Access to medicinal cannabis got that much harder for pets

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medical cannabis for pets

Following a detailed submission by animal health care service provider eCS Vet (Endocannabinoid System Veterinary Centre) to improve cannabis legislation for the benefit of animal health and welfare, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has announced in an interim decision they will not amend the existing Poison Standard regulations due to perceived risks and toxicity of cannabinoid substances for animals.

Dr Marta Calvo Blanco, head of Veterinary Operations at eCS Vet, which works to improve animal welfare by providing education and support for veterinarians on medicinal cannabis, said eCS Vet is determined to clarify and substantiate their application to the TGA by the 11 April deadline.

Emerging research suggests that medical cannabis can help with many pet health conditions, such as anxiety, chronic pain, inflammation and seizures. Unfortunately though, Australian animals can’t access all the medicinal cannabis medications currently available to humans, missing out on all the benefits. 

In July 2021, eCS Vet (previously CANNect Vet) applied to the TGA to reword the cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) entries of the Poisons Standard. Currently, these entries only allow for human therapeutic use. eCS Vet requested the rewording to include the therapeutic use of cannabis-based medicines for animals to align access for both veterinary and medical professionals. 

“This simple change in the wording that eCS Vet proposed will have a huge effect on the welfare of animals in Australia, and provide appropriate recognition for our world-class veterinary professionals,” Dr Calvo Blanco said.

“It will give the animals the possibility of accessing life-changing medications through the control and support of their vets. 

“This would have a great impact not only in Australia but all around the world, as many countries are in a similar situation and will be watching Australia carefully.”

Like humans, all animals (except for insects) possess a cannabinoid system. This so-called endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a messaging system that regulates body functions such as sleep, appetite, digestive function, pain, inflammation as well as neural protection. The ECS can respond positively to the intake of the active compounds from the cannabis plant. 

“This has led to pet owners self-medicating their furry friends,” Dr Calvo Blanco said. 

“On top of it being illegal, this practice bears many risks, such as overdoses and the contamination of the plant material when sources are uncontrolled and unknown.”

By applying for the amendment, eCS Vet could expand the veterinary treatment options to further improve the care, health and wellbeing of Australian animals. Furthermore, eCS Vet wants to ensure safe access to cannabinoid products for veterinary patients, preventing illegal, unregulated and unstandardised forms of cannabis to risk injuring our animals. 

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