This Is Your Dog on Drugs: We Test Medical Cannabis for Canines

Rib Eye the bloodhound sniffs out a lit new lease on life.

Human influence over dogs has produced many adverse results. Bad breeding creates weak joints and hips, seizures and cancer. Spoiling and coddling spawn anxiety. Human cuisine and man-made toxins lead to digestive and neurological issues. And just like that, your best buddy is grudgingly popping eight different pharmaceuticals twice a day to juke all the pain and discomfort for the rest of its life. Big Pharma has your dog by the jowls. Or does it?

Cannabis, that neighborly green plant currently relieving human suffering, is mushrooming into an effective alternative to treating your dog when the animal is, well, sick as a dog. Unlike prescription meds from a veterinarian, cannabis addresses multiple ailments instead of one specific target. Positive results from cannabis dog biscuits, capsules, and oils have been reported for pooch patients dealing with joints and hip pain, stomach and digestive discomfort, anxiety, immune system and neurological concerns, seizures, end of life care, and the Big C. Cancer, not cats (although cats can also reap the rewards of weed).

She suffers from ear infections, discomfort around her eyes, joint pain, and the fear of thunder and fireworks.

While hemp as a healer should be old news in human medicine, canine pot is a fairly new business. Dr. Tim Shu, a California vet, began selling canine cannabis oil on his web site, VETCBD.com, a few years ago, planting a seed for future competition to tweak the recipe and build on his idea.

So far, two types of marijuana treatments are available for your sickly mongrel: Cannabinoid (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Speaking unscientifically and in the vernacular, CBD is run-of-the-mill weed that gets the job done, and the THC is a joint of chocolate Thai stick. Scientifically, CBD is hemp-based, and devoid of THC. So CBD administers health benefits to Spot without the high. Over at the cool table, THC is serving both health and an elevated state of mind. Hot diggity dog!

A blind nine-year-old bloodhound named Rib Eye is guinea pig for testing both varieties. She suffers from ear infections, discomfort around her eyes, joint pain, and the fear of thunder and fireworks. Her basic medication regimen includes useless tubes of infection-be-gone, Rimadyl for pain and inflammation, and nothing for her anxiety. She will be halting these treatments for 20 days and rely solely upon cannabis to address her ailments: Ten days on THC, and ten days on CBD.

Rib Eye takes big whiffs of Canna Companion and sniffs deep at Treatibles. One is THC-based, the other CBD. One delivers in cookie form, the other through capsules. Both make comparable performance claims in their packaging.

Canna Companion's secret weapon, says company Executive Director Sarah Brandon, DVM, is being "whole-plant centric and incorporating phytocannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids—naturally found in hemp—in specific concentrations and ratios to achieve physiologic and pathophysiologic effects in carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores." (Pathophysiologic, by the way, means “disordered physiological processes associated with disease or injury.”)

Anxiety is one of the main triggers of bloat; so a large-breed dog nervous on say, the Fourth of July, runs a real risk of dying. 

Canna Companion’s formula uses a 2:1 ratio of THC to CBD, established from research concluding that cannabis's best performance comes when both molecules work together for the same goal: Healing Scrappy without getting him baked. The amount of THC included is too weak to provide a high, the Canna Companion website promises. The CBD acts as a chaperon committed to extinguishing fun before it happens.

Four days into Rib Eye’s two-capsules-per-day routine, I noticed positive results. The immortal ear infection and eye irritation, while not clearing up (cannabis doesn't treat infections), no longer seemed to bother her. She’d stopped her constant head shaking and pawing at her eyes. Long walks usually make her limp and give her difficulty getting up the day after—even with her prescription pain pills. After four days of Canna Companion, these extended exertions didn't seem to bother her either. She had more pep and interest in play. What might be described as a "perma-grin" creased her face whenever she wasn't passed out.

The real test was Rib Eye's anxiety. Deep-chest dogs like mastiffs and bloodhounds are susceptible to bloat, a serious condition caused by too much swallowed air, food, or liquid that expands the stomach and either blocks off the flow of blood or twists organs inside the dog. It’s potentially a death sentence. Anxiety is one of the main triggers of bloat; so a large-breed dog nervous on say, the Fourth of July, runs a real risk of dying.

Thankfully, and miraculously, the addition of Canna Companion to Rib Eye’s body allowed her to be much more relaxed as the fireworks popped off down the street. No shaking, no panting, no heavy breathing. In fact, as the explosive pyrotechnical finale approached, Rib Eye was relaxing on her side, resting comfortably instead of hiding in the closet. There is zero doubt, in my mind at least, that this transformation was due to cannabis.

The CBD-reliant Treatibles brand delivered similar results during its test period. On a medication completely free of THC, it was impossible not to notice Rib Eye's sudden return to being a curious hound set on adventure—or just smiling as she took in the cool breeze on an early morning. Treatibles didn’t get her high on weed, but she was high on life...and fully mellow during thunderstorms…a state no prescription pain drug has ever produced.

Treatibles has an advantage in response time. Affects should begin to take place within an hour of giving a dose to your dog. Canna Companion, on the other hand, has taken some dogs more than a week to begin working. One negative aspect of Treatibles is the biscuit form it comes in. While easier to give your dog than Canna Companion’s capsule, Treatible’s recommended dosage for a 120-pound dog like Rib Eye adds up to 25 cookies per day. Compared to two capsules every 24 hours, you might be a little hesitant giving any dog—especially an older one susceptible to weight gain—so much extra food.

There's no other conclusion I will make after testing both products. Cannabis may very well be the miracle drug so many dog owners have been praying for. Consumers have choices available when dealing with a dog's depression, pain, seizures, anxiety, and the aftermath of cancer treatments. One option is and will hopefully continue to be cannabis.

Please note, it is important to do your own research. Consult your veterinarian before giving any medicine to your dog. While Rib Eye encountered no negative side effects, such as nausea or soft stool, they are possible. Hopefully, though, you'll experience cannabis as a safe, healthy, and natural alternative to modern medicine. It just might be the right path for your dog’s treatment. It certainly worked for Rib Eye.