What is CBD and what does it have to do with pets? CBD is cannabidiol which is a chemical compound derived from cannabis plants such as marijuana and hemp. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is another chemical derived from cannabis. THC is the chemical that produces a high in people but CBD alone does not produce a high. In 2018, a new Federal Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp and its derivatives such as CBD. In Texas, it is legal to use CBD products as long as the CBD was obtained from hemp and the THC content is less than 0.3%. While state laws legalized CBD use for people, most laws did not address CBD use by animals.
In recent years, some individuals have advocated for allowing the legal use of CBD in the treatment of a pet’s medical issues especially where traditional medical treatments have been ineffective. There have been claims that CBD improves conditions as varied as anxiety, arthritis, cancer, chronic inflammation, depression, epilepsy, nausea, pain, seizures, slows the growth of tumors, and ticks. So far, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the medical use of CBD for only two rare forms of epilepsy. The FDA has not approved the use of any CBD products by animals. No scientific studies on the use of CBD in pets existed prior to 2014. Therefore, the claims of CBD benefits for the treatment of other conditions are anecdotal rather than scientifically proven and may be the result of the placebo effect.
In 2016, Dr. Stephanie McGrath of Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Studies decided to initiate studies of several topics related to CBD use in pets. One study investigated how different forms of CBD (edibles, oil, creams) reacted in the bodies of healthy dogs. In that study, oils were demonstrated to be most effective. In 2018, another study showed that CBD may offer some benefits for comfort and mobility in dogs with osteoarthritis who took CBD. In 2019, Dr. McGrath published a study related to reduction of seizures in dogs with epilepsy. She is the leading researcher on CBD use in pets. However, she acknowledges that much more research is need. A few of the topics that need initial or further investigation include: determination the proper CBD dosage amounts for animals, evaluation of the ability of CBD to produce desired results (efficacy), investigation of the long-term results of CBD usage, examination of how CBD interacts with medicines, and ascertain if CBD is metabolized in the liver or in some other manner.
CBD is available in many forms: oils, topical creams, tinctures (CBD in a solution of alcohol or water), edibles, and dried flowers for smoking. Oils and creams are the two most often considered for use in pets. According to Dr. McGrath, CBD oil stays in the bloodstream longer than the cream version and provides more consistent performance in a variety of dogs.
While CBD products are readily obtainable for pets they are not well regulated. So, it is definitely a buyer beware market. The FDA classifies CBD products as supplements. As a result testing for purity or safety is not required and if done may be spotty. THC content may not exceed 0.3% or the CBD products could contain potentially harmful ingredients that are not listed on product labeling. In any case, it is best to avoid CBD products that contain any amount of THC because THC is toxic to pets. It is advisable to purchase CBD that has a Certificate of Analysis (COA). A COA indicates that an independent laboratory has tested the product and confirmed its ingredients and potency.
A veterinarian should be consulted before a decision is made to give CBD to a pet. A veterinarian can identify medical conditions that can be treated with traditional medications before using CBD is considered. Your veterinarian should consider which drugs the animals is currently using and identify possible interactions by CBD. Please keep in mind that in almost all states it is illegal for a veterinarian to initiate a conversation about CBD with their clients. Therefore, the pet owner must start the discussion. At that point, the veterinarian may provide information but they cannot prescribe CBD use. CBD use may be indicated when conventional medications are ineffective or they produce harmful side effects. Unfortunately, some pet owners never discuss CBD with a veterinarian before they begin giving it to their pet.
There is another concern for CBD and pets. It is extremely important to store CBD products where animals cannot access them. Probably the biggest concern is when animal get into CBD edibles used by human household members. Once the pet ingests CBD they can experience a type of intoxication that is harmful to them. Signs on CBD intoxication in pets includes: wobbly movements, slow or fast heart rate, sleepiness, dilated pupils, depression, or vomiting. These signs may show up in as little as an hour after ingestion. If any of these signs are present in your pet, immediately take them to a veterinarian for urgent treatment.
CBD has been legalized in Texas as long as the chemical has been obtained from hemp and the THC content is less than 0.3%. As individuals have been utilizing CBD for their personal use, some people are providing CBD to their pets as well. Hopefully, they are discussing CBD use with their veterinarian prior to providing it to their pets. CBD may prove to be beneficial to some animals but more scientific studies are needed to evaluate CBD use in animals. Until more data is available, care should be taken in: deciding to give CBD to pets, in selecting which CBD products to give to pets, in determining dosages to be given, and in purchasing CBD products without any THC content. At this time, the CBD marketplace is still a place where the buyer must beware.