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Evidence Suggests Benefits of Cannabis When Used In Veterinary Medicine

NEW YORK, NY – There is growing evidence indicating the benefits of medical cannabis for the treatment of various ailments in animals, according to a New York Times report.

However the report also cites the ongoing challenges standing in the way of more widespread use by veterinarians, including a lack of education and applicable studies in this area, and an inadequate amount of legislation in most countries that would allow veterinarians to study and utilize cannabis in their practices.

In one example that was cited of treatment, a veterinarian at a Mexico wildlife park used the therapeutic compound CBD to treat a 55-year-old Asian elephant with painful and debilitating  foot ailments.  Within days of beginning the CBD use, the elephant’s foot abscesses began to heal and her appetite returned.  “She just continued to get better,” said Dr. Mish Castillo, the chief veterinary officer at ICAN Vets, a company involved in veterinary cannabis education and research in Mexico. “We were amazed that this happened at such a low-response dose, which led us to want to get this information out before veterinarians start overdosing other species by using the dog or cat dose.”

Mexico is among the countries in which veterinarians are legally permitted to prescribe and administer cannabis, though efforts continue to try to pass similar laws in the United States.  VIN News reported that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended easing federal restrictions on cannabis last August.  Four states have approved laws specific to use of cannabis in veterinary medicine – Nevada, Michigan, Utah and California, where a measure was approved in 2022 allowing veterinarians to recommend CBD treatments to their clients.

“Owners were lost without guidance, and their pets were at risk,” said Dr. Trina Hazzah, a veterinary oncologist in Southern California and president of the advocacy group Veterinary Cannabis Society (VCS). “They had no one to turn to except budtenders and pet-shop owners, none of whom went to veterinary school.”

Dr. Castillo and his colleagues are reported to have trained around 1,500 veterinarians in medical cannabis use.  One veterinarian advised by Dr. Castillo said he helped her obtain a CBD formula that improved her dog’s nasal inflammatory condition, and she now has treated dozens of other animals with CBD.  Cannabis has been shown to have potential for treating other problems with dogs, including anxiety, pain, and seizures.

Many other species also stand to benefit, according to the Times report.  Dr. Diana Buitrago, a veterinarian at the Cali Zoo, said cannabis has been administered to more than 50 different species there over the past several years and has been found to be helpful for pain, inflammation, osteoarthritis and allergies, as well as enhancing the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

Dr. Castillo said efforts will continue to promote the use of cannabis by veterinarians to treat animals. “Our countries are all going at different paces for regulation and legalization,” he was quoted as saying. “But we can work as a worldwide network of veterinarians to further advancements together.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association said it supports further research on the potential benefits of cannabis, but added,  “While findings from a few well-controlled studies have been published, much of what we know is related to anecdotal or case reports or has been gleaned from studies related to use in humans.”

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