Intro to Cannabis in Veterinary Practice
Head to any pet store today and you’re likely to see a slew of cannabis-related products, or CBD. Everything from calming aids to hot-spot spray can now be found with milligrams of CBD in them, all readily available among the aisles of pet shampoo and collars. According to Grandview Research, the CBD market for pets is projected to grow at an annual rate of 40 percent between 2020 and 2027. As the industry grows, you may find yourself fielding questions from curious pet owners when they come to your practice. Today, we’re giving the rundown on what we know about the research and how cannabis might be implemented into veterinary practice. Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it legal?
First and foremost, let’s get one thing straight: just because marijuana may be legal in 34 states for human use does not mean it is also legal for use in animals. Those hemp CBD products in pet stores have not gone through any sort of FDA approval, which means they have not been proven safe and effective as of this writing. And there is a difference between marijuana and hemp plants. Hemp plants contain lower levels of THC, which means a lower risk of THC toxicity—and it’s why veterinarians would be more inclined to recommend it, were they legally permitted to.
CBD was originally used in a trial to treat osteoarthritis (OA) in animals, and this was just in 2018. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties which make it effective in pain management. It was 2019 when CBD was tested to control seizures in dogs, with 89 percent of patients seeing a reduction in seizures. However, the research on this is in its early stages and there is certainly more to come. It’s tough to get legal access to cannabis products to conduct veterinary research, hence the limited number of studies done. Cannabis could be useful in providing support for animal anxiety, gastrointestinal issues, treatment of cancer, and more.
From a legality perspective, restrictions on CBD are becoming more and more lax over time. This means rules are constantly changing, more studies are being conducted, and it is more critical than ever for veterinarians to stay updated with the latest studies pertaining to cannabis and animals. Veterinarians are not allowed to “recommend… dispense, furnish, administer, or prescribe high-THC cannabis products,” according to the paper “Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine: A Critical Review” published by the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA). The minor exception is California, which passed AB-2215 in 2018 that allows veterinarians to talk about cannabis as a type of therapy for animal patients—but talking is where it ends. State and federal guidelines are not clearly defined for veterinary practice. So until they are, it’s wise to check with your local veterinary medical board before giving any type of cannabis treatment to your patients.
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