Integrative/Alternative Medicine , News

Poll: Cannabinoid Treatments for Pets?

Patricia Wuest Editorial Director, NAVC

Poll: Cannabinoid Treatments for Pets?
We asked our Facebook fans: Have you been asked by pet owners about cannabinoid treatments for their pets? We received nearly 200 responses. Photo: Shutterstock.com | PRO Stock Professional
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It sure is catchy: pots and pets. But at issue for vets who have clients asking about cannabis for their pets is whether they can even discuss, never mind recommend, those products and treatments for their patients.

A 2018 study by Cornell University showed successful pain reduction related to osteoarthritis in dogs and preliminary data from Dr. Stephanie McGrath’s lab at Colorado State University showed 89% of canines that received CBD in a clinical trial had a reduced frequency of seizures compared to 43% in the control group. Cannabis products are thought to have therapeutic benefit for a number of conditions in both humans and companion animals, including epilepsy, anxiety, inappetence and nausea.

During an August 2019 webinar hosted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) entitled, “What veterinarians need to know about cannabis,” 90% of participants said they had clients expressing interest in cannabinoid use in their pets, but agreed veterinarians could be at risk legally for discussing it with them.

We wanted to know how this was impacting your practice, so we asked our Facebook fans and readers, “Have you been asked by pet owners about cannabinoid treatments for their pets?” Of the 180 respondents, 73% said “yes,” while 27% said “no.”


Have you been asked by pet owners about cannabinoid treatments for their pets?

Posted by Today's Veterinary Practice on Saturday, August 17, 2019


The use of cannabinoids — particularly CBD-infused oils or whole hemp extracts — has increased dramatically over the last year and is expected to triple by 2022, according to Vote Hemp, a grassroots hemp advocacy organization working to change state and federal laws to allow commercial hemp farming.  According to “The CBD Report,” Hemp Business Journal estimates total retail sales of hemp-derived CBD products in the United States will exceed $646 million by 2022. Since the passage of the ‘Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research’ in the Farm Bill in January of 2014, hemp-derived CBD product sales in the U.S. have experienced nearly a 440% sales increase, with current data demonstrating $264 million in sales in 2018, and $57.5 million of those sales occurring within retail stores in the natural product and specialty market channels.

Veterinarians Should Take a Leadership Role

At issue here is not that clients are asking about cannabis; it’s that an employee in a pet store or recreational marijuana dispensary can recommend a particular CBD product for clients’ pets, yet the veterinarians of those clients could be disciplined by their state board or even have their license suspended or revoked for providing that recommendation. Even though the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp-derived CBD from the Schedule I designation, veterinarians are still restricted by both federal and state laws in discussing and recommending CBD for their patients.

“Veterinarians should be the ones giving people guidance on how to do this, not people with zero medical training like the guy working behind the counter at the recreational cannabis dispensary,” says Gary Richter, MS, DVM, and owner of Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California. “There’s no group in the world that can give people better guidance on how to use any kind of medication safely and effectively for their pets than veterinary professionals. This is what we’re trained to do. We have to give people the kind of guidance that they need so that they know what they should be looking for, they know what doses to give, and they know if it’s the most appropriate medication for their pet to be taking.”

Stay Up to Date

Federal and state laws regarding cannabis products are complex, and regulations associated with these products are rapidly changing. The AVMA summarized the regulatory landscape surrounding use of cannabis products as drug, food or supplement in veterinary medicine (available to AVMA members).

Learn More

What Do Veterinarians Need to Know About Pets and Pot?

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