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One of the lead reasons veterinarians cite for not being able to discuss or prescribe cannabis to clients is the lack of research into its benefits. While anecdotal evidence abounds suggesting that cannabinoid and cannabis-based products like hemp treats can be effective in treating animals with a range of ailments and conditions, the science is still lacking. 

To help turn the tide, the team at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital has been setting a precedent for the potential of cannabis treatment in animals by studying the effect of CBD on epilepsy and osteoarthritis. Headed by neurologist Dr. Stephanie McGrath, CSU has undertaken a number of clinical trials, a theme that will continue into coming years on campus there.

Dr. McGrath set out to answer a number of questions with these studies, chief among them whether CBD could be used in veterinary practice, and the results have been quite concrete. Among other highlights of the research, she’s found that the non-psychoactive cannabinoid led to a near-90-percent reduction in seizures of epileptic dogs.   

Colorado State has been instrumental in initiating research of this nature since the legalization of cannabis for adult use in the state was introduced in 2012. Now a robust research facility, McGrath says the studies into cannabis medicine and practices were a direct response to the increase in calls to CSU from pet owners curious about the therapy. 

“Across the hospital we were getting tons of questions about CBD and cannabis in general,” she says. “That peaked my interest enough to start to look into it, because I felt a little silly having so many questions and really no answers to provide. When I got into some studies, I was pretty disappointed to find there was really no research out there.” 

That lack of research infrastructure helped to motivate McGrath and her team to start to looking into the prospects of cannabis treatment for pets and animals. Since the early days after reform in Colorado, CSU has spearheaded no less than five clinical studies and most all of them have been led by McGrath, with still more work to be done in the space.  

“I went into this a lot more skeptical than most people might think, considering I’m still doing much of the research,” she says. “People are really running into a lot of regulatory issues that make it challenging to do the research and I’m lucky that CSU is supportive and that I continue to get funding for it. It’s been fascinating.”

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