Veterinarian petitions Ottawa to consider four-legged patients in legal cannabis regime Proposed changes would include warning to keep cannabis away from animals
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This article was published 06/06/2019 (1335 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
An Ontario veterinarian has launched a formal petition asking the government to include animals and the physicians who care for them in Canada’s cannabis regulations.
“What we’re hearing repeatedly from Health Canada… is that the entire framework surrounding cannabis legalization was focused on human consumption,” said Sarah Silcox, who practices palliative and hospice care for companion animals in Ajax, Ont., and serves as president of the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine.
“And so they hadn’t even considered animals being involved in this, or veterinarians being involved in the medical side of things. And what that’s left us with is this catch-22, because now it’s perfectly legal for a Canadian adult to go out and purchase cannabis, and to give it to their animal, and yet veterinarians have no legal pathway to authorize its use… Therefore we’re really limited in terms of the education and support that we can give our clients to ensure that they’re doing that safely.”
The online petition on the House of Commons e-petitions website was launched May 27, and already has more than 500 signatures — enough to require the government to table an official response in Parliament.
Silcox said the petition specifically calls on Ottawa to change the wording of existing medical cannabis regulations to permit animals as patients, and to let veterinarians authorize cannabis for animals.
The petition also seeks changes to a mandatory warning label on legal cannabis products, from “Keep out of reach of children” to “Keep out of reach of children and animals.” Accidental cannabis ingestion by pets — especially dogs — has become quite common in animal hospital emergency rooms, Silcox said.
‘In much the same way that we’re learning more and more about the benefits of cannabis for a range of different applications in human medicine, I expect we’re going to find the same thing in the veterinary side of things’ – Sarah Silcox
“I certainly don’t think (a warning label change is) going to eliminate all accidental ingestion… But at least it’s there, it’s a reminder for (cannabis users). And in terms of liability issues, if you put the warning label on there, no one can come back and say, ‘I didn’t know, no one told me.'”
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association would also like to see the cannabis regulations and warning label amended to consider animals, and formally asked Health Canada to do so before legalization in 2018.
“Currently, there are no legally-attainable (cannabis) medications or products for pets in Canada,” said vet Ian Sandler, chief executive officer of Toronto-based company Grey Wolf Animal Health, speaking on the CVMA’s behalf.
“So what people are doing is, they’re using primarily black market products, that they probably don’t even realize (are) black market.”
Sandler believes cases of accidental cannabis ingestion by pets have been rising since the drug was legalized for humans last October, although he’s not aware of any hard data tracking those incidents in Canada.
“If you ask any veterinarian at any clinic, they will say they have seen multiple cases,” he said.
Sandler expects those accidental ingestions to rise significantly after new government regulations allowing commercially-produced cannabis food products take effect later this year.
Cannabis edibles will be packaged in standard doses meant for humans, but Silcox pointed out those guidelines mean nothing to dogs, who will happily snarf up any available food.
“When we look at edibles — I mean, historically, when you get a cannabis cookie or a brownie, and it has 150 milligrams of THC in it. Well, an adult dose is about 10 milligrams, and we’re supposed to eat about a fifteenth of that cookie,” she said. “And the dogs come along and eat six of them.”
Silcox believes modifying Canada’s cannabis regulations to include animals could do more than just protect pets from harm — it could also open up new therapeutic options.
“In much the same way that we’re learning more and more about the benefits of cannabis for a range of different applications in human medicine, I expect we’re going to find the same thing in the veterinary side of things,” she said, noting pet owners are already using cannabis products, particularly those containing non-intoxicating CBD, for ailments “like chronic pain, anxiety, behavioural disorders, age-related cognitive dysfunction, inflammation, nausea control, seizures.”
In a written statement, a Health Canada spokesperson said the federal cannabis regulator “has produced additional public education material which emphasizes the importance of storing cannabis securely away from children and pets.”
The spokesperson also said that cannabis-derived chemical compounds known as phytocannabinoids were added to the Human and Veterinary Prescription Drug List on the date of legalization, which could allow veterinary drug manufacturers to apply for approval of prescription drugs drugs containing phytocannabinoids under the Food and Drug Act and its associated regulations. Regulations also permit non-prescription veterinary health products containing ingredients derived from hemp like hemp seed oil, said the spokesperson.
Updated on Thursday, June 6, 2019 5:24 PM CDT: Adds photo
Updated on Thursday, June 6, 2019 5:28 PM CDT: Updates ending of story