Numerous therapeutic benefits of cannabis have led to the increased interest in its use as a pet treatment. More and more pet owners are willing to medicate their four legged friends with cannabis products instead of traditional pet medicine. However, despite the obvious advantages, it is a very tricky deal: mistakes come at a high cost.
One of the most convenient way of medicating pets with cannabis is using tinctures. If you have selected a cannabis tincture as a desirable treatment for your pet friend, make sure you know:
what conditions it is useful for;
how it works;
the recommended dosage;
the potential risks and side effects;
which tincture to choose;
how to store it properly;
and much more.
Read along to find all answers in one article.
What are cannabis tinctures
Cannabis tinctures made for humans are alcohol-based extractions of cannabis. It is obvious that the similar way of production is unacceptable for animals, so instead of the alcohol, vegetable glycerin is frequently used. It is produced from a combination of plant oils and does not have any color or scent.
Therefore, the main components of a cannabis tincture for pets are usually the following:
vegetable glycerin or a specific oil (like coconut oil);
cannabis oil or hemp oil;
additives (vitamins, etc.)
Tinctures are taken orally, under the tongue. It is called a sublingual way of absorption. The benefits of this way is that cannabinoids do not need to be digested by the gastrointestinal tract as happens with edibles and thus they do not cause numerous side effects. Under the tongue and next to the cheeks, there are dense mucosal membranes. Due to them, the cannabinoids get absorbed directly into the bloodstream, causing immediate effects.
The main benefits of using cannabis tinctures in comparison with the other ways of consumption are:
the quick onset: a tincture acts in about 10 minutes after it is taken. Though, it is fair to say that the effect is not as long-lasting as with edibles;
a precise dosing: using a dropper or a syringe, it is easy to determine the exact recommended dose;
How tinctures work
Endocannabinoid system in animals is similar to the one humans have. Though, there is one notable distinction: some pets have more cannabinoid receptors than people do. That is why the perception of cannabinoids by dogs is greatly different from ours: dogs are much more sensitive to all the effects of marijuana.
This fact is the reason why there are so many minor accidents with dogs and cannabis. Biologically active compounds of marijuana make dogs overreact, which frequently results in intoxication. To avoid this problem, it is recommended to start from the smallest possible dosage and to make preference to CBD-containing tinctures that is non-psychoactive.
What do tinctures treat?
Endocannabinoid system is responsible for a wide range of processes that comes in our body. Using the potential of CBD to influence on the endocannabinoid receptors, it becomes possible to treat a number of different problems and diseases:
CBD binds to cannabinoid receptors in animal body and blocks the pain signals. A pet becomes to feel much better in less than ten minutes after he takes a tincture. This effect might also regard to chronic diseases that are accompanied by pain. It is important to understand that cannabis does not treat a disease but blocks the pain only, which is a key for the pet`s well-being.
Anxiety (including a separation anxiety)
Dogs are very similar to humans. They react to stress, changed environmental conditions and separation with their owner. Anxiety is the natural condition, but if it is too strong, it might result in unfavorable results. The symptoms that a dog is over-anxious are the following: trembling, barking aggressively, whining, lip licking, etc. Studies proved that cannabidiol is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders and can work even better than the traditional anti-anxiety medicine. It makes a pet calmer and alleviates the negative stress symptoms.
Inflammation processes including arthritis
Being a recognizable anti-inflammatory treatment for people, cannabis might be even more useful to dogs that have higher chances of arthritis. Dogs with arthritis cannot lead the life they got used to: they become less active, sleepier and slower and, as a result, they gain excessive weight. Treatment that is recommended by veterinarians usually include pills with numerous side effects and physiotherapy. Cannabis is one more option to consider. It certainly does not provide quick effects, but has a proven efficiency if used on a regular basis.
If your pet feels sick, has diarrhea or wants to vomit, try a cannabis tincture instead of the ordinary medicine. This condition is dangerous since it might result in reduced muscle power (due to the appetite loss) and intense dehydration. Even though there is no direct scientific evidence about the cannabis efficiency for nausea treatment in dogs, there are studies that confirm CBD is able to reduce the sickness period and stop vomiting in humans and in smaller animals like rats.
If your pet is allergic to some food components or environmental factors, a cannabis tincture might be an alternative to antihistamines. You can use it alone or combine with topical treatment. The important thing to notice is that cannabis in any of its forms is unable to cure your pet from an allergy, it just treats it and reduces the symptoms.
How to store a tincture
A proper storing is a key to preserving the tincture efficiency. Remember that cannabinoids easily break down when they get exposed to direct sunlight or heat. The worst enemies of any cannabinoid tincture are moisture, heat and fresh air. To eliminate these factors and prolong a shelf life of your pet medicine, it is recommended to store a tincture in a fridge and always fit tight.
Side effects and risks
The biggest problem regarding using cannabis tinctures for pets is the absence of adequate research basis. Almost all the claimed therapeutic benefits of such products are grounded on investigations on humans or rats. There is no real evidence how a certain product will influence a dog or a cat, so owners have to make important decisions whether or not to experiment on their pet friends.
As for side effects that might appear when the animal gets a cannabis treatment, the most frequent are the increased thirst and dry mouth, drowsiness (as the opposite effect from anxiety treatment), low blood pressure, coordination loss, respiratory problems. If you have noticed any of these during your cannabis treatment, it is advised to stop medication and consult a vet.
What if you go to a veterinarian to ask for a cannabis treatment for your dog? You will be disappointed. Vets do not have any legal rights to prescribe any cannabis-based medicine to pets.
The Drug Enforcement Organization has given veterinarians no authority to prescribe cannabis tinctures because of the lack of scientific investigations on the topic. American Veterinary Medical Association cautions vets against using marijuana for pets despite its obvious therapeutic value for people because «no studies, doses or uses in veterinary medicine have been determined».
Nevertheless, veterinarians need to be well acquainted with the effect cannabis has on animal body, because they need to deal with frequent cases of pet intoxication that happen by ingesting marijuana plant or cannabis-infused food designed for people.
CBD, THC, THCa — which one to choose?
Cannabis tinctures differ by the cannabinoid content that determines how this product will act on the animal body. Though there are a lot of different cannabinoids in marijuana flowers, there are three main ones that are used in a production of tinctures: CBD, THC and THCa. What is the difference between them and which one to choose for your pet?
CBD is the non-psychoactive compound that is responsible for most therapeutic benefits from marijuana use. In the other words, it treats your pet without making him high. According to a study, this cannabinoid is safe in animals and is most suitable as a pet treatment.
THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid. It is very much valued for recreational marijuana users for its intoxicating power, but for animals it might be dangerous. As pets have more complex endocannabinoid system, they frequently get oversensitive to psychoactive elements. High doses of THC can be deadly for a pet.
THCa, or THC acid, is the raw form of THC that has no intoxicating effect on the body. According to anecdotal evidence, THCa has no risks when used in pets and can be recommended as a treatment for health problems as well as CBD.
Most cannabis tinctures have complex cannabinoid ratio and include more than one cannabinoid type. To understand which combination suits your purpose best, check the guide:
High CBD to low THC (like 4:1 or 30:1 ratio) .
Recommended for inflammation, pain, anxiety and restlessness, injuries and wounds.
Equal CBD to THC (1:1)
Recommended for spinal cord injuries, inflammation followed by pain, cancer.
Low CBD to high THC (from 1:4 to 1:20)
Severe pain (caused by advanced arthritis or cancer), cancer with tumors, deep need in appetite stimulation.
As you see, high concentration of THC for animals is recommended only when the condition is too severe to consider the risk of intoxication. It is explained by the fact that THC has better anti-pain properties than other cannabinoid types. In milder cases, it is recommended to give preference to CBD-based tinctures.
To calculate how many drops or milligrams of a tincture you need to give your pet daily, use the information on the label. Make sure to choose the product that suits the characteristics of your animal best. For example, if you take a small-dog tincture for the treatment of the large animal, it does not mean that it will not work. It only means that you will have to use high doses and the tincture will not even last a few days.
The golden rule for all pet medicine is to start from the lowest dose. Unlike humans who almost have no chance to overdose on marijuana, animals are much more sensitive. Cannabis overdosage can be extremely dangerous for them. It is better to stay on the safe side and start from a minimal dose increasing it if you see no effect.
One more important thing to note is that products created by different companies should not be treated as equal. One milligram of different tinctures might provide totally different outcomes. That is why if you have determined a dose for one tincture, and decided to use another one instead, start from a smaller amount.
If you suspect your pet has overdosed on marijuana, consider the heaviness of symptoms. If there is only the slight coordination loss, you might just wait till everything goes back to normal. However, if you notice heavier symptoms like respiratory problems, drowsiness or other uncommon behavior, consult a vet immediately.
How to select the best tincture?
Selecting a tincture for your pet is not an easy task to perform. You will hardly het a vet recommendation as to this matter since cannabis tinctures are not officially permitted for animal use. To select the best product and gain the maximum efficiency, use the following recommendations:
Consider the cannabinoid content. Do not use tinctures that are high in THC if your pet does not have severe and painful conditions.
Select full-spectrum products. Full-spectrum tinctures are those that include the both terpene and cannabinoid components instead of the isolates. They provide greater therapeutic outcomes that separated cannabinoids.
Avoid artificial additives. Your pet certainly does not need colorants, scent enhancers and preservatives, which might cause allergy.
Buy from trusted providers. There are things you cannot check on your own, like the temperatures used during production or the presence of pesticides. That is why it is recommended to give preferences to credible suppliers that provide lab testing of their products.