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Animal Pain Awareness Month

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Animal Pain Awareness Month

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) has dedicated the month of September to raising awareness about pain and pain management in our pets.

According to the IVAPM, animals suffer from the same kinds of acute and chronic pain as humans, from causes like arthritis, cancer, and post-surgery pain.  They note that also like humans, older pets can suffer from chronic pain that owners may attribute to age or just “slowing down.”

There are many ways to manage pain in our pets, including physical therapy, medications, acupuncture, massage, and laser therapy.

Common signs of pain in pets are:

  • Decreased play and activity
  • Not going up or down stairs
  • Reluctance to jump (especially for cats)
  • Difficulty standing after lying down
  • Decreased appetite (mouth pain)
  • Over-grooming or licking a specific area of the body



Medical cannabis for pets usually comes as a liquid oil or as treats. Liquids are preferable because the dosing can be accurately controlled and because CBD may be better absorbed through the tissues of the mouth rather than through the digestive tract. 

Vaporized or smoked cannabis should NEVER be used with pets. This can damage their lungs and can lead to accidental overdose.

Similarly, edibles for humans should not be given to your pet as they are impossible to dose accurately and they may contain ingredients (such as raisins, chocolate, etc.) that are toxic to animals.


When considering cannabis as a medical option for the treatment of pain and inflammation, it is important to understand how the various components of a cannabis preparation may affect your pet. Some important factors to keep in mind are:5

  • The Entourage Effect: The synergistic benefit of whole plant cannabis related to the quantity and distribution of major and minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. These factors affect the degree of biological activity and the spectrum of diseases treated.
  • The use of the appropriate ratio of THC and CBD as well as dosage are critical to success.
  • Consider other medications being given concurrently with respect to possible drug interactions.
  • Always consult with your veterinarian before beginning any new medication or supplement for your pet.

Ratios of THC to CBD frequently range from as high as 20:1, to even ratios (1:1), to 1:20.  The decision of which product or ratio to use for a pet with pain/inflammation often depends on the severity of the pain and its origin. The following is a guide to choosing ratios for treating pain and inflammation in animals.

High CBD or Hemp-Based CBD

  • 4:1 to 20:1 CBD-to-THC or, in the case of hemp, little to no THC
  • Mild to moderate pain such as arthritis and back pain

The decision about which product or ratio to use for your pet depends on the severity and origin of their pain.

Even Ratio

  • 1:1 CBD to THC
  • Moderate pain such as arthritis and back pain

High THC Ratios

  • 4:1 to 20:1 THC-to-CBD
  • Severe pain such as cancer pain, nerve pain, and advanced arthritis

When using cannabis as medicine for pets, the first thing to remember is that any significant side effects are unacceptable. Getting your dog or cat stoned is never OK, even with medical cannabis. The goal with cannabis therapy in pets is to relieve the symptom being treated with no other side effects. Their normal patterns of behavior should be unaltered after receiving the therapy.


Following are guidelines for dosing THC and CBD in cats and dogs. Always consult with your veterinarian before beginning cannabis therapy for your pet.

THC Dosing

  • THC is always the limiting factor when dosing.
  • 0.2 – 0.6 mg THC per 10 pounds of body weight twice daily.
  • Start low and slowly increase the dose every 4-7 days.
  • Higher doses may be possible/necessary on a case-dependent basis.
  • Monitor closely for sedation, loss of balance, or loss of mental acuity.  Decrease the dose or discontinue immediately if any side effects are seen.

CBD Dosing

  • 0.5 – 5 mg CBD per 10 pounds of body weight twice daily.
  • Start low and slowly increase the dose every 4-7 days.
  • Frequently doses nearer the lower end of the range are effective.
  • Higher doses of CBD may be beneficial in certain circumstances.

Medical cannabis can be of great benefit to animals in pain. Ultimately, however, safe and effective use of cannabis requires an understanding of the milligram amounts of THC and CBD (or other cannabinoids), the ratio of cannabinoids, and availability of a medicine in a concentration appropriate for dosing a veterinary patient.

Nothing is more important than the safety of your pet, so do not make guesses or assume anything about the content or dosing of cannabis medicines. 

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