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Should We Give Pot to Suffering Pets? Animal Expert Darlene Arden Says Yes

Medical cannabis benefits human patients in pain, so why not give it to animals?

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So far Kramer has only treated dogs, using a calculated dosage. 

survey in Colorado veterinary hospitals, released in 2012 by the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, linked the death of two dogs to cannabis found in their systems. As the conversation about medical cannabis for pets expands,  a number of vets are calling for further study before recommending or advocating for the drug's use on  animals. 

Barry Kellogg, senior veterinary adviser to the Humane Society of the U.S., told the Associated Press in June that sometimes public sentiment and activity gets ahead of the scientific background and that can be dangerous."

In the same article, the AP reported that the pot clinic La Brea Compassionate Caregivers in Los Angeles markets "Companion Cannabis" to dog owners. The clinic's manager, Megan Hanley, "recommends a drop of liquid marijuana extract marketed as Companion Cannabis for every 10 pounds of dog. It can be spread on cheese or bread," according to AP.

"It's a revolutionary product and response to it has been tremendous in the last year," Hanley told AP.

Arden says while it is possible that dogs can overdose from cannabis, like any other substance it is the responsibility of the owner and veteranarians to keep the drug out of reach of pets unless it is being administered at a safe dosage. 

"Can dogs get their teeth into it if it’s lying around?" she says. "Yes, but why would you do that? ... There are things like antifreeze that's poisonous, xylitol in chewing gum is poisonous to pets. The point is if you're a responsible owner you don't leave [out] anything that can be dangerous to them, like children. And if you do, you shouldn't be allowed to have pets and children. Be responsible. Who's the grownup here?"

Darlene Arden says reading about people like Kramer gives her hope that medical cannabis may soon be available to pets on a wider scale.

“Doug Kramer has been using cannabis on his patients when they're in extreme pain. ... And dogs who couldn't get out to eliminate because they were in so much pain that their owners had to take them out with sling apparatus and hold them up, are now running around like puppies,” she says.

Arden hopes researchers will look into the long-term effects of medical cannabis on dogs and cats. She anticipates that researchers like Duncan Lascelles, a professor of surgery and pain management at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, who thought about studying marijuana a decade ago, will pursue studies now that the conversation is opening up.

In the meantime, she encourages pet owners to give their pets cannabis responsibly, if they’re in serious pain.

“If you have a way to keep pain from helpless animals who can’t speak up, do it,” she says. “Do it safely, do it with a veterinarian, under his license, in an approved state. But don’t let your animals suffer. You wouldn't want your family members to suffer. You wouldn’t want to suffer. What is it going to take for people to finally realize we can stop hideous pain?”

April M. Short is an associate editor at AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @AprilMShort.