Does medical marijuana work for pets?

Medical marijuana research is at an all-time “high” these days and more states are moving toward legalizing the drug for its potential health benefits.

Scientists are studying its effects on a variety of conditions from seizure disorders to cancer, and even chronic pain. But can it be used on pets?

We recently received this question from a viewer:

Hi Dr. Manny,
My dog has arthritis and takes daily medication that has a lot of side effects. I've been hearing about the potential for medical marijuana to help cure many ailments, but does it work on pets?

Studies suggest compounds found in marijuana have medicinal properties.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been shown to help protect the brain without providing a psychoactive high associated with smoking marijuana. Some studies suggest it can even help stop the spread of cancer. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, may help alleviate pain and anxiety, though it may bring risks.

As a growing number of states relax their marijuana laws, research is underway to fully understand the potential for treating an array of illnesses. In fact, a lawmaker in Nevada recently proposed a bill that would make medical marijuana legal for owners to obtain for their ailing pets.

“We do know from use in humans and also anecdotal use in pets that the cannabidiol has anti-anxiety effects, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-pain,” said Dr. Jeff Werber, a veterinarian in Los Angeles. “And even the THC has some positive benefits as well, but it’s also a euphoric agent and hallucinogen.”

Werber noted that many of the toxicities seen in pets brought to emergency rooms around the country are due to the THC found in marijuana.

“In Colorado, where the use of marijuana is now legal, there’s been a four-fold increase in the number of dogs brought to emergency facilities because of the toxic effects,” he said.

Werber again stressed that all the evidence of the benefits of medical marijuana in pets is anecdotal at this point, but said he has some colleagues who have recommended it to owners and seen positive effects.

“One colleague that I read an article about has used it for tumors, and the cannabidiol was instrumental in causing tumor regression,” Werber said. “Hopefully we can learn more as time goes on as more states legalize marijuana, we’ll learn a lot more and be able to prove scientifically, the benefits of the use of cannabidiols for pets.”

Do you have a health question for Dr. Manny? Send it to