By Filipa Ioannou
It was a chilly and mostly unremarkable summer evening in San Francisco as I, on my couch, cracked open a can of seltzer and prepared to wash down roughly a dozen cannabis-derived dog treats.
You might have some questions. I will do my best to answer them. Maybe it would be good to back up and answer the obvious question — what’s the deal with cannabis for pets?
If you’ve got an anxious pup and live in a state where recreational cannabis is legal, you may have wondered — should I give weed derivatives to my dog? (Or, okay, maybe not.) But it’s an increasingly popular choice to treat issues from joint pain to separation anxiety, companies who make the products say.
While there are some differences in how cannabis affects pets compared to humans, they can benefit in many of the same ways people do.
THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, can be toxic or even fatal to dogs, Oakland veterinarian Dr. Gary Richter told Green State earlier this year. But another cannabinoid, CBD, which does not have psychotropic effects (i.e., it doesn’t get you high) may be helpful for animals with a variety of conditions, some veterinarians report.
“While there are some differences in how cannabis affects pets compared to humans, they can benefit in many of the same ways people do,” said Richter.
The interest is certainly there. Some analysts estimate the sale of CBD dog treats doubled from 2014 to 2016. Petaluma-based Treatibles, founded in 2013, has had such success with its line of hemp chews for dogs and cats in flavors like blueberry and pumpkin, it will soon be expanding into products for horses.
“It’s exploded in the past few years in the most wonderful way,” said Jodi Ziskin, a spokesperson for Treatibles. “People are really educating themselves and wanting something more natural for their pets.”
Legally, however, California veterinarians can’t tell people about cannabis for their pets.
Veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe, administer, recommend or approve the use of cannabis for treatment of any condition, a lawyer for the the California Veterinary Medical Board wrote in a 2017 memo.
“Legal protection of veterinarians and their discussions with clients of cannabis treatment for animal patients has yet to be codified in statute or challenged in court,” the memo read.
That could change if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill that passed the Assembly and Senate last month, AB 2215.
The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, would protect veterinarians from being disciplined by the board for discussing the use of cannabis products for animal patients.
My dog is moderately anxious. She gets stressed and agitated in novel environments. When I moved to California from Texas, she cried the whole way, try as I might to soothe her with various food distractions and reggae music, which I have read is the preferred music genre of dogs (this makes sense because dogs are chillers).
All in all, she’s a dog who could benefit from some over-the-counter anxiety relief during a bad storm or the Fourth of July.
But I’m not comfortable giving my dog something I wouldn’t try for myself, because I am a crazy dog lady. So that’s what I did. I bought “Holistic Hound CBD Dog Treats” in pasture raised savory chicken-flavor and “Treatibles Hemp Wellness Dog Chews with naturally occurring CBD” in blueberry, and, on two separate evenings, I hunkered down to eat them.
My dog stared at me balefully, as if daring me to resist drugs and violence. Or probably, she just wanted to eat the weed treats.
Before I go on, I’d like to emphasize the fact that the following is not really criticisms of the products. I understand that I, a human woman, am not the target consumer of dog edibles, and have only myself to blame for the fact that I ate them.
But eat them I did. It was not great.
First, the blueberry Treatibles, are called “chews” rather than “treats” on the packaging, for regulatory reasons. The store only had the ones for small to medium dogs, which meant I had to plow through a couple handfuls of dog treats. Also, they were shaped like dog bones, which was a little demoralizing.
CANNABIS AND COFFEE: How precision dosing will make marijuana mainstream
“SUGGESTED SERVING: 1 TREATIBLE per 10 lbs. 1 mg CBD per chew,” the packaging says. I dutifully counted out 13-ish of the chews and tentatively bit into one.
For a gluten-free dog treat, this isn’t terrible, I said to myself. It tasted like one of the sadder cookies from Whole Foods, or something you’d try at the home of an elementary school friend whose mom sweetens everything with dates.
Alas, I spoke too soon. There were still 12 treats left to go, and it quickly became a slog — dry and with a bitter edge that became more and more pronounced with my endless mastication. My dog watched me raptly. I washed them down with seltzer, which was helpful. I imagine that for a dog, who has only a fraction of the number of taste buds a person does, the experience would be delightful.
On another evening I delved into the chicken treats. These, thankfully more potent according to the packaging at 7.5 milligrams of CBD per biscuit, were in little heart shapes. I bit into one preparing for the worst and was pleasantly surprised to find it mostly tasted like nothing — like faintly meaty cardboard. My dog stared at me resentfully.
On both nights, I eventually felt suffused by a sense of ease. The period cramps I was suffering from at the time ebbed to a dull throb. I felt the same way I do when I take CBD tinctures for anxiety and pain: Relaxed and mellow, not discernibly high.
For those readers in search of a budget-hacking way to soothe your anxiety, I should emphasize that for a person, this was not a cost-effective operation. I spent about $60 for two bags of dog treats. Also, I had to eat a ton of dog treats, which, again: Not great.
Would I eat cannabis dog treats again? Probably not, but it’s far from the grossest thing I’ve done for my dog.
This article originally appeared on SFGate.