It was an experiment, but a convincing one. Eight years ago, she had no idea that cannabis could be used in treating animals – but now, after many trials, she is convinced that under specific regimes cannabinoids can significantly help cats, dogs, and other animals in pain. According to Canadian veterinarian Katherine Kramer, cannabis has huge potential in treating animals. The road to using it in the animal kingdom, however, might be a very long one.
You state in newspaper interviews that treating pets with cannabis might be safe and effective. Could you tell us how that works, and what personal experiences you have had with it?
I first came across using cannabis seven or eight years ago, when I had a seriously ill cat as a patient and we considered putting it to sleep. However, the cat’s owner, who had had experience with cannabis, wanted to try using cannabis with a high cannabidiol (CBD) content. At that time I had no idea what that treatment was or how it might work, so it was a pure experiment. But the cat’s condition improved so much that it forced me to consider cannabis as an alternative for several other animal patients.
In my practice, I make use of alternative medicine and I often get geriatric patients with cancer and other grave diseases. And in the last seven years I have seen a number of cases in which the use of cannabis has had amazing results. When we speak of cannabis however, we must remember one important thing: there are many various strains and preparations. In the case of pets, we aim especially at products with a high CBD content and a very low content of psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Ordinarily available cannabis usually has a high THC content, which can be toxic for some animals. If we concentrate on products which mainly contain CBD, then the treatment is quite safe.
You mentioned cats. What other pets can be helped? Are we speaking only of mammals, or other types?
We know that cannabis affects the endocannabinoid system, which all mammals share. Theoretically cannabis should be of clinical use to any mammal. I work solely with cats and dogs, so I can only speak from experience about them. It is however true that I’ve spoken with several veterinarians who have used cannabis products on horses and have had very good results. This is why I think that cannabis products could be very useful in treating basically any animal.
Cats and dogs are very sensitive to products with a higher content of THC.
You’ve mentioned the role of cannabis in cancer treatment… what other illnesses can cannabis help with?
From what I’ve seen in my work, cannabis is exceptionally effective in treating all types of chronic pain. It’s also effective in treating arthritis and seizures. It definitely helps in these cases, and I would guess that about all of my animal patients with seizures are taking some kind of cannabis. It’s also very useful for palliative treatment of pets with cancer, where it relieves the side effects of chemotherapy; it is useful in treating diabetes, glaucoma, heart disease, Crohn’s disease and others. The more we learn about the endocannabinoid system, the more it is clear that it has an influence on basically all physiological processes, so when we’re talking about a list of potential indications and conditions where cannabis can help treat animals, that list seems practically endless these days.
What about cannabis with a high THC content? How big a problem is it when animals overdose? How does it happen, and how often do you encounter it in Vancouver?
Unfortunately, it happens all the time. Cannabis is everywhere in Vancouver and so we have lots of accidental overdoses when, say, a dog finds a cannabis snack wrapper in the park. Animals are very sensitive to all forms of cannabis. I think that in Canada, and other countries where recreational cannabis will be legalized, we’re going to come across the problem that cannabis products will be everywhere and lots of people will say, “I use it, it makes me feel great, it helps my health problems… so it should also work on my pets.” One must remember that dogs and cats are very different creatures from us humans, they process various and sundry substances differently than we do, and substances have different effects on them. And they are very sensitive to products with a higher content of THC.
Author: Matěj Skalický
The full version of this article will be published in the CANNABIS THERAPY Magazine No.1, available online for free by June 2019.