Cannabis has had a large change in legislation here in Canada, with human recreational usage becoming legalized in October 2018. Cannabis has a multitude of active ingredients that have an exhaustive list of potential therapeutic effects that are currently being investigated in both the human and veterinary worlds.

Whilst Cannabidiol (CBD) is the medicinal component that has been shown to assist in inflammation, pain relief and behavioural concerns in humans. These have not been readily tested and confirmed in our veterinary patients.

At the moment there is a large number of toxicologists, neurologists, anesthesiologists in the veterinary world that are testing a large number of reported claims with regard to the benefits and effects of CBD in our veterinary patients. The vast majority of these clinical trials and studies are being performed in the USA and focusing in particular on the potential for the use of CBD for pain relief in chronic disease conditions. At this point in time, the clinical trials are in the early stages of development and investigation.

There are a number of individuals that have reported personal benefits with the use of CBD. Their own pain concerns given the medicinal usage have been ongoing in the human medical world for a while. It is the same rationale behind the investigation in our cats and dogs using CBD. There is the potential that they may also benefit from the use of CBD for their arthritic or other chronic pain conditions.

The endocannabinoid system is an internal system of neurotransmitters (chemical signals within the nervous system) that is expressed in both human and veterinary patients alike. CBD is an external chemical that is recognized as being potentially able to integrate within this system in an effort to control or alter the sensation of pain.

The other active ingredient that the majority of individuals recognize is THC. It is the component responsible for the “high” that is associated with marijuana. THC has not been identified as having any therapeutic effect in veterinary medicine; as such, there is no merit in its usage for our patients.

So where does that put us?

At present, the provision of a prescription, the recommendation of dosage or the distribution of cannabis is not legislated in the Canadian veterinary profession. It means that the team here is not able to provide you with information with regards to the efficacy, the therapeutic dose of CBD that will be of benefit to your pet.

In the future, this may eventually change, potentially leading to the ability for us to be able to guide you with the use of cannabis for your pets. The ability to prescribe cannabis will likely be very dependent on the results of the aforementioned clinical trials.

There are a number of products on the market at present, targeted towards the veterinary market from a variety of sources. There is also obviously an abundance of marijuana becoming available in a lot of homes, likely more so than previous as a result of the availability.

Prior to the legalization of marijuana, as a profession, we saw several overdose or toxicities. Subsequent to the legalization of marijuana, we have continued to see further exposure of our veterinary patients to marijuana.

Toxicity presents to us with dilated pupils, lethargy and often urinary incontinence. Often the most difficult part from the diagnosis is the recognition of the potential for exposure. As a result, we are often forward with regards to our questioning and inquisition as to the potential for exposure. We want you to feel comfortable informing us about the exposure. We are not here to get you in trouble — we want to ensure that if there is exposure, then we can more appropriately treat the overdose or exposure.

From our standpoint, we need and want owners to know that we are not here to chastise them with regards to the potential use or exposure of their pets to marijuana, CBD products or other potential toxins. We want to ensure the best for our patients, your furry family, and as such, we need open discussion and information with regards to the potential use of these products.

As mentioned, there are limits to what we are able to discuss with regards to these products; however, as time and legislation changes, we will potentially be able to provide you with more information.

So please be open about the use of these products to assist with our ability to ensure the best for your pet.

If you have any questions or concerns, please give us a call at 705-674-9191.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Whitombe, DVM