Medical Marijuana for Dogs?

By Ben Feuerherd 03/01/13

A controversial California vet treats terminally ill canines with cannabis.

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Dr. Kramer administers marijuana to a
patient with late stage cancer.

California veterinarian Dr. Doug Kramer is the first veterinarian in the country known to provide medical marijuana for dogs. After losing his dog to cancer, Kramer started up a palliative care practice for pups, Enlightened Veterinary Therapeutics, devoted to offering pets "the same high level of quality health care as their human counterparts." This includes prescribing cannabis in cases where it could ease pain and improve the quality of life for patients with terminal illness. Kramer administers the drug in an oral tincture, which poses no secondhand smoke risk, and does not damage the liver like many other medications. Although support for medical marijuana is increasing in the medical world, in the veterinary community it remains taboo, in part because it is illegal. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug by the FDA and there is no clause allowing dogs a free pass. But Kramer says his practice is worth the risk of possible jail time. "I refuse to condemn my patients to a miserable existence for self preservation or concerns about what may or may not happen to me as a consequence of my actions," he says on his website. "This is an issue of animal welfare, plain and simple." And as marijuana laws continue to evolve, attitudes towards MMJ for animals may evolve as well. "Clients have asked about it for years, but the interest has grown since MM has been legalized in various states," says Ohio vet Neal J. Sivula, "Because of the Schedule I problem, we don't even have any good research in animals to show if it can be used safely. The bottom line is that we absolutely need the DEA to reclassify MM so that it can be studied." 

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Benjamin Feuerherd is a city reporter at the New York Post. He has previously worked for The Daily Beast and NBC. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter