Veterinarian seeks to have clinical trial established on medical marijuana for pets
Flickr photo by Moriartys
Areas that have come into focus for both humans and animals are issues associated with end-of-life care, pain management and mitigating the debilitating side effects of some very useful drugs — including those used to treat cancer.
Exploring viable options to help in those situations hasn't been without controversy: modalities like acupuncture and other areas of alternative medicine have sparked some pretty vigorous debate amongst clinicians and lay people alike.
Acceptance of these treatments has been as swift, especially as they've demonstrated that they are helpful.
But one topic that never ceases to create intense drama — the medicinal use of marijuana — is now heading toward the top of the list in veterinary circles.
In 2011, I wrote about an entrepreneur in Washington state who wanted to market a cannabis patch for veterinary use.
The safety and efficacy of the patch immediately came to mind when I first heard about the product. Because it's transdermal, an area of the pet's body would need to be shaved in order for the patch to adhere to the skin. Further, pets have a tendency to lick or gnaw at anything foreign on their body. (Just how effective is the patch, then?)
I also wondered about the possibility of another pet — or even a child — having contact with the patch and it causing a reaction.
Doug Kramer, DVM concurs and expands further.
"From a veterinary standpoint, the recently reported 'pot patch' is an obvious safety hazard and the perfect example of what happens when professionals fail to address a clear, unmet need in their field."
The area of pain management is in dire need of more research, and Kramer notes that there are some pet owners who are seeking alternatives in helping their pets be more comfortable, and they're experimenting with the use of marijuana in an effort to do that.
"People are using it, and if we as vets don't step in and fill that need, they're going to fill the void because we're not addressing the issue," adds Kramer.
"My ultimate goal is to have a pain medication somewhere between aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) without knocking your dog out."
Past testing on dogs for human clinical trials revealed that canines have the same cannabinoid receptors as humans.
One cannabis-like drug, Marinol — a synthetic form of delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC) — is used in veterinary oncology as an appetite stimulant.
At least one other veterinary professional has spoken openly about the prospect of medicinal marijuana being useful in helping pets.
Lisa Moses, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, indicated that a product that would materialize from the right kind of development would be advantageous. She's on the board of directors for the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM).
"The problem with a lot of stuff is that we know there's a lot of things that should work, but because of manufacturing sloppiness or poor regulation on a supplement, we don't know if our patients are getting what we think they're getting," she noted.
"There are definitely reasons to believe the active ingredient in marijuana affects certain pain mechanisms in the nervous system. It's something I would definitely be interested in trying if it was available to me."
Kramer, who heads up the website vetguru.com, sees that since people feel like they need to seek a alternative in getting their pets pain under control and are investigating on their own with cannabis, the next logical step would be to establish a clinical trial.
That prospect not be as far-fetched as one might think.
In a poll included on my previous piece on the use of cannabis in pets, an overwhelming majority of people were in favor of the idea, providing the drug had been deemed useful by a reputable veterinary organization.
Kramer has not made any recommendations to his clients regarding the use of the drug. However, he did offer the following.
"The only way I'd feel comfortable recommending it is with clear data. I'm tired of euthanizing animals and watching them suffer and feeling helpless."
Click here to read more on DVM360's interview with Kramer.
Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for AnnArbor.com. Connect with her on Google+ and follow her daily adventures as a professional pet sitter or email her directly.