Pot for pets? With legalization pending, Canadian veterinarians say it’s time

Veterinarians are urging Health Canada to amend regulations to allow the prescription of CBD to pets. Getty Images

With recreational cannabis set to be legalized in Canada in October, the country’s veterinarians have begun to explore the idea of pot for pets.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CAVM) and a group called the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine (CAVCM) have teamed up to urge Health Canada to amend the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes regulations to allow cannabidiol (CBD) as a veterinary health product for pets.

CBD is a cannabinoid extract often used to treat pain, anxiety and inflammation, and which lacks the psychoactive characteristics of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

Dr. Enid Stiles is a veterinarian and CAVM executive says the future looks pet pot-friendly.

“Absolutely, in the next few years we will be seeing some labelled drugs with cannabis or parts of cannabis for use in pets,” she told Global News.

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READ MORE: What happens to drug-sniffing dogs when marijuana is legalized in Canada?

The issue of veterinary uses for cannabis was a hot topic at the CVMA’s annual National Issues Forum, which took place in Vancouver on Thursday.

CVMA president Dr. Troye McPhereson said vets are getting more and more questions from clients about treating pets with pot, but that they lack a legal pathway to prescribe it.

“The CVMA recognizes the veterinary community is in the midst of rapid change in this area with some anecdotal evidence of benefits, but [there’s] a lack of peer-reviewed, controlled clinical studies on cannabis,” he said in a statement.

“We are in an interesting position on how to create an open dialogue with our clients.”

WATCH: Pet owners warn about dogs ingesting marijuana

Click to play video: 'Pet owners warn about dogs ingesting marijuana'
Pet owners warn about dogs ingesting marijuana

While pot for pets remains technically illegal, many owners are already trying it out.

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Ontario company Pacifico Life, for example, sells CBD-infused treats that can be given to pets.

However, while Stiles sees a positive role for medical marijuana for pets, she said it’s still important to ensure that any exposure animals have to it is controlled.

She said that means making sure Fido doesn’t get into a recreational user’s stash.

“[We’ve] seen in the United States, in the areas where it has been legalized, there tends to be a bump in the amount of toxic cases.”

Stiles said that although the research is limited, high doses of THC for dogs and cats could cause toxic sickness.

While such cases are rarely fatal, they can be unpleasant for the animal and expensive for the owner. Pumping a pet’s stomach can cost about $50, while more aggressive treatments can cost up to $2,000.

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She added that anyone who believes their pet has ingested cannabis should call their veterinarian.

With files from Jon Azpiri and Katie Dangerfield

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