The study of medical marijuana as a holistic treatment for various ailments and diseases has become increasingly popular over the last decade. In fact, current research suggests that cannabis can be used to treat just about any problem—emotional, physical or psychological. But recent studies have also proven that humans aren’t the only species that can benefit from the medicinal properties of cannabis.
According to Dr. Tim Shu, the former Long Beach veterinarian and founder of VetCBD—a non-psychoactive CBD oil for pets— animals can also experience the same healing effects from the cannabinoid that humans do. “[It was recently] discovered that the human body has an endocannabinoid system, which means that we have receptors in our brains, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells that are designed to respond to cannabinoids. That’s why cannabis can be used to treat so many problems,” says Shu. “But what’s really interesting is that pretty much all animals—dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, etcetera—have those same CB2 receptors, too.”
The idea for VetCBD blossomed about two years ago, when Shu began searching for an alternative to prescription medications for his arthritic Pit bull who didn’t react well to pharmaceuticals. “I took it upon myself to look up studies and investigate how medical marijuana effects animals. I wanted to formulate something for my dog that allowed her to have quality of life,” he says. Shu searched the data collected via lab rat tests to determine the effects of CBD on the human body. From there he readjusted the numbers to be suitable for animals and created an olive oil-based CBD formula. “What I found after I gave the oil to [my dog] was that she responded incredibly well. Within a day it was clear that the CBD helped her arthritis tremendously.”
Shu explains that humans and animals suffer from many of the same diseases, including cancer, epilepsy, anxiety, arthritis, depression, etc. Thus, the same types of medications that are prescribed to humans are often given to animals in modified dosages. But the side effects and toxicity profiles of those drugs, according to Shu, make marijuana a significantly safer option. Going a step further, although the prescription drugs may reduce the symptoms of a disease, they don’t aid quality of life. Often times the medications given to animals leave them acting out of character and sedated, Shu says. Medical cannabis, on the other hand, treats symptoms without the negative effects of prescriptions, allowing for quality of life. “Marijuana definitely deserves to be looked at and studied as an option for animals, which is why I decided to pursue it.”
Shu’s Pit bull isn’t the only animal who’s quality of life has been restored as a result of taking CBD, however. Roxanna, a Boxer/Pit bull rescue from San Clemente, C.a., was diagnosed with liver cancer last Christmas Eve. Roxanna’s owner recalls the vet writing prescriptions for bottles of drugs to manage the pain, despite the fact that pills are notoriously tough on the liver. “There was no way I was going to give her those pills. But when I started giving her VetCBD, I noticed a difference because she started eating again, which means she wasn’t as nauseous,” Roxanna’s owner says. Although Roxanna’s cancer has spread to her lymph nodes, she’s in far less discomfort than she was pre-VetCBD and has lived three months longer than her doctors estimated.
Michael Lutz from San Diego has an 18-year-old Tabby cat who’s also experienced life altering changes as a result of the oil. “Prior to putting Squeeks on CBD, she was on death’s doorstep. She has a thyroid condition and her medication makes her lethargic, she has horrible arthritis that kept her from moving and it kept us from petting her because she didn’t want to be touched— it hurt her. We were losing our buddy and we didn’t want to so we tried VetCBD as a last ditch effort,” says Lutz. “By day two, you wouldn’t believe the change— it was honestly miraculous. Squeeks was running around the house and jumping from couch to couch. I haven’t seen her mobile, let alone move like that, in at least six years.”
Although CBD has proven to be extremely beneficial for animals, one of the biggest issues, in Shu’s opinion, lies in the disconnect between doctors and the actual cannabis. Unfortunately, one can’t simply go to a vet’s office and leave with a prescription of VetCBD. In fact, vets legally aren’t allowed to even suggest the use of the products. Instead, one must go to a dispensary to get VetCBD, which means a medical marijuana license is mandatory. Additionally, the law states that as a medical marijuana patient, you’re only supposed to buy products for your own use, which technically places VetCBD in a grey area.
But since the launch of VetCBD, Shu says he’s seen a shift in the perspective of using medical marijuana for animals. “When we first started, people told me I was crazy. Now we have veterinarians from all over the world reaching out to learn more about medical cannabis and how it can be used in veterinary medicine,” he says. “As medical and health professionals, it’s our duty to have and pursue our patient’s best interests, and if that means finding the best medication out there— it’s up to us to do that for them. There is absolutely no reason for us to ignore or vilify marijuana when it is a great medicine.”