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

Port Hardy RCMP discuss reconciliation with First Nations

The RCMP “want to be emotionally respectful of the past while still trying to uphold the laws.”

VIDEO: Wounded Warrior Run leaves Port Hardy on eight-day trek down island

The team’s fundraising goal this year is $250,000, which is double last year’s goal.

Claims already being staked after GeoScience BC report released

In the first 15 days following the report, a total of 34 new claims were staked.

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: Waulkwass River

A kingfisher and some trumpeter swans came by close enough to get a few shots.

Port Hardy RCMP investigating drug offences

Both vehicle occupants may face future charges related to the suspected drugs and cash.

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read