The Medical Marijuana Debate for Pets

A hemp-based product is gaining traction among some San Diegans using it to treat their pets’ illnesses, though veterinarians argue more research is needed. The issue has sparked a sort of medical marijuana debate for animals.

David Bourgouin’s 11-year-old dog Reef still wants to play like he’s a puppy. But about a year ago, the dog’s separation anxiety caused him to jump over a fence and injure his shoulder.

The pain for Reef was unbearable, his owner told NBC 7; the dog couldn’t put any weight on his front left leg after the injury. It turned out that Reef developed a cyst after the accident – the main source of his pain.

“It’s so large, the size of a lemon, that it’s pressing on the nerve that’s going on to this leg,” said Bourgouin.

He said the only options he had were a $6,000 surgery or something called cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is extracted from hemp-oil, which is in the cannabis family.

“Knowing what I know about CBD, I decided this is what I needed to do for him,” said Bourgoin. “I have to give him the best shot I can.”

Bourgouin went to Hemp Health Inc. in Carlsbad. Vice President Katarina Maloney told NBC 7 pet owners come in and ask for the product for many medicinal reasons.

“A lot of them are inflammation, pain, separation anxiety,” Maloney said.

Not enough research has been done to determine how exactly CBD works, but another big question on people’s minds: can your pet get high?

“You cannot get high from our products at all,” Maloney said. “Our oil is made from industrial hemp, where there is no THC in our product.” THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana products.

To find out what animal experts think of the treatment, NBC 7 reached out to the San Diego County Veterinary Medical Association to review these CBD products for our report.

Veterinary anesthesiologist Amber Hopkins with the association said she is no stranger to sick and nervous animals, and when it comes to using CBD products for medical purposes, she feels conflicted.

“I think that there has been shown to be a lot of potential for cannabinoids to be very beneficial in animals for management of various things like epilepsy, pain management, anti-nausea,” she said.

But Dr. Hopkins added, “There's very little scientific evidence that supports efficacy, safety studies, dose regimes that have been well defined in animals.”

Veterinarians cannot prescribe CBD since it’s not federally approved to be used medicinally. Right now, the FDA considers it as a “dietary supplement.”

NBC 7 reached out to other veterinarians across the county to see what they thought of CBD-use on pets. They were all for it and noted that they have seen benefits from its use, but that it’s a matter of the FDA performing the necessary tests and research so one day it can be legally prescribed.

Bourgouin knew all of this and when it came to Reef, he said he had no choice. Looking at Reef now after using the CBD products, he’s active and can spend more time playing like a puppy, the owner said.

For more information on Pharma CBD Oil from Hemp Health Inc., click here.

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