I’m going to confess something. Had my actions been known at the time, I probably would have been arrested and jailed. In the mid-1960s, my roommate and I grew pot. At the time, it was just a happy diversion, something to have fun with. After all, it was the 1960s, the days of hippie rebellion, never trust anyone over 30, and “groovy man, groovy.” But then something rather serious happened which made me grateful that I had a store of “grass” on hand.
My wonderful dog, an Afghan hound, became extremely ill. Then, when all medical efforts failed I gave him some. A chemist friend stripped out the THC, the psychoactive portion and I made brownies or rather, blondies since I didn’t use chocolate.
To this day, I think these may have saved his life. He hadn’t eaten for days and the evening after he managed to swallow my first “brownie,” he finally ate some of his dinner. Every day, until his appetite was fully restored, I gave him one of my “brownies” and within a few weeks he was fully recovered. Since then, I’ve always wondered: was it just a coincidence in timing or did the marijuana make the difference between life and death for my beloved dog?
With the recent upsurge in the legalization of marijuana, a number of articles have come out with stories from people who have used cannabis-based products to help their ailing pet. When I started reading these stories, an indelible memory rushed back: sitting outside my dog’s crate at the animal hospital, weeping in helpless despair; listening to a team of vets tell me they had done all they could and we now had to let nature takes it course.
Deciding to take him home so he could spend his last days in a place he knew, with loving hands to pet him and soothing voices to encourage and love him. I’ll never know for sure, but even now I think taking him home and giving him those pot-laced brownies may have been among the best decisions I’ve ever made.
The first articles I read about the medical effects of marijuana for pets were about cats. One woman related a story of her 12-year-old arthritic cat who spent her days hiding in closets. None of the veterinary medications and supplements seemed to help until she gave her cat some edible oils derived from cannabis but made specifically for cats. Following the dosages, the cat became playful and social again.
Other reports of cannabis-based products for pets, including not just dogs and cats, but pigs, horses, and other domesticated animals, have been used for a variety of pet maladies. The illnesses for which the animal was being treated have included seizures, inflammation, allergies, stress, anxiety and pain. However, there is one essential factor that you must know before you consider trying cannabis for your own pet — something, I am grateful that my friend, the chemist knew, all those years ago when I used it with my own dog:
The cannabis used for animals is different from the human kind, since the former does not
contain the psychoactive factors that make people feel high. In fact, that component is toxic to animals.
Therefore, it is essential you do not give your pet regular marijuana. The THC component could kill your dog or, at best, make him/her wretchedly ill.
Since there has been little research on the effects of cannibis-based products with non-human animals, the FDA has not approved it for pets. In many parts of the country, where marijuana is still illegal, you could be prosecuted for keeping some, regardless if the reason is for the health of your pet. Thus, you can’t get a veterinarian to prescribe it or, in some states, even to discuss it.
What do you think? If your pet were seriously ill and no other treatments were available, would you try the non-THC (pet-approved) marijuana?
For a more in-depth discussion, including stories from people who have used cannabis to help their ailing pet, click here: Pets on Pot.
A version of this article appeared in print on October 9, 2016, on Page ST1 of the New York Times edition with the headline: “Pets on Pot.” Order Reprints through the newspaper.