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Experiences, attitudes and predictors regarding cannabinoid use in dogs and cats

Photo by Cytis

Publish Date: 23.05.2022

Category: Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 3 Good health and well-being (Indicators)

In this interdisciplinary study, researchers from the Veterinary Faculty and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana attempted to evaluate the personal experiences and attitudes of Slovenian dog and cat owners regarding the use of cannabinoids (CBDs), and to identify the predictors regarding the first use and reuse of CBDs. The results of the study have been published in the Frontiers in Veterinary Science journal.

At every time and place in human history, there are prevailing values that guide people’s ideas of what is right and good. The values that prevail and are widely accepted in a certain society change over time. The main principles of Western postmodern society are consumerism and the ability to choose from a variety of different options. There have been three significant cultural shifts in the transition from late modernity to postmodernity: the rejection of authority (especially scientific authority), an increase in consumerism, and the importance of individual responsibility for health. The main health values in today’s society are: nature and natural remedies (appreciation of natural foods, avoidance of artificial ingredients), scepticism about science, holism (integration and balance of body, mind, and spirit), rejection of authority, individual responsibility (for one’s own health) and consumerism. The importance of these values may explain the increasing popularity of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).  Cannabinoids are recognized as a CAM treatment.  The best-known CBDs are the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol, which is thought to have many beneficial effects on health.

Phytocannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant, which has been used as an industrial material throughout human history and also as a medicine for treating many diseases. In the 20th century, cannabis was criminalised throughout the world. In the early 1990s, new laws were adopted that allowed cannabis use under strict conditions, including the use of cannabis-based medicines. Despite legal restrictions on the use of cannabis products, people are using them to treat conditions that cannot be cured with conventional medicines or to support current treatments. Official medicine accepts the use of medical cannabis to help treat cancer, muscle spasms, epileptic seizures and glaucoma, as well as for the alleviation of symptoms such as pain, nausea, vomiting and anxiety. The use of such products has even been extended to children and pets.

The study hypothesised that the important predictors regarding the use of CBDs in pets were a positive attitude towards CBDs use, postmodern health values (natural medicines, scepticism about science, holism, rejection of authority, individual responsibility, consumerism) and personal experiences. The authors therefore prepared an anonymous online survey intended for owners of dogs and cats in Slovenia regardless of their experiences with CBDs. The questionnaire comprised six sections relating to: demographic information and personal experience with CBDs use; information on the animal; experience with CBDs use in animals; the reasons for not using CBDs in animals; attitude towards the use of CBDs in dogs and cats; and postmodern health values. A total of 408 fully completed questionnaires were subjected to statistical analysis. Less than half (38.5%) of the owners surveyed had already used CBDs to treat their pets, while 42.2% confirmed that they relied on cannabis products to treat numerous medical conditions. As the overall experience with personal CBDs use was positive, respondents stated that they would very likely use CBDs again in the future. Those respondents who had not themselves used CBDs expressed a relatively strong intention to use them in the future.

Positive attitudes and personal experiences were significant predictors of first use and reuse of CBDs in dogs and cats, while postmodern health values were not. The researchers state that the decision to use CBDs is based on acquired information and personal experience. According to their study, the main source of information on cannabinoid products was the internet, followed by advice from acquaintances and veterinarians. While the study showed consumerism and individual responsibility were the most widely expressed postmodern values, these values were not shown to be predictors of the use of CBDs in dogs and cats.

A study of the social and medical views on alternative medicine in Slovenia was produced more than 20 years ago. It revealed that people were less willing to accept conventional medicine as the only health option and that they preferred to rely on their social network when deciding what, where and when to seek official or unofficial medical help. This study also confirms that advice from acquaintances is important when deciding whether to treat dogs and cats, and that a large number of owners rely on CAM.

Given the rise in the use of CBDs to treat and relieve symptoms of disease, veterinarians should be familiar with their use. At the same time, further research is necessary in order to establish the efficacy and safety of CBDs in veterinary medicine.

The study was authored by Katerina Tomsič (Univerza v Ljubljani, Veterinarska fakulteta), Kristina Rakinić (Univerza v Ljubljani, Fakulteta za družbene vede), Alenka Seliškar (Univerza v Ljubljani, Veterinarska fakulteta)

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