain scores in dogs with arthritis – with no negative side effects – when treated with CBD vs. placebo.4 In a more practical sense, many veterinarians and pet owners have seen the positive effects of medical cannabis for the treatment of arthritis and other forms of pain in animals. The research merely confirms what many of us have seen first-hand.
Medical cannabis for pets usually comes as a liquid oil or as treats. Liquids are preferable because the dosing can be accurately controlled and because CBD may be better absorbed through the tissues of the mouth rather than through the digestive tract.
Vaporized or smoked cannabis should NEVER be used with pets. This can damage their lungs and can lead to accidental overdose.
Similarly, edibles for humans should not be given to your pet as they are impossible to dose accurately and they may contain ingredients (such as raisins, chocolate, etc.) that are toxic to animals.
When considering cannabis as a medical option for the treatment of pain and inflammation, it is important to understand how the various components of a cannabis preparation may affect your pet. Some important factors to keep in mind are:5
Ratios of THC to CBD frequently range from as high as 20:1, to even ratios (1:1), to 1:20. The decision of which product or ratio to use for a pet with pain/inflammation often depends on the severity of the pain and its origin. The following is a guide to choosing ratios for treating pain and inflammation in animals.
High CBD or Hemp-Based CBD
High THC Ratios
When using cannabis as medicine for pets, the first thing to remember is that any significant side effects are unacceptable. Getting your dog or cat stoned is never OK, even with medical cannabis. The goal with cannabis therapy in pets is to relieve the symptom being treated with no other side effects. Their normal patterns of behavior should be unaltered after receiving the therapy.
Following are guidelines for dosing THC and CBD in cats and dogs. Always consult with your veterinarian before beginning cannabis therapy for your pet.
Medical cannabis can be of great benefit to animals in pain. Ultimately, however, safe and effective use of cannabis requires an understanding of the milligram amounts of THC and CBD (or other cannabinoids), the ratio of cannabinoids, and availability of a medicine in a concentration appropriate for dosing a veterinary patient.
Nothing is more important than the safety of your pet, so don’t make guesses or assume anything about the content or dosing of cannabis medicines.