Can Medical Marijuana Help Cats?

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Multiple states across America have decided to legalize medicinal marijuana, but it’s still a controversial subject. Proponents argue that the cannabis plant has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of human ailments from nausea to pain.

But what about cats?

The idea of giving your cat marijuana may sound funny but there is a growing community of people who believe it’s a safe and natural alternative to veterinary drugs. Many dog owners are also touting the benefits of giving their pets cannabis. The stories sound almost miraculous. A write-up on the American Veterinary Medical Association website talks about a man named Ernest Misko who gave marijuana tinctures to his 24-year-old cat, Borzo. In a couple of days, he was walking normally again, pain-free.

Sarah Brandon, DVM and the co-creator of the Canna Companion product line, also shared several experiences with The Conscious Cat. According to Brandon, older cats suffering from joint discomfort respond particularly well. The Canna Companion website also lists a variety of benefits from supporting the immune system to maintaining a healthy GI tract.

“The future of cannabis in the cat world is quite positive,” says Dr. Brandon in an interview with The Conscious Cat. “I believe within 2-3 years it will be a commonly offered option in veterinary hospitals for pain and inflammation reduction, neurological conditions and mild behavioral concerns. Cannabis is not a cure-all and we certainly don’t advocate discontinuation of prescribed medications without consulting your cat’s veterinarian. None the less, it does have its place in the feline world and we’ll see more of it as time goes on.”

It’s not about getting kitty high.

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The part of marijuana known for its euphoric effect is called tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), but there is also another compound in the plant known as cannabidiol (or CBD). Evidence shows that CBD not only blocks the effects of THC, but it is also where the medicinal benefits of marijuana are found. Hemp-based supplements for pet focuses on enhancing the benefits of CBD while minimizing the euphoria induced by THC.

But while times are changing, veterinarians in many states are still not legally allowed to prescribe cannabis to cats, even in states that have legalized medicinal marijuana for humans. At the time of this writing, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, a category reserved for drugs that have no currently accepted medical use in the United States. Drugs in this schedule include heroin and ecstasy.

Marijuana for cats continue to be a controversial topic.

The late Dr. Douglas Kramer, who passed away from cancer in 2013, was an ardent advocate for less-restrictive regulations on marijuana research. He believed there was ample evidence to support cannabis use for pets but more research was needed to properly assess its risks and benefits.

Dr. Robin Downing, one of the top animal pain-management specialists in the country, doesn’t want to rule out marijuana use but she urges caution. “Marijuana therapy for animals is untried, unproven, unregulated medicine,” Downing says in an interview with the Denver Post, “Any time you use untested therapy, there are increased risks. … We have good (pain) tools already.”

The American Holistic VMA’s official position remains cautious but open. In a journal published in 2014, they state that “There is a growing body of veterinary evidence that cannabis can reduce pain and nausea in chronically ill or suffering animals, often without the dulling effects of narcotics. This herb may be able to improve the quality of life for many patients, even in the face of life-threatening illnesses.”

Despite conflicting opinions, the one thing that everyone will agree on is to always consult your veterinarian before introducing any new drug to your pet. The Animal Poison Control Center is seeing a rise in marijuana poisoning in pets. The majority of cases are from accidental poisonings—cats and dogs who have gotten into their owner’s badly hidden stash. Symptoms include urinary incontinence, impaired balance, high heart rates or agitation. Do not ever give human medical grade cannabis to pets without consulting your vet!

Have you or would you ever considered treating your ailing cat with medicinal marijuana? Let us know in the comments below.