Old Dogs, New Tricks: Is Your Canine In Need Of Cannabis?

This article was originally published on The Fresh Toast and appears here with permission.

Although owners are always discouraged from using cannabis products formulated for humans on their pets, there is a growing variety of hemp derived products that may help relieve joint pain.

You see them in the dog parks and on walks around the neighborhood — those slower moving old dogs still doing their best to be the best companion they can be, striving to keep up the pace they once had. Try as they might, age and disease take a toll.

A whopping 70 million dogs experience some form of osteoarthritis (OA), a chronic form of joint inflammation that is the result of cartilage deterioration. It is a painful condition experienced by dogs, especially those in their senior years. Similar to humans , pain and swelling, stiffness, and aching joints are common symptoms. 

Also similar to humans, there is no known cure. The therapeutic goal is usually to simply reduce the impact of symptoms, to make walking, getting up and down and even sleeping a bit more comfortable. Typically veterinarians and pet owners employ a variety of medicines such as NSAIDs, steroids and opioids to reduce their joint pain. The problem is each of these commonly used approaches comes with their own risks, including increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and weakening of bones.

Fortunately, the active compounds in the cannabis plant are also showing promise when it comes to treating the pain associated with certain types of canine arthritis. Amendments to the 2018 Federal Farm Bill stated that hemp containing less than 0.3% THC can be legally grown, sold, and possessed in every state in the U.S. That number is not only important for the legality of the products but is also at a threshold so low that it ensures pets will not become intoxicated. 

2020 study by Baylor College of Medicine, published in the journal Pain, examined the use of CBD for canine OA. It showed both a significant decrease in pain and an increase in mobility for the affected animals. 

This comes as no surprise for veterinarians like Dr. Tim Shu, who have been using whole plant CBD dominant products formulated for pets for years. I recently interviewed Dr. Shu for my YouTube series, Saturday Sesh, where he reminded us that, “..cannabis was a part of the veterinary pharmacopeia just like how it was for humans. Prior to the 1900s cannabis was recognized as medicine not just for humans but also for animals as well. There’s also texts from ancient civilizations that go into the use of cannabis as medicine for not just humans but also for animals.” 

Although owners are always discouraged from using cannabis products formulated for humans on their pets, there is a growing variety of hemp derived products that may help do the trick. Dr. Shu reminds us that for those pet parents seeking to include cannabis based medicines for their animal’s health, it is important to not only consult a veterinarian, but to also seek out products that are formulated specifically for pets and have been laboratory tested. 

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