With the recent medical marijuana breakthroughs that have been seen all over the world, we’ve started to see a lot of cannabis products marketed toward pets. But separating fact from fiction can be challenging.Is THC harmful to dogs? How can CBD help my pet? We reached out to veterinarian Dr. Robert Silver, who has been practicing for over 30 years and has introduced cannabis as a treatment for pets that suffer from mild conditions like anxiety to severe diseases like cancer. Silver has published a book on the topic, Medical Marijuana and Your Pet, and has seen wondrous results among his patients.
Reef: It’s clear that CBD does not have a psychoactive effect in humans, but is that different for dogs?
Dr. Silver: Well, of course, they’re not talking about it (laughs). We can’t be 100% certain, but it does seem that only THC reveals the psychotropic component of the cannabis.
Is CBD suitable for all types of pets? Lizards, etc.
Pretty much, if it’s needed by that individual, then it can help. If it’s not needed, we’re not certain if it has a benefit or not. A lot of people are talking about using it for wellness because the body secretes its own cannabinoids. So, maybe. I think any animal could benefit from cannabinoids.
What kind of conditions are suitable for treating your dog with CBD?
Well, we see it help things like anxiety, social awkwardness, and behavior issues. It can be helpful for pain, but we want to be careful not to think that it’s enough for pain, as animals don’t tell us how much they are hurting and they tend to hide it. I’m also a bit careful about recommending it for that because it might not completely abolish the pain. I recommend using the CBD along with something else that might help, like turmeric, that sort of thing.
Animals with cancer, we’ve seen some cases where the tumors have gone away, but not all tumors go away with CBD. Some seem to be more sensitive than others. There’s a dosage factor and it also depends on what point in the growth of cancer that we catch it. Are we catching it when the body is riddled with tumors? Are we catching it where there’s just a little, tiny tumor somewhere? Then it has a better chance to work.
It helps with appetite, it helps with diabetes. It has a wide range of applications, very similar to the applications in humans.
Can you tell me of any personal anecdotes you’ve seen in your career in regards to treating dogs with cannabis?
As a veterinarian of over 30 years’ practice experience, I’ve focused my work on what’s called integrative medicine, which is the mending of conventional medicine with alternative medicine. I tend to see animals that are in pretty serious condition. Often times people come to me, not because they are looking for integrative medicine, but because they are just out of options or are desperate. So I am also used to not having great success rates, because these are animals that medicine has failed, and alternative medicine may have not helped them either.
So, a lot of these patients would come into see me weekly for acupuncture treatments or evaluation programs. When they would come in, I’d ask, “So, how’d you do last time you came in, any improvements,” that sort of stuff. For me, that would give me guidance if I did something different than if things weren’t working before. They’d say “Well, maybe a little bit, but not that much…”
Well, then some of these patients would start coming in, doing pretty well and I was surprised. I was like, “Oh, I must have done something that actually worked for a change.” (laughs). Then when I spoke to the pet owner, I’d say “Well, it looks like last week’s treatment helped.” He kind of looked at me a little bashful and said “Well doctor, I am a little embarrassed to admit, but we got a little frustrated, so we shared a little bit of our stash with Fido and look at how well he’s doing.”
That got my attention. Although I was an herbalist, I hadn’t really heard about cannabis being used medically. It was recreational and I thought medical marijuana was an excuse for people to get high (which is fine, because I like to get high). But when I started seeing these successes, as an herbalist, I started looking into them. I started reading material, articles, and tons of literature about it. The more I read, the more I became enraptured by this plant and its capabilities. So I have been working really hard ever since to learn more. I’ve written a book, Medical Marijuana and Your Pet, which is only available on my website. Then I took my old Labrador in for surgery to have his knee repaired. He had already lost an eye.
I’m from Colorado and I grew some cannabis when my father-in-law had prostate cancer, to try to treat him. Fast-forward to when I realized cannabis had medical properties, I went balls-to-the-wall learning about it and practically starting to use it. But my Labrador who had knee surgery and had pain medicines, was still in pain, howling. So I gave him some of the medical marijuana that I had put together for my father in law. It helped him a lot, but I gave him too much THC. He got this condition that is unique to dogs called static ataxia, so that alerted me to the fact that cannabis is not always 100% safe for them. That directed me to learn more about hemp, because about that time, hemp became legalized federally. That’s when I found this hemp company I’m going to now to source vitamins and everything else.
Can you clear up some of the misconceptions about using cannabis to treat your dog?
Well, my observations are that dogs do not like THC. They do not like being high. I think it makes them feel at risk because they are survivors. Even though they are in domestic situations, they are still wild animals. So people that blow smoke in the dog’s ears or nose and sit around and get high, partying and laughing at the dog, I think are pretty sick motherfuckers and I don’t like them.
That’s why I think hemp for the most conditions is more suitable for the dog, because they are not going to get the THC. Now, I do think THC is appropriate to use to treat certain, specific conditions. Certain types of aggressive cancers or severe pain needs THC. Conditions in which you are using CBD that are not responsive, try a small amount of THC and see if that will works with the CBD. I think using the CBD to temper the psycho-activity of the THC, in very small dosages, to where the dog develops a tolerance to it, I think that is suitable. That is what I tell my patients, as far as how to give your dog THC. Most of the time, we can treat them with just CBD from hemp.
How should one decide the proper dosage to give their pet?
For one, the body weight plays a role. Two, the type of condition that we are treating. If we’re treating anxiety or a mild thing, a lower dosage is going to work. If it is more severe stuff like I was mentioning, then we want to go to a higher dose. But some dogs also have a pretty high density of cannabinoid receptors in their system, which makes them more sensitive to things. They might have a more severe condition, but could use a lower dosage.
I recommend it for all animals, even in severe pain, to start with a lower dosage first, for about seven days or so. If that’s not working, then go ahead and bump it up a little bit. So the dosage range that I have established starts at a 500th of a mg per pound of body weight, twice daily and goes up as high as five times that, or .25 mgs per pound of body weight, twice daily.
There are some studies – one just published by Cornell – that suggest two to five times higher than that. But I have found these things to work in most cases, and are more cost-effective than these higher dosages.
Dr. Silver’s website, Nurseyourpet.com, suggests the following guidelines to dose your pet:
Up to 20lbs = 3mg dosage
21 to 50lbs = 5mg dosage
81 to 100lbs= 7mg dosage