Americans spend more than $15 billion a year taking care of their pets. But for some pet owners, thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills produces little benefit. What do you do if conventional medicine won't make your pet's anxiety, arthritis, or crippling epilepsy go away?
It might be time to give your pet some pot. This comes with a big disclaimer: Unlike with humans, pot in large doses can kill small animals. But a growing number of veterinarians and animal owners are seeing positive results from giving low doses of cannabis to pets.
Robert Silva, a licensed veterinarian in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the country's foremost expert on medicating your pets with pot, said his first experience was seeing pet owners experimenting themselves.
"I see a lot of very tough patients that have been failed by conventional medicine. I had patients coming in after medical marijuana passed that had started to improve. And when they started to improve, I asked the owners what changed. They said they gave them some of their stash," Silva said.
Silva investigated further and found that just like for humans, cannabis can have a therapeutic effect on some animal medical conditions like epilepsy, anxiety, chronic pain, and arthritis. He published a book with his findings, and he now works as an adviser for a brand of CBD-infused pet products.
Silva makes a convincing case for the efficacy of pot for pets, but don't expect to hear that information from your local veterinarian. Vets are registered with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, an agency that is charged with upholding our country's complete prohibition on anything with pot in it. That means a vet risks losing their DEA registration if they prescribe pot to a pet or direct a pet owner toward a pot product.
Even though mainstream pet doctors aren't getting involved, there are cannabis products out there designed specifically for pets. These products fall into two categories: hemp-derived CBD products that can be bought online and in some stores, and products with actual THC in them, which can be purchased only at a legal pot shop.
Hemp-derived CBD, which has no THC in it, can be an effective treatment for some disorders, and these products are loosely tolerated by the DEA. The DEA sent warning letters to two Washington companies making hemp-derived medicine for pets, Canna-Pet based in Seattle and Canna Companion based in Sultan, but the DEA didn't take issue with the products themselves, only that the companies were allegedly marketing the products with unproven health claims.
For some disorders, like aggressive cancer or certain types of seizures, CBD alone will not do the trick. Those pets may need CBD mixed with a little bit of THC. There is at least one product made in Washington that is designed for pets. Fairwinds Manufacturing makes a bacon-flavored tincture called Companion that has 100 milligrams of CBD and 20 milligrams of THC.
James Hull, owner of Fairwinds, said the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) forbids legal weed companies from marketing products toward pets.
"However, there is nothing that stops a 502 processor from producing a product that can be used on pets as long as it is marketed for 'human consumption' and approved by the WSLCB," Hull said in an e-mail.
The unfortunate side effect of these types of laws is that pet owners are given less information about how to safely use cannabis. Because of the potential for THC overdoses in small animals, that means the state and federal government are making a potentially safe drug less safe.
That's a shame. Federal prohibition is a big lift to change, but it wouldn't be that hard for the WSLCB to change its tune. Perhaps Olympia can get its act together so we can learn more about how Hindu Kush could help your pooch or pussycat.