Veterinarians are beginning to discover the roll of medical marijuana in mitigating the effects of behavioral disorders in pets. A recent survey I conducted indicates that the majority of pet owners administer cannabis products to their pets to treat anxiety and other common behavioral disorders in dogs and cats.
The reports are extremely encouraging and may offer the veterinary community a new, effective therapeutic option to add to their medicine cabinets. These observations by pet owners are supported by numerous clinical research studies which explore the relationship between cannabis and anxiety in both animals and humans.
Contemporary scientific literature provides compelling evidence that cannabidiol (“CBD”) found in marijuana possesses anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic properties. Most of this research cites animal models used in the course of conducting clinical trials for human beings. Cannabidiol is non-intoxicating and is generally considered to have a wider safety margin when compared to THC. The scope of medical applications for CBD is therefore also much broader.
Studies suggest that CBD has a pharmacological profile similar to that of many popular drugs being prescribed by psychiatrists today. The implications for veterinary medicine are profound.
Pets suffer from a host of psychological and behavioral disorders that are more often associated with human beings. Excessive anxiety (panic attacks), aggression problems and compulsive behavioral disorders are commonly observed by practicing veterinarians.
In response veterinarians have increasingly been turning to human psychotropic drugs and prescribing them to their patients “off-label”; a term used to describe medications that have not expressly been approved for use in dogs and cats by the FDA. This begs the obvious question: Can CBD rich preparations of medical marijuana provide a safer alternative by minimizing or eliminating the adverse side effects associated with the use of these pharmaceuticals? Yes, I believe that it is a distinct possibility that medical marijuana will prove to be an acceptable replacement for some of these psychotropic drugs.
A second therapeutic option for pets would be to incorporate medical marijuana into an existing treatment plan to be used as an adjunctive therapeutic together with modern behavior drugs. The two medications are not mutually exclusive and may actually act in a synergistic fashion to complement each other.
My independent research and case reports indicate that cannabis preparations with a high CBD to THC ratio do appear to be quite an effective sedative for dogs and cats. A medication that is high in CBD and low in THC promises the desired medical benefits without the negative side effects traditionally associated with marijuana (becoming “stoned”).
While controlled clinical studies specifically designed for pets are currently lacking, it is my belief that they will confirm what many owners already know; cannabis can indeed calm dogs and cats.
Finally it is important to point out that in regards to behavioral disorders in pets, therapeutics should always be administered in conjunction with behavior modification training. The use of both of these modalities together results in the highest success rates.