Pets and Cannabis - The Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act

August 14, 2020

Medical Marijuana has been legalized in many states for use in people. But what about pets and cannabis? It’s important to note that this status does not apply to pets or other animals. That being said, there are some exceptions.

The Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act

The Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994 (AMDUCA), allows vets to recommend extralabel uses of authorized human and animal medications for animals under specific conditions. Amongst other constraints, these guidelines allow off-label usage of a drug only by a qualified veterinarian in the context of a legitimate veterinarian-client-patient relationship as well as when the health or life of an animal is in jeopardy or the animal is suffering.


Furthermore, under 21 CFR 530.20, off-label use of an authorized human drug in a food-producing pet is not permitted if an animal drug is approved and available for use in food-producing animals.


In addition, under 21 CFR 530.20( b)( 2 ), if scientific data on the human food safety element of using the accepted human medication in food-producing animals is not readily available, the veterinarian has to take proper procedures to guarantee that the pet and its food will not enter the human food supply.

For more details on extralabel use FDA accepted medications in animals,
see Extralabel Use of FDA Approved Drugs In Animals.


But that doesn’t really clear things up. It just means it’s tricky for a vet to prescribe medical marijuana for your pet.

Using CBD, Cannabis for Pets

There are many options for use of CBD, especially, for pets. Most instances are for age-related arthritis and mobility disorders. There’s an increase in use for anxiety disorders and stress in animals, and even for pain. But is it safe?


Just like with people, we don’t have enough studies. Anecdotally pet owners and veterinarians alike have reported seeing improvement in different conditions in their furbabies, but there isn’t enough research and science to back up what is being seen.

Cannabis, CBD Studies and Pets

  • A study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science found that 82.2% of veterinarians agreed or strongly agreed that there are medicinal uses of CBD products for dogs from a medical standpoint.
  • A formal double-blind research study done at Cornell on dogs with osteoarthritis reported “a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity” with CBD oil. There were no observed side effects from the CBD treatment.
  • There have also been studies on dogs with cardiovascular disease, seizure disorders, and pain. All have shown positive results thus far, but they have been limited.


Marijuana Poisoning in Pets

from the pet poison helpline:

Animals can be poisoned by marijuana in different ways. They can ingest marijuana edibles such as brownies or pot butter, ingest the owner’s supply of marijuana (in any formulation), or by second hand smoke. Common symptoms of marijuana toxicity include sedation/lethargy, dilated pupils or glassed over eyes, dazed expression, difficulty walking and vomiting. Other symptoms can include either a low or high heart rate, vocalization such as whining or crying, agitation, trouble regulating temperature causing the body temperature to drop or rise and incontinence/dribbling urine, tremors, seizures and potentially coma. Signs of toxicity can be seen anywhere from 5 minutes to 12 hours after the animal is exposed to marijuana. The signs can potentially last 30 minutes to several days depending on the dose ingested.

Other Risks

  • Edibles — more people have access to edibles, or have begun using CBD or marijuana in their personal cooking. And we all know pets are drawn to people food. You must take care with your edibles to make sure your pet isn’t eating them, just as you would with your child. Your pet has a different digestive process and lower body weight (hopefully) than an adult, so you need to take extra care that they are not ingesting toxic levels when they “counter surf”.
  • Quality — CBD is not regulated by the FDA when sold without medical claims, and therefore there may be other ingredients included that could be toxic to your pet. It’s always best to speak with both your vet and naturopath or expert to ensure the brands and products you’re using have more information available about what else is included in them.
  • Self-medicating — An ongoing risk with pet owners is the same as it is with people. Self treatment and diagnosis can be dangerous. While treating the symptoms may be effective, there could be an underlying disease that is being masked, and not consulting or disclosing this use to a veterinarian could miss a more serious condition. The same goes for changing medication regimens. Vet meds are often expensive, mainly because we don’t have prescription coverage for them, so finding alternatives is more desireable in some cases. But we also don’t get a read on the effects, since our dogs or cats can’t express them to us. Always check with your vet.
  • False Advertising — There are many false claims out there in regards to the benefits of CBD and dosages to use on animals. Studies for these claims are limited and crackdown on false advertising often comes too late for mistakes that can change lives.

Further Reading