Cannabidiol (CBD) products are rapidly growing in popularity, both for humans and pets. With the use of CBD on the rise, pet parents and veterinarians alike are now wondering whether it could be an alternative option for multiple pet health conditions. Early research is promising, but it’s best to work with a veterinarian who is familiar with CBD products if you are looking to give them a try for your pet.
Here, we’ll discuss current CBD research, if it’s safe to use in pets, and whether it could be the right choice for your furry friend.
What is CBD?
The marijuana plant has two main active ingredients
— delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the substance responsible for the “high” people experience when they use marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, does not cause a “high” and studies suggest
it has a range of potential health benefits.While restrictions for purchasing CBD products vary from state to state, many people across the U.S. can easily purchase these items both in stores and online. But it’s important to note that the FDA
hasn’t yet determined whether or not CBD is safe as a food additive, dietary supplement, or treatment in pets. Although there is one FDA-approved human medication containing CBD, no products have been approved in animals.
What kind of research has been done on the effects of CBD in pets?
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research available when it comes to using CBD in pets. Currently, recommendations are either based on veterinarians’ professional experiences or taken from very small studies. As the interest and use of CBD in pets continues to grow, the number and size of these studies will go up as well, providing both veterinarians and pet parents more guidance on how to best use these products.
Is CBD safe for pets?
It’s important to remember that the FDA has not approved any prescription or over-the-counter CBD products for use in animals. This means that the products on the market may not have been tested for safety or effectiveness before being sold. And some companies may promote unsupported medical claims regarding their products that have not been reviewed or approved, either. There are also concerns
regarding CBD product quality. For example, the product might contain a different amount of CBD than what’s on the label, or it might have contaminants like THC or pesticides. So if you decide to try CBD for your pet, you may have to do some extra digging to find out exactly how the product you’re choosing is made.If you have any questions, look on the brand’s website or contact the company to ask for their Certificate of Analysis (COA)
. This public document verifies that the ingredients written on the label are actually in the product. If the company is not able to provide you with the most up-to-date COA, it is not a good idea to purchase a product from that company.
What are the risks of treating my pet with CBD?
The side effects
of using CBD in animals are very similar to those experienced by humans. The most common issues include changes to appetite, fatigue, and diarrhea. Typically, the higher the CBD dose you give to your pet, the more likely they will have side effects. In most cases, it is not necessary to treat these reactions, as they are generally pretty mild or get better with time. If these side effects don’t get any better or become more severe, you should contact your pet’s veterinarian and keep a close eye on your pet to make sure they don’t hurt themselves.
Can CBD cause my pet to get high?
As mentioned earlier, CBD does not cause a “high” or euphoric feeling. Some people, however, do say it seems their pets are a little out of sorts when they take CBD. If your pet looks like they could be “high” after their dose, there is a reason why this might be happening.Before purchasing any CBD product, carefully read the label for specific information about its contents. If the product is described as “full spectrum,” this means the product may have up to 0.3% THC in the product — the legal limit according to the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018
. This seemingly small amount could be enough to cause this side effect in your pet, especially if they are extra sensitive to it.
What forms of CBD are available for pets?
If your veterinarian recommends CBD for your pet, there are a range of CBD pet products available, including oils, treats, topical products (lotions, gels, creams), and more. It is often given by mouth or under the tongue. Bottled oils with droppers may be preferable when you first start giving CBD to your pet as it is easier to increase the dose slowly rather than being limited to a fixed amount in a tablet, capsule, or treat.
Are human CBD products safe for pets, or do I need CBD products specifically intended for pets?
Products meant for humans have the same CBD that would be found in products designed for pets. So, human CBD might be OK to give to your pet, but you’ll want to follow any recommendations from your vet. If the product is not made specifically for pets, it is important to read the label to double-check for ingredients
that could be toxic to pets like chocolate, certain essential oils
, and artificial sweeteners.Besides being made without these harmful ingredients, pet-specific oral CBD products are usually also flavored with your furry friend in mind — chicken and fish chews, for instance. Be aware that some CBD products have a grassy taste that can make it more difficult to give to your pet. If you find your dog or cat turning their nose up at the product you’ve chosen, try disguising it in a spoonful of peanut butter or your pet’s treat of choice.
What CBD dosage should be used for pets?
Since there aren’t any FDA-approved products for use in animals, and we don’t have many studies looking at safety and efficacy, further research is needed to determine more exact doses. If your veterinarian recommends CBD, make sure to follow their instructions since dosing may vary depending on why you are using the product.
looked at the efficacy of CBD oil in helping to alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs. Researchers found that 2 mg per kilogram of body weight given twice a day reduced pain without owners reporting any side effects.
However, blood test results suggested that there may have been some damage to the liver. This is why it’s important that your vet is involved in making sure that your pet is being monitored appropriately.
As with humans who have never taken CBD before, it is important to start your pet on a low dose and raise it slowly.
For example, you can start with one-quarter or one-half of the dose on the label to see how your pet reacts to a small amount of CBD. If your pet does not experience symptom relief, your vet may have you give another dose of the same amount in 30 to 60 minutes and continue to see how they respond.
Because there isn’t much research available on using CBD in animals, we don’t know the safest maximum dose. It is best to discuss what dose is safe with a veterinarian who has experience using CBD to help your pet’s condition.
What pet health problems might CBD help manage?
CBD has shown benefit for animals in a range of conditions including, but not limited to, inflammatory problems
, pain relief
, and anxiety
. Using CBD for pet health problems is based on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS)
. The goal of the ECS is to achieve and maintain balance of all processes in the body. This is thought to be the reason CBD may have so many potential benefits.
Keep in mind that every pet’s ECS functions a little bit differently, so CBD may work better for some than others.
Once absorbed by an animal’s body, CBD may play a role in lowering inflammation and relieving pain. While experts are still learning exactly how CBD may relieve pain, it’s believed to affect the ECS and other nerves that are involved in creating pain sensations. More specifically, studies
have shown that reducing joint inflammation relieves osteoarthritis aches and pains in pets.
Much like humans, many pets experience anxiety, leading to several troublesome behaviors like urinating inappropriately. CBD is thought to ease nervousness and provide feelings of calm. Experts believe
this is because CBD may activate some of the same areas of the brain as serotonin — the hormone that helps us feel happy and relaxed.
CBD has been shown to help with epilepsy
in dogs by lowering the frequency of seizures when used in combination with traditional antiseizure medications. Although experts don’t fully understand how CBD treats seizures, it is thought to
prevent nerves in the brain from firing too much and lower the number of electrolytes believed to have a role in seizure conditions.
A prescription CBD medication called Epidiolex
for two severe seizure conditions called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome in humans in 2018. It is also approved
for the treatment of seizures associated with tuberculosis sclerosis complex. However, studies have not been conducted for its use in animals, so it is not recommended to use it in pets.
How can I tell if CBD is helping my pet?
Because our pets cannot tell us whether they are feeling better, the most reliable way to tell if CBD is working is to watch them and their behaviors. After giving a dose of CBD, keep a close eye on your pet to see if their symptoms seem to be improving or not. Depending on the condition your pet has, symptom relief may happen in as soon as 30 minutes or take up to a few weeks of consistent use.As discussed before, CBD impacts every animal differently. If your vet recommends that you give it a try, you may go through several brands, doses, or forms to find what works for your four-legged companion. But even though finding the right product requires patience, it is worth it to see your pet be their best, happiest self.
The bottom line
Emerging research suggests that CBD may help with several pet health conditions, including anxiety, chronic pain, and seizures. Although we need more studies to confirm its benefits, many pet parents already use CBD with great results. Because these products haven’t been reviewed or approved by the FDA, you should discuss using CBD with a veterinarian who has experience treating pets with CBD before starting anything new. Together, you’ll come up with a plan on how to safely help your furry friend feel the best they can.