A Danish survey has found that 38% of dog owners have given unlicensed cannabinoids to their pets.
The survey, of 2,002 owners, lays bare the need for more research on veterinary cannabinoids, according to the scientists who conducted it.
The study is published in PLOS ONE.
While there have been several preclinical studies on pets and cannabinoids, there is currently little clinical evidence to support the benefits.
Recreational use of cannabis among humans is illegal in Denmark, while medical prescriptions are still uncommon. It’s illegal to sell or prescribe cannabinoids for animals.
The researchers surveyed Danish citizens with a short online questionnaire, spread over social media.
They found that 752 of the 2,002 respondents (38%) had used at least one cannabinoid product on their dog.
Most of the cannabinoids used (93%) were in oil or droplet form, and they were largely sourced online.
The most common reason for using cannabinoids was pain management, followed by allergies and disease prevention.
More than three-quarters (77%) of owners who had given their pets cannabinoids reported a positive effect.
“This could be due to a placebo effect or selection bias, or it could reflect a real therapeutic effect or improved quality of life for the treated dogs,” write the researchers in their paper.
“However, there are no veterinary clinical trials to support or refute these findings for indications other than osteoarthritis-related pain, noise-induced anxiety, aggression, voluntary activity, canine atopic dermatitis, and seizures.”
The researchers point out that, because the cannabinoid products were all unauthorised, there’s a concern that they may be highly variable in quality. It’s also possible that some of the products used by owners didn’t have any cannabinoids at all.
The researchers point out that there are limitations to their short, survey-based study, particularly selection bias: people heavily in favour of or heavily opposed to cannabinoid use in pets may be more likely to answer.
Nevertheless, they say this study represents a need for more research on the effects of cannabinoids in pets.
“While caution must be exercised in interpreting the results, this study supports the need for more evidence-based knowledge within the companion animal field of cannabinoids, as some dog owners self-prescribe cannabinoids for a wide variety of medical conditions in their dogs,” they write.
“Pet owners do request information on cannabinoid products and currently, it is challenging for veterinarians to provide evidence-based information and dosing recommendations.”