Would you treat your dog or cat with medicinal cannabis?
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Would you treat your dog or cat with medicinal cannabis?

An Australian company is testing whether medicinal cannabis product could be used to treat medical conditions in family pets.

After a successful trial of cannabis-based medicine to help treat conditions in dogs, CannPal is now expanding its testing to cats.

CannPal founder and Canberran for more than two decades Layton Mills is helping to develop cannabis-based treatments for pets.

CannPal founder and Canberran for more than two decades Layton Mills is helping to develop cannabis-based treatments for pets.

Photo: Supplied

The company's managing director Layton Mills, who was previously based in Canberra, said the products could be used to treat a range of illnesses.

"For dogs, we've been able to treat conditions like osteoarthritis and hip dysplaysia and skin health and other areas like epilepsy and behavioural issues," Mr Mills said.

"When we talk about what can be treated, at the moment the sky is the limit as we're learning more about the plant.

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"No one has done this in Australia before."

CannPal recently announced it would work with Eurofins Animal Health to develop pain treatments using cannabis products for cats, with approvals being carried out.

The first trial involved 11 dogs; eight were given active compounds containing cannabinoids while the other three were given placebos.

Mr Mills said no adverse effects had been recorded in the initial trial.

"Dogs are a lot easier to develop a drug for than cats because cats internal systems are known for being very finicky," he said.

"We found that we have a good safety profile with the formulation and now we're able to expand."

Medicinal cannabis for human consumption is already legal in Australia, but patients looking to use it have to go through several approval processes with the Therapeutic Goods Administration, federal and state governments.

Among the conditions treated in humans are epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea.

It isn't only the company that's excited by the prospect of cannabis-based medicine for pets. The Australian Veterinary Association said research in the area represented a lot of potential.

Veterinary association president Paula Parker said the medicine could provide many benefits once it had been fully tested.

"We're seeing pets live longer and as a result we're seeing more geriatric diseases in pets like osteoarthritic diseases or cancer," Dr Parker said.

"There's a lot of potential for treatment using effective compounds and the right dosages."

It's estimated 60 per cent dogs between seven and 11 will develop arthritis and one in two will form some kind of cancer.

In cats, 61 per cent of those over the age of six have arthritis in at least one joint.

"There's a recent trend of the humanisation of pets, where they are treated as good, if not better, than children," Mr Mills said.

"Pets are being treated a lot better and getting better medical care and are living longer, but a negative result from this is they're developing a lot of age-related issues."

Dr Parker said little was known about the effective of cannabis-derived medicine's effect on pets due to cannabis being illegal in Australia, and little research had been done in the area.

She was looking forward to further research in Australia, and findings coming from overseas.

"What our colleagues in the US and Canada have found is as cannabis has become legalised and its becoming more common in homes there, we're seeing an increase in dogs and cats treated for toxicity," Dr Parker said.

"We're seeing more edible cannabis products, and with pets being scavengers, they can go after the edible products and can become intoxicated quite easily."

Since trials began of testing cannabis-derived products to treat conditions in dogs, Mr Mills said he had been inundated with correspondence from pet owners across the country.

CannPal's founder said the next step in the process was getting the drugs approved and distributed only through registered vet specialists.

While the trial with dogs was labelled a success, the upcoming one involving cats would be treated carefully.

"Pending the next six to 12 months of the studies going well, we'll have a really good idea of the success rate of the drug and we'll have a good idea of if the product is going to be approved," Mr Mills said.

Andrew Brown is a journalist at the Sunday Canberra Times. Andrew has worked at the Canberra Times since 2016.

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