It was the nightmare pet owner Denise Brook hoped would never come true.
She woke up one morning to find her elderly pooch Stella — a 13-year-old pug with spinal issues — couldn’t stand up.
“She just started dragging herself across the floor to get herself where she wanted to go,” Brook told CBC News. “I cried all day… I thought that she had lost all of the remaining ability to walk. I said to [my husband], ‘start looking for some wheels.'”
Brook brought her dog to the vet, fearing Stella might have blown one of her spinal disks and would have to be put down. But as she waited for the doctor, she watched Stella clumsily stagger across the floor toward a dog treat.
Then it clicked.
“She had the munchies — there was no question about it.”
Stella’s owners — like many 21st century dog owners — had been giving her treats infused with cannabis extracts to help with her back pain.
A family member obtained the latest dose at Vancouver’s recent Cannabis Expo. But its impact on Stella was far different than previous treats.
Proponents say the products have significant health benefits; but — as in the curious case of Stella the pug — not all the products on the market are as advertised.
Cannabis treats for dogs
According to longtime marijuana advocate and dog treat retailer Dana Larsen, the products provide canines with the same health benefits that medical marijuana patients receive.
“An animal who is in pain, has cancer or tumours, or has arthritis — cannabis can help alleviate that pain,” said Larsen, whose dog Bijou receives cannabis treatment for her injured spine.
The most common products utilize cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound in marijuana that reportedly alleviates pain. However, Larsen also sells dog treats that include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.
“The main risk with giving a dog cannabis is getting the dosage right — you don’t want to overdose them.” said Larsen. “We definitely want to make sure people apply the dosage properly when giving it to a pet.”
But getting the dosage right can be challenging — especially since the production of cannabis-infused dog treats isn’t regulated, according to Dewdney Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Adrian Walton.
“Our concern is, where exactly is this product coming from? There’s a reason that we have Health Canada approved products,” said Walton. “Where are people getting this stuff? What is the purity? How do we know there aren’t contaminates? How do we know that people are actually getting what they’re claiming they’re getting?”
“It’s a wild, wild west out there right now,” he added.
In the case of Stella the pug, her owners thought she was eating non-psychoactive CBD treats, ones that were handed out at Vancouver’s recent Cannabis Expo.
Owner Denise Brook says the incident was enough to scare her away from the treatment — at least for now.
“It was just a bad situation,” said Brook.