Dr. Cathy Lund owns City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, in Providence. This commentary was endorsed by the board of directors of the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association.
We love our pets. That’s why we take care of their illnesses and protect them with vaccinations, and why we seek out quality foods and engage their mental health with visits to the dog park.
But giving them drugs or treatments that we think are safe can harm our pets. It is troubling when The Providence Journal publishes an interview with a local dog trainer (“Pot for Pets?” April 13, News) that makes it seem as though marijuana is both safe and effective for many medical problems of dogs and cats.
Tell that to the young couple who rushed their 3-year-old Labradoodle to the veterinary emergency center after the dog collapsed from intractable seizures. The dog survived, but may have liver damage, all from eating two marijuana cookies. The couple had no idea that marijuana is toxic to pets, and certainly wouldn’t have given their beloved dog those “treats” if they had known the truth.
The hallucinogenic portion of marijuana, THC, is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Our pets have many more receptors for these compounds in their brains, which is why the chemical can overwhelm their bodies. They can die from ingesting too much of this drug. Cannabis in all forms is now becoming more and more acceptable and tolerated. It is natural to think that what is relaxing and helpful for us could also be something good for our beloved furry companions.
Interestingly, the non-hallucinogenic component of marijuana, CBD, may have some safe application in veterinary medicine, and when used under the appropriate guidance of your veterinarian, may be helpful in moderating pain and stimulating appetite.
There is a bill currently under debate at the State House that would legalize medical marijuana for pets. Even though it is federally unlawful for veterinarians to prescribe marijuana, regardless of what our state legislates, Rhode Island pet owners may believe that all cannabis products are safe for pets. Since they can easily obtain THC products at dispensaries, what is stopping them from using those products on their pets? This is why the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association opposes this bill.
We think of our pets as family members, and it is natural to believe that our foods and our medicines are safe. But how many of us know that chocolate, and even raisins, can be toxic to dogs, or that your cat might die from eating a single Tylenol capsule or a piece of a lily flower or stem?
Our pets are not people, and veterinarians are doctors for animals, trained to provide expert advice about what is safe and effective and what isn’t. Veterinarians know how important pets are to their families, and can discuss the pros and cons of various treatment options. What we will not do is recklessly promote the use of products that might injure our patients, simply because they are widely used in humans or perceived as some alternative, and therefore “safe” treatment.
No loving pet owner wants to hurt his or her pet, but we know it is tempting to try products or treatments out of a desire to find a cure or relieve pain. Your veterinarian is ready to provide the guidance and insight necessary to sort through what are often confusing and contradictory reports. As your pet’s health-care advocate, we absolutely want to keep your pets both healthy and happy.