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Marijuana for dogs: Is it viable for pain relief?

Should vets be able to use marijuana to relieve pain in animals? It’s illegal to administer it here in Australia but medical marijuana is being used by vets in the USA, and it’s a question that’s getting more attention in Australian veterinary science. We’d like to know what pet owners think. Cast your vote in our poll.

Should Australian veterinarians be able to legally administer medical marijuana for pain relief in animals?

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Cool dude dog, smoking pot (photoshopped).

In the USA, although Cannabis possession is illegal under Federal law, the use of medical marijuana — for people and animals — is legal in a number of states and there are vets administering controlled doses of marijuana to pets in pain, and claiming some good results. Pet owners who self-medicate their pets with pot are also saying that it helps considerably with pain relief.

As yet, very few American vets have ‘gone public’ with their use of this still controversial treatment but there are probably many vets in the USA quietly using marijuana for pain relief, particularly in dogs suffering from long-term or terminal illnesses.

Here in Australia the situation is different. The cultivation, possession and use of marijuana is illegal across all states. In some States a doctor can administer or prescribe medical marijuana (a form of Cannabis in which as much as possible of the harmful THC — the compound that gets people ‘high’ and affects the brain — has been removed) for certain patients and conditions, e,g., terminal cancer. 

In recent years there has been vigorous debate in the medical profession about the use of marijuana for the relief of chronic pain. Although there is still no definitive evidence that it’s a proven painkiller some scientific studies have claimed it to be very effective and a number of pain management and cancer specialists in the medical profession have actively pushed for its medical use to be legalised here.

But that’s for people. The veterinary profession in Australia has, as yet, not paid any attention to the issue. Given the legal and ethical issues surrounding its use that’s not surprising. But that should not discourage us from debating the question of marijuana use in animals. Here at Alpine Animal Doctors* we do our best to stay abreast of any developments that may help us to provide better care for our patients. As controversial as it might be, the use of medical marijuana in animals may, and we stress, may, one day become another tool to add to current pain management techniques and treatments.

Whether it ever becomes legal is not in our hands but Dr. Bek is interested in discovering what you think about a vet administering Cannabis to your pet. As a pet owner, would you want to have this treatment available? Please, vote in our poll to tell us what you think. Community opinion is important in these issues.

*Please note that Alpine Animal Doctors does not use medical marijuana, or any other non-approved drug. Nor does Dr. Bek advocate the use of Cannabis for pain relief, or even discuss it with clients. Our practice abides strictly by all laws and guidelines related to the use of proscribed substances.