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Pet-Pal Connection: Human controversy shouldn’t overshadow possible aid for animals

The Pet-Pal Connection is a special feature of the Bay Area News Group. Here, pet columnist Joan Morris teams up with veterinarian Dr. Gary Richter to discuss CBD medications for pets.

Q. Do you know anything about CBD? I know CBD helps with inflammation in humans but don’t how much to dose my dog, and will it work. — Gina from Pleasant Hill

New Pet Pal LogoA. Cannabis? Really? Legitimate uses of medical marijuana and hemp — both are forms of cannabis — are swathed in undeserved controversy.

Thanks, in large part, to the government and the medical establishment, misconceptions about the perceived dangers of medical cannabis have become ingrained in much of society. Only in the past few years has medical and public opinion, and subsequently legislation, begun to swing the other way.

Marijuana and hemp both come from the same plant, Cannabis sativa L. The difference between the two is that legally, hemp produces less than 0.3 percent THC whereas marijuana produces over 0.3 percent.

Compounds naturally occurring in cannabis affect the endocannabinoid system (ECS) within the body. The ECS is a group of receptors within the central and peripheral nervous systems that are found throughout the body.

While definitive studies in dogs and cats are still forthcoming, there are mountains of scientific evidence in humans to show the efficacy of cannabis for a host of medical conditions including pain, anxiety, seizures, gastrointestinal disease, neurologic conditions and many more. The key to success with the use of cannabis is in product selection and dosing.


Related: Special section: Pets & Pot


The two main components in cannabis are THC and CBD. THC is highly psychoactive — it gets humans and pets high — and CBD is not. Different preparations will have varying ratios of THC and CBD.

Some products are more THC dominant, some are about even, while others are CBD dominant. Understanding the applications for different ratios is critical to success.

A brief overview of the uses for varying THC to CBD ratios is as follows:

  • CBD dominant: Seizures, stress, anxiety, pain, neurological conditions, anti-cancer
  • Even ratio: Gastrointestinal conditions, pain, neurological conditions, anti-cancer
  • THC dominant: Severe pain, anti-cancer therapy, appetite support

In addition to the THC to CBD ratio, we must know the concentration of the medicine to be given. For example, one preparation may have 10 mg of THC per dose and another may have 30.  Unless we know both the ratio and the concentration, there is no way to use cannabis safely in pets.

The primary goal with using cannabis in pets is for there to be no side effects. It is never, ever acceptable for pets to act stoned in any way. If your pet is acting dazed, sleepy, wobbly or abnormal, discontinue cannabis immediately and contact your veterinarian.

Remember, while appropriate use of cannabis in pets is safe, the effects of overdosing can be severe and potentially life-threatening. Never attempt to treat your pet with cannabis without appropriate guidance from an experienced veterinarian.

You can learn more about the use of cannabis in pets in chapter 9 of my book, “The Ultimate Pet Health Guide.”

Please help me make it legal for veterinarians in California to advise pet owners and make cannabis for pets by signing the petition.

Dr. Gary Richter owns Montclair Veterinary Hospital and Holistic Veterinary Care, both in Oakland, and is the author of “The Ultimate Pet Health Guide.”


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