Therapeutic cannabis is reported to deliver a number of benefits in cats suffering from a range of ailments. And with success in treating everything from joint aches and pains in aging cats, through to mild behavioral problems, its uses are as diverse as its benefits. However, its use in cats is still heavily restricted, even in many jurisdictions where cannabis is now legal for human consumption.
Several states across America have decided to legalize therapeutic cannabis, but it is still a controversial issue. Proponents claim that people have been using therapeutic cannabis as a treatment for thousands of years as a variety of human ailments, from nausea to pain.
But what about cats?
The idea of giving therapeutic cannabis to your cat may seem funny. But there is a growing community of people who believe it is a safe and natural alternative to veterinary drugs. Many dog owners also extol the benefits of feeding therapeutic cannabis to their pets.
What do the experts say about therapeutic cannabis for cats?
The stories seem almost miraculous. An article on the American Veterinary Medical Association Web site talks about a man named Ernest Misko who gave therapeutic cannabis tinctures to his 24-year-old cat, Borzo. Within a few days, he was walking normally again, without pain.
Sarah Brandon, co-creator of the Canna Companion product line, also shared many experiences with The Conscious Cat. According to Brandon, older cats suffering from joint discomfort respond particularly well to therapeutic cannabis. The Canna Companion website also lists a variety of benefits ranging from supporting the immune system to maintaining a healthy digestive tract.
When will it become common in treating cats?
“The future of therapeutic cannabis in the cat world is quite positive,” says Dr. Brandon in an interview with The Conscious Cat.
“I believe that within the next two to three years it will be a common option in veterinary hospitals for the reduction of pain and inflammation, neurological disorders, and mild behavioral problems. Therapeutic cannabis is not a panacea, and we certainly don’t advocate stopping prescribed medications without consulting your cat’s veterinarian. Nevertheless, it has its place in the feline world, and we will see more of it over time.”
Therapeutic cannabis is not about getting cats high
The part of cannabis known for its euphoric effect is called tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), but there is also another compound in the plant called cannabidiol (or CBD).
Evidence shows that CBD not only blocks the effects of THC, but is also where we derive the medicinal benefits in therapeutic cannabis. Cannabis-based supplements for pets aim to enhance the benefits of CBD while minimizing the euphoria induced by THC.
But as times change, veterinarians in many states still cannot legally prescribe therapeutic cannabis to cats, even in states that have legalized it for humans. At the time of writing, cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance, a category reserved for drugs that currently have no accepted medical use in the United States. Drugs in this schedule include heroin and ecstasy.
We need more research into the use of therapeutic cannabis
The late Dr. Douglas Kramer, who died of cancer in 2013, was a strong advocate for less restrictive regulations on marijuana research. He believed there was ample evidence to support the use of cannabis for cats, dogs and other pets. However, veterinarians needed more research to properly assess its risks and benefits.
Dr. Robin Downing, one of the country’s leading experts on animal pain management, does not want to rule out therapeutic cannabis use, but she calls for caution. “Cannabis therapy for animals is an untested, unproven, and unregulated medicine,” Downing said in an interview with the Denver Post. “Every time you use an untested therapy, the risks increase… We already have good (pain) tools.”
The official position of the American Holistic VMA remains cautious but open. In a journal published in 2014, they state that “there is a growing body of veterinary evidence that cannabis can reduce pain and nausea in chronically ill or suffering animals, often without the dull effects of narcotics. The plant can improve the quality of life for many patients, even in the face of life-threatening illnesses.
Use with caution
Despite differing opinions on the use of therapeutic cannabis in cats, there is one thing that all experts will agree on. It is that you should always consult your veterinarian before introducing any medication to your cat.
The Animal Poison Control Centre has noted an increase in cannabis intoxication in pets. The majority of cases are due to accidental poisonings – cats and dogs that have been in hiding.
Symptoms of cannabis intoxication in cats include urinary incontinence, impaired balance, high heart rate, and restlessness. Don’t ever give human medical-grade therapeutic cannabis to cats or any other pet without consulting your veterinarian!
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