Is Medical Marijuana Safe for Cats and Dogs?

Medical marijuana can also treat cats and dogs. Credit: Sion Touhig / Getty Images

With the legalization of medical marijuana spreading to 23 states and specialized businesses booming, pot for pets is the newest ground companies are looking to cover. Medical edibles for animals are being used for everything from calming Fido's anxiety during a storm to controlling seizures and alleviating pain and immobility for older pooches.

Sarah Brandon, DVM, owner of Canna Companion, says that her cannabidiol (CBD) capsules have been well received by pet owners. "People are so pleased to see their beloved pets walk better, interact with the family again, chew on toys, not hide and tremble when company is over or thunder rattles the rafters.

For manufacturers such as Brandon and Julianna Carella, an edible cannabis chef for Auntie Dolores in San Francisco, the idea to use CBD in veterinary treatment came from its effectiveness in humans. Brandon is a veterinarian whose husband, Greg Copas, used medical marijuana for his own pain. When their Rottweiler began suffering from hip dysplasia, they tried using Copas' medications for the dog, with beneficial results. This, along with research on cannabis receptors and safety of the chemicals in the mammalian body, led them to developing an actual product. Other companies, including Auntie Dolores, soon followed suit. "Since CBD is non-psychoactive and has so many health benefits, it became an exciting product to develop," says Carella.

Dosage is kept relatively low. Auntie Dolores products use 1 mg CBD (1 treat) per every 10-20 pounds of dog weight/per dose. There is no potential for overdose since CBD is non-toxic, and side effects are minimal. "The adverse reactions we see now are mild sedation, usually in dogs who need higher doses or more frequent administration, occasionally soft stool since hemp is high in fiber, and, rarely, a true allergic reaction such as vomiting or increased skin itchiness," says Brandon.

The treats and capsules being marketed by pet pot companies typically use natural ingredients, ranging from 100-percent dried ground hemp to CBD doggy biscuits baked with organic coconut oil, hemp seed oil, apple sauce, peanut butter, pumpkin, gluten-free oat flour, cinnamon, and vanilla. Though the FDA hasn't approved any CBD products for animals, and veterinarians can't prescribe marijuana to pets, the biscuits and capsules are legal in all medical-marijuana states.