Cruising with a Dog Living Aboard a Boat

Cruising With a Geriatric Dog: Everybody's Getting Ready for the Season

Wednesday, April 16, 2014S.V. CAMBRIA

Cruising with a dog at the best of times can be difficult.  Cruising with a geriatric dog can be down-right challenging.  But cruising with a geriatric dog with a laundry-list of ailments truly is daunting.  Even though we know Sally’s health will be even more difficult to manage once drop our lines for the season, we’re both desperate for one last “hurrah” so that we can spend some quality time with our furry friend at anchor.  But it wasn’t looking very promising.

And then the idea hit me.

We’re both supporters of medical marijuana as a natural way to treat people, so why wouldn’t it be just as effective on dogs?  I got straight to work and started researching our options.  Obviously dogs can’t (and shouldn’t) smoke pot but there had to be other choices available, and I was determined to find them. 

And I did.

Most articles that came up during my search kept leading back to the same person – a veterinarian out of Los Angeles who has been using a marijuana tincture successfully to treat dogs with a wide variety of ailments. Unfortunately (and totally unrelated to his research), he passed away last year which seems to have left a void in the MMJ for pets world and left me without the information I was seeking – dosage! 

The last thing you want to do is get your pet high.  Apparently it’s not a pleasant experience for them and Sally has enough problems without me adding to her laundry list of issues. And then, of course, there’s the issue of legality.  Here in Washington, marijuana is legal so it’s perfectly fine for me to give it to Sally.  However, without a medical marijuana card, it’s not yet legal for me to buy it.  But that wasn’t my biggest problem.  We spend six months of the year cruising in British Columbia where MMJ is illegal and there was no way in hell we were going to risk transporting drugs across the border . . . not even for Sally. 

So I had to keep looking.

And that’s how I found Canna-Pet – medical cannabis for pets.  It’s a hemp-based product and contains almost no THC (the “high” educing component to marijuana), it’s already properly dosed for our pup, AND because hemp is legal in many parts of the world we can bring it with us to Canada without fear of arrest (that’s always a good thing!).  So we decided to give it a try. 

After two weeks on Canna-Pet, Sally is doing markedly better.  In fact, it’s literally been the difference between life and death for her . . . and that’s no exaggeration.

Sally looking a lot worse for the wear 24 hours after her first seizure.
Her head's hung low and she's leaning on the bulkhead for support while she stands.

Towards the end of March, Sally had a seizure but started to recover until she had another one a few days later.  The second one was much milder than the first, but she wasn’t recovering from it.  In fact, she was getting worse:  She wouldn’t eat.  She wouldn’t drink much.  She wasn’t steady on her feet.  She didn’t have a lot of energy or interest in what was happening around her.  And she was showing signs of stress.  For the first time since she fell ill in December, David and I were in agreement – we couldn’t let her go on like that and we had to think about calling a vet.

But I had just made a commitment to Canna-Pet.  I had reached out to them and asked if they would like to help sponsor our website, and they accepted.  In exchange for their product at a discount, I would document the effects of Canna-Pet on Sally and write a review (this is it!) – not exactly “sailing” material, but Sally IS an important member of our crew. 

It was a tough decision to make.  Should we fulfill our commitment to Canna-Pet or our promise not to allow Sally to suffer needlessly?  Sadly, her health was that bad.  But David has a motto of sorts and the older I get, the more I find myself adopting it:  Never do anything you can’t undo.  Once we bring her to the vet, that’s it.  There’s no going back.  So, in the end, we decided to give her two weeks on the supplement.  If nothing changed or the situation worsened, we’d make the call.  And then something wonderful happened.  The Canna-Pet started working.

Sally two days ago begging for treats with her head held high and
standing on her own four paws
Before we started the process, Sally scored 36 out of 80 points on Dr. Katie Hilst’s Quality of Life Scale – that’s 45% . . . a failing grade.  Two weeks later, she scored a 51 (64%) and grows a little stronger every day.

We had three simple goals:

1.    Improve Sally’s appetite.

2.    Provide pain relief for her arthritis

3.    Improve her level of alertness, resulting in an improved quality of life.

Over the course of the past two weeks, that’s exactly what we saw.  But the changes didn’t stop there:

1. Because her arthritis is being managed better, Sally’s posture has improved.  Before Canna-Pet, she was walking with a rounded back which, I think, changed the way she stepped on her paws.  Long story short, her nails (both front and back) had been worn down to the quick but they’re starting to grow back now.

2.    She’s walking more fluidly.

3.   She’s holding her head up rather than walking around like a “hang dog”.

4.    Her tail is in the air more often . . . and it actually wags again.

5.    She started grooming herself again.

6.    She interested in what we’re doing again.

7.  We’re seeing signs of the Sally we’ve known and loved for all these years – orneriness and stubbornness with a little bit of mischievousness thrown in (they may not sound like positives, but they are).

8.    She seems excited about life again.

9.    She comes out to greet me when I come home.

We’re now 15 days away from the start of our cruising season and Sally has a quality of life we haven’t been able to provide her with for quite some time:  A life free from stress.  Not only is she happier, but we’re happier . . . and more relaxed.  I feel like we have our lives back as well.  It’s still not an ideal situation.  Sally will leave us one day . . . soon.  That’s just how it goes.  And while we know and understand that she can’t be with us forever, at least now we have the opportunity to spend our final time together doing what we love – living at anchor.  And for that, we’re eternally grateful.

Disclaimer:  I am not a vet nor do I have any experience in veterinary medicine.  The previous blog entry is merely an account based on our personal experience with Canna-Pet and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.  Results for the same or a similar experience can not be guaranteed.  Please consult your veterinarian before making any healthcare decisions for your pet.  

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  1. What a wonderful thing! I wonder if we would have had our Francesca longer if we'd known about this product. We lost our wonderful Aussie at age 16 and we still miss her every day. I completely agree with 'don't do anything you can't undo'. Caution is the best thing and I'm so glad you'll have your Sally for a little while longer. Looking forward to catching up on the rest of your blog.

    1. Thanks, Melissa. Sorry to hear about Francesca. I saw a picture of her on your blog (the one where your son had to hold on to her so she didn't jump after something). And immediately thought, "What a great dog!" Neither David nor I can believe how far Sally's come since we started giving her the Canna-Pet (dementia is so cruel!). It's been a difficult few months for her,but she finally seems to be getting a little better every day rather than taking one step forward, one step backwards, and getting absolutely nowhere. I'm just so happy that she's going to be able to come with us this year and plan to savour every minute!