The Changing Animus for Cannabis

By Martha Michael >>>

Wherever you stand on the controversy surrounding the use of medical marijuana products, your pet can’t offer an opinion. What Fifi or Fido can do, however, is benefit from the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant.

How do you get a Schedule One drug for your pet, and why would you want to?

“We use this for tens of thousands of patients for pain, arthritis, and for anxiety – noise and separation anxiety,” said Dr. Tim Shu, founder and CEO of VetCBD. “And seizures in younger epileptic patients and older patients with brain tumors.”

Jennifer Oller, a veterinary technician at Stevenson Ranch Veterinary Center had a 9-year-old black lab who was suffering from cancer. “She started limping on her front left paw and then I noticed a lot of swelling. I brought her in and she already had a tumor in her chest and on her leg,” she said.

She was able to treat her dog with CBD oil with positive results. She applied the oil, which comes in various flavors, on pieces of bread for her lab, which she lost last year.

“It really, really helped her be more comfortable,” Oller said. “She had osteocarcinoma, which is bone cancer, which is really painful. The CBD calmed her down and allowed her to live relatively pain free.”

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the oil that comes from the cannabis plant, which VetCBD sells in a concentrated liquid to accurately dose for relief from symptoms of serious diseases, such as cancer. But there are many more applications as well, Dr. Shu said.

“You can’t just say I’m going to treat cancer with this,” he explained. “There are lots of different kinds of cancers. CBD has a lot of anti-inflammatory uses, such as skin allergies and autoimmune skin diseases.”

Many U.S. state legislatures have laws restricting the amount of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, in the source of the product. It is the chemical compound in cannabis with psychoactive properties. The laws usually allow the use of CBD-infused oil from hemp plants, or from cannabis plants with less than .3 percent THC. The problem is, CBD with less THC can be far less effective; at least, it’s not ideal.

VetCBD sources the oil from the cannabis plant so it is only sold through dispensaries, at least for now. Pet owners actually have to have their own (human) medical marijuana recommendation, Dr. Shu said. But since California voters approved Proposition 64 last November, marijuana products are expected to be recreationally available to any adult in 2018.

“Laws have a way of lagging behind technology,” said Dr. Shu, who is a licensed veterinarian. “Fifty years ago you might’ve said, ‘We’re treating dogs with cannabis, huh? A highly addictive, Schedule 1 drug?’”

But, treating animals with cannabis is an idea that’s gaining a lot of traction, he said. Advocates in Nevada tried to pass a law allowing veterinarians to prescribe cannabis two years ago, but it was defeated.

“When it comes to pets, everyone’s thinking just dogs and cats, but we’ve had people use it for their pet pigs, birds (and) ferrets,” Dr. Shu said. “Animals and humans have endocannabinoid systems that interact with CBD and THC. There’s a recent discovery that animals and humans have this whole system that runs in their bodies.”

VetCBD formulates the oils specifically for the weight of the animal.

“It’s concentrated,” Dr. Shu explained. “It’s really easy to administer. An oral syringe can be dosed out to exactly what you want. It takes out the guess work for the owner.”

A lot of pets like the taste of the olive oil, he said. With olive oil, it’s a lot healthier than other oils and it’s also safe across species.

VetCBD also tests for pesticides and potency several times in the process of preparing the products.

“We make sure there’s no fungus, mold, yeast or pesticides,” Dr. Shu said, “to make sure this is a clean, safe product for your patients.”

Despite the fact that the veterinary medical board does not allow vets to prescribe or recommend any cannabis or CBD products, Dr. Shu is sold on the practice.

“Vets are patient advocates,” he explained. “They can’t speak to us, they can’t communicate the way we communicate with each other. It is our duty as patient advocates to seek new therapies.”

While he has been busy with the company in the last few years, prior to that, Dr. Shu practiced veterinary medicine for eight years in the Los Angeles area. “I worked in emergency medicine, critical care, and I came across a lot of ailments across a lot of species,” he described. “The reality is, with a lot of medication there are side effects, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They can cause liver and kidney injury or GI alteration. A real testament to CBD is it can be induced with a lot of other medications.”

Certain species, such as cats, are more prone to organ injuries from the use of NSAIDs, he added. And a lot of cats develop painful arthritis when they age, which is why you see them lie around a lot.

Veterinary nurses answer the phone lines and emails at VetCBD. “They’re talking to veterinary professionals who have been out in the field who know the cannabis industry.”
Medical professionals and patients — of all species — will see a shift in the legal use of cannabis products next year. That will make data more available, which is likely to greatly step up the pace of research. Who knows? Maybe a cure for cancer is just around the corner.