Newsletters

Get Open House delivered to your inbox every Tuesday Morning.

More owners are turning to cannabis-based treatments. By Emma Foehringer Merchant
Illustration by Britt Spencer.

At first blush, the idea of a pot-smoking dog sounds like a joke, a parody from an age where prohibitions are dwindling and pet indulgence is growing. But savvy pet-goods marketers surely know better. After all, as modern America’s humans embraced acupuncture, organic diets, and behavioral medications, they quickly started shelling out for the veterinary variety on behalf of their dogs and cats. It was only a matter of time before medical marijuana—now legal in 23 states and DC—jumped across species to become a treatment option for animals that, just like people, suffer from arthritis, cancer, pain, seizures, and anxiety.

Though they aren’t government-regulated and haven’t been widely studied—and the American Veterinary Medical Association hasn’t taken a stance on the matter—many owners insist the cannabis-based treatments now available for animals alleviate their pets’ ailments when traditional medicine doesn’t.

Mike Mulloney of Elkridge is among them. He got the devastating news about his pit-bull mix, Jake, last July when, after a routine checkup, the dog’s lab results revealed he had an aggressive form of blood cancer called hemangiosarcoma. Jake had a month to live, maybe two, the vet said.

Eight months later, Jake isn’t just alive—Mulloney says he’s still able to enjoy life: “He gets excited to go for walks. Still gets excited when the mailman or the trash man comes, still barks when someone comes to the door.”

Mulloney believes the cannabis supplements he’s given Jake since August, along with a strict nutrition plan, are to thank for sustaining the dog’s quality of life and slowing the cancer’s progress. The supplements, called Canna Companion, were recommended for Jake by holistic veterinarian Scott Sanderson, who practices in Columbia. “People want to use [cannabis] because it works,” says Sanderson.

Not all vets share his enthusiasm.

“We just don’t know enough to be able to safely say whether such products are effective," says veterinary oncologist Conor McNeill, who practices at the Hope Advanced Veterinary Center in Vienna. Sarah Sheafor, chief of oncology at VCA SouthPaws in Fairfax, emphasizes that the quality of the supplements and how they interact with other medications are untested. Others, such as Leesburg veterinary neurologist David Brewer—who does periodically recommend cannabis-based treatments to patients—place some stock in anecdotal success stories like Mulloney’s.

At least one thing is certain: The pet products on the market differ significantly from the type of marijuana that humans smoke for fun, which is why they’re legal even in places where marijuana is not. Canna Companion and Canna-Pet—both supplements in capsule form—are produced with industrial-grade hemp, a strain of the plant that contains only trace amounts of THC, the substance that gets people high.

To give animals any other form is dangerous and even lethal, says Tina Wismer, medical director of the Poison Control Center at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In 2013, her organization fielded 352 calls related to pets ingesting pot. The queries range from comedic (a cat in Illinois lapping up a small, ultimately harmless amount of marijuana-infused lasagna) to serious (a border collie in DC that had to be medicated and rehydrated at the vet after scarfing down a marijuana-laced brownie, especially toxic because of the chocolate).

In contrast, Wismer says the cannabis supplements are unlikely to do any harm, though she does offer a warning: “Issues would arise if the animal ate the entire bottle of pills—which I wouldn’t put past a Labrador.”

This article appears in our March 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 07:00 AM/ET, 03/11/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
This week, meet readers' pets Ajah, Rajah, Pepper, Chloe, and Mr. Mustache.

Want your pet to be featured on our website? E-mail your pet's name, location, a brief bio, and a photo to pets@washingtonian.com and use the subject line "Reader Pets."

Ajah and Rajah (above) are both from Centreville. "Ajah is a four-year-old mix. Her father is a Staffordshire terrier, and her mama is a boxer/pit bull mix. Ajah is a lover and her name means 'come here' in Hindi as she was not listening to her [first] first name. Rajah means 'Prince' in Hindi. Raja was acquired to give Ajah company during the day while I am at work—literally a pet for my pet—little did I know he would be so cute."

"Meet Pepper Adele Iyer. Her street name is #freshprincessofDC and her stage name is Nene Leakes. Pepper is an Australian Cattle Dog-mix who loves to fetch, eat noodles (and other delicious, spicy human foods), and give out kisses to humans and canines alike. She was found with her mom, brothers, and sisters on the mean streets of Raleigh, North Carolina, and was rescued from a high-kill shelter by A Forever Home in Virgina. Pepper moved to DC at the wee age of eight-weeks-old."
"Chloe celebrated her 10th birthday on February 22 by hosting her very own brunch with all her favorite human friends. Chloe is a weimaraner living in Arlington (Court House) with her mom and dad, who she loves very much. Though she’s getting older, Chloe still thinks she’s just a baby and loves snuggles and hugs from anyone and everyone."

"This is my guinea pig, Mr. Mustache. My wife and I adopted Mr. Mustache from the Washington Humane Society last December. Mr. Mustache lives with his humans on the border of the Adams Morgan/U Street neighborhoods. He loves catching sun in the safety of his pigaloo, munching on lettuce and carrots, and cuddling with humans."

Posted at 01:25 PM/ET, 03/03/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Looking for a furry friend? One of these cuties—all available at Washington-area rescues—might be your match.

Kena (above) is a medium-energy American Staffordshire/Border Collie mix who's ready to find a lap to call her own. She may seem a little timid at first, but give her a minute to warm up and she'll turn on the affection. At three years old, Kena is a more mature lady, so you don't have to worry about dealing with a hyper puppy. She is part of the WHS PACK (People and Animals Cardio Klub) program and does enjoy going on runs, but she is also happy to just hang out by your side after a good walk. You can meet Kena at the Washington Humane Society's New York Avenue Adoption Center.

Addie is a mixed breed, most likely a boxer mixed with an Australian shepherd or retriever. She is about two years old and weighs 45 to 50 pounds. Addie is a very happy, loving girl. She loves other dogs and loves to play. She's fine with cats and seems like she would be great with small children. She is doing very well with leash training and has learned simple commands; she is very trainable. She's not a barker and is not rowdy. You can meet her through K-9 Lifesavers.

Studley is a little Chihahua/feist mix. He is quite small, under 25 pounds, and is somewhere between four and six years old. He is a very sweet boy who is a little shy at first, but when he warms up, he's fun and spunky He is great with other dogs and is currently in a foster home with cats and hasn't had any problems. He is a big snuggler and loves his people. Studley has Cushing's disease, but it is easily controlled with oral meds, and he's totally worth the extra bit of care! You can meet him through K-9 Lifesavers.

Culpepper Kitty is a handsome two-year-old boy. He's smart, outgoing, and loving, and his hobbies include exploring, climbing, playing with toys, and learning new tricks. He also enjoys cuddles on the couch and being petted. He’d love a family to entertain, and be entertained by. You can meet him at the Washington Animal Rescue League.

In honor of this week’s Westminster win by a beagle, the Washington Animal Rescue League has chosen Dolah as their pet of the week. She may not have a champion pedigree, but she certainly is cute. Although timid, Dolah is very sweet and just needs someone to shower her with love and boost her confidence. She likes other dogs and might benefit from the company of an easygoing canine companion. Because Dolah can get scared in new situations, she needs to be kept on a leash when out and about. And to be honest, she’d be just as happy hanging out on the sofa at home with you. At seven years old, Dolah qualifies as a “Boomers’ Buddy,” which means her adoption fee will be waived for adopters 50 years or older.

Peaches is an adorable beagle who weighs about 30 pounds and is about two years old. She loves getting petted, having her belly rubbed, and playing with sticks. She plays well with other dogs, too. She is mostly house-trained and working on her basic commands, but has already perfected "fetch." She's a sweet-natured dog, has the ideal appetite for both playtime and relaxing, and would be a lovely addition to any family. For more information, visit the Rural Dog Rescue website.

Lina is the sweetest hound mix who is quite possibly the perfect dog. She is very affectionate and calm, and is happiest snuggling on the bed or couch. She is house-trained, although, as with any dog, she may need a refresher in a new environment. She's very gentle, but also loves playing with other dogs. She would make the perfect addition to any family. For more information, visit the Rural Dog Rescue website.

Posted at 02:05 PM/ET, 02/20/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Looking for a furry friend? One of these cuties—all available at Washington-area rescues—might be your match.

Yukon (above) is a two-year-old shepherd mix with a coat—and heart—of gold. She's sweet and playful, but past the sometimes annoying puppy stage. She is also very social and thrives on attention; she’ll even give you a gentle nudge to encourage interaction. Yukon will soon begin medication for heartworm disease, which means her physical activity will need to be limited for a while. But in no time at all, she’ll be ready to take on the world! Meet her at the Washington Animal Rescue League.

Mr. Marbles (above left) and Leia (right) are each eight-year-old, domestic medium-hair foster cats awaiting their new homes. They already love each other! If interested in this duo, please e-mail rvillatoro@email.org for more information and to arrange a meeting.
Ella is a beautiful, two-year-old, black-haired rabbit with a gentle, loving personality. She is on the quiet side, but still loves to play with toys or chew on her favorite box. She has a history of getting along peacefully with others, including other rabbits. Currently, Ella is staying at Pet Supplies Plus (7502 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church) to promote adopting shelter rabbits. Please stop by to visit her there and apply at Animal Welfare League of Arlington if you think she is the rabbit you've been looking for.
Hazel is a two-year-old, 39-pound, American Staffordshire terrier mix with a radiant personality, polished demeanor, and sparkling eyes. Although she's pretty down-to-earth, she loves running around in the fresh air, sniffing all there is to sniff. She's a big snuggler and can't resist giving doggy kisses to everyone. Meet Hazel at the New York Avenue Adoption Center.
Kaiden is a one-and-a-half-year-old mixed breed dog. He weighs about 35 to 45 pounds. He is playful, inquisitive, and full of energy. He is great with kids, but he does like to jump up for kisses, so a home with bigger children that can't easily be knocked down may be best. He loves people and gets along well with other dogs! Kaiden loves visiting the dog park or taking a long hike with his foster family. He is great on a leash and crate-trained. You can meet him through K-9 Lifesavers.
Grace is a two-year-old boxer mix who weighs about 62 pounds. She has great manners, is very friendly, and has medium energy. She loves people and gets along with some dogs, but she can be growly or nippy with other dogs while on a leash and can get loud when she plays. She would probably be best in a home as an only dog. She does really well with older kids. You can meet him through K-9 Lifesavers.
Dayton is a very sweet, two-year-old domestic short-hair. If you give him time to get acquainted, he’ll show his playful side, rolling on his back, batting with his paws, and even giving occasional gentle love bites. Like all felines at WARL, Dayton will be available for a special one-day, $14 adoption fee this Sunday (February 15) as part of the shelter’s annual Catapalooza adoption event. Meet him at the Washington Animal Rescue League.

Boss is a gorgeous redbone coonhound who is about two years old and is looking for a forever or foster home. He's on the smaller side for a redbone, between 40 and 50 pounds, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in personality! Boss probably hasn't lived in a home before and is still learning his manners, but with some basic obedience training he will be the perfect addition. Boss seems to have lots of energy to burn, as well, so a home with a fenced yard or an active family is best for him. Boss is generally a happy-go-lucky pup and is looking for someone equally as happy to have him! For more information on Boss, please visit Rural Dog Rescue.

Tripp is a sweet hound mix who we think is just under a year old. Tripp was brought into a high-kill shelter after being hit by a car. Volunteers in North Carolina were able to pull him from the shelter and bring him to the vet, where they found out he had two broken legs. He has since had surgery to repair the breaks and is doing great and can't wait to find his forever family in the DC area! He's still very fearful from what he has been through, so currently RDR is only considering applicants for Tripp who have another dog at home who can show Tripp the ropes. While he's shy in public, he warms up very quickly at home and, as you can see, is an absolute love bug! For more information on Tripp, please visit Rural Dog Rescue.

Posted at 02:45 PM/ET, 02/13/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every week, we get a vet to answer your pressing pet questions.
Image via Shutterstock.

Have a question you’d like to ask a vet? Send your query to pets@washingtonian.com with the subject line “Vet Q.”

Q: The dog sometimes gets into the cat box and eats some of it. Can he get sick?

Dr. Brittany Cartlidge, AtlasVet DC: Let's face it: Some dogs will eat anything—including and not limited to cat poop. Which is one of the main reasons I don’t like when dogs lick me on the face. Who knows where their mouth has been?

Cat litter boxes are like boxes of buried treasure to dogs. Cat food is very high in protein and therefore, so is their fecal material. This makes it attractive to dogs. Some dogs also like the taste of the cat litter itself.

Your dog could get intestinal parasites from eating fecal material. Hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and Giardia could be transmitted from coprophagy (the medical term for eating fecal material). These parasites can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, weight loss and anemia. Be sure to keep your dog on monthly heartworm prevention, as that also prevents most intestinal parasites, and if the cat goes outside, be sure to have him on preventatives, as well. Theoretically, a dog could also get sick if they ate a large amount of cat litter, since it absorbs moisture and could cause constipation or an obstruction.

You can try to use a baby gate or cat door to allow the cat access to the litter box while keeping the dog out. Training dogs to obey the command “leave it” is also helpful if you can catch them in the act. Lastly, try to clean the litter box after your cat uses it to remove the source of temptation to your dog. Most dogs don’t get sick after eating litter box treasures, but trying to prevent it is a good idea. Especially if you let your dog lick your face.

Posted at 11:48 AM/ET, 02/11/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
This week, meet readers' pets Boo, Botwin, Huck, and Mac.

Want your pet to be featured on our website? E-mail your pet's name, location, a brief bio, and a photo to pets@washingtonian.com and use the subject line "Reader Pets."

"Boo (above) is a 1.5-year-old Poochon who lives in Arlington. He loves to lure you into chasing him by starting out playing fetch, then stopping a few feet away with the ball in his teeth and taunting you with a 'cmon, let's see what you got' flick of his head."

"This is Botwin of Brookland, a Dachshund/pit bull mix, 2.5 years old and photogenic!"

"Huck is an 18-month-old English bulldog who likes short walks around the block, meeting new (and old!) friends when he is out in his Logan Circle neighborhood, and carrying his purple dinosaur around the house. He may snore loudly, but with a face like this it's hard to hold it against him."

"My name is Mac, short for Judah Macabee. I'm 11 years old and live in Potomac. I am a perky little Maltese and love to play with my toys and cuddle with my people. Even though I'm small I get my kicks chasing all those deer in our backyard!"

Posted at 03:40 PM/ET, 02/10/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Looking for a furry friend? One of these cuties—all available at Washington-area rescues—might be your match.

Clive (above) is a three-year-old, 55-pound American Staffordshire terrier mix. He was rescued by the Washington Humane Society on September 26, 2014, after he was found living outside in unsanitary conditions. Clive has the manners of a true gentleman and loves taking casual strolls through the neighborhood. He has some dog friends but would prefer to be the only animal in his new home. He is a medium-energy dog who will really love his people. Clive goes on runs every week with Washington Humane Society's People and Animals Cardio Klub (PACK). He loves to get out of the adoption center for some adventure. You can meet him at the WHS Georgia Avenue Adoption Center.

Jasper is a longtime resident of Rural Dog Rescue who has been searching for a home for some time. He's an adorable hound mix with loads of personality. This big-eared guy is great with other dogs and all people. He sleeps in his crate all night and doesn't make a peep. He would do best in a home with a fenced yard, and most likely will do better in a suburban setting. While he enjoys time outdoors, he likes to be near people and wants to be in the house with them. He likes chew toys and a comfortable bed to lay on while inside. He corrects behaviors very easily and is a smart boy. He walks well on a leash and would make an excellent jogging partner. Jasper was either lost while hunting or left in the woods. He is very lovable and just wants to please and be loved. To find out more about Jasper, please visit the Rural Dog Rescue website.

Scamp is an beagle-mix who is probably between six and eight years old. He would make an awesome addition to any family because he's such an easygoing guy. He gets along well with, dogs, cats, and people, and is house- and crate-trained. He loves walks, but loves naps even more. He's the perfect match for anybody looking for a low-energy, happy dog. To find out more about Scamp, please visit the Rural Dog Rescue website.

Chelsea is an outgoing, confident, two-year-old calico who enjoys exploring and climbing. She also loves playing with toys and has been known to roll around in the toy box at the Washington Animal Rescue League. Chelsea gets along with other cats, but would be just as happy as someone’s only pet. Chelsea, along with other WARL cats, will be available for a special “Catapalooza!” adoption fee of $14 on Sunday, February 15. Meet her at the Washington Animal Rescue League.

Reese just celebrated her fifth birthday. That means she now qualifies for the Washington Animal Rescue League’s “Boomers’ Buddies” program, through which the adoption fee for animals five years or older is waived for adopters 50 years or older. But as a special birthday gift to Reese, WARL is waiving the fee for her adopter, no matter what their age.

While not a typical "lap cat," Reese enjoys snuggling and having her fur brushed. She's looking for a home where she can be someone's only cat.
If you'd like to meet Reese, who currently resides in a foster home, please e-mail adopt@warl.org.

Missi is a two to three-year-old Boxer mix. She weighs 78 pounds. She is very friendly and outgoing and loves people. She was clearly someone's pet, but no one ever claimed her at the shelter. When Missi meets anyone, her whole back half shakes with excitement. However, Missi isn't such a fan of other female dogs or small dogs, and has some difficulty when she is on-leash. She'll need a home willing to work with her, but she is a great dog who just wants to love people. You can meet her through K-9 Lifesavers.

Jamie a hound mix. At about three years old and 68 pounds, she is filled with love and happiness. She is a calm dog and is very friendly. She is not a jumper or a barker, and would likely do well in any situation, including with kids and cats. You can meet her through K-9 Lifesavers.

Posted at 02:20 PM/ET, 02/06/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Nearly 200 of the area's most adorable pets.
Here's Oliver, one of Washington's adorable pets.

We asked for cute photos of your pets for our Washingtonian Cutest Pet Contest, and boy, did you deliver. Over the past few weeks, we have collected nearly 200 photo submissions of cuddly cats, fluffy puppies, and even a pet bird named George.

To find a particular pet, search for them by name in these photo galleries:

Washington's Cutest Pets A—E

Washington's Cutest Pets F—L

Washington's Cutest Pets M—Z

Posted at 05:13 PM/ET, 02/04/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Every week, we get an expert to answer your pressing pet questions.
Image via Shutterstock.

Have a question you’d like to ask a vet? Send your query to pets@washingtonian.com with the subject line “Vet Q.”

Q: Any tricks to trimming my dog's black toenails without cutting too far?

Dr. Chris Miller, AtlasVet DC: Have you ever met someone who hates having their feet touched? Dogs can be just like humans that way. Many times while I'm examining otherwise sweet dogs, they will show their teeth and even snap at me while I am looking in their ears, evaluating their teeth, and, more commonly, handling their feet. Dogs can have an aversion to the manipulation of certain body parts, and when that body part is their feet, trimming their nails can be a real nightmare.

Using the right equipment is an important place to start. You will need the appropriate size and style of clippers for your dog. You’ll find clippers that are too big may result in accidental clipping of soft tissue like the paw pad. Too small, and the nail may not fit into the clipper. I like the “plier” style clippers that look a little like miniaturize bolt cutters (pictured below). They are sturdy, reliable, and easy to use. I find the guillotine style of clippers more cumbersome, flimsy and difficult.

As for technique, it is important to make nail-trimming time as stress-free as possible. Handling your dog’s feet as a puppy and starting to trim the nails at a young age is extremely helpful with getting your dog used to the experience. Having a partner help hold, console, or feed treats while trimming can be very useful. I like to approach my dog while he is calm and lying down. I’ll pet him for some time and maybe even apply some peanut butter to the handles of the clippers to help him associate the clippers with a positive experience. Being able to see the quick, or the vascular soft tissue center of the nail, through light-colored or translucent nails makes the job much easier. The length of the quick can vary, which makes trimming dark nails so difficult.

Trimming too far can result in pain and bleeding, but I always let clients know this is very common and happens to everyone. If this is something you can’t bear to think of, take your dog to a groomer or veterinarian, who will be happy to make the trim for a small fee. Otherwise, trim very small amounts of the nail at a time. Shaving one millimeter or less will minimize the risk of hitting the quick. If you do accidentally trim too far and draw some blood, there are powder coagulants available at local pet stores that can be applied to the freshly cut nail to help curb hemorrhage. I’ve found that cornstarch or flour from the kitchen can work in a pinch, too. Lastly, don’t forget about the dew claws if your dog has them. These are the toes that are the equivalent of your dog’s “thumbs” and can be easy to miss. Happy trimming!

Find Dr. Chris Miller on Twitter at @DCVet.

Posted at 12:11 PM/ET, 02/04/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Friendship Hospital for Animals is offering them Tuesday. In the meantime, here's what you should know about your pet's teeth. By John Scarpinato
Image via Shutterstock.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and to celebrate, Northwest DC's Friendship Hospital for Animals is offering free pet dental checks during a "yappy hour" on Tuesday, February 3. Before you go, check out these tips from Dr. Ray Phillip, Friendship's chief of dentistry, about keeping your pet's teeth in top shape.

How often should dogs and cats come in for a professional cleaning?

At a minimum they should have a professional cleaning, under anesthesia, at least once a year. The first trip should be around about three years old for cats and medium-to-large-breed dogs, and one year old for small breeds and tiny breeds like pugs and Yorkies. Those smaller breeds tend to have more problems due to their teeth often being crooked and crowded.

What can happen if you don’t take care of your pet’s mouth?

The most common problem in dogs and cats is periodontal disease, where bacteria gets up under the gumline and erodes the bone around the roots of the teeth over time. Also, the roots can get abscessed, or the animal can lose the bone around their teeth so badly that the teeth start to get loosened, leading to those teeth needing to be extracted.

Sometimes we also see cracked teeth from dogs chewing on bones. Cats can get resorption of their teeth, where the teeth begin to erode away. Unfortunately, we don’t know what causes it and we don’t know how to prevent it, but it’s something we look closely for. It can become painful and we would need to extract the teeth that it’s happening in. People prevent these things by brushing, flossing, and getting regular cleanings. The same sort of thing happens with our pets.

What is a typical cleaning appointment like?

First, a regular exam occurs. The veterinarian will look at the teeth and grade them to determine how bad they are. Because the animals go under anesthesia, we do require blood work beforehand. Going under anesthesia is really the only way to get a good cleaning and a good evaluation of the teeth.

Once the animal is put under anesthesia, the teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler, especially up under the gumline. The veterinarian will evaluate each tooth one by one with a probe to make sure no tooth is loose and that there aren’t any other problems under the gumline.

The best practice is to have every tooth X-rayed as well. These are called full-mouth radiographs and are used to look under the gumline and under the teeth. Sometimes the tooth can look absolutely normal, but if you take an X-ray you can see that the root has a major problem.

What can owners do at home to keep their pet’s teeth healthy?

Brushing your pet’s teeth is the optimum thing to do. The enamel and gum tissue age and have the same problems with plaque and tartar as people. Just as your dentist recommends that you brush your teeth daily, so should your pet.

Getting a demonstration from a veterinarian or a technician is the best way to get a handle on how to effectively brush your pet’s teeth. A lot of people make the mistake of trying to pry their pet’s mouth open real far and the pet doesn’t like that. All you have to do is get your finger up under the lip. There is a product that you can put over your finger with some bristles that allows for great control. You can get up to the teeth pretty easily.

Additionally, there are specific dental treats and dental diets that are out there. Even giving your pet those treats once a day can help. Greenies really help keep the tartar to a minimum and there is a specific diet by Hills called T/D. A lot of people use T/D as a treat once or twice a day, but it can be used as a regular diet too.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council or VOHC meets every so often to analyze products that claim to help reduce plaque and tartar. If they think it’s a good product and does what it says it’s supposed to do, they give it their seal of approval. If people want to see what products they've approved, they can go to their website.

Friendship Hospital for Animals is located at 4105 Brandywine St., NW. The yappy hour and free dental checks will last from from 5 to 7 on Tuesday. To attend, send an RSVP to toothmonth@friendshiphospital.com.

Posted at 12:13 PM/ET, 01/30/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()