If clients are asking you about the efficacy of medical marijuana for their pets, but you don’t know how to respond, you’re not alone. That’s also likely to change soon. As one veterinarian wrote in sister publication Today’s Veterinary Practice: “No matter what the detractors or the opposition say, this is a foregone conclusion,” says Gary Richter, MS, DVM, and owner of Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California. “Like it or not, cannabis is coming.”
Ever since hemp-derived CBD was removed from the Schedule I list in December 2018, we wondered if interest and questions from clients had increased in the veterinary clinic. So we asked our Facebook fans, “Are you being asked about CBD products in your practice?” We got more than 300 responses; 84% said “yes” and 16% said “no.”
Are you being asked about CBD products in your practice?
The use of cannabidiol (CBD) for medical conditions in veterinary medicine — most commonly for pain, anxiety and epilepsy — is on the rise. One important point to make is that CBD is a component of both the marijuana plant and its cousin, the hemp plant. One important distinction to make is that companions animals are highly sensitive to the principal psychoactive component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (the THC molecule that gets you high), but they are not sensitive to the nonpsychoactive CBD molecule the plant also contains. (CBD-only products contain less than 0.3 percent THC.)
Another important point to make is that CBD products derived from marijuana are still listed as Schedule I and illegal to use. (In California, veterinarians are now permitted to discuss marijuana use in patients with their clients, but they can’t prescribe it.) Almost all of the CBD oil used in medicine is sourced from hemp.
To muddle matters even more, over 30 U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana, but none of them make provisions for veterinarians treating animals. Animal supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so there’s no prohibition on the federal level against using CBD as an animal supplement.
Consumer demand for CBD products to help manage pain, arthritis, seizures and other health problems in pets has led to an explosion of CBD tinctures, capsules and chew treats being introduced.
“It’s time to set guidelines for managing cannabis in the veterinary profession,” says Richter. “There’s no group in the world that can give people better guidance on how to use any kind of medication safely and effectively for their pets than veterinary professionals.”
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