Updated 18 October 2019

Dagga for pets in pain?

A US veterinarian says pets could benefit enormously, and see their life extended, with a dose of medical marijuana. But are lawmakers ready for this big step and how safe is it?

Until she introduced "magic cheese" to her sick and ageing bulldog three years ago, Laura Bugni-Daniel watched him suffer for two years.

He'd spend his days lying down or throwing up.

Today, at age 14, he plays like a puppy through the day and he sleeps at night, soothed not by magic but by the dose of marijuana in the cheese.

Bugni-Daniel is part of a growing movement to give medical marijuana to pets in pain.

Many urge caution until there's better science behind it. But stories abound of changes in sick and dying pets after they've been given cannabis — even though it isn't a proven painkiller for man or beast.

It's also an illicit drug under federal law, despite being legal for people in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

Leading the charge is Los Angeles veterinarian Doug Kramer who felt it was his duty to speak out. "I grew tired of euthansing pets when I wasn't doing everything I could to make their lives better," he said.

Pot in final weeks eases pain

Pot eased his Siberian husky's pain during her final weeks, after she had surgery to remove tumours. Not only did the dog stop whimpering, but she started eating, gaining weight and meeting him at the door again.

It gave him six extra weeks with his dog before he had to euthanize her, he said. It wasn't a cure, but he thinks it freed her of pain and improved her last days.

Some other vets said they share Kramer's view on marijuana, but they wouldn't talk on the record for fear of arrest or retaliation.

Kramer hasn't lost any clients over his view, but he was asked not to return to some of the clinics where he volunteered or relieved other vets because of concerns over the negative image his advocacy creates, he said.

Dr Duncan Lascelles, a professor of surgery and pain management at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, thought about studying marijuana a decade ago. He didn't, not for lack of interest, but because the timing was wrong.

"I have been considering looking at that field again because I think it does have a lot of potential," he said.

Proper dosage

Testing could take 10 years or more to be sure a painkiller will be effective and free of side effects, Lascelles said.

Kramer said it's unconscionable to let a decade pass, when millions of pets will die of illness and old age.

Vets who want traditional testing point to a study by two Colorado animal hospitals that compared the number of dogs treated for what appeared to be accidental marijuana overdoses between 2005 and 2010 with increases in the number of marijuana licenses issued. As registrations increased 146-fold, the number of sickened pets went up four-fold.

"Sometimes public sentiment and activity gets ahead of the scientific background, and that can be dangerous," said Barry Kellogg, senior veterinary adviser to the Humane Society of the United States.

While two dogs with pot in their system died in the Colorado survey, hallucinogenic reactions may make dogs wobbly on their legs, raise their pulse and cause dribbly urine, said Dr Karl Jandrey, an emergency and critical care vet at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis.

But marijuana clinic managers say that a proper dose of the drug will prevent a bad reaction.

Jessica LeRoux of Twirling Hippy Confections in Colorado made custom treats that helped extend the life of her last service dog.

"I got the 15th year out of that relationship because of the product I made for him," she said.

Old or ailing pets who take cannabis usually experience an immediate boost in appetite and relief from pain.

That lets them get around, relieve themselves without help, sleep better and enjoy their families until age or disease catches up, LeRoux said.

In Jauary 2016  Senator Jeff Brandes of Florida proposed a bill that, if passed, will allow the University of Florida to work with a veterinary research organisation to explore using the same low-THC extracts that is approved for use in humans in treating animals. 

He agreed to the bill after dog owner Lisa Miller told him of the benefits medical marijuana holds for animals that suffer from seizures and epilepsy. See video below:

Read more:

Read US vet Dr Barchas' advice marijuana intoxication in cats and dogs (external link)

Top US doctor in favour of medical marijuana

Is there a place for dagga in medicine?

I used medical marijuana to cure my cancer


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