Event organizer Matthew Trapp holds his dog Max Pugsley and the dog’s prozac medication as the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association holds an event with pets on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

VIDEO: Vets lobby to expand medical cannabis laws to include dogs, cats

The law does not allow veterinarians to prescribe pot for pets

Parliament Hill went to the dogs Wednesday as veterinarians lobbied MPs to authorize the use of medical cannabis for critters.

The vets brought five dogs to the Hill to draw attention to what they see as glaring omissions in the legalized regimes for medical and recreational marijuana.

Among them was Max Pugsley, a pug rescue with such severe separation anxiety that he is on Prozac.

“It works really well but ideally we could have some kind of CBD (cannabidiol) product rather than some pharmaceutical like Prozac,” said Max’s owner, Matthew Trapp.

“CBD is shown to have great results but I can’t even talk to my vet about it.”

The law does not allow veterinarians to prescribe pot for pets, even though preliminary research and anecdotal evidence suggests it could be beneficial in treating pain, seizures, anxiety and other disorders — much as it is for humans.

Moreover, the law requires labels on cannabis products warning they be kept out of reach of children, but there’s no similar warning that they could be harmful to animals.

Dr. Sarah Silcox, president of the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine, said her group has been told the omissions were likely “an oversight” that can be considered when the legalized cannabis regime is reviewed in three years.

But she wants more urgent action.

“For our patients, they age much faster than we do and this really isn’t an issue that can wait for a three-year review,” Silcox said in an interview.

Because vets can’t legally prescribe cannabinoids for animals, or even offer advice to pet owners on the most suitable products or dosages, Silcox said some people are taking it upon themselves to administer cannabis to their pets. They’re using products sold for human consumption or unregulated “black market” products marketed for animal use, but about which veterinarians have concerns about ”safety and purity.”

“Veterinarians are able to prescribe almost any other drug, including things like fentanyl and other opioids and … prescription drugs that contain cannabis derivatives and yet we’re not able to authorize the use of cannabis itself,” Silcox said.

The prohibition on veterinary use of cannabinoids has made research into the potential benefits “challenging,” but Silcox said preliminary studies suggest positive benefits for managing pain from arthritis and other conditions, epilepsy, anxiety and general inflammatory conditions.

It is particularly useful for treating cats, which are more sensitive than dogs to the other pain medications currently used for animals, she said.

Silcox’s group and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association have lobbied the government to authorize veterinary use of cannabinoids. Silcox said they’ve been told by the policy adviser to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor that it is not a priority at the moment, but could be considered when the Cannabis Act is reviewed in three years.

However, Silcox noted the government is reviewing cannabis regulations now in preparation for adding edibles and oils to the list of legal products this fall. It would take only a “few small changes” to add vets to the medical practitioners authorized to prescribe cannabinoids and to change references to people to patients, covering both the human and animal variety, she said.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair, who was the government’s point man on cannabis legalization, said the government is willing to talk to veterinarians about the issue but added: “I think the research needs to be perhaps more fully developed to make sure it can be done in a safe and healthy way.”

But Dr. Ian Sandler, a veterinarian who was among those lobbying MPs Wednesday, said cannabinoids are already being administered unsafely to pets, without veterinary guidance, and he predicted the problem will get worse once edibles are legalized for people.

“If that’s implemented, we know from the U.S. that we’re going to see a profound increase in inappropriate ingestion,” he said.

READ MORE: Victoria dog owner uses CBD treats as alternative to pharmaceuticals

READ MORE: Vets see an increasing number of dogs sickened by marijuana

Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nelson and RDCK both eyeing waste wood to produce energy

Nelson’s five-year-old business plan will resurface at council table this summer

Two overdose deaths in Nelson over the weekend

Police warn that much of the current drug supply in the city may be dangerous

Midway mill shutdown expected to last 8 to 10 weeks

Vaagen Fibre Canada cites low inventory, road restrictions as reason for shut down

First presumptive case of coronavirus identified in the Interior Health region

The woman, in her 30s, travelled from Shanghai and lives in the interior

Timberwolves seek fresh lacrosse recruits

New season of the ‘fastest game on two feet’ begins this spring

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5M for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

Police narrow down timeline in death of woman in West Kootenay

West Kootenay Traffic Services and BC Coroners Service working on the case

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

What’s in a name? The story of Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie

It’s likely the iconic peak had several Indigenous peoples’ names before settlers arrived

Budget 2020: B.C. Liberals blast ‘Netflix tax,’ lack of economic plan

ICBC rates still go up, except in election year, Shirley Bond says

Teen snowmobiler from Kelowna found after air force’s overnight search

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

Most Read