Accordingly, the country’s animal supplements industry, which generates $500 million in sales annually, is expected to grow by $150 million in the next four years.

Tetrahydrocannabinol is the main ingredient at work here — known popularly as THC, it mimics the cannabinol chemical reactions in the human body, affecting the pleasure centers and fueling the sensory perceptions of color and hearing. Dogs and cats, as well as pigs, monkeys, and rats, have the same receptors, said Los Angeles vet Doug Kramer, first in the nation to offer cannabis consultations as part of a regimen for ailing animals.

Kramer, who himself died of cancer at age 36 in 2013, took up the idea of medicinal marijuana for pets as he began treating his ailing 3-year-old Husky Nikita, who reportedly stopped limping and whimpering and enjoyed much-improved health in her final days. Following her death, he dedicated himself to research on proper dosages and vigorous public education.

Pet owners want the same treatment effectiveness for their animals as they want for themselves, Kramer argued, adding that he wanted California and other states to allow pot cards for dogs eventually. He also developed a tincture called Canine Companion, made with marijuana for dogs and cats and designed to treat pain, inflammation, and issues regarding terminal illness.

But for the moment, the impetus for the needed research appears to have died with Kramer. Studies on the efficacy of medicinal marijuana for pets are considerably lacking, said integrative medicine authority Narda Robinson on the website Vetstreet in 2014. Vets have yet to determine safe medical marijuana dosages, she asserted, leaving themselves and the pet ownership community to rely on companies’ claims and nonclinical reports and anecdotes for their information.

Veterinarian Gary Richter concurred on the Oakland, California-based website Bay Woof last May that higher doses are not necessarily better and that too much THC can lead to disorientation and decreased appetite. Authentic cannabis products, he added, are the most efficacious in treating pets, which makes their accurate dosing all the more valuable in the search for the most positive outcomes.

Indeed, the federal Food and Drug Administration cites the lack of research as its reason for not approving medicinal pet marijuana; for that matter, neither has it approved cannabidiol-based medicines for humans. Nonetheless, the cannabis and pets trend is growing in the 28 states where medicinal marijuana for people is legal — and as the drug loses its outlaw, “gateway” luster, the pet factor may become a legitimate industry issue.

Written by: Jeane Melanson

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