Based in Los Angeles, Dr. Hazzah is one of the few integrative Board Certified Veterinary Oncologists in the country trained in traditional Chinese medicine and conventional medicine.
Dr. Hazzah practiced medical oncology for 15 years before switching her focus to cannabis medicine full-time with her cannabis consulting service, Green Nile, Inc.
She is the Founder of The Veterinary Cannabis Society, the first non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization building awareness of cannabis as medicine for pets, and in 2020, Hazzah published the first of its kind review article on Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine in a peer-reviewed journal.
Hazzah attended Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine where she earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. In this Q&A, we learn more about Dr. Hazzah, cannabis, hemp and eastern medicine for pets, The Veterinary Cannabis Society and The Green Nile, Inc.
Read the full interview below!
Ganjly: What is your professional background and what inspired you to create the Veterinary Cannabis Society?
Dr. Trina Hazzah: I am a board-certified veterinary oncologist and one of only a handful of integrative oncologists in the country trained in both Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as conventional medicine. This background allows me to truly customize treatment plans for every patient.
Pet parents who were willing to try anything and everything to help their pets survive kept approaching me with questions about alternative cancer treatments, either to use in conjunction with conventional methods, or replacing them entirely with something more natural. For the most part, they inquired about eastern medicine, and of course, cannabis.
As an oncologist working frequently with patients who are nearing the end of life, I’ve always considered treatment options that don’t just focus on extending the quantity of life, but also thinking about maintaining the quality of life.
So I thought, if exploring these other methods my patients were inquiring about was the best way of doing that, well, maybe it’s time for me to hit the books.
While studying about eastern medicine, I became fascinated by the extraordinary potential of the cannabis plant. Learning about the plant’s intricate molecular mechanisms, and developing an understanding of the pharmacologic benefits of the hundreds of compounds was a fun challenge for me.
I have always had a strong passion for educating and supporting fellow veterinarians, and ensuring that cannabis products are safe and effective for animals, so after spending a little over five years absorbing all of the information I could about cannabis, I started incorporating it into my oncologic practice. In 2020, I co-founded the Veterinary Cannabis Society, the first non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization focused on raising awareness of cannabis as a medicine for animals.
We established this organization to address the huge gap in education, legal equalities, and resources for veterinarians, so they finally have the tools to better help their patients.
VCS believes that pet parents and cannabis product companies also need the support from an education and advocacy standpoint as well as they are intimately involved in a pet’s treatment.
What is the mission and goal for the Veterinary Cannabis Society?
Dr. Hazzah: The mission of VCS is to create lasting solutions that ensure the safe use of cannabis in pets through education, advocacy, and promoting product standards.
We truly believe that VCS will make a huge impact and create a safe, non-judgmental resource that all veterinary professionals, pet parents, and industry leaders can look to for trustworthy, up-to-date, accurate cannabis-related information.
How did you learn about cannabis therapies?
Dr. Hazzah: I developed an interest in cannabis medicine during my quest for finding effective integrative approaches for veterinary cancer patients. I spent the past half a decade reading through available literature, attending multiple cannabis conferences and symposiums, while also learning from cannabis physicians.
Eventually, I started actively educating veterinarians about cannabis medicine, which is something none of us learned about in vet school. I gave multiple lectures on the topic, published a review article on Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine in a peer-reviewed journal, and co-authored multiple cannabis-related textbooks.
After almost 15 years of practicing medical oncology, I finally decided it was time to switch my focus to cannabis medicine full time and recently started a cannabis consulting service, called Green Nile, Inc.
What conditions of pets can be treated with cannabis or hemp?
Dr. Hazzah: Cannabis is being utilized for a variety of different disease processes in human and veterinary medicine. Below are a few examples of medical conditions, which represent the most common and scientifically justified clinical applications of cannabis in animals:
- Eosinophilic dermatitis and hypersensitivity in cats
- Atopic dermatitis in dogs
- Neuropathic pain
- Gastrointestinal support
Are there cannabis or hemp products that should be avoided?
Dr. Hazzah: Yes, a common mistake most pet owners make is when deciding to test out their own products, ones that are made for humans, on their pets.
Human products, especially the ones containing extremely concentrated amounts of cannabinoids, or commonly known pet toxins such as chocolate, raisins, or xylitol should be avoided. Also, you’d want to avoid any product that hasn’t gone through appropriate testing to confirm it is free of contaminants.
Are there Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs aside from cannabis that can be used on our pets?
Dr. Hazzah: Absolutely, there are too many to count! When treating cancer, I often incorporate multiple formulas to perform different roles. For instance, many cancer patients tend to have a dysfunctional or deficient immune function, therefore starting them on a Qi and blood tonic is a common strategy.
Wei Qi is considered the body’s defensive energy. When our body runs low on this energy, it can negatively affect the immune system as well as mental and physical resilience mechanisms. I will also typically add an herb to help break up blood stagnation or stasis, which is a key factor in tumor growth and metastasis.
Lastly, if needed, I will add in a transporter herb which helps bring the antitumor herbs to the part of the body that needs the attention (i.e., prostate for prostate cancer, brain, lungs etc).
Always be careful with where you source your Chinese herbs as they may be contaminated and unsafe for your pet if not purchased from a reputable company.
Any tips for the pet owners who want to try treating cannabis or hemp in terms of dosing and delivery methods for the first time?
Dr. Hazzah: Tinctures are generally my preferred method as they can be easily dosed (directly in the mouth, on the food or in something tasty like peanut butter, treats, cheese, etc). They are also the best format to adjust the dose so you can find your pet’s optimal dose. The general rule is to start low and go slow in adjusting the dose until you find the dose that works perfectly for your pet. Every animal is unique on so many levels (genetically, physiologically, health condition(s), temperament), and therefore, will require a different dose.
How can pet owners get more information they need?
Dr. Hazzah: I wish I could say pet owners can ask their veterinarians, but unfortunately, most vets are not comfortable discussing cannabis as an option due to the fear of disciplinary action against their license or just the lack of knowledge on the topic.
However, any pet owner can become a member of the Veterinary Cannabis Society and access our plethora of educational materials. I would encourage California pet parents in particular to check out Green Nile’s website for a one-on-one cannabis-specific consultation to see how your pet can benefit.