January 09, 2018

Medical Marijuana Research Remains Top Priority for Veterinarians

The use of marijuana for treating conditions in companion animals remains a hot topic in the veterinary world. Veterinary researchers continue to seek federal approval for research, as well as gather information from pet owners on how they are using cannabidiol products for their animals.
By Amanda Carrozza
At the beginning of 2017, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) declared that marijuana extracts containing cannabidiol (CBD) were illegal Schedule I drugs.

This ruling put the classification of marijuana products in the same category as heroin and LSD, which made it difficult for researchers to study potential medicinal qualities. As a result, veterinary research around the country came to a halt.

As previously reported in the April 2017 issue of American Veterinarian®, the ruling hasn’t swayed the shared interests of pet owners and veterinarians who are curious as to how marijuana products could be used to treat predominant pet ailments, including anxiety and joint pain.

“I speak regularly to groups of both pet owners and veterinarians, and I’ve never had a veterinarian say, ‘Absolutely not! Marijuana is evil and I don’t want to have anything to do with it,’” said Gary Richter, MS, DVM, CVA, CVC, owner of Holistic Veterinary Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montclair Veterinary Hospital—both in Oakland, California. “Most say they are interested and want to know more.”

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Unfortunately, without proper research, the effects of medications containing CBD remain unknown.

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana for any use in animals. In response, the American Veterinary Medical Association's delegation said it wants the DEA to declassify marijuana as a Schedule I drug "to facilitate research opportunities for veterinary and human medical uses.”

Research and Clinical Trials
In the meantime, researchers from some of the nation’s veterinary medicine programs continue to seek federal approval for medical marijuana research while others hope to gather information from pet owners on how they already use CBD products for their pets. On its website, Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital has requests for clinical trial participants to assess the efficacy of CBD in treating canine osteoarthritis and epilepsy.

The Associated Press recently released an article regarding the current push to have barriers removed so both pets and people can benefit from clinical trials. Among the experts quoted in the article, Dawn Boothe, DVM, MS, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said the classification of marijuana products containing CBD as a Schedule I drug creates a "major, major, major, terrible roadblock." Boothe is currently waiting for federal approval to begin a study of marijuana's effects on dogs with epilepsy.

Though not directly testing CBD use, the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine launched a survey in November hoping to capture data on companion animals receiving cannabis products. The university says the anonymous input will be used to educate the public on the growing role of these products in the pet population and potentially lead to future research. 

"With the increasing use of medical cannabis and the start of recreational use in January, the interest in using it for pets has really grown," said Jamie Peyton, DVM, DACVECC, chief of small animal integrative medicine at the veterinary school and the primary researcher behind the survey. "The goal of the survey is to start the conversation about the use of hemp and cannabis products for pets.”

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