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Medical Marijuana For Dogs, California Vet Says

Medical Marijuana For Dogs, Says California Vet
Though no studies exist to prove efficacy, at least one American veterinarian says medical marijuana might be considered for pets when other prescription medications fail in treating pain and distress-based disorders. Creative Commons

A woman on the upper west side of Manhattan buys lunch at Starbucks for her dog, a shepherd mix who hasn't been feeling well lately. Another patron, in full yoga regalia, says she buys her own dog bottled water and hypoallergenic puppy chow, taking him to a "holistic veterinarian" as well as doggy daycare for socialization.

The scene is not atypical in a country that spends $50 billion per year on pets, including an average of $655 on health care for dogs, with some even buying insurance premiums for doggie health care. Since receiving regulatory approval in 2007, pharmaceutical company Eli Whitney and Company has marketed Reconcile, an antidepressant in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class that is intended specifically for dogs.

Now, at least one veterinarian in California is advocating for a more "holistic" approach: Medical marijuana for dogs.

Veterinarian Doug Kramer said he got the idea from a customer whose dog "Nikita" failed to respond to steroids and other pain medications for cancer - and has now set up a website to advocate for the cause.

"A glycerin tincture is, to me, by far the optimal way to do it because it offers the greatest accuracy in dosing," Kramer told media. "It's also sweet tasting. Obviously you can make it into butter or oil, so anything that you can cook or make with butter or oil would work, like homemade dog biscuits."

Kramer emphasized, however, that he does not approve of administering the drug to dogs via pot smoke. "To me, it's animal abuse, really. It kills me because it devalues what I'm trying to do," Kramer said. "Especially in the early stages, starting the dialogue with veterinary medicine, the last thing you want is for people to do that. The dog doesn't need the medication in that situation."

Researchers have yet to conduct a study, or find grant funding, to determine how canines metabolize the drug compound and whether they would indeed benefit in ways similar to the purported benefits in men and women. Despite a federal ban, medical marijuana for humans is legal in 18 states and Washington, DC, with no laws regarding usage with pets.

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