Higher Ground: Pot for Pets

Can weed give our furry companions happier lives and more peaceful deaths?

Remember the right-wing homophobes who claimed that if we allowed gays to get married, pretty soon people would begin marrying their pets? Well, now, the damn hippies who voted to legalize the wacky weed are indeed trying to get their dogs and cats stoned! Hooked on the hound hemp! The kitty chronic!?

Companies like Seattle-based Canna-Pet and Canna Companion sell cannabinoid treats for dogs and cats—not to get them high (the hemp biscuits and capsules have very low levels of THC), but to help with joint discomfort and inflammation, and hopefully to make that yappy poodle across the street calm the fuck down.

Recently the Food and Drug Administration began cracking down on pooch-pot peddlers for some of the claims made in their marketing materials. The FDA wants phrases like “anti-cancer” and “anti-tumor” taken off Canna-Pet’s packaging, as those medical claims have not been proven.

Canna Companion, from Snohomish County, says their products are all-natural, and inhibit cancer-cell growth and reduce inflammation. Clinical trials monitored by the FDA haven’t taken place, because of course at the federal level, the testing or sale of marijuana is a felony offense—not to mention it’s hard to get Fido to fill out the post-trial questionnaire. Cats are better at giving feedback, but are prone to hissy fits in the comments section.

Similar to humans, domesticated animals have endocannabinoid systems and can potentially be physically and psychologically aided by ingesting cannabis. While industrial hemp hasn’t been proven as a puppy painkiller, many vets and owners have had success using the stuff to help pets gain weight after sicknesses and surgery, as well as to provide pain relief during end-of-life stages. Los Angeles veterinarian Doug Kramer told the Associated Press that he’s had more than 300 patients use cannabis to help everything from infections to separation anxiety to feline immunodeficiency virus to irritable-bowel syndrome (which I thought was the very definition of being a pet). Talk about skunk weed!

After giving his husky, Nikita, cannabis oils for her terminal cancer, Dr. Kramer said she gained weight and was able to live an extra six pain-free weeks before having to be euthanized. “I grew tired of euthanizing pets when I wasn’t doing everything I could to make their lives better,” Kramer noted. “I felt like I was letting them down.”

Things are going a bit too far in Nevada, where, as part of a bill to overhaul their medical-marijuana laws, state Senator Tick Segerblom proposed a Pot-for-Pets provision that would require animal owners to apply for medical-marijuana cards. Cards would be issued only if a vet wrote a detailed description of how Count Flufferton’s condition might be aided with Puppy Chow Dank. Good Lord, it’s hard enough for folks to clean up after their pets, much less register them for a Canine Cannabis Card. Feed ’em all the Purina Cheeba ya want, as far as I’m concerned—just pick up the poop!

Veterinarians agree that feeding a pet straight marijuana or blowing pot smoke in Mr. Bigglesworth’s snout is never a good idea; most companies marketing for pets are using all-natural hemp treats, cannabis oils, and glycerin tinctures that can be put into the water bowl.

Not surprisingly, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has something to say on the matter. “Our position is that anything that can help animals,” stated President Ingrid Newkirk, “if it’s truly, properly administered in the right amount and can relieve a dog’s pain—then they should be given the same consideration that humans in pain are given.” (No comment on whether PETA gives ganja to the tens of thousands of pets they euthanize at their shelters after not finding homes for the non-rescued souls . . . )

While weed’s not a cure-all for everything; it’s also not gonna kill you (or your chronic companion). My neighbor’s golden retriever, Bailey, not only drank half a gallon of paint I had (stupidly) left out one summer day, but also chowed the brush and sponge inside it. She hurled a lovely shade of Benjamin Moore chartreuse-green for a week, but went on to live—and crap in my yard—for another decade. The bottom line is this: I don’t care if Snoopy gets high as the Red Baron on Snoop Dog Bud-Bones, just keep that pooch away from my personal stash. The steak’s for me. Lassie gets the leftovers.

This article first appeared in the Seattle Weekly.

About the Author
Michael is a journalist and filmmaker. His award-winning documentary, Sleeping with Siri is playing film festivals across the country. Stusser runs TechTimeout campaigns in high schools across the country, asking teenagers to give up their digital devices (for a little while) in order to find balance, and perhaps even make eye-contact with their parents.