Updated on October 9, 2018.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
New York state lawmakers have a bill in the works that would include pets in the state’s medical marijuana program. Originally proposed by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, this bill could change the world of cannabis medicine as we know it. At the time of writing, it needs approval from the Senate and State Assembly Health Committees to move on to the next stage of development. Legalizing cannabis-based medication for our furry friends wouldn’t only help pets — it could help humans, too. Learn more about the bill and its implications for the future of pets and pet owners.
Why Legalize Cannabis for Pets?
Amy Paulin first thought of this bill for a reason you may not expect. The opioid crisis in the United States has a far-reaching impact that affects how vets prescribe medicine. Some veterinarians can’t offer opioid painkillers to their patients due to fear of the owner using them instead. This leaves them with non-opioid medications that don’t work as effectively and cost more money. The lack of options that veterinarians and pet owners have to deal with results in limited care. Instead of getting the relief they need, pets must take medicine that doesn’t always help.
However, veterinary professionals have good reason to hold back on prescribing opiates. Opioid dependence has become such a large problem in the United States that over 115 people die each day from an overdose. With Western New York especially going through an opioid addiction epidemic, it’s no wonder that vets take so many precautions. Pets in New York need a non-opioid treatment for symptoms like pain and seizures. Medical marijuana fits the bill perfectly.
Current Solutions for Pet Owners
Many pet owners use hemp-based products to treat their companions’ symptoms. Hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) is legal across the country, and it helps pets feel like their old selves again. CBD doesn’t have any of the psychoactive compounds that we associate with marijuana, so these pet lovers don’t have to worry about dangerous side effects. Both dogs and cats can experience relief from seizures, anxiety and pain.
However, these remedies don’t always have veterinarian approval, leaving it up to owners to guess the right dose. In some states, card-holding patients can purchase pet medicine at a dispensary while they buy medication for themselves, but dispensary staff members don’t receive training on pet treatment — not to mention that the recommending doctor probably doesn’t, either. When dosed carefully, CBD oil is completely safe for pets, but owners don’t always have veterinarian expertise to guide them. Legal cannabis-based pet medicine can help furry friends both new to and familiar with CBD get quality care.
How Medicinal Marijuana Could Change New York Pet Care (and Help Humans, Too)
Adding cannabis medicine to veterinarians’ repertoires could greatly improve their ability to help animals for reasons such as:
More treatment options: Currently, veterinarians can offer only so many non-opioid medicines for pets. In some cases, only more expensive medications will relieve symptoms, putting a great burden on lower income owners. Sometimes, though, none of the options work well enough. Having the ability to prescribe medical marijuana will make care more accessible and impactful.
Relief like no other: Every pet will react differently to CBD, but it can be a miracle cure for some. Some owners have found that their chronically ill pets get to play and enjoy themselves again after taking CBD. Others use it as a solution for animal anxiety, including reactions to fireworks and their owner leaving home. Everyone has a medication that will work best with their bodies, and pets are no different. There are plenty of pets out there who would get the most benefits out of CBD treatment.
Healthier, happier humans: We can’t underestimate how much pet owners and non-owners alike will benefit from CBD for pets. The availability of cannabis medicine can further limit access to harmful opioids. This change could improve mental health, as well. Pets are like family for many people, so knowing that they have an affordable and effective medication can make owners happier.
If New York legalizes this bill, we’re sure that even more improvements will appear. Holistic health options, as their name implies, create a better-rounded medical experience for all.
What to Consider When Treating Your Pet With Cannabis Medicine
Even if you use hemp-based or cannabis-based treatments for your pet pal, you need to give them the medicine carefully. Animals have much smaller bodies than humans do, meaning that they react very differently to lower doses. Keep the following tips in mind when using marijuana-based pet medicine:
Avoid THC unless directed by a vet:Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) causes the psychoactive effects that marijuana provides. While some pet owners may enjoy the “high” they get from THC, it can be incredibly dangerous for dogs and cats. Adverse effects involve vomiting and disorientation.
Don’t give your pet human medicine: Just like cannabis medicine for humans, marijuana-based pet medicine is specifically recommended to suit the patient’s needs. Human medicine could have high amounts of THC or other ingredients harmful to animals. Make sure the medication you give your pet has ingredients meant for animals.
Get the medicine safely: The New York bill could require the owner to have a medical marijuana card or put a registration process in place for pets. No matter how the logistics turn out, make sure to follow the process outlined by the state. If you get CBD medicine, carefully evaluate the source and the product before buying.
More Resources for Pets and Their Owners
MarijuanaDoctors.com includes a vast database of information on all sorts of medical marijuana topics. If you want to try cannabis medicine for your animal friend, read up on the subject using these resources:
Interested in trying medicinal marijuana for yourself? Book an appointment with a cannabis-positive physician today to get an evaluation, or contact us for more information on cannabis medicine in your state.