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Drugs

Wait, is Giving Weed to Pets a Good Idea?

Medical marijuana for animals could be a good idea, but it's not an excuse to get blazed with your pets.

by Wendy Syfret
Apr 23 2015, 1:54am

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Conventional wisdom states that you shouldn't give your pets weed. We don't need to link to any study or article because it's a straight forward opinion. Getting animals stoned has always been the domain of high school burnouts and everyone else rightly considered it as either being cruel or a waste of drugs.

That was until earlier this week when the Nevada state legislature introduced a bill that would allow owners to give their ageing and sick pets medical marijuana. As with humans, the drug would be used to manage pain associated with cancers and degenerative conditions.

Although the bill is very new, and still a while away from becoming law, it's already got people thinking and discussing the possible benefits. If passed, owners would only get the drug if a vet deems that their condition could be eased by it. But with marijuana already legal in 23 US states, some desperate pet owners have started administering it to their animals. And while sites like Reddit are full of cautionary tales of how sick and freaked out your dog will be if it gets into your stash, others have come forward and told of the relief it's offered their struggling animals.

In Australia, it's presently illegal to administer any kind of marijuana to animals. If fact the practice is seen as so sensitive a number of vets VICE contacted stated they were not able to provide any public information on it as it could be seen as irresponsible.

When VICE contacted Dr Charissa Smith, a holistic Veterinary Surgeon at Acacia Animal Care in Queensland she stressed the legalities around it and that any Australian vet using marijuana clinically would be deregistered.

Interestingly, much of the immediate resistance around the use of medical marijuana for animals is the loophole it opens for human abuse. There is a feeling within the vet community that if regulated and administered properly it could play a role in treatment. Dr Smith explains: "I'm in communication with veterinarians who are using it regularly and they're very pleased with it because it gives you an extra tool. It can be effective to extend the life and give them more time to give treatment."

But before you clear Rex a spot in the Dorito crumbs, it's important to note the situations in questions are referring to medical marijuana. "The medical marijuana is not the marijuana from the streets—the marijuana on the street at the moment is really toxic", warns Dr Smith. "Medical marijuana has been especially developed to have more pain relief and less neurotoxins." And it's those neurotoxins that could cause your beloved animal pal trouble.

Animals who ingest non-medical marijuana digest it differently to humans. It's considerably more toxic for cats than dogs, but both animals risk brain and liver damage from exposure to it.

They don't have to eat it either, living in a home where it's constantly present in the air is often enough to affect them. The most common reaction is sedation, but a small proportion become manic and in the case of larger pets can be a danger to humans. But sadly, as Dr Smith explains, the more likely reality is "the neurological effects are permanent and they have to be put to sleep."

So while pain free pets is on the list of benefits Australians can enjoy if marijuana becomes legalised, please don't jump the queue with the stash in your top draw.

Follow Wendy on Twitter: @Wendywends