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Ask A Vet: Could pot ease dog’s chronic pain?

POSTED: September 1, 2013 1:00 a.m.

What does Willie Nelson know about bone cancer in greyhounds?

Maybe more than you would think.

In recent weeks, some highly regarded physicians in the human medical community have announced a change in their attitudes toward the use of marijuana for treatment of certain diseases. Cancer patients have been widely reported to benefit from the use of cannabis, both for control of chronic pain and relief of secondary symptoms such as loss of appetite. Other diseases often reported as treatable with marijuana include glaucoma, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Obvious risk of abuse is present with the drug, of course, but this is no different than most strong medications, including pain medications millions of Americans take yearly. Most of the resistance to the medical use of marijuana seems to be related to societal taboos and a lack of highly detailed scientific studies to prove effectiveness relative to risks of side effects.

People with cancer-related pain that can only be controlled with THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) are more than comfortable with the risk of side effects.

Which brings me to our four-legged friends. Well, the ones that usually start out as four-legged.

Bone cancer is more common in larger breed dogs, and when it occurs, it is exceptionally painful. The pain is difficult to control, even with strong medications that can leave the pet a lump on the couch, drugged out of his mind.

Might THC help the pets? Yes. Might it prove useless, or become a huge hassle for veterinarians with clients seeking a source for themselves? Yes. But it would be far from the first drug to be at such risk. And the only way we will ever know is by allowing medical studies to determine how well it works.

Personally, I would prefer knowing if it works. Logically and scientifically, if a medication works in California, it works everywhere. If THC doesn’t help dogs (or cats, or platypuses), I will be the first to write it off. But if it works, I know many dogs that would benefit from its use.

But no dog should smoke, that’s bad for the lungs.

I’m sure Willie knows some good brownie recipes that could be modified for dog treats.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at mattsisk2003@yahoo.com.


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