Dr. Katherine Kramer has seen the headlines about veterinarians in Canada decrying the use of cannabis-derived CBD on pets.
âItâs interesting,â she tells the Straight by phone from her office at Vancouver Animal Wellness Hospital, where she has practised veterinary medicine since 2011.
âA lot of vets are publicly saying, âNo, thereâs not enough research,â or, âWe canât use it, itâs illegal,â but in private,Â they are saying something else.â
For the last five years, Dr. Kramer has been speaking about the benefits of CBD with her clients, despite the fact that B.C.âs College of Veterinarians says there isnât enough research for vets to be prescribing it.
âWe are limited by the legalities, and according to the college, weâre not supposed to recommend or prescribe it, which I donât,â says the vet, who uses a combination of Western medicine, veterinary acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat pets that come to the clinic.Â
âBut considering in Vancouver especially, [cannabis] is so prevalent, most of my clients come in and they have already got something they want to use.â
Kramer says when this happens, she sees it as her job as an advocate for the animals to advise their owners on how to use CBD, which products are ideal, and what the side effects might be.
âI can count on one hand the number of pets who havenât done well with CBD,â she says. âIn the last five years I have had many, many more happy stories than I do toxicities or problems with it. At this point, I canât imagine practising without it.â
While clinical research on pets and CBD has only just begun, Kramer says thereâs no lack of anecdotal evidence to show that the cannabinoid can provide effective relief for dogs and cats suffering from a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis, cancer, anxiety, and epilepsy.
She alsoÂ points out that there are a number of conventional medications used by vets that havenât been studied on domesticated animals, and says in these instances, appropriate doses for pets are simply extrapolated from the recommended human dose.
One reason she says so many pet owners are curious about the compound is because their pets often canât tolerate the side effects associated with regular medication. In other cases, it can have a synergistic effect, making standard medications more effective.
âIf we have a seizure patient that is on three different medications having seizures weekly, we can add the CBD to that and get a reduction in seizures, and hopefully reduce the medication that theyâre on,â Kramer says.
Kramer admits that, because the market for cannabis-based pet products is unregulated, quality control is often overlooked by manufacturers,Â and it can be hard to find out which products are most effective.
âA lot of the treats on the market are probably not harmful, but they may not be helpful,â she says. âThere are some local products that Iâve found to be really worthless.â
For the most part, Kramer tells her clients to look for human-grade CBD products, like the ones made by Vancouver-based manufacturer Isodiol, which come in higher concentrations of CBD than most products made for pets.
Smaller animals might benefit from Green Island Naturalsâ Medico for Pets tincture, but Kramer says anyone with a 100-lb dog would require a fairly large dose of the diluted product, which contains two milligrams of CBD per milliliter.
While she says infused dog treats are often too low in CBD to be helpful for patients with serious conditions like cancer, sheâs a fan of one local company whose line of dog treats cater to conditions like anxiety and arthritis.
âI started working with Creating Brighter Days because I like all of the other ingredients they are putting in their treatsâthey are doing their due diligence, trying to get quality control and analyses,â she says.
She refrains from suggesting anything that comes in capsule form, afterÂ a fewÂ cases where budtenders accidentlyÂ dispensedÂ THC capsules to clients instead of ones containing CBD. (While she says CBD is largely safeÂ for animals,Â THC can cause pets some serious discomfort.)
âIâve had a couple patients put into the emergency room because of that,â she says. âIf I have that kind of experience with a dispensary once, then Iâm done. I canât in good faith send anybody to you after that.â
Kramer understands she might be the exception among veterinarians, but she says pet owners should always notify their vets if they are thinking about giving their pets CBDâeven if theyâre afraid their vet might advise against it. If a vet is asked enough questions about CBD treatment, Kramer says, theyâll do the research. SheÂ hopes that one day, she can go to her pharmacy shelf and pull down a Health Canada-approved CBD product that is controlled and safe, but says thatâs not going to happen if itâs not driven by pet owners.
Despite the controversy around the topic, Kramerâs success stories are enough to bring a tear to the eye of any animal lover. In many instances, sheâs watched sick pets get to spend up to a few extra years of quality time with their owners.
Her first patient to use CBD, an 18-year old cat, experienced a return in appetite, was able to stop taking opioids, and lived comfortably forÂ a few more years. In her favourite story, Kramer remembers a Labrador with lymphoma whose owners had already booked the appointment to euthanize him.
âHe wasnât eating, and didnât want to do anything,â Kramer says. âBut one dose of CBD, and the next morning, he woke up, grabbed his leash, and dragged his owners to Stanley Park for a walk. He lived for six more months.â
Dr. Katherine Kramer willÂ host a discussion about pets and CBD at theÂ Georgia Straight‘s upcoming event, Grassroots: An Expo for the Cannabis Curious, which takes place next Saturday and Sunday (April 7 and 8). Find tickets at the GrassrootsÂ website.