Medical Use of Marijuana/Cannabis for Pets?

The medical use of marijuana has long been a “hot-button” issue in human medicine. Now, the subject has become a growing focus of debate in the veterinary field as well. As is all too common in such debates, however, scientific facts get muddled and lost in the tempest of opinion, personal experience, and arguments about values. My attention was drawn to the issue recently when I was asked to look at the web site for a related product, Canna-Pet: Medical Cannabis for Pets.

What Is It?
Canna-Pet is claimed to consist of “100% organic hemp.” Though there are hundreds of chemical compounds in this plant, the web site refers only to general ingredient classes (phytocannabinoids and terpenes), except for claiming a level of THC (the compound primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana) less than 0.2% by weight. The company specifically states that the raw material is minimally processed because they claim processing destroys the value of the compounds: 

Nearly every process of extraction will destroy many of these fragile and scarce compounds. Concentrated oils, tinctures, and pharmaceuticals have the natural terpenes absent (destroyed by refinement process), or may have a few supplemental terpenes added back in artificially. Likewise, refinement involving exessive heat, alcohol or harsh chemicals will reduce natural phytocannabinoid diversity and abundance.

Nevertheless, they claim, “we are able to vary the mix of phytocannabinoids and terpenes for each client, completely custom…the correct dosing of the product based upon the animal’s medical history, age and the pathophysiologic process is crucial. Phytocannabinoids and/or terpenes are significantly less effective when they are used in a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

How this is done, and how the particular mixture appropriate for each individual is determined, is not addressed in the materials available on the web site. While it is certainly likely that the particular mixture of chemical compounds which is safest and most beneficial will differ from patient to patient, the problem with such claims of individualized treatment is that they are often based on completely haphazard, unscientific, and unproven methods of determining which therapy is best for which patient. This is the case with homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, and many other CAM therapies that claim to individualize treatment. It is unclear if Canna-Pet is any different since no information is provided about how the best mixture for a particular patient is determined.

Does It Work?
The general subject of the medicinal value of marijuana and its constituent compounds is an area of active research. There is good in vitro and animal model research to suggest that many of the compounds found in Cannabis plants have significant biological effects, and that some of these may be beneficial. The clinical research in humans is limited in quantity and quality, but beneficial effects have been demonstrated for some compounds and some conditions. Good overview of the existing research can be found in this Institute of Medicine review from 1998 and on the web site of the National Cancer Institute (though it must be mentioned that this review was put together by an independent board largely composed of CAM proponents and does not represent official NCI or NIH policy).

There is reasonable evidence to support clinical benefit in humans of some compounds from Cannabis for:

  1. Chronic pain– “Currently available evidence suggests that cannabis treatment is moderately efficacious for treatment of chronic pain, but beneficial effects may be partially (or completely) offset by potentially serious harms. More evidence from larger, well-designed trials is needed to clarify the true balance of benefits to harms.”
  2. Pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis– “Cannabinoids including the cannabidiol/THC buccal spray are effective in treating neuropathic pain in MS.”
  3. Chemotherapy-associated nausea– “The superiority of the anti-emetic efficacy of cannabinoids was demonstrated through meta-analysis.” However, this review also showed, “The adverse effects were more intense and occurred more often among patients who used cannabinoids.”

Another review found, “In selected patients, the cannabinoids tested in these trials may be useful as mood enhancing adjuvants for controlling chemotherapy related sickness. Potentially serious adverse effects, even when taken short term orally or intramuscularly, are likely to limit their widespread use.”

For a number of other conditions tested, the evidence has not supported the benefits of cannabis or cannabis-derived treatments: 

  1. Epilepsy– “No reliable conclusions can be drawn at present regarding the efficacy of cannabinoids as a treatment for epilepsy. The dose of 200 to 300 mg daily of cannabidiol was safely administered to small numbers of patients, for generally short periods of time, and so the safety of long term cannabidiol treatment cannot be reliably assessed.”
  2. Dementia– “This review finds no evidence that cannabinoids are effective in the improvement of disturbed behaviour in dementia or in the treatment of other symptoms of dementia. More randomized double-blind placebo controlled trials are needed to determine whether cannabinoids are clinically effective in the treatment of dementia.”
  3. Tourette’s Syndrome– “Not enough evidence to support the use of cannabinoids in treating tics and obsessive compulsive behaviour in people with Tourette’s syndrome.”
  4. Morbidity and mortality associated with HIV/AIDS– “…evidence for the efficacy and safety of cannabis and cannabinoids in this setting is lacking. Such studies as have been performed have been of short duration, in small numbers of patients, and have focused on short-term measures of efficacy. Long-term data, showing a sustained effect on AIDS-related morbidity and mortality and safety in patients on effective antiretroviral therapy, has yet to be presented. Whether the available evidence is sufficient to justify a wide-ranging revisiting of medicines regulatory practice remains unclear.”
  5. Schizophrenia-“At present, there is insufficient evidence to support or refute the use of cannabis/cannabinoid compounds for people suffering with schizophrenia. This review highlights the need for well designed, conducted and reported clinical trials to address the potential effects of cannabis based compounds for people with schizophrenia.”
  6. Pain– “Cannabinoids are no more effective than codeine in controlling pain and have depressant effects on the central nervous system that limit their use. Their widespread introduction into clinical practice for pain management is therefore undesirable. In acute postoperative pain they should not be used. Before cannabinoids can be considered for treating spasticity and neuropathic pain, further valid randomised controlled studies are needed.”

There is a large amount of clinical research evidence not yet appraised in systematic reviews such as these which suggests other possible benefits, though as always this evidence contains limitations and inconsistencies. Overall, there is reason to believe compounds derived from cannabis may have a clinically meaningful benefit in humans for a number of medical conditions, but there is still a great deal of uncertainty, and the evidence is not strong or definitive for most of the suggested uses.

As usual, I have not been able to find any formal clinical research involving cannabis-derived products and companion animals. Some of the basic science studying these compounds has been done in dogs, so there is some information about the effects of these chemicals on this species, but no formal studies designed to identify safety and efficacy of clinical use of specific compounds or products.

As for the Canna-Pet product, the marketing for this raises many of the red flags of snake oil. Dramatic claims of wide-ranging benefits with absolutely no risk of undesirable effects are made, which is the hallmark of questionable therapies:

We find medical benefits, behavioral benefits, prolonged life, reduced stress, and improved quality of life with our pets.

Improved vitality and overall health. Reduction in aggression, anxiety and behavior problems. Reduction of arthritic pain and digestive issues (IBD, diarrhea and constipation), reduction in nausea and improved appetite, improved quality of life, outstanding for palliative care.

Helps with aggression disorders, noise phobias, anxiety, self-trauma, cognitive disorders and dementia (canine), marking and spraying (feline), sleep disorders, OCD, excessive vocalization and inappropriate urination.

…phytocannabinoids often allow for much lower dosing of drugs that have potential negative side effects. Canna-Pet™ augments other medications…

We recommend Canna-Pet™ supplements as a daily food additive for all pets…

100% Safe. There are ZERO negative side effects and NO medical conflicts.

The evidence provided to support this apparently miraculous therapy appears, at first glance, to be impressive. A long list of links to research on cannabis-derived compounds is provided. However, much of this research is test tube, lab animal, or animal model studies which at best only suggest some compounds in hemp might have potentially useful biological effects. None of the studies linked to are clinical trials of Canna-Pet in companion animals.

The web site does seem to suggest that such studies exist:

Seventeen years in development, five years of clinical trials, now available OTC.

However, after failing to find these clinical trials in databases of published veterinary research or on the Canna-Pet website, I found a statement from one of the developers of Canna-Pet which suggests that this use of the term “clinical trials” is a bit misleading.

Six years ago I started using phytocannabinoids and terpenes with my own pets and the frequent rescues and fosters with which I deal. Finally, I started recommending this adjunctive and palliative therapy for the pets of family, friends and specific clients. The results have been universally positive and this is in part why I helped develop a specific mixing process and dosing regimens for animals.

This statement would appear to suggest that by “clinical trials” the company means uncontrolled individual trial-and-error use. It is not uncommon for promoters of new or unconventional therapies to suggest there is “research” showing that their therapies work when they really mean only that they have used it in their own patients and believe it works. If it were truly that easy to identify effective therapies, clinical trials wouldn’t be necessary, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

As far as I can tell, then, there is no evidence to establish the safety and efficacy of this product beyond pre-clinical research (which is suggestive but never definitive), extrapolation from limited and often conflicting research in humans (which is common in veterinary medicine), and anecdotal experience (which is highly unreliable). The most appropriate interpretation of the evidence, then, is that the product might work or might not, it might be safe or it might not, but no firm conclusion can be made. Use of such a product is risky but can be appropriate in some circumstances. It is simply unfortunate that the company makes claims for the product that go far beyond anything that can be reasonably substantiated by real scientific data.

The company does put a few caveats on its claims. The Quack Miranda Warning required by the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act is present:

FDA Disclosure: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products and statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The web site also appropriately points out that, “these compounds are not a cure-all wonder drug. They are to be used as directed and they are to be used expressly with any and all currently prescribed therapies and medications. As directed by your attending veterinarian.” Still, such warnings seem a bit tepid compared with the much more dramatic, assertive, and prominent claims of safety and benefits for the product.

Is It Safe?
Marijuana intoxication is relatively common in dogs and can be serious, though rarely life-threatening. It is likely that the primary compound responsible for the clinical symptoms is the THC, so a product with low levels of this compound might be safer than ordinary marijuana, but there is little research on the subject. And without direct studies of particular compounds or products, it is impossible to establish long-term safety.

The makers of Canna-Pet assure pet owners of complete and absolute safety, which is unrealistic for any product that has any biological effects at all. They appear to base this on the fact that it is “natural,” which of course is a completely arbitrary and meaningless claim, and that their own uncontrolled anecdotal observations haven’t identified any negative effects. This is certainly not a level of safety assurance that would be accepted for any drug, and it is no more appropriate to accept it for a gemish of chemicals found in an herbal product.

The specific claim is actually made that it is actually an advantage of the product that it is a complex mixture of chemical compounds: “When we apply ALL of these phytocannabinoids and terpenes simultaneously, the cumulative effects are exponential.” This is a common claim for herbal remedies. While it is true that sometimes multiple compounds in a mixture can have synergistic effects (working together to improve efficacy and decrease undesired effects), it is just as true that such compounds can interfere with one another or have additive undesired effects. It is important to determine the actual clinical actions of a particular product through appropriate clinical research. It is not wise or safe to assume that the more complex a mixture is the better and safer it will be.

Bottom Line
Like so many plant-based alternative therapies, there is sufficient pre-clinical basic research to suggest compounds derived from cannabis might be medically useful. And like many medically useful chemicals, these are likely to have risks and benefits, both desirable and undesirable effects. There is nothing about such supposedly “natural” products that makes them inherently safer or better than purified compounds. And there is nothing about cannabis that makes it any more or less likely to be a useful medical therapy or to have both benefits and risks.

The current research evidence supports a couple of uses in humans, including treatment of nausea and poor appetite and possibly pain. Most other uses are poorly supported by clinical research. And there are unquestionably side effects that make marijuana often less useful than isolated cannabinoids or other unrelated treatments.

There is virtually no useful research evidence in companion animals, so any use of cannabis products is based entirely on theory and extrapolation from the limited research results in humans. Canna-Pet as a specific product, is being marketed with very dramatic and aggressive claims about safety and efficacy that do not appear to be supported by specific research on the product but, again, are based entirely on theory and anecdote, both notoriously unreliable sources of evidence.

There are recognized behavioral and medical risks associated with marijuana use in humans. While the behavioral risks do not apply to use in companion animals, and the medical issues associated with THC do not apply to products with negligible amounts of this compound, the risks of cannabis-derived compounds in dogs and cats are largely unknown. Any use of such products, then, should be undertaken with a clear understanding of the high levels of uncertainty about the results, and claims should not be made for these products that go beyond the available evidence.

Finally, the moral and political issues associated with the use and regulation of cannabis are real, but they have little direct relevance to a scientific evaluation of the risks and benefits of any medical use. Even if one supports legal recreational use of marijuana, that doesn’t imply one should support medical use without adequate evidence of safety and efficacy. And if one is opposed to recreational use of marijuana, that doesn’t make it appropriate to deny the possibility of medical benefits or to obstruct appropriate research into this possibility. As is always the case, a rational use of science to determine the facts is necessary to make an informed judgment, independent of any other concerns.

 

 

 

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71 Responses to Medical Use of Marijuana/Cannabis for Pets?

  1. v.t. says:

    What’s next, crack cocaine for curing everything that hemp won’t?

    So, 30 of the 50 states have not legalized medical cannabis, so for someone like Canna-Pet, how do they get away with interstate sales? How do they get away with sales when it hasn’t been approved by the FDA in pets anyway? Wouldn’t this be a federal offense if the company were not licensed and operated in this fashion? Or can they because they’re only using small amounts of compounds not to make any real effect? (or do we even know if they might produce effects, good or bad)

    I noticed that Canna-Pet recommends using their product, of course, in conjunction with real vet meds. There seems to be a sleazy trend with these peddlers – that while your client sticks with real med, their product can only enhance the benefits of other drugs.

    Ugh, I feel my blood pressure rising.

  2. skeptvet says:

    Well, from a legal point of view, the issue is a bit cloudy. Generally, the DEA does not recognize Cannabis plants with low levels of THC (industrial hemp) as fundamentally different from Cannabis plants with high levels of THC (marijuana). The general policy is that if a product causes THC to enter the body of a human, it is illegal. If it does not, it is legal, so one can sell, for example, hemp bracelets legally. This product is not intended for human consumption, and it claims to have low levels of THC, so its legal status is probably in a grey area: technically it may not or may not be legal (I assume the company has lawyers who have a pretty good case for legality), but pragmatically it is unlikely to draw andy interest from the DEA regardless.

    As for the FDA, once again the lack of any meaningful regulation of herbs and supplements allows it to be sold as if it were a proven medical therapy as long as certain meaningless caveats are given, as they are. Thank you DSHEA. *sigh*

    In any case, the real problem is no different from that associated with stem cell therapies, other hebal remedies, or any medical treatment marketed without adequate scientific evidence to support the claims made for it.

  3. Karen says:

    I find your skepticism knee-jerk. What kind of objective analysis should we expect from a site entitled “skeptvet” anyway?
    In fact, the site you criticize does cite dozens of double blind, peer reviewed and published studies showing cannabis efficacious for a multitude of medical conditions. Because cannabis is Schedule 1, human studies are severely restricted but animal studies are not. For that very reason, we have a much better understanding of cannabis’ effect on animals. And here is a product FOR animals. Unfortunately for humans, we understand this plant far better in animal models.
    Your careful selection of quotes, chosen to support your negative review ignores the myriad studies cited on the website.
    I have no connection with this product, and have no pets. But when I see criticism purport to be objective when clearly it isn’t, I must speak out.

  4. skeptvet says:

    You are entitled to speak out, but what you are saying makes no sense.

    You offer no clear position or evidence yourself, only criticism of mine, and you assume that the name of the site means that I must have some kind of bias. But you don’t have a clue what “skepticism” means. It is not automatic rejection of a position, it is the position of not accepting claims without evidence. This article is about evaluating the evidence behind the claims made for a product being sold to pet owners.

    How exactly is my position “knee jerk” when I review both the positive and negative studies and conclude that there are some uses of marijuana supported by science, some not, and many not adequately studied? Do you even know what my position is or did you even read the entire article?

    And when I state there are no controlled clinical trials in pet species, do you have some evidecne to the contrary?

    Why exactly do you trust the research cited by the company selling this product and yet accuse me of cherry picking the research I present?

    Your criticsm seems far more “knee jerk” and less substantive or nuanced than my article.

  5. v.t. says:

    I find it telling that proponents always believe that because a substance has use in humans (whether proven safe and effective or not), automatically qualifies it to be extrapolated to animal use.

  6. Protecting Animals With Cannabis (PAWS) says:

    First, I’ll say I agree with you that the canna-pets business does make many inappropriate and misleading statements (likely as a means to increase profit). Natural = safe is certainly a silly claim. However, the safety of cannabis is well documented. Check out the LD50! All mammals have endogenous cannabinoid systems keeping their bodies functioning properly. The system consists of two (known) endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 along with a host of endocannabinoid (such as Anandamide) which bind to the receptors. The cannabis plant happens to create compounds, cannabinoids, which also fit the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Studies have shown that blocking the CB receptors of newborn mice results in their death. A properly function endocannabinoid system is required for well being. Malfunctions of the cannabinoid system, like the malfunction of any bodily system, lead to health issues. Cannabinoids, administered through cannabis medicines, can address such health issues. This exerpt from wiki speaks volumes on safety “There has never been a documented human fatality solely from overdosing on tetrahydrocannabinol or cannabis in its natural form,[35] though the synthetic THC pill “Marinol” was cited by the FDA as being responsible for 5 deaths (4 direct and 1 indirectly involved) between January 1, 1997 and June 30, 2005.” The FDA approved cannabis medicine has caused more deaths in 10 years of use than Cannabis has for 200 years ( the history of medical cannabis use goes back many thousands of years but detailed records of patients and effects is, for obvious reasons, unavailable). The one which has undergone extensive scientific examination and been through the almighty controlled clinical trial is the lesser in both medical uses and safety. Cannabis was a very extensively used medicine in the US and was part of the US Pharmacopea from its inception up until 1942 ( 5 years after the Marijuana Tax Act made it unavailable as a medicine). Your list of medical conditions treatable with cannabis medicine is lacking in a seemingly malicious way. It’s not you being malicious though. It’s your understanding of science and medicine and how they are related. I say you’re blinded by Scientism. Sorry. Since I don’t imagine the blinders will come off anytime soon how about you check out the work of these, highly esteemed and well versed in the arenas of science and rationality, medical professionals. Lester Grinspoon, who was a prof at Harvard for many years, is a great starting place for your medical cannabis education. Donald Taskin, Robert Melameade, Sanjay Gupta, Mitch Earlywine… I can throw out more names if interested. Science guru Carl Sagan (a person who was even more into science than you are!) had a lot to say on cannabis too. A person or animal with a health need is more interested in using what’s shown to work better rather than whats been studied more. Really that’s the rational position to take. [Anything I’ve mentioned can easily be found through a google search. If you looked and couldn’t find something ask and I will provide.]

  7. skeptvet says:

    You sem ambivalent about science. You claim that the science behind the benefits of cannabis (which you imply are broad, though you don’t mention any specific indications) are well documented, and you name drop about respected scientists who supposedly agreed with you. But then you toss out a BS term like “scientism” which is most often used by those pushing alternative or pseudoscientific approaches to medicine. And you say the focus should be on “what’s shown to work” rather than “what’s been studied,” which implies you think there is something besides scientific research studies that tells us what works. Overall pretty vague stuff here, yet you feel comfortable assuming any disagreement with you must be a sign of ignorance or “malicious” intent.

    I think I made it pretty clear that the existing evidence shows little risk to cannabis in most cases, though not no risk. If you think any active compound that has a beneficial physiology effect isn’t also going to have unintended effects, you don’t understand physiology or the history of medicine very well.

    So rather than a avague manifesto like this, why don’t you present some scientific evidence for specific uses of cannabis in companion animals, and let’s see if you can’t actually teach us all something. The best anodyne to ignorance isn’t passion, it’s information.

  8. Simply Amazed says:

    Your fancy words don’t hide how defencive you’re being which is a true sign of doubt or that you clearly don’t like being wrong., skeptvet. I get the impression that you’d rather defend the scientific evidence (which in many cases is outright lies to support the persons agenda over truth) because thats how brainwashed you are by what they tell you to think and say….in Dennis Millers words, “Of course, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.”
    Seeing as how so many people are curing their own cancer with cannabis I’m going with THEY LIED when the decided to say it’s bad for you and should be illegal.

  9. skeptvet says:

    Curing their own cancer with cannabis?! Seriously?! You are not only a fanatic, since apparently you consider anybody who disagrees with you ignorant, brainwashed, or malicious, but you are seriously deluded. There may very well be many benefits to compounds derived from marijuana, as I pointed out in the article, but what you’re pushing here is pure faith-based nonsense.

  10. v.t. says:

    Simply Amazed,

    No one has ever been cured of cancer by using cannabis. Symptoms such as vomiting or inappetance due to chemo effects can sometimes be alleviated, but that is not “curing” cancer.

  11. Tanya says:

    Here is what I’ve experienced first hand with MMJ (medicinal marijuana) in Colorado. I have lupus, sjogrens’ and fibromyalgia. I am currently on oxy for these things. I would take all of my pharmaceuticals and would still have so much pain, I’d have to curl in the fetal position and cry. My family and friends begged me to try MMJ. I was hesitant, already being on a narcotic. Finally, I gave in. I personally only need MMJ maybe once a month, but it is a goddess-send! If smoked, it relieves pain in minutes. My dog started having seizures’ in the beginning of December. We took him to the vet and she wanted to immediately put him on hard core drugs with lots of serious side effects. We said no, researched MMJ for seizures, mostly in humans, and decided to try it for our dog. He has not had a seizure for three months now. He doesn’t get enough that he gets stoned, he is happy and healthy. We will continue and see how he and I progress, but so far, for us, it is a miracle drug, up there with aspirin and penicillin. Yes, more studies need to be done, but I’m a believer. We’ve had many a parent relocate their entire family to Colorado, as a last hope for their children with uncontrolled seizures. Check out Charlotte’s Web, and type of MMJ that is doing what canna pet is, growing marijuana plants with low thc and high CBD. There is also a hemp based human product Cibdex. I am all for MMJ, canna pet and Cibdex if they work for you. The government is not always right.

  12. skeptvet says:

    The government is not always right.

    Nope. And neither are anecdotes like these. Science isn’t always right either, but its batting average is quite a bit better than that of any other players in the business of trying to understand nature.

  13. Suzy Greenberg says:

    Skeptvet,

    At first when I came across your article I thought, wow this guy is disproving Canna-Pet. But after reading your comments to other readers, it’s obvious you are not as couth as you think you are. It baffles my mind that people are still living in this kind of reefer madness state of mind. I personally know people who have treated their pets with cannabis. A dying dog, with cancerous tumors everywhere, was given pure CBD medicine and when taken back to the vet, the vet himself was amazed that the dog was practically cured. No more cancer, no more talk of death. It was amazing. Cannabis can and will cure. It’s a powerful tool of medicine that should not be discredited. Oh and in response to what you Simply Amazed said, you are misled about your statment that cannabis can only alleviate the symptoms. In Colorado there is a man named Mike Stettler who created something called the Marisol Tar. For the past few years, people have been coming to him with skin cancer, in which he gives them this applicable tar and within months they are rid of cancer. I have seen the photos and met the patients. Cannabis can cure to a certain extent. Granted, if you have stage 5 lung cancer, there might be no hope for you, but there is something to be said about a treatment that rebuilds cells instead of zapping them with radiation. Please do your research before you make such claims.

    Skeptvet: I found your article to be interesting until I read your comments to your readers. As I said before, you lack serious couth and to me that denounces your credibility. Sorry.

  14. Suzy Greenberg says:

    Tanya- that’s such a great success story! We need more people like you coming out with their positive stories. This will help studies and prove to the non believers that cannabis as medicine works. So glad it worked for your pet. I am currently writing an article on cannabis and pets so I love finding success stories.

  15. skeptvet says:

    I have no idea what you mean by “uncouth,” other than it seems to bug you that I am not convinced cannabis is a miracle cure. If you read my article carefully, you’ll see I didn’t “disprove” anything. I merely identified the limitations in the existing evidence for some claims for cannabis. It isn’t any different from any other medication, and it shouldn’t be treated any differently. Proper controlled studies whould be done for specific uses, and the results believed. If it truly cures cancer, which is a claim I have not heard made before, that would be fantastic. But you must know there have been thousands of claims for cancer cures made before, and so far cancer remains a tough disease to fight. Claims require evidence, and anecdotes aren’t great evidence.

    What any of this has to do with “couth” or “reefer madness” I have no idea, but your use of those terms suggests you aren’t really that interested in what the science and the evidence says, which was the focus of my article, but in defending an entrenched belief you already have. You say “do your research,” but I don’t see you presenting any research, just miracle stories.

  16. v.t. says:

    Suzy Greenberg, your anecdote about the dog is just that, an anecdote. Post the proof if otherwise.

    Also, what does “practically cured” mean? Did the dog receive radiation therapy and/or chemo therapy, or any other treatment during or prior to the use of the cannabis? How was the dog “practically cured” at all, if not cured entirely? Seems to me that cancer was still present according to your statement.

    So yeah, there’s been plenty of statements (not necessarily of facts, mind you) made about cannabis curing cancer, but none that I have seen have offered indisuputable proof.

    But no, we don’t need more people like you and Tanya coming out with more “success stories” to get studies funded (just more anecdotes to add to an otherwise outlandish cancer cure claim without proof). We need actual solid research that can test whether cannabis is equal to or better than medicine that is already available – no anecdotes necessary for that to occur.

  17. Suzy Greenberg says:

    Skeptvet-My comment of being ‘uncouth’ reflects how you speak to people. You lack the grace of a ‘professional’ doctor of sorts. It seems you thrive on these arguments and look at any reason to lash out at readers vs. hearing what they actually have to say, however, that’s just my opinion based on what I am reading in this thread. Forgive me for being honest. I mean no harm. My ‘claims’ are based on actual instances that I have been a part of. But don’t just take my word for it (which you’ve made it clear that you won’t). Cannabis is healing a myriad of ailments. As a doctor, you should be praising this. Not knocking people down for positive experiences they’ve had with the plant.

    VT-Obviously getting studies funded will provide the proper research for this medicine. Without studies we, have no backbone of this much needed research. Are you opposed to medical cannabis research and practice? In regards to my “practically cured” statement and you splitting hairs, the dog was in fact cured. My apologies for not using the correct choice of words. Also, I could easily say that your claims that cannabis will not cure cancer are just as “outlandish” as my claims that I believe it is. Only difference is that I have met people and pets who have seriously benefited from such treatment. There are multiple studies which say that chemotherapy and radiation destroys the body, where cannabis (as I mentioned before) rebuilds cells. I believe you have the same access to Google that I have, so please go a head and do your research as well. Just because you haven’t read it doesn’t mean it’s not true.

    http://deusnexus.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/thc-kills-cancer-cells/

    http://www.naturalhealth365.com/food_news/hemp-oil.html

    “A Harvard study, released in April of 2007, shows that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half, while at the same time significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread.”

    It seems to me that neither one of you choose to believe that cannabis can and will be a great tool in the medical field and it’s backwards thinking like that

  18. Suzy Greenberg says:

    ….it’s backwards thinking like that which will hinder your credibility instantly.

  19. skeptvet says:

    I’m sorry if you perceive me as “lashing out.” I can’t say that I read anything I’ve written in this thread that way at all. I do, as you know, reject personal anecdote as persuasive, so when someone comments that cannabis is a miraculous medicine because they have seen or experienced miracles with its use, I’m afraid I don’t accept that as proving anything, no matter how meaningful the experience may be emotionally to that person. It seems a shame that we have reached a point in this country where disagreement is interpreted as insult, and where feelings count for more than facts when making policy decisions. I’m am old-fashioned believer in Enlightenment rationalism, and clearly that view is in the wane, with a combination os post-modernism on one side and blind faith on the other taking its place.

    If you wish your claims to be taken seriously, you will have to do more than cite news articles from alternative medicine media sources. These are opinions, not evidence. The citations I have given in my article, many of which do support positive effects from cannabis, are acgtual scientific studies, and frankly in deciding what role this drug will have in healthcare, that is all that matters.

  20. v.t. says:

    Suzy Greenberg,

    I am not against cannabis research for medicinal purposes. In fact, I support it’s use in terminally ill patients (for which laws have been passed for exemptions) and for those who it may help alleviate effects from other treatments. I am however, against outlandish claims that MM cures cancer when one hasn’t provided evidence, and I am against silly proponents who make such claims and use fear-mongering tactics (such as one of the links you provided) to attempt to make their case.

    I am also against use of MM in pets without proper research and/or evidence that it is helpful in any sense, beyond human extrapolation and anecdotes -just as I am against several other forms of snake-oil uses in pets.

    Backwards thinking is believing that anything purported to be true, must be true.

  21. Bridie says:

    I have actually tried Canna-Pet on my almost 14 year old lab. He’s in great health, but does have arthritis pain which I was hoping to help relieve with this product, perhaps reducing his dosage or other prescription pain medications.

    Here is my experience:
    Ordered and received my 30 supply very quickly. I started with a full dose last Thursday (one pill twice a day, morning and before bed). By Saturday, my guy was panting badly. This only got worse (think heaving, vocal exhalations) over the weekend.

    Since the only thing I had changed was adding Canna-Pet, I stopped using it and made an appointment with our vet for the next day.

    The verdict:
    Stoners High! After a complete physical and blood work, all negative, I was asked what I had changed. I mentioned Canna-Pet. Our vet and another vet on duty both agreed on the diagnosis.

    I live in Vancouver, Canada, which has a very liberal attitude to marijuana use. Heck, I have a very liberal attitude to marijuana use, although I’m not a user myself. Our vets see their share of dogs who get into a stash.

    Going forward:
    I would not recommend Canna-Pet. I would not rule out the medicinal use of cannabis for pets, but would only consider using something from a source that did lab testing and could provide a reliable analysis of the product I might use. I would get something with a high CBD level and little if any THC.

    For complete disclosure, Canna-Pet refunded my $, including shipping, within 24 hours, although they did not bother to respond to my email so did not address the concerns I raised. That’s cold comfort, though, when I’m left with a large vet bill. The bright side is my boy is 95% better after missing three doses of Canna-Pet.

    The lesson:
    Do your homework. Even if, like me, you believe medical marijuana may have a place in treating your pet, buying any over the counter MMJ that isn’t titrated for your pet is foolish and potentially dangerous.

  22. v.t. says:

    Bridie, since CannaPet was obviously none the least concerned about serious side effects from their “drug”, perhaps you should report this to the FDA. A manufacturer who sells products like this for pets but doesn’t give a damn what it does, needs a shake-up in a bad way (FDA, state regulatory bodies, consumer protection advocates etc).

  23. Doug Tucker, DVM says:

    Thanks for taking the time to compose this article. I recently had a relative approach me about Kannaway and use in pets. Your review was applicable and timely. It is clear CBD and other cannabinoids have some biologic effects that may prove significant but I have not found any clinical studies in dogs or cats, either. I did find some interesting research on antineoplastic therapy: Cannabidiol inhibits lung cancer cell invasion and metastasis via intercellular adhesion molecule-1, Robert Ramer*, et al.; Pathways mediating the effects of cannabidiol on the reduction of breast cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and metastasis, SD McAllister, et al.; Cannabidiol induces programmed cell death in breast cancer cells by coordinating the cross-talk between apoptosis and autophagy, A Shrivastava, et al.; Inhibition of colon carcinogenesis by a standardized, Cannabis sativa, extract with high content of cannabidiol, B Romano, et al. (google scholar search on articles after 2010). If we were not skeptical we could not advance thought or debate. We would probably live in hovels smoking weed all day. That might be fine for some but I think I will remain a skeptic, as well. One question though, at what point does anecdotal evidence (or does it ever) become valid?

  24. skeptvet says:

    Thanks for the comment. I absolutely agree there is preclinical evidence suggesting some cannabinoids may have beneficial effects, and there is even clinical trial evidence in humans to support some use, so I am hopeful we will get some good therapies out of further research here. The devil is in the details.

    The proper role for anecdotal data is to suggest hypotheses for testing. If an apparent benefit or harm is seen following a therapy, particularly repeatedly, that is good reason for more controlled investigation of that apparent relationship. However, anecdotes are almost never sufficient to prove a hypothesis true or untrue because there are simply too many potential sources of error. Every medical therapy ever invented, from bloodletting, to every herb, to faith healing, to ritual sacrifice, to mesmerism, to……. has been supported by anecdotes. There is nothing you can find that has been tried that somebody somewhere hasn’t had a positive experience with. Similaryly, every false cause of disease (for example, autism associated with vaccination) has also been supported by anecdotes.

    So if we accepot anecdotes as probative, we are forced to accept that every therapy works for somebody and that almost anything can be the cause of illness, which leaves us essentially unable to make any practical decisions about what to try or what to avoid. So it’s not a question of validity but of the proper role for different levels of evidence. Anecdotes are suggestive but not probative.

  25. rachael says:

    Oh, I have read this blod with interest and Ill admit concern… however Id like to share my experience…
    My beautiful 7 year old White Golden Retriever Stella is suffering from advanced kidney failure and until last Saturday was barely eating which is the last stages of this disease … My family are devastated 🙁 She also had ACL surgery last year and has had arthritis set in in her joint which, because of her kidneys , can not be treated with an anti inflammatory, so she limps very badly.
    I was recommended canna pet by another pet owner, I do not like pot, Ive never smoked it and I don’t understand stoners, but my dog is dying and Im prepared to try anything to get her to eat.
    With in two days, Stella is eating again, and the swelling in her joint is completely gone to the point she walks without a limp. I have been able to take her off one of her pain meds with approval from my vet, and reduce her other med to half.
    Of course her diagnosis won’t change, but her quality of life is so much better. I didn’t give the full dose, but rather gave her one tablet morning and night.
    On her other pain meds she was always drowsy, now she isn’t and wants to go for walks again.
    I can only speak for myself, but if this helps my baby with her nausea and her swelling and limp is gone then I am happy to keep her on this product and I would also recommend it

  26. skeptvet says:

    I’m glad your pet is doing well, and I hope eventually it turns out that medical marijuana can be proven to bring such results for other people’s pets. But when we have stories like this, and stories of people whose pets either didn’t improve or even got worse whent rying this remedy, all we can say is using it is rolling the dice. As I’ve pointed out before, there are lots of examples in human medicine where unproven remedies made things worse for people with incurable diseases, so such a risk is real. I’m glad that hasn’t been your experience, but I worry that others will see your experience as reassurance that trying this is safe and then end up causing harm to theri loved ones. That’s the dangers of using anecdotes rather than controlled research.

    All the best to you and you companion.

  27. v.t. says:

    I agree, if only it were that simple. You should know, Rachael, that renal failure symptoms can wax and wane (having good days and bad days), and that nausea or GI tract upset, dehydration etc can contribute to those bad days but then show improvement on the following days – I wouldn’t be too quick to hope the cannapet was the sole reason for improvement.

    Likewise, we have two recent testimonials on this article, one where her dog had serious side effects, another’s dog seemed to do well. None of us can, nor should we ever, base any findings on testimonials/anecdotes for a substance that has yet to be tested properly in animal models and proven safe and effective. The serious side effects story leaves me scared for owners who make such decisions based on absence of evidence.

  28. Anthony says:

    Here is my anecdotal experience with Canna-Pet. After exhausting relatively safe, evidence-based treatments, I ordered it for my 2 elderly dogs ages 17 and 20, both have chronic kidney disease. Was hoping it would help one with arthritis pain and the other with poor CKD-related appetite. Was told I should see benefits within a couple of days. Gave as directed for 2 weeks. No benefits noticed in either dog. Don’t think it caused any harm but definitely fell way short of the miraculous claims on their website. When I reported my findings, company said I just shouldn’t order any more which I could have figured out on my own.

    I don’t doubt that medical marijuana can be very beneficial for pets but in my experience this product is a failure. Hope the veterinary field will research and develop a relatively safe and effective MMJ product.

  29. skeptvet says:

    I agree that there is potential in marijuana-based medicines, but that this will only be realized through proper controlled research.

  30. Pingback: American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) & its Foundation (AHVMF) | The SkeptVet Blog

  31. Kel says:

    “…As I’ve pointed out before, there are lots of examples in human medicine where unproven remedies made things worse for people with incurable diseases, so such a risk is real…but I worry that others will see your experience as reassurance that trying this is safe and then end up causing harm to their loved ones. That’s the dangers of using anecdotes rather than controlled research.”

    This isn’t much of a valid argument…you’re making the typical apples-to-oranges vague comparison. There are lots of examples in human medicine where PROVEN remedies have made situations exponentially worse for others with the same disease/conditions. One cancer patient isn’t going to always respond the same way as another will to any prescribed therapies. Just the same where one dog won’t respond the same way to treatment as another dog, regardless of the diagnosis.

    It would behoove all interested parties (in both vet & human medicine) to weigh all options; it’s not fair to those seeking solutions (and doing as much research as they can) for “success stories” like rachael’s to be blocked. There’s always going to be folks who are desperate that they will pursue anything shiny & flashy that gives them the slightest glimpse of hope (no different than what we do as humans for those we love).

    While I do not condone the glamorization of Canna-Pet’s website as if this is the holy grail of pet treatment, I do wholeheartedly encourage anyone to take that site, this blog & its comments, and anything else found online with a grain of salt….weigh your options, and make the best informed, logical choice you can.

    I’m only here trying to find info on this product to help a friend out…and appreciate all the input left.

  32. skeptvet says:

    Sure, you should weigh your options. But in doing so, how do you assign the weight to different kinds of evidence? We tend to give great weight to anecdotes, which are terribly unreliable, and much less weight to scientific research, which is far more trustworthy. Therefore, positive anecdotes are more dangerous than positive research findings because they are both more compelling and more likely to be wrong.

  33. v.t. says:

    Meanwhile, more and more reports of pets suffering in the ER the effects of pot by their careless owners in the name of “health freedom” and voter enacted legalization. Granted, there are differences between loose bud and isolated compounds used in attempted medical cannabis, but we need a TON more study and evidence before applying this to pets, you know, those without a voice to consent or tell us if it’s working or not.

  34. K says:

    The specific claim is actually made that it is actually an advantage of the product that it is a complex mixture of chemical compounds: “When we apply ALL of these phytocannabinoids and terpenes simultaneously, the cumulative effects are exponential.” This is a common claim for herbal remedies. While it is true that sometimes multiple compounds in a mixture can have synergistic effects (working together to improve efficacy and decrease undesired effects), it is just as true that such compounds can interfere with one another or have additive undesired effects. It is important to determine the actual clinical actions of a particular product through appropriate clinical research. It is not wise or safe to assume that the more complex a mixture is the better and safer it will be.

    I think here they are referring to the “entourage effect” ( e.g.) rather than mixing isolated compounds together (despite the misleading wording).

  35. College of Charleston says:

    See the thing is, there could be a million studies coming out of HARVARD or the fact that the U.S. government has had medical marijuana patents for decades and deniers like this skeptvet person will still come with the smug argument that “there’s not enough studies/trials/whatever” etc. heard it all before guy. Obviously there is not much research done on this subject for animals and humans yet because it has been blocked by “skeptical” politicians forever, when it could have been helping many around the world. I wish I knew about this when my dog was having seizures when he was alive. CBD is non-toxic and non-psychoactive. You have the world at your fingertips to do research on CBDs and you still call b.s. on the claims. Why have so many progressive states approved MMJ then?

  36. skeptvet says:

    The very fact that you call me a “denier” indicates that you haven’t read what I’ve written and aren’t capable of viewing this issue rationally. This is confirmed by the fact that you don’t actually cite any evidence to support your position but merely cite the belief of others to suggest your belief is right. Marijuana laws are purely political, not connected to science. The extreme opposition to medical marijuana comes primarily from people with moral objections to it, not a thoughtful scientific perspective. Likewise, the position that marijuana is “obviously” beneficial comes from people such as yourself who have an unshakeable belief that it must be beneficial for reasons that have nothing to do with science.

    The risks and benefits of medical marijuana should be decided on the basis of sound research, not the moral reasoning of opponents or the knee-jerk faith of proponents. Sadly, Americans don’t seem to be very good at making rational, fact-based decisions about such things. They prefer, like you, to make silly, pointless personal remarks about people who challenge their faith rather than engaging in substantive, evidence-based debate.

  37. Rich W says:

    I haven’t read everybody’s comments in detail, but FYI v.t. researchers in Spain have CURED brain tumors in both animals and humans by injecting them with THC. Apparently it triggers “autophagy”–the cancer cells get the muchies and eat themselves! lol
    My dog was just diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer in his shoulder. At 140 lbs amputation is not an option. There is about a 99% chance that it is a cancer unresponsive to chemo, and I wouldn’t subject him to that poison anyway. I am not even going to discomfort him with a biopsy to find out if we win the cancer lottery and it is that 1% type, as he probably wouldn’t heal if it isn’t.
    I am placing my order now.
    If I remember, I will update you if Jose lasts longer than the 3-6 months that the doc had predicted…

  38. Rich W says:

    Oh, btw, medical research with marijuana was defunded and made illegal a long time ago…like under Nixon or something…part of the war on drugs.

  39. skeptvet says:

    Actually, it’s not illegal. The problem is that as a Schedule VI drug the amount of paperwork needed to get permission to use it in research is challenging enough to impede research efforts. Despite this, there have been clinical studies on marijuana and cannabinoids, and hopefully there will be more. However, like any other drug, the studies should be done before the drug is put into widespread medical use. Medical marijuana is no better and no worse than any other potential medication, with a balance of risks and benefits that should be clearly characterized by appropriate research.

    Here’s a great article summarizing some of the research and the political/legal issues.

  40. skeptvet says:

    That’s a pretty big claim, that THC cures cancer. Would you have any references or evidence that it’s true?

    As for knowing that your dog has a tumor with a 99% chance of being non-responsive to chemotherapy without even taking a biopsy, you simply can’t know that. You may be able to find the statistical distribution for bone tumors in that location and breed and make an educated guess at the type of tumor by looking at that data and radiographs, but you absolutely cannot reliably know the outcome of treatment ahead of time based on this information. The problem with this approach is that once you use the product you will assume the outcome, whatever it is, is due to the success of failure of the product, when in fact it could be due to other factors. If, for example, the tumor goes away, you will believe the drug is a miracle cure because you are convinced your dog has a cancer not treatable by conventional means, and you will undoubtedly reject out of hand the possibility that your dog might not have had such a tumor.

    Since it is likely your dog has an osteosarcoma, I would encourage you to look at some reliable sources of information about this disease or, even better, find a veterinary cancer specialist in your area before you roll the dice on your dog’s well being based on reading some advertising and testimonials on the Internet.

    I would also point out that the median survival depends on the tumor type and the treatment selected, but even the worst data are better than 3 months. And usually the limiting factor for life is when we choose to euthanize our pets, which depends as much on our feelings as owners as it does on their disease or the success or failure of treatment. So whether your dog lives 2 months or 10 months, it says nothing about the success or failure of this product. That’s why we need actual scientific research, not just anecdotes.

    Prognosis- Prognosis for patients with OSA depends on several factors. The average survival in dogs with osteosarcoma treated with surgery and chemotherapy is approximately 1 year. For patients below 7 years of age with large tumor located in the proximal humerus, the prognosis is very poor. Recently, a median survival time of 7 months was reported for dogs receiving radiation therapy along with chemotherapy; whereas a combination of surgery and chemotherapy showed more encouraging median survival rates of 235-366 days with up to 28% surviving two years after diagnosis. Dogs between 7 and 10 years of age have greater survival rates than younger and older dogs. In axial osterosarcoma, the medial survival rate is 4-5 months because of the reoccurance of the disease and complete surgery is not possible because of the location.

  41. skeptvet says:

    These are clearly not articles about THC curing cancer in cancer patients. These are articles about cannabinoids causing tumors to become smaller in rats with artificially induced cancer. It is very important to recognize the difference since widespread human use of something tested only in experimental rat models is very risky and has in the past led to serious harm.

  42. jjdk4 says:

    It’s worth the risk! I would rather take my chances with cannibus (Canna-Pet) than see my sweet collie boy continue to suffer with the side affects of phenobarb!!!

  43. skeptvet says:

    Which would make sense if there were any evidence that Canna-Pet could relieve the side effects of Pb, but there isn’t. So the benefits are just as unknown as the risks for this use. Rolling the dice, I’m afraid.

  44. Rich W. says:

    Update on Jose and Canna-pet: After 20 days of treatment (30 regular capsules and 10 “Max” in the mix) Jose is limping less, is playing more and is in really good spirits for a dog that is supposed to be dead in 3 to 6 months. The Max’s come in a 10 pack, so we gave him those in the morning and the regulars in the evening.
    After we run through another 10 day cycle of the Max/regulars, we plan to take him back to the vet for follow-up X-rays and some blood work (which I regret to say wasn’t done the first time, so we have no base line on that stat).
    Also, we give him half a Rimadyl in the evening to help him sleep if he has played a bit too hard.
    The only downside seems to be that he gets tuckered out a bit quicker than he used to. Then again, that could be the 90+ degree heat we’ve been having, the Rimadyl and the fact that he’s been getting sympathy over-feeds! (Bad humans!)

  45. skeptvet says:

    I think it’s great that research is going to be easier and more readily undertaken as the cultural and legal prejudices against marijuana weaken. As far as the specific uses discussed in this article, the key bits of information are:

    Epidiolex
    “A major clinical trial will start later this year”

    Sativex
    “GW has not yet completed clinical testing”

    These sound like promising developments, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they, or other similar projects, yield useful drugs. I also won’t be surprised if many of the avenues being explored, and the uses currently suggested by uncontrolled case studies and anecdotes, don’t turn out to be useful. That is the case for most promising drugs investigated. So as I’ve said throughout this discussion, I think marijuana should be treated like any other potential medicine, neither accepted nor rejected without appropriate evidence. It is not a panacea, and it is not the Devil’s Plant. It is just another potential source of medicines that needs to be thoroughly and properly evaluated.

    Thanks for the link!

  46. Chandler says:

    I don’t use marijuana and am for the most part against it being used recreationally. But watching my grandmother suffer with cancer, that (pot) will be the first thing I turn to if I ever end up in that situation. I just received Canna pet for my 11 year old dog who has been limping around with arthritis for the past year, some days so bad he can’t get his back end off the floor. The vet discouraged it, and pressed that I keep using rimidyl (at nearly $9 a pill) as I have for the past 4 months. Sure, the rimidyl works, but the side effects are nasty and potentially deadly. His liver levels have fallen, and his appetite has started diminishing. What ever the side effects of cannibis are, they can’t be as bad (or as expensive) as what the vet wants. I’ll try it, and adjust his dose if needed, but the alternative seems far worse. I may be wrong and end up back with the nasty rimidyl in the end; but I felt so guilty knowing what that pill was doing to him physically and how potentially it could affect him.

  47. skeptvet says:

    Grasping at straws is understandable in a tough situation like this, but unfortunately it doesn’t change the facts. I hope, for your pet’s sake, that the cannapet actually does what is claimed and doesn’t have “nasty side effects” no one knows about because we haven’t studies it.

    As for $9 a pill for carprofen, that is way outside the norm in the industry, and there are lots of other sources for this medication, so that shouldnt’ be a reason to change from a well-tested medicine to an untested treatment. You may say that the side-effects can’t be as bad, but they can be as bad or worse. The only medicine without side effects is the fake medicine that isn’t doing anything. If cannapet actually works, it will also have side effects.

    Good luck.

  48. Sabrina says:

    Thanks for the post! A cat rescue a used to foster for is now promoting Canna-Pet, and I was looking for more information about the product.

    My parallel argument about the issue: just because MDMA has shown some promise in treating PTSD in humans, it doesn’t mean we should start feeding random amounts of street ecstasy to pets with behavioral problems. Without real trials of cannabinoids for specific medical conditions in specific doses in specific animal species, it’s infuriating to see people promoting marijuana as a veterinary cure-all. (The same people, not coincidentally, who promote marijuana as a human medical cure-all.)

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