CBD for Pets: How to Safely Use Cannabidiol for Dogs and Cats
By Lisa Egan
As more people seek safe, natural remedies for their health concerns – and as more states legalize medical cannabis – interest in cannabidiol (commonly known as “CBD”) is growing. And it’s not just good for humans. A huge amount of research shows that it can also be good for pets.
It’s about time. CBD is a fascinating compound that has tremendous therapeutic value.
What is CBD and how does it work?
Here’s a brief overview:
- CBD (cannabidiol) is one of over 100 compounds found in cannabis plants that belong to a class of ingredients called cannabinoids.
- Cannabinoids are a diverse set of chemical compounds that bind to special receptors in the human body that make up what is known as the endocannabinoid system.
- The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system which plays many important roles in the human body. It is responsible for the physical and psychological effects of cannabis. For a more in-depth look at the ECS, check out this virtual tour.
Dr. Ethan Russo, a board-certified neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher, believes that many chronic diseases may be caused by clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. In an interview with Project CBD, Dr. Russo explained what a deficiency of endocannabinoid function might look like:
If you don’t have enough endocannabinoids you have pain where there shouldn’t be pain. You would be sick, meaning nauseated. You would have a lowered seizure threshold. And just a whole litany of other problems. It occurred to me that a number of very common diseases seem to fit a pattern that would be consistent with an endocannabinoid deficiency, specially these are migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. They have some things in common. They’re all hyper-algesic syndromes, meaning that there’s seems to be pain out of proportion to what should be going on, in other words you can look at the tissues they look okay, but there’s biochemically something that’s driving the pain. (source)
We recommend Organical Naturals CBD products.
CBD can help your pets, too.
Like humans, animals have an endocannabinoid system. In the article Claws and Effect: Cannabis Medicine for Pets, Project CBD explains:
Any animal with a backbone (classified as a chordate) has an endocannabinoid system. The Kingdom of Chordata includes amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish, and mammals, including house pets.
If your veterinarian has never mentioned CBD to you, it may be because vets are not getting a lot of guidance on the subject – yet. According to a recent Consumer Reports article titled Should You Try CBD for Your Pet?, “vets have been left out of most state laws concerning cannabis, so they can talk about CBD only if clients broach the topic.”
Only California has passed legislation that specifically authorizes veterinarians to discuss cannabis with their clients, according to experts. As a result, vets lag behind physicians in working with cannabis and researching its use in pets. (source)
Despite the lack of official guidance, pet parents have certainly are interested in finding out if CBD can help their animal companions with various health issues:
In a survey conducted this year by the Veterinary Information Network, an online community of veterinarians, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said they were asked about cannabis by their patients at least once a month.
Fueled mainly by anecdotal reports, people are turning to CBD to help manage pain, arthritis, seizures, and other health problems in their pets. (source)
Most of the veterinarians who participated in the survey agreed or strongly agreed that both marijuana and CBD products offer benefits for humans and expressed support for the use of CBD products for animals.
Among those who had experience treating pets with CBD, the vast majority (~80%) did not feel that state veterinary organizations provide enough guidance on how to abide by state or federal laws. A similar proportion believed that from a moral and medical perspective, CBD should be allowed for pets. (source)
What does research on CBD for pets say?
Many pet owners swear by CBD for their furry friends, but Stephanie McGrath, D.V.M., a veterinarian and assistant professor of neurology at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, says to keep in mind that researchers are just starting to learn how to use it for pets and at which dosages.
Based on her research, she found that 89 percent of dogs who received CBD in a clinical trial had a reduction in the frequency of seizures.
“Overall, what we found seems very promising,” she said.
Sixteen dogs were enrolled in the clinical trial. Nine dogs were treated with CBD, which has 0.3 percent or less of the psychoactive component of cannabis, THC; seven dogs in a control group were treated with a placebo. (source)
While research on CBD use for animals is in the early stages, results so far are promising. A study conducted at Cornell University in 2018 found that giving dogs with osteoarthritis (OA) 2 mg/kg of CBD twice daily can help increase comfort and activity.
CBD shows promise in treating older pets with age-related health problems including chronic pain, osteoarthritis, inflammation, cognitive dysfunction, anxiety, and management of cancer symptoms, as Dr. Sarah Silcox explains in the article Could cannabis play a role in geriatric, palliative veterinary care?
Vets are using (and recommending) CBD more and more.
Dr. Jeffrey Powers, a veterinarian who practices in Michigan, told Consumer Reports that he gives his dog Ella CBD to control her noise anxiety.
In What’s the deal with CBD?, Dr. Patty Khuly, a Miami-based veterinarian, said that she started digging into information on CBD for animals because her clients kept asking about it. Here are two excerpts from that article:
CBD’s safety profile has been studied in dogs at Colorado State University (conclusion: safe) and research into its efficacy in seizure disorders is currently underway there. A mountain of anecdotal reports also identifies osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, allergic skin disease, appetite stimulation, and nausea relief (among others) as other potential areas of study.High-level evidence on efficacy is scant, to be sure, but CBD oil is considered safe and effective by a growing number of veterinary practitioners who aren’t your typical devotees of alternative medicine. I fall squarely into that camp. Count me among the converted.
Most of the patients I’ve medicated with CBD oil have thrived. After recommending it to hundreds of patients (I carry it in-house now), I’ve not yet observed an adverse reaction (source)
In an email to The Collegian, McGrath wrote, “I think we have a long way to go to get the answers we all want. Studying the effect of CBD on other canine diseases are necessary to understand what the full potential of this drug is … There is so much more to learn about CBD and we are at the very beginning.”
Here’s what you need to know before you give CBD to your pets.
While CBD is generally considered safe, if your pet is on any medication, checking with your veterinarian before giving it to Fluffy or Fido is a good idea, especially if your pet is on any medication. This is because some medications do interact with CBD, and if your pet is on medication for seizures, this is especially important to consider.
CBD is non-toxic and non-psychoactive, meaning it’s not going to get your animal companions high and is unlikely to cause any negative feelings of anxiety or paranoia like THC can.
Be sure to choose CBD products that are very low in THC (or contain none at all) for your pets. Products that are high in THC can be dangerous for animals – dogs in particular.
Fortunately, this is generally not a concern when using hemp-based CBD products that are specifically manufactured to have very little THC (or no THC at all). This is the product we recommend for pets.
Dosage recommendations still haven’t been completely sorted out, but most experts suggest starting with a low dose and adjusting as needed. The first time you give your pet CBD, monitor them for a couple of hours. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on animals after introducing something new.
Have you tried CBD for your animal companions?
Do you give CBD products to your pets? Have you found it helpful? Share your suggestions and experiences in the comments below.
Lisa Egan has been passionate about nutrition and fitness for over 20 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences with a minor in Nutrition. She is the owner of Lisa Egan Nutrition Coaching and the website All About Habits.