About two years ago, Dwayne Tifft’s dog Tinker had a torn ACL requiring a $2,000 surgery.
“It was either that or put her down,” said Tifft, a Spokane Valley resident. “I chose to fix her. She’s kind of a mutt, but she’s my buddy.”
After the ACL repair, his mixed-breed min pin and red heeler – closer in size to the latter – wasn’t active and still limped. Pain medication helped, but only a bit.
So about a year ago, Tifft decided to try giving his now 13-year-old dog a daily biscuit with hemp-based CBD, a cannabidiol that doesn’t cause a high. He said Tinker’s activity level jumped, and so did she.
“About three weeks into getting the biscuits, she started jumping up on the couch and running around,” Tifft said. His dog still has a bit of a limp, but he described her as more energetic.
“She acts like a puppy instead of her old self. I talk to other people, and they swear by it, too.”
Tifft experimented with removing the biscuits for about a week, and Tinker went backward. With a discount, he estimates spending about $30 a month for biscuits sold at Amsterdam Coffee Club, in the same building as Sativa Sisters, a retail recreational marijuana shop on Trent Avenue.
More pet owners are buying such CBD products, thought to ease inflammation, as well as other nutritional items for dogs and cats. For many households, pets have become part of the family, and today’s pet owners have more choices in ways to protect them and enhance their lives.
A recent Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook that tracks data has estimated that nearly 57% of all U.S. households own a pet, although other groups report a higher percentage. About 38% of households nationwide owned one or more dogs. Cats are the next most popular pet.
Regional fire departments routinely carry pet oxygen masks for animals exposed to smoke. Among pet protection products, dog owners also can buy seat belt attachments and harnesses to secure dogs in vehicles or paw booties to protect pads from heat or cold.
Veterinarians can’t recommend CBD products under federal guidelines, but pet owners invariably bring it up these days, said Dr. Jerry Ponti, an Otis Orchards veterinarian.
“Legally, we’re not supposed to recommend it or script that out,” Ponti said. “So if the owner wants to try it, it’s up to them.
“There basically is no research done on it that I know of, so it’s hard to recommend. In fact, the FDA doesn’t want us to.”
But he does know of some dogs that did respond positively to CBD. “Not all of them, but some.”
Hemp CBD typically has less than 0.3% THC, the active chemical that causes marijuana’s high. Humans have natural cannabinoid receptors involved in a variety of physiological processes, including pain sensation, mood and memory. Animals are thought to respond in similar ways.
Tyler Morris, who runs the Amsterdam coffee shop, said such pet products are on its shelves because of customer demand. Amsterdam regularly sends such products to independent testing to check that CBD levels and ingredients are as claimed on labels, he said.
“The pet thing came into play about two years ago,” he said. “We dabbled in treats at first, and that went well. We decided to up our game and go with better treats and went with an oil, too.
“People tell us they’re giving it to pets for inflammation, hip dysplasia and for chronic pain, anxiety, depression, even aggression, and then obviously epilepsy.”
He said customers also talk about CBD helping senior dogs jump on the bed or get up stairs, and horse owners buy a higher concentrate oil to put in food or to rub on a horse’s sore muscle.
“We even have a nasal spray that one of our customers uses on his dog with epilepsy. He’ll spray two sprays up each nostril when his dog is having a seizure, and he said it usually cuts the time down to about 30 seconds.”
Now that some pet stores have added CBD products, he suggested people check whether they’re hemp-based, the THC level (if any) and about any additives that might affect the animal.
Pet owners can turn to a commercially sold or self-made seat belt attachment for a dog riding inside a vehicle, said Charlie Powell, a spokesman for Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Securing the animal in the car is vital because if you do have to stop quickly, just like an unbelted child, that animal in a car becomes a missile,” Powell said. “Not only will animals be injured, but they have the potential to injure other passengers.”
To secure pets inside a vehicle, some people use two high-quality carabineers with a nylon strap between them.
“People typically hook that onto the shoulder harness and then belt the shoulder harness into a standard seat buckle, then the animal has a little ability to move around. Another way is you can take the tab on the shoulder belt and simply put a carabineer through that, then hook it onto the D-ring of the collar or harness.”
In Washington, it’s against the law for people to transport an animal in the back of a pickup unless the animal is retrained in a harness, cage or enclosure to prevent falling or being thrown.
Despite this, Powell said it’s far too common that dogs ride loose in truck beds. Some of the highest vet bills come from severe injuries when dogs get thrown out during a sudden stop or collision, or in some cases when they jump out into moving traffic, he said.
As a veterinarian, Ponti has seen the consequences. “I’m more interested in people using some kind of restraint in the back of a pickup,” he said. “I see more of those kinds of traumas.”
Another issue is that people don’t properly tether dogs in the truck’s bed, Powell said.
“They often don’t know how to do it properly so that the dog doesn’t fall out and potentially hang itself if you just use a single leash,” he said. “They need to be cross-tethered in the back of a vehicle. There are diagrams online about how to do that properly.”
About a year ago, the Spokane Valley Fire Department received lifesaving equipment for dogs and cats through Project Breathe, a national project run by Invisible Fence.
SVFD Paramedic Nick Zambryski said the donation means oxygen kits are stored regularly on all 11 of its 24-hour response vehicles. Each kit includes three sizes of masks.
Additionally, SVFD staff received training from a local veterinarian on how to administer pet CPR and use the masks.
The Coeur d’Alene Fire Department also carries the pet oxygen masks on units, as does firefighters in the city of Spokane. Deputy Fire Chief Mark John said all emergency response vehicles carry them. “They are on every apparatus and in multiple sizes to deal with different animals.”
To protect paws when the heat rises or temperatures drop, more products are available to protect pads, including boots, shoes and socks.
Aquila Brown, owner of Yuppy Puppy in Spokane, carries boot products in her stores, including new ones that are waterproof. She’s a former veterinary assistant who suggests that people check sidewalk or pavement temperatures with their own hand before walking a pet across it.
Ponti said usually at least once a year, he’ll treat a dog because of pads burned on pavement. They tend to recover quickly. “But that pain they’ve got to go through is really not acceptable, so I think the paw boots are a good idea.”
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