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Are Cannabis Products Safe for Pets?

By October 17, 2018 January 2nd, 2019 Uncategorized

As of today, Cannabis is legal in Canada.

Countless people use cannabis to cope with illnesses and control pain, and some of them want to spread the “benefits” of cannabis use to their pets (whether they talk to a veterinary staff beforehand or not).

But is this really a good idea?

There are important questions to be asked:

Is Cannabis safe? Does it work? Can we assume that benefits reported in humans are similar in pets? Is there a species difference? Do dogs react different than cats? Are edible cannabis products safe for pets?

Despite its growing use, cannabis is still very “up in the air” when it comes to whether it should become a normalized and openly used part of society. In pet stores and veterinarian clinics across the country (and certainly on the internet through forums and social media), people are coming to blows on the issue. On one side, people claim cannabis is hazardous to your health and a stain on society. On the other side, people believe marijuana is the cure for everything. “What could possibly be wrong with it?” they ask. “Isn’t cannabis one of the best things you can give your pets to keep them happy and healthy?”

The problem is this: there hasn’t been enough research about cannabis and its use for medical purposes. Especially in pets we don’t have good information.

Yes, the legal issues have been discussed to death, but who is talking about the risks involved with using cannabis-based products for pets? It’s very important to perform proper research without biases or opposition holding the process back. And it needs to be done soon, if not immediately.

It’s clear that there are many chemical compounds in cannabis, compounds that are known to have effects on different parts of the body. That means marijuana can technically help as well as damage the bodies of humans and animals.

Sadly, there are no established, reliable studies available for a Markham vet that are centered on cannabis use and small animals. We can’t say with confidence that marijuana is something that should be used for animal ailments. There is no solid evidence.

We don’t know how the different substances react in different species. We don’t know whether they cause harm. We DO KNOW that you can’t take experience and information obtained in humans and transfer this onto animals. Remember that a single tablet of Tylenol will kill a cat.

There is clearly a lot or research needed.

One thing holding research back is the fact that laws regulate the amount of cannabis that can be used for research. Package labelling isn’t regulated for cannabis pet products, either, making it difficult for a veterinarian to stay on top of things.

Regardless, cannabis can be toxic for dogs and cats (as any experienced vet will attest), a bad situation even if exposure to it is seldom fatal. We just saw a patient who likely had eaten a cannabis product and was very ill. However we could not prove what product was eaten (from the neighbors garbage bin). We can only guess.

Until more research is available, and until we have regulated labelling and quality control for cannabis-based pet products, a veterinary clinic (and pet owners) can only work with stories and claims from people who have used them. Products should be used with caution and with no guarantees for positive results.

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Dr. Ernst Marsig, veterinarian in Markham

Fear Free Certified Practitioner

Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.

Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of  Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.). We pride ourselves to provide cost effective veterinary medicine and give you options for treatments. Some may think our services as cheap, but our goal is to give good value.

Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.

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