The CBD market for pets has never been hotter, but just because CBD products are everywhere, it doesn’t mean they’re risk-free. Not only has there been an explosion in CBD products for pets, but consumers are also warming up to the idea of giving these products to their pets for treating everything from their anxiety to arthritis.
According to a 2019 Packaged Facts survey, 11% of dog parents have used CBD or hemp supplements with their pets. While that may not sound significant, another study conducted in early 2021 found that interest in CBD products among pet parents was high. In this survey, 39% of dog parents liked the idea of CBD supplements for their pets, with 29% saying they would use them if they were legal, which they have been since 2018.
But before you give CBD to your dog, there are a few essential things you need to consider.
1. Make sure you know where the CBD comes from
CBD stands for cannabidiol, and it’s a cannabinoid produced by a plant called cannabis sativa. There are two varieties of this plant species – one that produces cannabis, most commonly known as marijuana, and another that produces hemp. The difference between the two plants is the amount of THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis in that plant at its harvest.
While hemp will contain less than 0.3% THC, marijuana will have more, and marijuana may be riskier for your pet than hemp. A product with CBD means nothing unless you know where that CBD comes from, and that’s key because of the potential of side effects.
According to Gary Richter, DVM, medical director of Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California, and author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide, “As a general rule, hemp-based CBD products are safe. However, CBD products from marijuana (containing THC) with medical applications have potential risks when combined with one another.”
Signs of THC toxicity start with lethargy and can progress to loss of balance and coordination, then losing consciousness, and in some cases, death, which is why Dr. Richter doesn’t recommend using CBD on your pets without expert guidance. This brings us to our next point.
2. Find out whether your vet can discuss or recommend cannabis
Unless you’re in California, your vet can’t discuss or recommend cannabis products. Because marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, vets could be penalized and potentially lose their license for advising you about CBD products for your pet, Dr. Richter says. California recently became the first state to allow vets to discuss, but not recommend or prescribe, cannabis with their clients.
It’s also important to note that the FDA hasn’t approved any CBD products for pets, which adds another layer of complication for vets and pet parents.
3. There are limited studies on the effects of CBD on pets
Currently, there are two published studieson CBD in pets, both of which focus on the effects of hemp-derived CBD on dogs. One looked at the use of CBD for canine osteoarthritis and the other for seizures, and both studies showed benefits. In the osteoarthritis study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, CBD oil decreased pain and increased activity in dogs.
Meanwhile, the second study from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association showed that CBD reduced seizure frequency.
Other studies are currently ongoing, so expect to see more data in the near future.
4. CBD benefits for pets are similar to the benefits it has on people
The potential medical benefits for animals are the same as you would expect for people, Dr. Richter says. Think pain relief, anxiety management, seizure control, help with gastrointestinal issues, and cancer therapy. You name it, and there’s probably an application for it. One of the upsides of cannabis is that when used correctly, it’s safer than most pharmaceuticals.
Side effects may include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and loss of appetite but can progress all the way to toxicity in rare cases.
5. CBD can be particularly helpful for pets with anxiety
If your dog gets freaked by noises or turns into a nervous mess when going to the vet, using CBD oil for your dog can help control that anxiety, especially when paired with behavioral modifications. This is even true for pets with severe anxiety.
6. Inform your vet before giving your pet CBD
Cannabis can adversely interact with certain drugs, which is why you need to tell your vet if your pet is taking CBD. Certain components in cannabis are metabolized via pathways in the liver, which could be the way other medications are metabolized. That could make those medications less or more effective, leading to toxicity in some cases.
Just because cannabis is natural doesn’t make it completely harmless!
7. The CBD pet product you buy must have a COA
Cannabis is a remarkable plant that pulls in toxins, molds, and heavy metals out of the ground, but its remarkability comes at a price. These toxins could wind up in the CBD, which could then make its way into these products.
So, before you buy any product, you should check that the company has a certificate of analysis (COA) for the product. This will tell you what the product has been tested for and how many cannabinoids it has. You shouldn’t even consider a product if the company can’t produce its COA. While you can usually find these on the company’s website, in some cases, you may have to contact the company for it.
If you decide to try CBD for your dog, talk to your vet first. Then start with a small dose and carefully monitor your pet for positive or negative effects.
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