Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=221568
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Balla Pot

Sepideh Nia/Medill Reports

Chicago vet Dr. Derrick Landini joked: "The most important thing is that the pets that said they smoked marijuana said they didn't inhale."


Pot for pups

by Sepideh Nia
May 16, 2013


Humans aren’t the only ones using medical marijuana to treat chronic pain or nausea associated with some cancer treatments. Dogs and cats are starting to get high for the numbing, appetite enhancing effects as well.  

On and off of his blog VetGuru.com, California veterinarian Dr. Douglas Kramer is vocal about his support for the legal use of medical marijuana to treat four legged and even winged patients.  

But that doesn’t mean that pet owners should just hand over a joint to Spot or blow marijuana smoke in Fluffy’s face.

The safest and most accurate way to administer medical marijuana to pets is by glycerin tinctures, a liquid concentration of cannabis, according to Kramer.  

“I don’t like smoke for people or animals,” said Kramer. He added he has heard of people putting droplets cannabis in homemade treats.  “You can quantify how much medication is in there [with droplets], break it down to dosing per body weight.”

Kramer said he receives anecdotal stories from people who claim to have treated their pets with medical marijuana - a legal treatment for patients in California and 17 other states.

Dr. Derrick Landini, owner of Animal Ark Veterinary Clinic in Avondale and Heal Veterinary Clinic in North Center, treats animals with cancer.

“I’m not really for it because we have more of a typical treatment for our patients and we don’t know [of] any long-term side effects,” said Landini.

Landini said most of the patients receiving chemo on are also on corticosteroids to control nausea.

“Although we see side effects with steroids we use with our patients, there seem to be more benefits to it,” he said.

Using medical marijuana as an appetite stimulant for pets could prevent vets from finding the source of animal anorexia, Landini said.

“Sometimes anorexia is not because of chemo," he said. "Sometimes something else is going on. We may be masking something we need to figure out because our patients can’t talk.”

Other vets said they don’t have much information regarding the use of medical marijuana for treating animals.

“This topic of use of marijuana as a therapy is a brand new issue to us,” said Dr. Lynne White-Shim, assistant director in the division of scientific activities at the American Veterinary Medical Association, headquartered in Schaumburg.  

“We do have a policy that says veterinarians making decisions must use sound medical judgment and must be in compliance with state and federal law,” White-Shim said.

Kramer said he was first introduced to the idea of using cannabis to medicate a pet in early 2011, after one of his patient’s owners said she had successfully used marijuana on her pet.

Since then he said he has done research on the subject and has even consulted lawyers on the legality of using medical marijuana on pets.  

“There is nothing that says it’s illegal and there’s no statute saying it’s legalized,” Kramer said.

Kramer said he became a believer in the use of marijuana after using it on his own dog during the final stages of an illness.

“It’s one thing to hear stories, but another thing to see it yourself,” he said.  “She perked up. Her appetite increased. She was more active and she was more herself. For another month and a half she walked around and she wasn’t in pain.”

White-Shim said that there are some similarities between how drugs act in people and animals, but there are also differences.

“There is a need for careful research in drug safety and effectiveness,” White-Shim said.

Kramer said that as more states legalize marijuana for medical use, the better it is for veterinarians like him.  

“That’s recognizing [its] medical value,” said Kramer who wants to see as much support for medical marijuana for pets as for humans. He said he would like to see laws recognize medical use of marijuana for pets.

The Illinois Senate is expected to vote on a medical marijuana bill soon. House Bill 1 has already passed in House.

Landini joked, “The most important thing is that the pets that said they smoked marijuana said they didn’t inhale.”