Now that it’s possible to legally buy and smoke marijuana in many parts of the US, it’s safe to say that weed and its by-products will be ingested freely throughout the country in the next decade. But have you ever shotgunned a blunt into your dog’s face? If you have, you’re an asshole and should never do it again. But that doesn’t mean your pooch doesn’t like to get high, especially if it’s sick. Veterinarian Doug Kramer is among a small number of experts who believe THC could help canines cope with debilitating and chronic conditions just like it helps humans. I called Dr. Kramer to see how his crusade was going.
VICE: How did you first think to treat sick pups with pot?
Dr. Kramer: A client first brought it to my attention. She was a bit eccentric, but she was a very intelligent woman. She had a pet that was not responding well to any of the pain medications or the steroids that we were giving it, and she wanted to talk about getting medical marijuana. The other vets at the practice were pretty dismissive, but she saw that I was willing to listen.
I read somewhere that at some point your dog, Nikita, was diagnosed with untreatable cancer. You had tried pretty much everything, right?
She had gone through all of the traditional pain medications, even steroids. When it became clear that she was nearing the end, that’s when she had nothing to lose, as long as it didn’t hurt her. At the first dosage, she was up and around. I didn’t cure her. It was just a question of increasing her quality of life and putting off inevitably euthanizing her.
What’s your preferred method of administering THC to dogs?
A glycerin tincture is, to me, by far the optimal way to do it because it offers the greatest accuracy in dosing. It’s also sweet tasting. Obviously you can make it into butter or oil, so anything that you can cook or make with butter or oil would work, like homemade dog biscuits.
Would you recommend the use of medical-marijuana by-products on other pets, like cats?
We’re using it on cats as much, if not more [than on dogs], as an appetite stimulant. Cats are finicky, especially when they’re really sick. Any animal that has the cannabinoid receptors would respond [to THC] the same way we do. There are studies out there that show that pigs, chickens, monkeys, and rats all have those same receptors.
I’ve known people who have blown smoke in their dogs’ faces to get them high. That’s not cool, right?
To me, it’s animal abuse, really. It kills me because it devalues what I’m trying to do. Especially in the early stages, starting the dialogue with veterinary medicine, the last thing you want is for people to do that. The dog doesn’t need the medication in that situation.
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Vet Guru’s Dr. Kramer was recently featured in important magazine popular with practicing Veterinarians; Veterinary News DVM360 . Raising awareness and starting an open dialogue about this particular subject has been somewhat difficult. I have personally invested hundreds of hours over the past 3 years; conducting interviews, documenting cases, and painstakingly collecting research. All that hard work is finally starting to bear fruit. The interview posted below is only the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for more informative articles and blog posts to follow. I have recently completed and submitted a formal research review paper (now pending approval for publication in a veterinary journal ). Now more than ever I am convinced that medical marijuana has a place in veterinary medicine (albeit a tightly controlled and regulated place to prevent toxicity/overdosing). I would like to thank Ms Whitcomb, the president of the CVMA, the head editor of JAVMA, the CMA and the numerous other supportive veterinarians (who shall remain nameless at this time). Even if some of the aforementioned people did not personally agree with my research, they all remained open-minded and gave me an audience to voice my findings. None were outright dismissive or overtly argumentative. This speaks volumes of their character and integrity. Perhaps most importantly, I’d also like to thank my clients and all the pet owners whose unwavering support has helped me to keep pushing forward and not quit the fight. I am humbly reminded why I chose to become a veterinarian in the first place.
California DVM wants clinical trial on medical use of marijuana in pets
Chatsworth, Calif. — A California relief veterinarian is polling pet owners about the use of medical marijuana in animals with the goal of using the survey’s results to leverage a clinical study about the drug’s efficacy in relieving pet pain.
Dr. Douglas Kramer, who runs an alternative veterinary medicine website called http://VetGuru.com/, was prompted to blog about medical marijuana use in pets after learning about the possible development of a “pot patch” for pain control in dogs, cats and horses by a Seattle company.
Medical Marijuana Delivery Systems (MMDS) of Seattle announced in early 2011 that it would market its patch, Tetracan, for transcutaneous delivery of medical marijuana to humans and animals.
But Kramer says he has concerns about the safety of a transdermal medical marijuana patch developed without veterinary involvement because there is no way of telling how effective it is, and accidental ingestion of the patch could be dangerous to pets.
“From a veterinary standpoint, the recently reported ‘pot patch’ is an obvious safety hazard and the perfect example of what happens when professionals fail to address a clear, unmet need in their field,” Kramer says.
To apply the device, fur would have be shaved and the patch affixed to the skin with an adhesive. Ingestion of the patch by that pet, another pet in the household or a child could result in adverse events, he says, using pain-relief patches already prescribed by veterinarians as an example.
“I’ve heard of at least two toddlers and several pets that have indeed managed to remove and ingest (fentanyl) patches, receiving the entire three-day time-released dose all at once. Although therapeutic at very tiny micro-doses, fentanyl is considered a toxic substance.”
But, even in high doses, current research does not support fatal outcomes in medical marijuana use, Kramer suggests. He says he has never treated a case of marijuana toxicity in a situation where the owner has administered the drug therapeutically. Usually, toxicity cases involve the animal getting into an owner’s “stash” and consuming it, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, ataxia, loss of coordination and tremors, Kramer says, adding he has never seen a fatal case.
And pet owners are interested in more alternatives for pain relief and some already are medicating pets with marijuana on their own, he says.
“As a practicing veterinarian in the state of California, I have personally encountered dozens of clients who are already experimenting with the effects of medical marijuana on their pets. Many have reported that the medical marijuana did indeed result in medicinal benefits similar to those seen in human patients.”
Although he does not recommend or prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes in pets, Kramer says he has interviewed at least two-dozen owners who say they have used medical marijuana to treat their pet’s pain—usually because they are suffering from cancer. They report positive results like reduced anxiety and increased appetite,” Kramer says.
Historically, prior to its prohibition, Kramer says cannabis was used in a variety of veterinary medications, including colic remedies for horses.
Kramer says while he doesn’t promote or recommend medical marijuana use, clients who are using it therapeutically on their pets are coming to him more and more, asking for his guidance on dosage, administration and monitoring of their home “treatments.”
“People are using it, and if we as vets don’t step in and fill that need, they’re going to fill the void because we’re not addressing the issue,” Kramer says. “My ultimate goal is to have a pain medication somewhere between aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) without knocking your dog out.”
Lisa Moses, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, serves on the board of directors for the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) and told DVM Newsmagazine earlier this year that medical marijuana use could be beneficial to pets if it was delivered in a well-developed product.
“The problem with a lot of stuff is that we know there’s a lot of things that should work, but because of manufacturing sloppiness or poor regulation on a supplement, we don’t know if our patients are getting what we think they’re getting,” she said. “There are definitely reasons to believe the active ingredient in marijuana affects certain pain mechanisms in the nervous system. It’s something I would definitely be interested in trying if it was available to me.”
Practitioners may worry about diversion, but Kramer says he is much more concerned about the diversion of other, more potent veterinary drugs.
“I don’t believe that diversion will be a significant issue with medicinal marijuana for pets. In states like California, for example, it is extremely easy for an individual to obtain a medicinal marijuana ‘patient card’ for themselves from their own doctor. It would be far more expensive and time-consuming for that same individual to go through the trouble of attempting to obtain the marijuana through the manipulation of their veterinarian,” he says. “I’m sure there would be some diversion but that’s unavoidable and it would pale in comparison to the diversion of some of the other commonly prescribed veterinary drugs.”
But clinical trials are a must, he says. Trials have never been conducted directly on animals, but only indirectly for human trials. Testing on dogs for human clinical trials revealed that dogs have the same cannabinoid receptors as humans, Kramer says. But direct research on how the drug affects animals is the next step, he adds.
“The only way I’d feel comfortable recommending it is with clear data. I’m tired of euthanizing animals and watching them suffer and feeling helpless,” Kramer says.
So far, he has collected about 50 surveys from owners who are using medical marijuana on their pets, but wants to get 250 to 500 in all before moving forward.
“I want to get the information, know if it works, know if it helps,” he adds.
For Additional information and a review of the scientific evidence visit Marijuana for Dogs