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Cats, Canines and Cannabis: Healthy Alternatives for our Four-Legged Friends

Our pets also have endocannabinoid receptors, and can benefit from cannabis.

By Caleb Summeril, Staff Writer for Terpenes and Testing Magazine

Pets are our companions. Coming home to the friendly wag of a tail or cozy kitty cuddle can brighten up anyone’s day and provide an endless source of joy and comfort. The delight a pet can bring is priceless and no owner likes to see a furry friend in distress. While still understudied, there is growing promise that cannabis-based treatments, specifically cannabidiol (CBD), can aid and improve a host of animal ailments from pain management and inflammation to anxiety and other social disorders.

Scientists have discovered that the same cannabinoid system that exists within the human brain is found all over the animal kingdom. From cats and dogs to lizards, snakes and sugar gliders, the same system that works within our own biological blueprint to utilize beneficial substances in cannabis is also at work within our pets’ neurology. Endocannabinoid receptors work to keep an organism in homeostasis and CBD can help this process by balancing neural transmissions in a way other treatments cannot. This leads to the possibility that many of the known conditions treatable by CBD, THC and other active cannabis compounds in humans can have the same effects on other animals.

An old dog with arthritis or a cat with cataracts may feel relief with small doses of CBD. Oral treatment is the most common method of delivery either via pet treat or tincture administered directly in the mouth or the food bowl. It is important to be careful when dosing animals – dogs have a higher number of brain cannabinoid receptors than humans and are therefore more susceptible to over-ingestion. Acceptable doses for cats and dogs are 0.02 mg/kg to 0.1 mg/kg up to twice a day. For animals suffering from chronic pain, the dosage can be increased, but exercise caution until you know how your pet will react. It should go without saying, but keep your stash up and out of reach to prevent any creature calamities. Colorado saw four times the number of canine cannabis intoxication occurrences following legalization for medical use. [1]

Before running to your local pet-friendly CBD supplier, of which there are good ones out there (see Extract Labs), note that the research regarding specific health benefits on animals is still in its infancy. The tremendous potential upside to animal treatment comes with necessary caution as a lack in number of studies highlight the reality that not much is known on long-term or legitimate effects in regard to treatment outside of humans. [2]

Until recently, CBD was classified as a schedule 1 drug by the DEA, making it illegal for veterinarians to prescribe or recommend its use. With restrictions easing earlier this year, CBD has been downgraded to a Schedule 5 drug, opening the doors for some medical use and the potential for future federal allowances. Most vets with knowledge on the subject will inform and educate a pet owner and the choice of treatment can be pursued independently.

With more research being done and studies showing intriguing results, the future of beneficial and effective CBD treatment for our pets in need looks promising. As the science behind these alternative healing remedies develops, so will the ability for pet lovers to insure the well-being of animals they love. Pet owners should keep themselves informed of developments in the field as new information and availability is consistently on the horizon.

Photo by Anusha Barwa on Unsplash


[1] Meola SD, Tearney CC, Haas SA, et al. Evaluation of trends in marijuana toxicosis in dogs living in a state with legalized medical marijuana: 125 dogs (2005-2010). J Vet Emerg Crit Care 2012;22:690-696.

[2] Alexandra Greb & Birgit Puschner (2018) Cannabinoid treats as adjunctive therapy for pets: gaps in our knowledge, Toxicology Communications, 2:1, 10-14, DOI: 10.1080/24734306.2018.1434470

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