Tecun was two years old when he was picked up as a stray in San Antonio, Texas. The good-natured German Shepherd was stressed out, emaciated, and completely hairless. As so often happens with stray dogs who exhibit behavior or health problems, he was slated to be euthanized.
Nathan Menken was notified about Tecun’s need for rescue twelve hours before the euthanization was scheduled to take place. Menken is president and founder of Midwest Canine Rescue (MCR), an organization based in Bloomington, Illinois that facilitates rescue and foster operations across the country. He immediately got Tecun out of the pound and into veterinary care.
“I still refer to him as the Naked German Shepherd,” says Menken, referencing Tecun’s stark baldness when he entered the care of MCR. “None of the vets could determine why he had such serious hair loss. We tried several different methods of treatment, all to no avail.”
Menken had been dealing with some strange symptoms himself as a result of anxiety. His doctor placed him on prescription medication, but Menken wanted an alternative treatment that would be just as effective but more natural. After much research, he found a solution that successfully helped control his symptoms: CBD.
CBD refers to cannabidiol, a therapeutic component of the cannabis plant, also know as the hemp plant. CBD is legal and does not have the psychoactive effects of THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana. It produces only trace amounts—0.3 percent max. As a result, it’s considered to have a much larger potential for widespread medical application in humans and animals.
Hemp is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug in many states, which means extensive studies on the therapeutic effects of CBD have been difficult to conduct. But that hasn’t stopped people like Menken from turning to it as a natural treatment. When he discovered that people were making CBD sprays and treats for animals too, he decided to try it with some of his dogs. The positive results were visible almost immediately.
Just one month after beginning treatment with CBD products, Tecun’s silky Shepherd coat had returned. The separation anxiety he had been experiencing in his foster home also dissipated. In November 2015, just a few months after he was scheduled to be euthanized, Tecun was adopted.
While researching CBD for Tecun, Menken came across RxCBD, an Olathe, Colorado company that makes CBD products for people, and as of a year ago, for dogs and cats as well.
“We’re trying to ease people into this in a comfortable way,” says Kris Otto, who founded RxCBD with her twin sister Debbie Cokes, and is the company’s baker. Otto and Cokes are well aware that attitudes outside of Colorado aren’t always as open to the idea of cannabis-based therapies, but believes their recurring client base speaks for itself. They report that people have successfully used RxCBD’s treats to help their pets with anxiety, arthritis, and inflammation, and they are confident that their treats are safe. Says Cokes, “We test the CBD that we purchase, and we test the cookies after we bake them to make sure it’s the dosage and quality that we would be willing to feed to our own pets.” She adds that in their lab tests they often find only miniscule amounts of THC—no more than the .03 percent legal limit, and often closer to .01 percent.
Otto, Cokes, and Menken, who continue to work together to help MCR’s dogs, all see great potential for CBD’s use with shelter pets. “If giving CBD will help center and ground the animal and bring them back to their natural confident self, it will give the animal a much better chance of finding a home,” says Otto. Menken agrees, “It’s truly amazing, especially after having been prescribed medications from the vet to treat the same things, trying other holistic approaches, and not getting the results that we get from using the CBD.”
As far as vets go, the jury is still out on whether CBD could possibly become more popular as a treatment option for anxiety and inflammation. Lack of long-term research on the topic leads many vets to question the use of CBD, and there has yet to be widespread acceptance of its use.
At the Ketopet Wellness Sanctuary, a retreat in Salado, Texas for rescue dogs battling cancer, on-site vets have begun researching CBD as a potential ally in their quest for effective non-chemo treatment options. Ketopet spokesperson Daniel Orrego says that while they’re not yet ready to incorporate it into their treatment plans, they do recognize its potential as a natural-based option for treating certain symptoms.
“I am certainly supportive of the idea of using medicinal cannabis products,” says Jim Davis, DVM, of Ketopet. “However, I am reluctant to give an opinion based on the little that I know.” His concerns echo those of many other vets, which is that until there is enough thorough research on CBD, it’s too soon to be suggesting it for their patients.
The lack of veterinary support is not stopping Menken from using it with MCR’s dogs, nor do Otto and Cokes think it will slow down business. Menken is confident that many more of his dogs will have successful outcomes with CBD treatment, and while he doesn’t want to put any pressure on other rescues to try the product, he does think they should give it a chance.
Says Menken, “To other rescues I would just say, ‘Here’s how we’ve used it, here is the before and after, here are the benefits.’ I’m a big proponent of laying the cards on the table and letting others make the decision about whether or not they’re going to use it.” What he does know is what he sees: Many of MCR’s dogs responding to CBD in a way that he hasn’t seen with any other product. And as a result, many more dogs finding homes.