SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- The prevalence of medical marijuana edibles has led to a dramatic increase in dogs rushed to emergency rooms after getting into their owner's stash – especially in states like Colorado which has legalized recreational pot.
Now, with California days away from a similar pot legalization vote, there's growing evidence a compound derived from a different variety of the cannabis plant may be just what ailing pets need.
Pet owners say it's working miracles for their beloved dogs and cats. In Sonoma County, an 11-year-old German Shepherd stood alertly stood guard recently at Occidental Hardware. Not long ago, however, Pixel was sick, unable to eat, and in terrible pain.
Her vet suspected cancer, but told her owner nothing more could be done because of her advanced age. "We decided that it was time to put her down," sighed Pixel's owner John Blair, as he choked back tears.
It would take a week for the vet to come to his home to euthanize Pixel. In the meantime, Blair dug a grave for her in his backyard. He also decided to put her on pot. He had heard about a special treat for pets, tracked it down, and gave some to Pixel.
With two days there was a dramatic change. "Suddenly she got life back in her eyes. she had a little bounce in her step she wanted to go on walks again, she didn't want to just lay around and wait to die," exclaimed Blair.
Human edibles are rich in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which can intoxicate and in rare cases - especially in THC-rich butters - can kill dogs.
But the edible that Pixel ate was infused with a cannabis compound called cannabidiol or CBD for short. The CBD in the treat that she ate came from hemp, a different variety of cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD won't get your dog high.
"The demand is phenomenal. People are searching for alternatives for their pets," said Julianna Carella.
Carella makes "Treatibles," an edible for pets that is rich in CBD. "Since it's derived from hemp ... it's actually legal in all 50 states," said Carella.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association reveals why pet owners use CBD-rich hemp products on their dogs and cats.
The survey found pet owners described their pets are suffering from seizures, cancer, arthritis, or behavior issues.
And that they observed how these products relieved their pets' pain, anxiety, and sleeplessness.
"What we see happen with the dogs is amazing," exclaimed Lynne Tingle, Founder and Director of the Milo Foundation, a nonprofit that rescues dogs from high-kill shelters across California
Many of the animals at the Foundation are old or suffering from injury-induced arthritis. Tingle said the "Treatibles," which are donated, work miracles.
"They go from being, you know, tongue out, stiff, painful ... barely able to walk to hopping up on their favorite chair, skipping around the dog park ... tails wagging," said Tingle.
But not everyone is high on the idea. "The truth is there is not enough knowledge to prove or disprove anybody's claim," said veterinarian Karl Jandrey, Associate Professor of Clinical Surgical & Radiological Sciences at UC Davis Veterinary Hospital.
Jandry said it's hard to argue with pet owners who tell him what they've experienced by giving CBD treats to their pets. But he wants to see well-designed, large studies to provide more definitive answers.
"We need to have good clean studies that have objective data that allow us to prove that they do have benefit," said Jandrey.
As for Pixel's owner, he now sells "Treatibles" at his hardware store. He also gives them to Cleo, his second dog, for arthritis.
He is relieved and grateful that Pixel is doing so well.
"Yeah, there's no evidence to back it up except the fact that here she is ... she's not dead. And she would have been," observed Blair.
CBD is also found in medicinal cannabis or marijuana. Currently, vets are not allowed to write medical marijuana prescriptions for pets nor has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it for pets.
The SPCA and PETA do not currently support the use of cannabis or CBD treatments in pets because of the lack of research. Advocates hope that if Prop 64 passes, more research will be funded to do larger studies on CBD and animals.
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