Pot for pets: Startup aims to treat canine ailments with medical cannabis
CBD oil has been shown to help dogs with everything from pain to separation anxiety.
It all started with a cookie.
Israeli entrepreneurs Sahar Meiron and Itay Ben-Mordechai were helping out a friend's father who had Parkinson's. He was prescribed medical cannabis, but his shaky hands were preventing him from taking the necessary droplets. So Meiron and Ben-Mordechai baked the oil into a batch of cookies. All was going as planned until Ben-Mordechai's dog, a terrier named Gus, snatched one of the cookies and ate it.
"We were really panicked," Meiron recalled of that fateful day a year and a half ago.
Their panic didn't last long. They went online and soon discovered that CBD – the chemical compound found in cannabis plants – is being used medicinally for pets as well as for humans. Broadly speaking, medical cannabis refers to CBD, which helps with pain and anxiety, and not to THC, which is the component that gets people high.
According to Dr. Jerry Klein, the chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence showing that CBD is helpful for dogs – treating everything from pain to anxiety. It has been used to treat disabled or senior dogs, as well as dogs with glaucoma issues and separation anxiety. According to Dr. Klein, dogs have taken CBD because of its anti-inflammatory properties, heart benefits, anti-nausea and anti-seizure effects as well as for possible anti-cancer treatments. A newspaper reporter in Detroit recently wrote about his dog who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but has survived for more than three years thanks to medical cannabis.
Gus' initial cookie encounter with CBD was not his last. The former service dog had suffered an injury in the military and now, with the help of CBD, was coping better with the limp in his back leg. Other former service dogs have used CBD to overcome issues related to PTSD. CBD has been used to help deal with inflammation in race horses. Meiron worked with a horse who was itching all the time. "The CBD not only helped her with the scratching, but it calmed her," he explained.
Meiron and Ben-Mordechai are now in the process of launching a company – tentatively called GusLabs after their favorite canine – to best provide CBD-related products to the pet market. "Things are moving super-fast," Meiron told us. "It's so intense. We're working 24/7 on it."
The two young entrepreneurs – both are 26 years old – are currently meeting with veterinary experts and scouring the scientific literature as they grow their company. "I want to check on clinical studies to see the effect and the toxicity and the pharmacokinetics to be able to give my customers full transparency of what they're getting and what this product does and how safe it is," Meiron said.
Meiron, who previously volunteered at a cannabis farm in California, has enrolled in medical cannabis courses at the Technion Institute in Haifa. "I'm expanding my knowledge," he said.
Israel is at the forefront of medical cannabis industry. "We have the highest number of Ph.Ds per capita in the world," said Saul Kaye, the founder of iCAN, a group which helps incubate cannabis startups in Israel. "We're No. 2 in cannabis patents outside of China. And we're No. 2 in investment funding outside of Silicon Valley. So that makes this a robust place to begin a new industry."
Meiron, who himself takes CBD for insomnia, is excited about all the opportunities. "We're just now figuring out in the last year or two, how much effect it has on different subjects – on us, on animals. It has so many different potentialities, and it's really something that I want to be a part of."
He recently moved to Tel Aviv, a city known for its love of dogs, and adopted a puppy. He named him Mushu, after the fast-talking dragon voiced by Eddie Murphy in Disney's "Mulan" film. "I want to try and find better ways to help animals with this resource that we have," Meiron told us. "I want to figure out a way to benefit those we love."
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Related Topics: Animals