Photograph by Michael Bromby
Loki the German Shepherd getting ready for a walk.
Does your family pet suffer from arthritis or anxiety? An American veterinarian says he may have a solution.
Dr. Byron Maas, CEO of Bend Veterinarian Clinic in Bend, Ore., began his therapy with pets three years ago when he was trying to find something that worked.
“Western medicines and pharmaceuticals isn’t the answer and hasn’t been effective in some patients,” he says. “Some clients are looking for alternatives to traditional medical therapy.”
Maas uses a product called Cannabidiol (CBD), a medicinal marijuana product, that pet owners give their animals as an oral pill or as a topical product such as powder, oil, or ointment.
He says he primarily treats dogs because they have higher receptors for CBD products than humans. This means dogs react to it physically with better results. He still treats cats but says dogs are most commonly treated because they have long-term problems with arthritis.
“For mobility and chronic pain conditions 90 per cent benefit clients and maybe even closer to 95 per cent,” says Maas. “They are getting good results where they are able to decrease the medication they use and even discontinue it completely.”
Oregon is one of only a few states to legalize marijuana, which is why Maas and many of his clients can use it.
Maas says he’s trying to push back laws put in place by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which restrict research on this product in several states.
“I am confident that as more research comes out we will see significant benefits and put it more mainstream,” he says.
Maas says CBD has a low toxicity rate and none of the animals he has treated have reacted negatively.
However, some veterinarians and people who work with animals in Canada are not in favour of this therapy.
Keri Semenko, an animal care professor at Durham College, does not think the therapy is safe. She says there is no published research about the use of CBD on animals, so she does not plan to use it or teach it.
“It is not part of our curriculum, but if it emerged as prominent therapy in veterinary medicine then it might be something we look at,” she says.
Semenko says marijuana affects humans in a different way than dogs.
“It can be fairly dangerous for animals because of the difference in their neurological systems,” says Semenko. “You can’t dismiss anecdotal evidence, but without hard science telling us what’s happening, how consistently it happens and what potential side effects are, you can’t come down on one side of the debate or the other.”
Anecdotal evidence is working for Maas as who has resorted to this with his own beloved family pet. Lupe is a 15-year-old Jack Russell Terrier who suffered from arthritis and other problems. Maas used a CBD therabis powder for her arthritis, which he says helped her run again.
“She comes up and down stairs and runs around outside, she is responding really well with it,” says Maas.
At Guelph University, the Ontario Veterinarian College says this research is not part of its curriculum because marijuana has not yet been legalized in Canada. The University has no plans to add it into the curriculum for the future.