Cannabis Extracts Can Help Dogs with a Large Range of Health Problems.
I’ve been advocating medical cannabis use in dogs for about 4 years now, and I’ve seen dogs have significant clinical responses in a number of cases.
I’ve seen improvements in old dogs (with arthritis and doggy dementia), in dogs with cancer (mostly palliative, and in one case curative), in dogs with anxiety, in one dog with congestive heart failure, in dogs with allergies, and in dogs with epilepsy.
Here’s one case: I had a pet mum call me with a very old dog suffering from doggy dementia. The dog was restless and confused at night, would get lost or stuck between things, or ask to go out to the toilet again and again. The owner had not had unbroken sleep for weeks and weeks.
After a matter of a couple days’ treatment with CBD, this little dog was sleeping through the night! The owner was so happy (and better rested).
Cannabis Extracts Contain Many Compounds that are known as Cannabinoids.
Medical cannabis extracts are an herbal medicine with a broad therapeutic spectrum. This means cannabis extracts may be effective in treating a range of different health issues.
The two best known cannabinoids are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), but many more are being studied and classified all the time. It has been found that different cannabinoids have different effects, as do the different blends of cannabinoids that are created in different strains of cannabis plants.
A whole plant cannabis extract contains literally hundreds of different cannabinoid compounds. These many cannabinoids all work together synergistically.
Each different cannabinoid has different therapeutic properties, and each different strain of cannabis plant will create a unique blend of these compounds. Thus different strains will be better for different health issues.
For example, here is a list of just a few of the hundreds of cannabinoid compounds found in whole plant cannabis extracts, and how they help therapeutically:
- THC is a mild analgesic (painkiller) and several studies have shown that it has antioxidant activity.
- CBD is anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective, and oligo-protective (oligonucleotides are short DNA and RNA molecules). It is proven to reduce anxiety in dogs, and probably has many other therapeutic effects yet to be uncovered by science.
- CBG is thought to slow or kill bacterial growth, promote bone growth, reduce inflammation, and inhibit growth in tumor/cancer cells.
- CBC is known to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, inhibit growth in tumor/cancer cells, and promote bone growth.
- THCV can reduce panic attacks, suppress appetite, and promote bone growth.
- CBDv has shown promise for use in the management of epilepsy.
The research into these compounds is very young, and you will see many more cannabinoid compounds being understood better in terms of their therapeutic actions over the next few years.
I recommend using a whole plant extract. This is much more potent and effective than a purified extract that has been processed and only contains pure CBD or THC. Be sure to source extracts for your dogs from plants that are consciously and organically grown, and preferably with their feet in the ground, and raw, unfiltered sunlight on their leaves.
When you use a whole plant extract, you are giving your pet the broadest possible spectrum of cannabinoid compounds, and thus you are much more likely to get a strong therapeutic response.
To get the best possible results, it may be worth trialling extracts from different strains of medical cannabis. Because of the variation in the levels of different cannabinoids from strain to strain, one may help your dog’s unique health issues better than another strain.
Cannabis Extracts from Strains of the Plant that Contain High Levels of CBD and no THC have a Very Large Therapeutic Index.
Therapeutic index definition: A ratio that compares the blood concentration at which a drug becomes toxic and the concentration at which the drug is therapeutic. The larger the therapeutic index (TI), the safer the drug. If the TI (the difference between the concentration at which it is therapeutic and at which it is toxic) is small, the drug dose must be measured very carefully, and the person or pet receiving the drug needs to be monitored closely for any signs of drug toxicity.
There is a large difference between a therapeutic dose and a toxic dose in cannabis extracts from strains containing high levels of CBD and no THC (CBD has a large therapeutic index).
Thus, it’s very hard to overdose your pet with a CBD extract with very low levels of THC in it—you’d have to give them many times more than the recommended dose rate. Even if you did, though it would sedate them heavily, it’s not usually harmful.
THC is Something You Need to be a Lot More Careful with When Using it as a Medicine in Dogs.
The therapeutic index for cannabis extracts that contain THC for dogs is small. This is because the dog’s brain contains a higher concentration of THC receptors than the human brain. A similar dose per bodyweight of THC will have much stronger effects (especially psychoactive effects) for a dog than a human.
I’ve seen quite a few dogs who have eaten their owner’s ‘special’ cookie, or eaten left over plant material after it’s been cooked up with butter to make an extract (it was dumped in the garden).
These dogs present pretty much comatose, losing control of their bladder, unable to move at all. All the ones I’ve treated have slept it off and been fine the next day, but it does make them quite ill.
However—THC is in a different chemical form in the raw plant: “THC-A”. THC-A is not psychoactive at normal therapeutic dose rates (it can become so at very high dose rates).
THC-A needs to be heated for it to be changed into THC. Only then does it create the ‘high’ that recreational cannabis users enjoy (but that is not so good for our dogs).
Raw or cold-processed THC-containing cannabis extracts can be used safely for your dogs—I’ve had a number of dogs have huge improvements in well-being after taking this medicine.
It Really Works!
For instance: I attended an old Jack Russel named “Little Mate” who was very stiff with arthritis—not wanting to go for walks any more. After a week on cold processed extract (containing THC and CBD and many other cannabinoids) he was eager to go for long walks again, and was a lot happier. In addition to this (and much to my surprise), his congestive heart failure improved so much after a month on the cannabis extract that we could take him off other prescription medications. Below is a video of me checking up on Little Mate at his home to see how he’s coming along with his cannabis oil treatment. You can see the remarkable results after just a short time. (Note: the title of the video is not an accurate portrayal of the content, as you’ll see when you watch it.)
Cannabis extracts that contain THC can be appropriate for some health issues (for example cancer), but you would need to be very precise and very careful with measuring the dosages.
A Suggested Approach to Safely Using Cannabis Extracts for Your Pet.
Firstly—if your pet is on any prescription medications, I strongly suggest that you only use cannabis extracts whilst under the care of a veterinarian who has at least some expertise in the use of medicinal cannabis. There are some drugs that cannabis extracts can cause adverse reactions with, especially anti-anxiety medications, antihistamines, sedatives, blood pressure medications, diabetic medications, and perhaps others.)
My approach is to recommend starting at very low dose rates and then increasing the dosage a little every 5 days or so, while watching how your dog responds very carefully. I tend to start at half the human equivalent dose per bodyweight and increase from there. This may be overkill, but you can’t be too safe! If your pet shows less desirable effects such as sedation, then reduce to back to a dose that is more comfortable for them.
After you get the dose rate up to a good level, you can then trial stopping any other medications for a while, and see how your dog responds—I’ve had clients be able to take their dogs right of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories because the cannabis gave such good pain relief.
One other thing to be aware of: a lower dose is sometimes more effective. This is because cannabis extracts display what is called a ‘biphasic dose response curve’. In plain English, this means that sometimes they are more therapeutically effective at lower doses than higher doses.
It’s like there is a ‘sweet spot’ in terms of the dose rate. If you give more, you sometimes actually get a worse clinical response. And sometimes very high doses are better. You may have to experiment gently to get the ideal dose rate for your dog.
Know the Laws of Your Country in Respect to Using Medical Cannabis for Your Pets.
Here in Australia, our government has effectively made it almost impossible and prohibitively expensive for humans to access medical cannabis extracts, even those that only contain CBD.
CBD was recently made a ‘schedule 4’ (prescription only) drug in Australia after being legally available for more than a decade. There is no scientific justification for this step, in my opinion. I see this as blatant corporate protectionism, allowing only big companies into the market, and causing the medicine to become a lot more expensive.
I can only legally access a pure CBD extract from compounding pharmacists, and it costs a lot more than high quality whole plant cannabis extracts I could purchase at wholesale before this change (120% more!).
I can’t stock black-market products, as it is illegal, but I have had some clients choose to find their own supply, and who have seen great improvements in their dog’s well-being after using it.
Be aware and informed of the legislative situation in your own country. Make sure you get a high quality organic whole plant cannabis extract—two brands I know are great quality are ‘Charlotte’s Web’ in Colorado, USA, and ‘Spirit of Hemp’ in the UK.
It can be a fantastic medicine, and is well worth a try!
- SBS Viceland’s video segment featuring Dr Edward checking up on Little Mate’s progress with his medical cannabis treatment.
- The Devil’s Lettuce podcast – Interview with Dr Edward on Medical Cannabis for Pets.
- Medical Cannabis and its Impact on Pets (Great article from a great holistic vet).
- Types of Cannabinoids (From Citiva—founded by a small group of medical professionals in New York).
- I recommend CW Paws Hemp Oil and Spirit of Hemp.
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