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As more American states legalise marijuana, an increasing number of pet owners are treating their dogs and cats with cannabis.
Pet owners are resorting to the drug for a vast array of illnesses, but veterinarians, who are legally barred from prescribing medical pot, say there isn’t enough scientific data to show it’s safe and effective for animals.
Hudson has always been a happy, fun-loving dog, but the 12-year-old Portuguese water dog slowed down considerably after arthritis in her toe worsened and it had to be amputated.
Her owner Michael Fasman says: “She’s in pain a lot of the time and doesn’t want to go out for walks, and we don’t want to give her painkillers because they just knock her out.”
Fasman like a growing number of pet owners in the US is now resorting to an alternative medicine, which many people are using to treat their own pain and illness — marijuana.
Fasman uses a formulation which has a cannabis tincture measured specifically for pets.
He gives it to her by adding it to her food.
According to Fasman it’s had good results and he says: “She’s livelier, she’s more engaged, she’s happy to see us, she wants to go out for walks. And she seems like she’s not in as much pain.”
Fasman is not the only pet owner using cannabis to medicate his animal.
As more states across the US have legalised marijuana for medicinal use, more pet owners have started self medicating their pets.
Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states but remains illegal under federal law, so there has been relatively little research into its potential health benefits for humans or animals.
Veterinarians in California and other states are legally barred from prescribing or recommending cannabis. They risk losing their veterinary licenses if they do.
Lynne Tingle runs a pet adoption center and a sanctuary for abandoned animals, she regularly gives cannabis to older dogs with health or behavior issues and she plans to try it with cats.
Tingle says: “You just see a real difference in their spirit, and they’re just not in pain, so they’re happier, and they’re moving better. And they just get a new lease on life.”
But veterinarians say there isn’t enough scientific data to show that cannabis is safe and effective for treating pets.
Significantly vets themselves are banned from prescribing, or recommending marijuana because it’s illegal under federal law.
Ken Pawlowski from the California Veterinary Medical Association says: “Science is not leading the discussion on this, and that’s what we need to happen. We need to have the studies. We need to have the science. So we have the background information to make informed decisions.”
Most of these pet products, which are not regulated, contain cannabidiol or CBD, a chemical compound found in cannabis that doesn’t get pets or humans high. They contain little or no tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the cannabis compound known for its psychoactive effects.
At Treatwell staff say they sell a range of products can treat all sorts of ailments without getting the animal high.
Owner Allison Ettel says: “What we find is a lot of the animals are coming to us when there are no other options and pharmaceuticals haven’t worked for that animal. And so they’re at that last resort, and cannabis is really good for those types of situations.”
These tinctures have been selling well at Harborside Health Center, one of california’s largest marijuana dispensaries.
Co-founder Andrew DeAngelo says: “I see a tremendous amount of potential. I think we still have a lot to learn about these products and their efficacy and how they work.”
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