The CBD Debate with Dr. Zac Pilossoph

The CBD Debate

CBD for dogs! CBD for cats! CBD for humans! This is an exciting time that comes with great debate. 

As an actively practicing veterinarian who is part of the cannabis movement (and have been for years), I have often questioned why people would readily accept cannabis for wellness in humans, but then question the efficacy in pets. 

Why Aren’t Pets Included in the Discussion?

Despite my frustration with pet patients’ exclusion from the cannabis world, I soon discovered why this happens. The answer was right in front of me. Humans, as a whole, forget what we are. We are animals. We are from the Animal Kingdom just as my canine and feline patients are. Our species tends to look down upon the rest of the Animal Kingdom resulting in a loss of biological understanding. We see ourselves as completely different than our pets without realizing all the similarities we have. 

Humans still have the same basic behavioral patterns, basic anatomy, basic physiological processes, and needs to survive as our pet counterparts. With that in mind, the pet debate really shouldn’t be a debate at all. When we look from a biological point of view, what can help us may be able to help other species as well.

Cannabis sativa, a plant containing CBD along with 500+ other biomolecules, has co-evolved with the Animal Kingdom. Dogs, cats, humans, and even jellyfish have some type of Endocannabinoid System. The ECS, or Endocannabinoid System, tracks and monitors good and bad processes that occur within an animal’s body and attempts to return the body to balance. 

Just as with other systems in the body, the Endocannabinoid System can only do so much. Sometimes, this system can become overwhelmed with ‘to-do’s.’ This is where cannabis comes in. Cannabis naturally produces molecules that bind with the Endocannabinoid System. This helps the body fill in the missing pieces that the system was unable to get to by itself to restore the body back to normal. That’s why cannabis is said to provide an option to address various ailments.

Research Shows Evidence

Cannabis studies go all the way back to the 1960s when animals were used in research to prove the effects of the plant were real. There’s significant controversy regarding CBD for pets, but there’s not really much controversy when it comes to humans. This isn’t exactly logical since there are more studies conducted with animals as the test subjects than humans. Prior to allowing humans to use cannabis, animals were first tested to determine efficacy and safety. Although these studies weren’t always performed on dogs and cats previously, does this mean these studies are irrelevant today?

There is also another well-known fact to take into consideration. To date, there is no creature on Earth that has ever been actually documented to have died from Cannabis consumption without having a serious underlying pre-existing medical health condition or if the cannabis had been altered by another substance prior to being used. 

Practicing Veterinary Medicine

As an actively practicing veterinarian, I can honestly say it’s overwhelming determining what can and what cannot be said regarding the cannabis plant.  California is the only state which has defined what a veterinarian can and cannot say in regard to the cannabis discussion with their clients. The remainder of veterinarians throughout the country are in a gray zone of uncertainty. Even if they know cannabis inside and out, they still are not fully aware of what is acceptable and what is not. 

Being left in the gray area is extremely difficult. There are thousands of pet parents searching for medically-relevant guidance from their veterinarian, and there are thousands of pets who, based on the ways in which humans have benefited, could benefit from Cannabis and CBD-based therapies. We are left in a gray area unable to share the valuable information we know. It’s too high of a risk to take when consequences involve taking a veterinarian’s license to practice medicine. 

Some veterinarians have elected to try to make small advances in cannabis medicine while they wait for the veterinary world to catch up with the human world. Personally, I have elected to use my knowledge of cannabis and apply it as much as possible as a ‘Cannabis Educator’ strictly outside of my veterinary medicine practice. Specifically, without attempting to create any sort of veterinary-client-patient relationship, I try to apply the research I have completed for several years and deliver in a way that can empower pet parents to feel comfortable when considering a cannabis-based product for their beloved pet. 

Cannabis Education 

I began providing individual consultations for pet parents across the country looking for a veterinarian who had extensive cannabis knowledge. These consultations initially are based strictly upon word-of-mouth and were directed toward guiding and advising as opposed to diagnosing and treating. During the consultation, the pet parent and I mutually discussed several topics including CBD and cannabis. The research thus far in the cannabis world is explained in layman’s terms. How to properly choose a high-quality, well-vetted product is also discussed in the consultation.

Although it was a small group, these projects appeared to be extremely successful. I have been able to guide and advise pet parents in numerous states without risking my veterinary license or attempting to practice medicine. Unfortunately, I was often not able to answer every question that came up, mostly regarding dosages and weaning off of other medications, due to restrictions in the gray area. But, overall every pet parent appears to be happy that a veterinarian showed interest in helping them with this topic. The information we do discuss is ‘start low and go slow.’ That’s been a solid starting point for pet parents as they attempt to self-medicate their pets.

Honesty with your Current Veterinarian

Pet parents must be fully transparent with their current veterinarian about their consideration for, or decision to implement a cannabis product in their pet’s life. As a consultant, I am only able to do so much. The veterinarian in charge of each pet is the professional who still retains legal responsibility for that pet’s overall health and wellness.

Luckily, I have also been fortunate enough to consult with a few veterinarians. To know there are veterinarians, other than myself, out there who are ready to consider cannabis for patients is another reason I continue to do what I do

The Bottom Line 

The CBD debate in regards to pets is unfortunately still strong with a lot of unknowns and uncertainty in the vet space. With candid education and transparency, I believe we can continue to fuel this movement. Hopefully, the beneficial considerations of cannabis and CBD-based therapies that have been seen in humans for decades will begin to mirror the veterinary world as well.