Filling in the gaps to help an exotic range of patients
Though research exists on how cannabis helps pets facing medical problems like cancer, that limited data pool is only the beginning if you want to help a pet through a heart-wrenching condition. That just wouldn’t do for Northern California company Treatwell, so they’re filling in the gaps themselves to help an exotic range of patients.
To create the most effective treatments for critters big and small, Treatwell works with pet patients of all kinds (as well as humans) to create data sets that allow them to look at the possibilities for a wide variety of conditions, said Alison Ettel, CEO and Founder of the company. “We’re always looking for what will work better with less dosage.”
“Ours is based on observational data, because we are seeing different results from what research says. Like with THCA, which I’m playing with right now,” Ettel said. Even though many human cannabis studies use dog’s as test subjects, she said, that “there are many factors that could be affecting those studies. It could be the extraction method, or that a certain terpene is missing. With trim versus flower, we’re noticing a huge difference.” By controlling the source of cannabis, the dosage and other factors, Treatwell can understand the effects better.
When Treatwell was launched in 2014, Ettel partnered with Harry, who prefers not to use his full name, a Southern Humboldt farmer and extractor who has worked with people patients for over 20 years and has treated dogs for 10 years, particularly seizures in dogs. Harry started healing himself with cannabis after modern medicine failed to address his severe autoimmune issues. He made medicine for other human patients as well, and the decision to start helping pets came naturally.
“Curing myself of an incurable disease lead me to realize it should be explored in other avenues,” and that other mammals could potentially have their lives elongated or their last days made more comfortable, Harry said. “In Humboldt [County], there’s one dog for every person up here. We love our dogs. It was intuitive after a while. We gave it topically, originally. We had a dog with a huge tumor on its leg, and within days there was a reduction in the tumor. At that point, the owner wanted to give it to the dog orally as well. They started slow and it did well. The dog lived six years after that.”
“Alison and myself, both of our lives were dramatically changed by cannabis personally, and we both have a deep interest in helping animals as well as humans,” Harry said. “So, we started creating the proper formulations for animals. Alison is really involved in collecting data and figuring out dosages. I helped basically doing the file formulations of all the tinctures and away we went. We’ve had a lot of success in a number of areas.”
Treatwell started with offering human-focused product lines and soon after saw the need for pet-specific ones in the market. “They have different metabolisms,” Ettel said. “You shouldn’t give human dosed products to pets. Especially pure THC — it causes too much stress. Very different than humans. In humans, you often need higher THC, but we haven’t found that in animals. The highest we’ve needed was a 50/50 ratio.”
The source of Treatwell’s cannabis for their tinctures is part of what makes it so effective. Harry had cultivated a genetics library in Southern Humboldt that CBD-innovator Ringo Lars previously helped him develop. “We only use untrimmed top-shelf flower” grown with above-organic standards for the people and pet tinctures, Ettel said — they have seen best results when they leave out the trim and shake to keep as many of the molecular bonds together as possible.
But will cannabis tinctures get your pet “high?” This question concerns a lot of pet owners, Ettel said. “If you start small and follow the instructions, you will never get the animal high. If you want to help certain conditions, 20:1 won’t do a thing. 20:1 is what we sell the most of; it does the most for pain. In humans, it does well for anxiety and mild inflammation. But in animals we are seeing it as a very good pain reliever. The minute it crosses over into other areas, you need the higher ratio. 1:1 is needed for cancer, not the 20:1 at all.”
“The main thing [is that] every dose is different, just like with humans. They need to experiment and find the [lowest dosage] that will help,” Ettel said.
“Hot spots” on dogs — areas where a dog will chew raw over and over — are one of the conditions they are working with to fine tune the best options. “We noticed 20:1 was doing well. When we used it topically, it took half the amount of time. Then we combined it with tincture, and it cleared up in days. They’re much more effective when [combined],” but the work isn’t done. They’re always looking for the best treatment options with the minimum dosage. She’s also had recent success testing the possibilities of CBDA. “We haven’t played around with it for seizures yet, so it’s not my go-to for seizures, but I have a hypothesis.”
New product lines for both humans and pets are in development at Treatwell. Ettel is especially excited about her testing of the effectiveness of acids like THCA and CBDA. Harry said they challenge themselves to keep up with current research coming out and digging deep to find out what is real. At the end of the day, it comes back to who receives the medicine, be they two-legged or four-legged creatures: “We’re all about patients because we are patients,” Harry said.
Goats, alpacas, horses, pigs, dog breeds of all kinds — Treatwell has exotically expanded its patient list over the last year in the best way possible and is looking for more.
Research is at the backbone of what Treatwell’s team does. Many of their patients’ owners turn to cannabis options only after exhausting traditional veterinary medicine. Working closely with patients they are studying has allowed Treatwell to gather crucial data. “Our research is based on observational data because we are seeing different results from what published research says,” Ettel said.
“When you look at the studies that exist and see how they were conducted, it renders [them] moot. When the studies are dealing with synthetics or a single string of molecules, it’s completely different. Some studies you realize only used males.”
Not including female subjects in studies isn’t just a problem in pet-related studies. Why is it a problem? This is best summed up by Boston University professor of Public Health, Julie Palmer, who in an interview with Boston University Today said, “Some [studies] do translate, but men and women have different hormones. There are many pathways affected by hormones in the body. Cardiovascular disease, in particular, and some of the cancers are affected by hormones.”
Do you have an exotic or unusual animal with a medical condition? Treatwell wants to help — they will provide tincture at no cost for exotic participants needed for their research. Contact Treatwell to learn more at
Treatwell can be found in select dispensaries. Go to TreatwellHealth.com to find one near you or to learn more.