The human medical field is finally legitimizing the use of medical marijuana to treat chronic illnesses and disease. More and more states are going ahead and authorizing medical marijuana dispensaries.

But what about our pets?

The American Veterinary Medical Association has not yet taken an official stand. However, it is under “discussion.” For the most part it is a moot point, as veterinarians cannot legally prescribe medical marijuana even if they wanted to. Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance by the DEA. (Drug Enforcement Agency)

What if there was a viable alternative that is readily available and an entire industry is being built up around it!

There is and it’s hemp. Hemp is the same plant species as marijuana. They are both Cannabis sativa L. The difference lies in the variety. Hemp has been used historically in the manufacturing sector to make rope and textiles, while marijuana was bred for the intoxicating resinous glands that grow on the flowers and leaves.

There are 3 key differences between hemp and marijuana:

1. Hemp does not contain THC.

Any, if trace amounts are removed during production. THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana, hence the Scheduled 1 Controlled Substance labeling.

While THC has many medical benefits, it is not the only part of the plant that does. Both marijuana and hemp also produce CBD. CBD is Cannabidiol.

CBD has medicinal benefits because it binds to the body’s endocannabinoid system through the CB1 and CB2 receptors found in every tissue. The endocannabinoid system is connected to the brain, central nervous and peripheral systems and maintains homeostasis within the body, neural activity, pain, memory, emotions, carcinogenesis, and embryonic development.

As these binders are throughout the body, it accounts for the wide range of therapeutic properties. Basically it does what the body needs it to do. The medical benefits of CBD can help with a wide range of conditions ranging anywhere from seizures to diabetes to pain management to arthritis to cancer, and so forth. Dogs have the highest concentration of CB receptors of any mammal, which is why dogs are more sensitive to the effects of both THC and CBD.

2. Hemp is legal.

And thus an industry is born.

CBD is made into treats, oils, topical creams, and capsules. But not all CBD products are created equally. As with any new booming market, there are companies looking to cash in by producing it as cheaply as possible. They use industrial grade hemp, grown for quantity using factory farming, pesticides, and fertilizers. On the other hand, there are companies dedicated to the well being of your pet and spend thousands on research and development of different strains to pinpoint specific chronic conditions and is grown organically.

“This is a growing field, fluid field. There have been great strides in developing particular strains of hemp for specific ailments. Many varieties of hemp are like a fine wine. You pair a precise strain to the corresponding condition. Or you can choose to go with a ripple. Your choice.” Donna Walker RVT South Bark Sand Diego, CA

It can be purchased online, in stores, as well as transported across state lines. Nothing in the pet industry is well regulated, so buyers beware. Research the companies to ensure you are getting what you pay for.

3. Toxicity.

While both the live plant of hemp and marijuana are toxic to dogs and cats in any form, CBD derived from hemp is safe. However, dosing is done based on the pet’s weight. THC from medical marijuana can accelerate a pet’s heart rate to a dangerous level and should never be used without veterinary consultation. As with any substance, any pet can have an allergic response and go into anaphylactic shock. While a pet can overdose from medical marijuana, it is not the case with CBD.

” Despite the fact that dogs and cats have a more rapid digestive system, it still takes about an hour after eaten to fully work. Be prepared for that so you do not give too much. This applies to yourself also, if you medicate with CBD. The side effects of over medicating are simply sleepiness.” Donna F. Walker RVT- South Bark- San Diego, CA

We may never need to wait until the AVMA or the states to decide on the legalities on medical marijuana as long as CBD is available for our pets. Even though the cost seems high, it is a small price to pay to help manage our pet’s chronic medical conditions.