Commentary: Pot for pain may be hot new treatment


My dog was wasting away. When all else failed, I had to try something new.

My first exposure to the idea of using medicinal marijuana as a pet therapeutic occurred when I was practicing as a small animal veterinarian in Southern California. I had a client whose dog was unfortunately losing the battle against cancer after failing to respond to every conventional modern therapeutic that we tried. My client was well-versed in alternative herbal therapeutics and one day confided in me that she had been administering specially made treats containing cannabis to her dog.

The results, she reported, were impressive. Her dog began to eat again and overall appeared much more comfortable. This experience led me to begin my endeavor to research and learn all that I could about possibly incorporating medical marijuana into veterinary medicine.

Not long thereafter, my own dog, a husky named Nikita, was also diagnosed with cancer. After surgery and pharmaceutical medications failed to contain the disease, I decided that I would administer cannabis as a treatment. In my mind it was a welfare and quality-of-life issue. She was wasting away before my eyes as her appetite waned and the energy drained from her body. My beautiful girl with the piercing blue eyes was reduced to an emaciated, unsteady and frightfully frail version of her former self. However, she was still of sound mind and was fully cognizant of what was happening around her. At the very least, I wanted to ease any pain she was experiencing and ensure that she was as comfortable as possible in her final days.

Within 24 hours of administering the first dose of medical marijuana tincture, I observed a remarkable improvement in her appetite. In the following days she regained much of her strength as she once again ate full meals and rebuilt her muscles that had wasted away. As a result her balance improved and she was able to rise and walk without as much difficulty. There was no doubt in my mind that cannabis played a pivotal role in alleviating any unnecessary pain and suffering. It was the ideal therapeutic for palliative care in Nikita’s situation.

However, in her case, medical marijuana was a palliative treatment and not curative. It didn’t perform any miracles. Eventually the cancer spread and she began to have difficulty breathing and could no longer get to her feet on her own. I euthanized her myself and watched as peace fell over her soul while she was surrounded by those who loved her most in her own warm home. The medical marijuana treatments had given her several more months of quality time with her family—time and memories that she wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed if I had decided to euthanize her immediately rather than first administering cannabis.

My personal experience with Nikita remains one of the core driving forces that continues to push me to help other pet owners who find themselves in a similar unfortunate situation. There are few things worse than watching a loved one waste away before your eyes while feeling absolutely powerless to help. There is more we can do.

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