Medical marijuana is legal for Florida residents suffering from debilitating medical conditions, but did you know it’s also available for pets?
Some Southwest Florida pet owners are using compounds found in the cannabis plant for sick dogs and cats. They are giving them CBD oil. It’s one of the many cannabinoids, or chemical compounds, found in marijuana and hemp.
“She’s been a pretty, anxious, worried little dog ever since we got her,” Jenn Gordon said as she pet her 3-year-old dog, Molly. “She hasn’t been food driven. We’d put her food down, and it would just sit there for hours.”
Molly suffers from anxiety, and she has an enzyme insufficiency called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).
After talking with friends and doing some research on her own, Gordon decided to give CBD oil a try. Not only has it increased Molly’s appetite, but Gordon said it had changed her entire demeanor.
“She’s a lot more friendly, sitting next to people, going up to people, allowing people to pet her,” Gordon said. “She seems happy.”
The CBD oil Molly takes is derived from hemp, and it contains less than 0.03 percent THC. It costs anywhere from $25 to $75 per month, depending on the dosing, the concentration, and the size of the dog.
So, what do veterinarians think of CBD oil?
“We have used it for cancer patients, to help them want to eat more,” said Dr. Iris Ramirez, DVM, Pet Wellness Center Fort Myers. “Yes, to try it, as a safe alternative to many other things. I’ve had no negative effects from it at all.”
Ramirez recommends hemp-derived CBD oil to her patients, but she tells owners to use caution because there are many CBD products on the market.
“Any given manufacturer might be able to spit out their CBD product and label it whatever they want, and that’s why I say do your due diligence and talk to your vet,” Ramirez said.
But not all Southwest Florida veterinarians have jumped on the CBD bandwagon.
“The perception is that with the legalization of marijuana, that it’s this magic elixir that’s going to cure everything and the truth is, right now, at least in veterinary medicine, there hasn’t been any verified studies that there’s really much of a benefit to it, at all,” said Dr. Randy Eisel, DVM, The Animalife Veterinary Center Naples.
Because the FDA has not approved CBD, and it’s still classified as a schedule one drug, Dr. Eisel said more research needs to be done before he recommends CBD oil to his patients.
“[We need] controlled studies and control of the actual products because there’s so much variability and strength and toxicity in the way they’re derived. There’s no consistency to it,” Eisel said.
But researchers are working to change that. One of the first clinical trials assessing CBD oil and pets is currently underway at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“We have been asking veterinarians and pet owners if their pet is receiving a hemp oil based or cannabinoid based product to have their veterinarian collect a blood sample for us,” said Dawn Boothe, DVM, MS, Ph.D., Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Researchers like Dawn Boothe are looking at how pets respond to CBD oil for therapeutic purposes.
She’s already collected blood samples from 70 cats and dogs, but she’d like to obtain more.
“When you’re asking a question about how much drug does it take for an animal to respond, there is so much variability in the data, that we’re gonna want lots of samples,” Boothe said.
Boothe and her team started this clinical trial about a year ago. There’s no scheduled end date at this point.
If you’d like to learn more about this trial, click here for more information.