Most pet owners consider their pets as part of the family and want to keep their animals happy and healthy. And just like with humans, pharmaceuticals can have some serious side effects on animals. CBD is the latest alternative to pharmaceuticals and is getting a lot of press as many products are being released, such as Martha Stewart’s new line of products for pets. The Global Pet Expo will have CBD retailers as well.
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in humans, and any animal that has a backbone has an endocannabinoid system. For humans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a CBD-based prescription medication for a rare form of epilepsy. Currently, veterinarians are not allowed to write a recommendation for cannabis as a medical option to treat animals, yet there’s a lot of debate about whether they should be able to or not.
Dr. Robert Klostermann, the founder of Middletown Veterinary Hospital in Wisconsin, gives CBD to his pets. He explains, “I also have two older dogs, and one of them has developed separation anxiety in his old age, so I decided to see if CBD could help,” Klostermann added. “After one week of treatment, I really noticed a difference in my little dog.”
He continues, “The evidence is limited, but there is now evidence that reveals CBD can be helpful for certain ailments, and that’s something that we didn’t have before.”
What Your Vet Can and Cannot Say About CBD
Right now a veterinarian must state that “At this time there is no scientific data on the use or dosage for CBD in pets, only anecdotal. Because CBD products at this time are not regulated, there is no way of ensuring the efficacy for various purposes, ranging from anxiety, arthritis, or even epilepsy. There [are] no current studies on dosage for CBD to correctly and effectively dose a 6-pound chihuahua or a 150-pound mastiff. The time may come when the science has true answers, but it is not now.” But that doesn’t mean that CBD is not therapeutic for pets.
For several reasons, your vet or vet technician may not discuss CBD with you. As the use of CBD for pets is new, they didn’t learn about it in veterinary school. And if they have done their own research, they still may not discuss it with you for legal reasons.
Research on CBD and Pets
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is currently sponsoring a study which will evaluate the use of CBD in treatment-resistant epileptic dogs. The hope is to gain scientific data on the use of CBD in dogs with this condition. Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder in dogs. The AKC also had doctors share the experiences of their patients using CBD and having success with anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety impact, and for possible anti-cancer benefits.
Colorado State University conducted a small study on dogs with epilepsy and found that 89% of dogs that were given CBD had fewer seizures. The head researcher, Dr. Stephanie McGrath, said, “Overall, what we found seems very promising.”
Another study from Cornell University gave CBD oil to dogs with osteoarthritis every 12 hours for 4 weeks and found that the dogs who received CBD oil had less pain that the dogs who were given a placebo. Pain levels were determined using the University of Pennsylvania’s Canine Brief Pain Inventory.
The University of Reading School of Pharmacy in the United Kingdom published a study in 2018 which evaluated the acute anti-seizure effect of CBD on mice and rats. CBD was found to be effective in an array of acute seizure models in both mice and rats. This study illustrated that CBD is a well-tolerated and effective form of treatment for anti seizures and also illustrates a potential disease-modifying effect by being able to reduce seizures. The results also provided data to support that CBD can reverse epilepsy-induced cognitive deficits which commonly occur with seizure patients.
Possible Side Effects of CBD in Animals
Research on CBD treatments and side effects has yet to be done on cats, dogs, horses, and birds. Most veterinarians associate the potential side effects of CBD based on how it affects humans. The most common effects are dry mouth, lowered blood pressure and drowsiness. The FDA has not approved CBD yet as a form of treatment for anything, but with the newly signed Farm Bill, that may change. CBD is still being sold legally, but without claims of therapeutic effects on the product itself. Legally that can’t occur until it has been tested and proven to do what it claims.
PetMD quotes Dr. Gary Richter, holistic veterinarian and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital and Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California, who explains that CBD oil is generally safe for cats. There can be some adverse side effects, which include constipation, diarrhea, and sedation.
If your animal is taking any medication, talk to your vet about any possible interactions of CBD with other drugs. Dr. Casara Andre, the founder of Veterinary Cannabis Education & Consulting, explains “We do see the strength of pharmaceuticals increase when dogs are taking CBD, so we can often taper down some of those pharmaceuticals.”
While CBD is generally safe for animals, marijuana is toxic. Pet Poison Hotline lists symptoms for animals that have inhaled the smoke from marijuana or ingested some of a plant or an edible, which can include lethargy, dilated pupils, difficulty walking, dazed expression, vomiting, high or low heart rate, whining or crying, body temperature too high or low, incontinence, tremors, seizures, and potential coma. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has estimated that over the last decade there has been a 765% rise in the incidences of pets consuming marijuana or marijuana products. For this reason, it’s recommended that you only purchase CBD products that have 0 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana that gives the high.)
Common Uses for Pets
Some of the most common reasons pet owners give their cats and dogs CBD are:
- anti-anxiety due to travel, thunderstorms, fireworks, separation anxiety, moving, visiting the vet, and other stressful events
- excessive barking
- aggression towards other animals or humans
- mood disorders
- muscle spasms
- joint pain
- recovery from surgery
- appetite stimulant
- benefits for the heart
Will CBD Make Your Pet High?
CBD doesn’t cause a high in animals or humans. Some CBD products have .3% THC. At one-third of 1%, it would take a very large amount to get your animal high. However, as marijuana is toxic to cats and dogs, it’s advisable to avoid products that have any THC in them.
Another benefit of CBD is that if you stop giving your cat or dog CBD, pet owners haven’t reported any withdrawal symptoms, though research on this topic is needed to confirm the anecdotal evidence.
Shopping for CBD Products for Cats and Dogs
Here are some guidelines for finding the best product for your pet:
- Purchase a product designed for pets, free from any ingredients that could harm them (such as chocolate or xylitol, which are both toxic for dogs) or any smells that might turn them off. Cats and dogs have a very powerful sense of smell, and they can be finicky eaters, so getting a product that’s specifically designed for them increases the chances that they’ll consume it.
- Look for a high-quality CBD product. The CBD industry is unregulated and there’s a wide range of options, so buying the cheapest product may have little to no benefit for your pet, and in a worst-case scenario actually harm them. Lower priced options could be toxic and have additional additives in it which are not safe for your pet.
- Look for organic products that are free of pesticides, fungicides, or solvents.
- CBD products should have a COA (certificate of analysis). A COA is issued by a third-party testing lab that tells you the exact amount of CBD that is in the product, as well as other information such as the presence of solvents, pesticides, microbes, and chemical solvents. Many CBD oils contain very little amounts of CBD, and you will want to ensure there is little to no THC in the product.
- Look for products that extract their CBD using CO2 or alcohol, rather than other methods that can leave behind toxic chemicals.
- Chews, biscuits, treats, and oil tend to be the easiest way to administer CBD. Tinctures will allow you to simply add drops to your pet’s treats or food and you can easily adjust the drops as necessary. Chews and treats are another option. Capsules tend to be more difficult to administer as you have to hide it in their food, and some animals will eat around it.
Regarding storing your CBD products, oils and chews should be kept at room temperature, and avoid direct sunlight and light, as you don’t want to change the chemical composition of the product.
How to Give Your Pet CBD
The most common way to give your animal CBD is by using a tincture and putting drops on their food. Chews, treats, and biscuits such as CBD infused, freeze-dried salmon and chicken are also available.
Regarding dosing, the general rule is 1-5 mg CBD for every 10 lbs of body weight. One option is to start with a dose in the middle of that range and see how your pet responds, watching for any positive or negative changes in appetite, mood, movement, bathroom behavior, and sleep cycles. Usually, the product will start working within an hour. From there you can adjust the dosage to see how they respond. If you don’t see any results, gradually increase the dosage, and keep in mind that it may take up to a week to start noticing benefits.
Other Advice and Resources
Though CBD can have a positive impact on your pet’s health and well-being, don’t rely on CBD if your pet has a medical condition. CBD isn’t a replacement for medical treatments.
Don’t give your pet CBD if they’re immature or pregnant.
Veterinary Cannabis is dedicated to providing education to the Veterinary and cannabis industries.