An increasing number of Americans are turning to medicinal marijuana when it comes to treating their companion animals.
Various species including dogs, cats and pigs among others have reportedly been treated with the drug.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states, and as its application for human use has grown, so too has its application for animals.
Alison Ettel is the founder of a California cannabis company that supplies cannabis products for animals. She says: “We are seeing about 20 per cent growth every month; we are treating thousands of animals.
“It started with people coming to us with their pet patients saying ‘hey, we know you’re working with children or with adults with these certain conditions, do you think you can help my dog?’
“Sure enough, we’re finding that it does. You’re not going to get your dog high. It’s not toxic.”
Despite this increase in people using the substance to treat their companion animal, marijuana has not been sanctioned for use in animals by the FDA [Food And Drug Administration] – the body that oversees the efficacy and safety of drugs for humans and animals. But neither has it been sanctioned by the body for humans.
Instead, individual states have sanctioned the drug at local level.
Scientific knowledge of the medical benefits of marijuana is still evolving, but much anecdotal evidence is strong. The American Veterinary Medical Association has released a number of case studies.
These include a horse named Phoenix in California. A degenerative ligament disease meant she was close to being put to sleep, she couldn’t stand, eat or drink. Within an hour of being given marijuana extract by her human companion, Phoenix was back on her feet, consuming both foods and liquid.
Other stories include easing separation anxiety in dogs and pain in a number of animals by using marijuana extracts in the form of chewable treats, tinctures or sprays.
Allison Ettel, whose company supplies cannabis products for animals, says she started making dog biscuits with cannabinoids (cannabis flower extracts) to treat seizures in dogs.
She says: “It’s been doing really well for that. It’s really good for anxiety for pets too, then we also started getting a lot of pets that have more severe illnesses like cancers. We’re seeing incredible results with skin cancer.”
Despite the benefits, it is important to note that cannabis, in some cases, can be lethal for animals. If they ingest human-size doses – for example, after consuming baked goods containing the drug, they can fall into a coma – or even die.