Las Vegas Sun

December 17, 2017

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5-MINUTE EXPERT:

What you need to know before feeding your dog or cat marijuana

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Caution

Vets and lawmakers warn against pets consuming marijuana products with THC. Giving your pet a cannabis brownie or slipping an edible into its food tray could produce undesirable results, such as lethargy, low blood pressure and even death for animals like dogs, whose THC receptors in their brains are significantly more sensitive than those of humans, Werber said.

Use of marijuana products on smaller animals, such as birds, rodents and reptiles, is not a good idea, said Werber.

The latest trend for treating Fido’s pain comes in a package not found at a run-of-the-mill veterinarian’s office.

The marijuana boom across the United States and now in Nevada hasn’t just been about people. As much as 5 percent of the country’s estimated 165 million dogs and cats owned as pets are involved in using some form of the plant, according to estimates by the American Veterinary Medical Association and Los Angeles-based veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber.

And while the psychoactive ingredient THC isn’t legal for pets, nor is it recommended by vets, cannabidiol (CBD) hemp supplements help animals deal with pain.

“It honestly brings old dogs back to life,” said Kurt Duchac of Top Notch Dispensary, who feeds his Chihuahua mixes Spanky and Curley a CBD-infused powder to calm their anxiety when they travel with him. “It can help relax them and help make them happy, too.”

Research

Research on cannabis’s effect on animals, as with humans, is limited, as the plant remains illegal under federal law. Such restrictions have made it hard to determine how marijuana affects pets and how it might be able to help them, veterinarians said.

But while hemp has shown to have “generally positive” effects, Werber said, THC is absorbed more by animals than humans — especially dogs — and could result in serious side effects such as loss of balance, drooling, lethargy, breathing problems or, in some cases, death.

“We don’t yet know what doses are toxic, and therefore we don’t know what doses are therapeutic,” said Werber, of Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles. “We can’t start testing therapeutic doses until we know what’s toxic. Because to test therapeutic doses, we have to avoid toxicity.”

Types of products available

Caution

For the near future, producers of CBD-infused pet food companies are sticking with hemp — the CBD-rich fibers found in the stems of cannabis plants that carry only negligible amounts of THC, if any, and are using it for larger household animals, such as dogs and cats.

“CBD can work as an antidepressant,” Werber said. “It relieves anxiety, it reduces vomiting and diarrhea, it can be tranquilizing and relieve pain. There’s no doubt that there are effective benefits for dogs.”

Therabis offers a daily powder supplement that can be sprinkled on food to treat illnesses. Available in packets of five ($5-13, depending on size of dog) to 30 ($30-55) for small, medium and large dogs, they offer varying relief, including “Calm and Quiet” for events like thunderstorms and Fourth of July fireworks, “Stop the Itch” for skin conditions and parasites, and “Up and Moving” for older dogs in pain or those with limited mobility.

David Goldwater, owner of Inyo Fine Cannabis Dispensary, said that while Therabis products were designed for dogs, his customers had purchased the product for use on a variety of animals, including cats and pigs. “The people who buy it know it and believe in it,” Goldwater said. “We anticipate selling more and more because people are having good results with it.”

Other companies, such as Canna-Pet, Treatibles and Cannabella Kitchen, produce hemp-infused biscuits and tinctures, though their products are rarely sold at Las Vegas Valley dispensaries.

San Francisco-based TreatWell is one of few companies to produce THC-infused tinctures for pets. But the legality of those products is up for debate, and they’re not yet available in Las Vegas.

Where to buy

Legal concern

While no Nevada law explicitly bans pets from ingesting marijuana, NRS 574.420 states that food given to pets must be “wholesome, palatable, free from contamination, and of sufficient quality and nutritive value,” based on the animal’s condition and size. Nevada State Sen. Tick Segerblom said while pets “might enjoy THC,” pet owners who cause animals harm, even on accident, may be subject to animal cruelty laws.

A variety of products, such as biscuits, powders, tinctures and lotions, are available mostly for dogs, but some are for cats as well, Werber said.

CBD products for dogs of all sizes can be found at select dispensaries across the Las Vegas Valley, including:

• Top Notch, 5630 Stephanie St.

• Inyo, 2520 S. Maryland Parkway

• Essence, 5765 W. Tropicana Ave.

• NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, 1225 N. Main St.

• the product companies’ respective websites

Major Las Vegas pet stores, such as Petland, Puppy Boutique, PetSmart and Pet Kingdom USA do not sell the product, nor do specialty outlets such as the Dog House and Jones Feed & Tack.