Brands Feb 24, 2016

Pets and CBD Treatment: A Story from LeafLink’s Johanna Bernahl


Roxy, Johanna’s blue-nosed pitbull mastiff.

One month ago when Johanna Bernahl, LeafLink’s Client Success Manager, noticed that her dog Roxy began limping on her swollen left wrist, she knew something was not right.  “After three weeks of her continuing to limp I brought her into her vet. He was 90% sure he knew exactly what is was just by looking at her left wrist,” Johanna explained.  “He stated that it was most likely a bone tumor, because it is super common in large breeds, and his own greyhound passed away from the same disease.”   An X-Ray confirmed that Johanna’s blue-nosed pitbull mastiff mix had osteosarcoma.  It typically starts in the joints, then quickly metastasizes in other parts of the body.  In Roxy’s case, the cancer had already spread by the time she was X-Rayed, leaving small holes in her bones.  

The vet recommended two courses of action: amputation followed by chemotherapy or palliative care.  The first, more aggressive option would extend Roxy’s life by 4-5 months with a very slim possibility of long-term survival.  The latter would simply treat the dog’s pain and improve the quality of the remainder of her life.  Since chemotherapy would cost a steep $5,000 and inflict additional pain with low potential benefits, Johanna opted for palliative care.


Roxy’s bone tumor.

Now knowing that Roxy was in serious pain, Johanna rushed to fill the vet’s prescriptions
for pain medications.  Every day, the dog would need to take a chemical cocktail of rimadyl for swelling and inflamation, tramadol for pain, and gabapentin, which helps to activate the tramadol.  Together, the medications cost Johanna about $400 per month.

Though it seemed that the medications immediately alleviated Roxy’s pain, Johanna decided to investigate other options. Through her previous work as a budtender, she had heard that cannabis-based treatments could be used to help treat pets’ illnesses.  She asked her friend who worked at Mary’s Medicinals for ideas about which of the medicines from Mary’s Pets, a line of animal wellness products from the popular medical cannabis brand, would be best for Roxy’s osteosarcoma.  Her friend recommended Mary’s Cannabidiol (CBD) gel pen, a nonpsychoactive ointment applied to a pet’s inner ear or exposed veinous skin for relief from pain, nausea, and anxiety.  Johanna supplemented the CBD gel with Sweet Mary Jane’s Creature Comfort THCA tincture, which is a nonactivated form of THC that has been shown to have anti-tumor properties.

“Unfortunately, without an abundant number of studies or recommendations from the veterinarian, Johanna can’t be sure of whether the CBD and THCa could completely replace some of the more expensive pharmaceuticals.”

With a dosage of four milligrams of CBD gel and ten milligrams of THCA tincture per day, the two marijuana-derived medications cost Johanna only $70 per month, less than a quarter of the pharmaceutical drugs prescribed by the vet.  She also spends approximately $100/month on herbal supplements of tumeric, relishi mushroom, and bioalgae concentrates that naturally help inflammation and nausea.  Roxy began the natural treatments shortly after starting her prescription medications, but Johanna noticed that she seemed relaxed and less skittish after starting the CBD and THCA therapy.  While Roxy seems pain-free and relaxed, unfortunately, her tumors continue to grow.

Johanna says she considered taking Roxy off the prescription drugs and treating her solely with the cannabis-based medications, but she was worried that such an experiment would inflict the dog with even more pain.  Unfortunately, without an abundant number of studies or recommendations from the veterinarian, Johanna can’t be sure of whether the CBD and THCa could completely replace some of the more expensive pharmaceuticals.  “I hope this changes with the continued research around medical cannabis, both for humans and animals,” Johanna said.

The next time Johanna adopts a large dog, she says she will give it daily doses of THCa to prevent tumors and CBD starting at age five or fix to prevent joint pain.