Cannabis For Dogs, CBD For Cats: What Pet Owners Should Know About Weed

Sure, you love weed. We know all about your love for weed. If you didn’t love weed at least a little bit, you wouldn’t be hanging out in the blog section of a dispensary website. And there are a million reasons to love it: It chills you out, calms you down, alleviates your depression and your anxiety. And if you’ve got arthritis, chronic pain, or the kinds of problems that come from chemotherapy, it can help a lot with those, too. 

But here’s the thing: You’re not the only one who can benefit from cannabis. Your beloved pets can get a lot out of it, too. But there’s a lot you need to think about before you go dosing your companion.

The science behind it. Just like with cannabis for human medical use, there hasn’t been a lot of research devoted to its value as a veterinary drug. The first clinical study of using cannabidinols for canine arthritis wasn’t performed until 2018. So there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of discovering what kinds of effects, both positive and negative, pot can have on nonhuman animals. The most important thing for pet owners to remember is that human and animal brain chemistry can differ substantially – it’s not just size you need to worry about.

THC vs CBD. Forget THC. Getting super high is not going to do your pet any good. Your pet can’t watch Waking Life when he’s high. He can’t ponder the mysteries of the universe while finding a new appreciation for the basslines on A Farewell To Kings. THC can be bad for pets – it won’t do them any good to take it, and if they take too much it can lower their heart rate to a dangerous degree. You should avoid giving straight weed to your cat or dog, and stick to small doses of CBD oil. 

What to use it for. CBD can address the same kinds of symptoms in animals as it can in humans – things like anxiety and arthritis. These things manifest differently in animals, though. Dogs might be scared of thunderstorms or fireworks (sales of pet-focused CBD products spike just before the Fourth Of July), or they might experience separation anxiety when you’re gone. Older dog breeds, like German shepherds, experience pain from hip dysplasia. Cats and dogs who have lung problems like asthma can see their bronchial spasms reduced. CBD certainly isn’t a cure-all, but there’s no shortage of pet problems it can’t help in some way.

Vets can’t prescribe it. In the United States at least, vets are prohibited from prescribing cannabis products to pets. Some may go so far as to avoid talking about it altogether, simply to avoid any potential legal entanglements. Don’t be afraid to ask your vet about using cannabis for your beloved fur babies – but remember they may not be able to advise you in any kind of official capacity. 

Less is better. Because you’re not working under the guidance of a doctor, it can be challenging to give your pet the right dosage. And while you can’t really give your pet a weed overdose – really, the only way to kill your pet with pot is by dropping a ton of it on top of them – that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be careful about dosage. The key here is to start small and slow, and to remember that knocking your pet out isn’t the goal. Too little will be less taxing than too much. Always remember: the smaller the animal, the smaller the amount of CBD you’ll want to administer. 

Toxicity. Again, the best way to avoid a situation where you’re accidentally giving your pet a toxic dose of cannabis is to only give them CBD and avoid giving them anything with THC in it. But there’s always the chance your best pal will get into your own stash without your permission. Look for vomiting, lack of coordination, a lower body temperature and heart rate, and depression or apathy. If you see any of these signs, call your vet immediately. 

Small pets. Right now, it’s probably best to limit any pet-related cannabis use to your mammalian pets – or at least, conduct some serious research before you give it to your birds, your reptiles, or any insects or arachnids you may keep. Before going this route, be sure to talk to other pet owners about your pet’s specific ailments, and whether they would give cannabis to their pets. Always remember: animals have very different brain chemistry than humans, and something that’s harmless to us could be harmful to them. 

Getting them to take it. Getting your dog to take CBD is like getting her to take any other medicine: It depends on what your dog’s behavior and eating habits are like. It may be as simple as sprinkling CBD oil on her food, or combining it with one of her favorite treats. If your dog is more finicky, you may need to hold her tightly and dropper the tincture directly onto the back of her tongue

What about catnip? Jokes comparing marijuana to catnip abound – cats smoking catnip blunts, et cetera – but don’t make the mistake of confusing the effects of these two things. In actuality they’re two very different drugs having pretty different effects. But first of all, you won’t be giving your cat THC, so you’re not going to make them high in the traditional sense. Catnip behaves more like a concentrated pheromone, and your cat’s reaction to it is, at least in part, a romantic one. CBD will have more of a sedative impact on your cat. 

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