Medical Marijuana and our Furry Friends

As medical marijuana receives more attention, pet owners are starting to consider if it can help their furry friends too.


Dr. Katherine Kramer, a veterinarian with B.C.’s Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital, says the topic is becoming “more and more popular.” Just two years ago, pet owners would ask about marijuana just once a year. These days, she gets asked at least once a week. 

In Canada and the U.S., cannabis is not considered a veterinary medicine according to official guidelines. Dr. Robin Downing, a top animal pain specialist in the U.S., tells The Denver Post “there’s more we don’t know about this therapy than we do know.” 

But even though veterinarians can’t officially prescribe marijuana, Dr. Kramer says she can, and sometimes will, recommend it in her practice. 

Indeed, acceptance of marijuana as a medicine seems to be just beginning for pets and people. The main barrier – for both – is a lack of research. 

But there’s enough science to explain how it works, and it turns out pets and people share something in common.
The main pathways for marijuana’s effect are cannabinoid receptors, Dr. Kramer explains. “Dogs and cats have that like people, which is why we’re starting to use it medicinally for them.”


Risks For Pets

Marijuana may hold promise as a medicine, but there is also an increasing amount of research suggesting accidental pet poisonings are on the rise. Dr. Kramer says she’s aware of the research as well as the risks it can pose for pets.
For example, Dr. Kramer explains that sudden incontinence in dogs is considered “pathognomonic” for marijuana toxicity. That means “if you have a dog that’s acting stoned and they’re incontinent, chances are 100:1 that it’s going to be marijuana ingestion.”

While rarely fatal, pets can easily be overwhelmed by marijuana’s effects due to their size. Dogs are also allergic to chocolate, which makes marijuana brownies a double threat.

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