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CBD Use in Pets

CBD, or cannabidiol, is another derivative of the hemp or marijuana plant. It has several suspected health benefits, such as relieving pain, reducing anxiety, and improving sleep in people. But is it safe to use for dogs and cats? What products work and can your vet prescribe CBD for your pet? Keep reading to learn more!

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What is CBD and how is it different from marijuana/THC?

CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in the central and peripheral nervous system. When people think of marijuana, they are usually thinking of the active ingredient, THC, which causes the psychoactive effects. (For more information, please see our article on THC toxicity in pets.) The hemp plant has very little THC present compared to the regular marijuana plants.

Why can I buy CBD for pets online and at various stores?

A product can be labeled as CBD if it was made from the hemp plant and contains less than 0.3% THC. Many companies are making CBD products, but there is little quality control or oversight, so what is on the label may not be exactly what is in the bottle.

Although CBD from hemp has been legalized, the regulations and laws around it are a mess, so vets can still not prescribe or recommend it. Until there are more FDA-approved products, vets are really limited on how they can proceed. The only FDA-approved CBD product is labeled for use in humans to control seizures and is still incredibly expensive.

What does CBD oil do in dogs?

That’s a great question! Unfortunately, there are no formal studies on the effects of CBD use in dogs, just humans. In humans, the FDA has approved one drug to help with seizure control, but there are no FDA-approved products for dogs yet.

Colorado State University is working on a study to evaluate CBD use in dogs with epilepsy that are resistant to other treatments.

There are anecdotal reports of CBD reducing anxiety, reducing pain, reducing nausea, improving the appetite, reducing seizures, and possibly reducing some cancer risks. However, there are currently no studies on pets to verify these claims.

What are possible side effects if I give my dog CBD oil?

Side effects include dry mouth, reduced blood pressure causing weakness or lightheadedness, and drowsiness.

There may be additional side effects, but we just don’t know yet.

Why won’t my vet tell me a CBD dose to use for my dog?

Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, even though it is legal in many states for medical and recreational use. Since it’s still federally illegal, vets cannot prescribe it or recommend it, regardless if the CBD is coming from a hemp or marijuana plant.

Since there are no completed studies on CBD use in pets, there are no published doses available. If you do elect to use CBD oil in your pet, be sure to conduct your own thorough research from reputable sources. Always use caution and start with low doses.

CBD in Pets

Cannabis use–whether it’s hemp or marijuana-derived cannabidiol (CBD) or medical marijuana—is a gray area when it comes to pets.

The question comes down to federal law versus state rights in many cases, and there is a significant lack of research on animal uses. Federally, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) lists cannabis and cannabinoid products—under which CBD products fall—as Schedule I controlled substances, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers about purchasing cannabinoid-containing products sold widely across the country and over the Internet.

Only one cannabinoid-containing medication—used to treat pediatric seizures—has been approved by FDA, and only hemp products have been descheduled under the 2018 Farm Bill. Despite these federal rules, however, many states have moved forward with their own laws on recreation and medicinal marijuana, as well as CBD products.

While the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) cautions that state laws legalizing cannabis and CBD products for human use do not apply to animals, few states have issued any guidance specific to use of these products in animals.

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As these products become more widely available to humans, veterinarians have increasingly faced interest from pet owners about CBD and cannabis products, but AVMA says there is little valid research on the benefits and risks of cannabinoids in animals. AVMA officials acknowledge that there have been limited studies, anecdotal reports, and case studies about therapeutic benefits in pets, and they note that more well-controlled research is needed to make evidence-based recommendations to veterinarians and pet owners. There is also a lot of uncertainty about the products available, whether they are derived from hemp or marijuana, and what concentrations of THC—the psychoactive component of cannabinoids—they contain. This uncertainty adds to concerns about cannabis toxicity, most often observed so far in dogs who were exposed to their pet owners’ cannabis-containing edibles.

At an FDA hearing on food and dietary supplements containing cannabis products in May 2019, Ashley Morgan, DVM, director of the AVMA State Advocacy Division, spoke on behalf of AVMA and said that while there might be therapeutic benefits for pets from cannabis products, there needs to be a clearer regulatory process for products coming to market, and that more research of efficacy and safety are needed. Morgan told dvm360 that the legal landscape for cannabinoid products for pets right now is “extremely complicated.”

“If you can confirm that the CBD product did indeed come from industrial hemp (legal federally under the 2018 Farm Bill), that’s one thing. But right now there’s no good way to do that,” Morgan said. “The product that is currently available is being shipped from state to state.”

Currently, veterinarians are at risk even discussing CBD or cannabis products with pet owners, as veterinary licenses are evaluated at both the state and federal levels. This applies to discussions not only about therapy, but also toxicity.

Gail Golab, DVM, PhD, chief veterinary officer of Scientific Affairs and Public Policy at AVMA, noted that there is some progress being made on the research front, but there only a small number of national studies taking place.

“There just isn’t the research. There’s not a lot of research in the veterinary space out there in total, and there’s even less in the way of studies that have been conducted that are well-designed,” Golab said.

Much of the research, she said, is completely observational, relying on a client’s impression of efficacy, and the veterinarian’s perspective. There has been little objective work done, and Golab cautioned that the placebo effect of cannabis-containing products can be as high as 40%.

Although exactly how cannabis laws aimed at humans applies to pets may be unclear, it can be assumed that pet owners who can purchase CBD in their state for their own use may also decide to use those products on their pets. Golab said with the popularity of cannabinoid-containing products on the human front, there is concern that pet owners may also choose them for their pets over other therapeutic agents with demonstrated efficacy, leading to therapeutic failures as well as potential adverse effective.

Components of cannabis can interfere with some medications and therapies, and veterinarians should exercise caution when pet owners express interest in these products both for the sake of the pets and the veterinarian’s own liability, according to Golab and Morgan.

AVMA officials do not want to discount the potential benefit of cannabis products for pets, Golab said, but there is a lot to consider pending better data.

“The therapeutic potential may be there, we just need to really understand what they do,” Golab noted. “I think the best thing veterinarians can probably do is provide the information and education to their clients. Clients also need to understand the issues with quality control around these products.”

Golab added there are a few companies currently researching animal-specific cannabinoid products and seeking FDA approval, and she believes these endeavors will yield useful data.

To learn how each state is approaching cannabis products, and whether they have addressed animal use, follow the map:

CBD for pets: Is it safe? Vets urge caution, citing lack of research, regulations

Queen Bella, a 12-year-old Chihuahua, and Princess Jazmyn, an 11-year-old Pekingese, will always hold a special place in Wendy Ware’s heart.

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“They were my first two rescues and (are) my oldest dogs,” said Ware, a 42-year-old Port St. Lucie massage therapist who has three more rescue dogs now. “They’re my daughters. That’s why it was so upsetting to see them in pain.”

Queen Bella started losing her vision in March, growing more anxious and less playful as her condition worsened, Ware said.

“She kept rubbing her eyes a lot and wouldn’t bring me toys anymore,” Ware said. “I realized she was so scared. I’d walk into the kitchen and there she was, tail between her legs. She had to follow me everywhere because I was the only thing that was familiar.”

Then, Princess Jazmyn started isolating herself from Ware and her canine sisters, including Sayde, Tessa and Princess Leia. Because she was receiving less attention, she felt “extremely sad,” sulking in her bedroom and refusing to leave, Ware said.

“If she needed to eat, I had to bring her food and help her eat. If she needed to relieve herself, I’d literally need to pick her up. She wasn’t physically hurt. She just felt left out.”

Today, both dogs are “themselves again,” since Ware’s been giving them CBD oil twice a day for about six months.

“Queen Bella is chirpy again, running around and grabbing toys and barking. Princess Jazmyn is back to doing crazy eights and playing with everyone,” Ware said. “The treatment gave me my daughters back.”

Does CBD work?

Testimonials such as Ware’s are why more people are giving their pets CBD, a natural alternative to common medications. CBD, an abbreviation for “cannabidiol,” typically comes from hemp plants, so it’s not narcotic and doesn’t cause the sensation of being high like marijuana.

But science, government regulation and some state laws haven’t caught up to the CBD craze, so it’s unknown whether it is effective or even safe for pets.

“Pet owners really need to be careful,” said Dr. Jerry Klein, the American Kennel Club’s chief veterinary officer. “There is not a lot of research out there at the moment.”

The few studies there are show little conclusive evidence that CBD is an effective treatment for its most common uses in pets: cancer, anxiety, nausea, inflammation and cardiac issues, Klein said.

Two studies from Colorado State University and Cornell University show reduced seizures in dogs with epilepsy and decreased pain for dogs with osteoarthritis, but the 16-dog sample size in each study is too small to be definitive, Klein said.

“Pet owners are responding to the growth and marketing from the cannabis industry while the federal government or scientific community hasn’t settled on regulations or research,” Klein said. “Let me be clear: It’s an alternative worth exploring because there are positive stories and companies that truthfully market their products.

“There is just a lot of gray area,” he said. “There are more questions than answers.”

Is CBD safe?

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any CBD products for pets and cautions against them.

“The lack of regulation could be potentially lethal for pets,” Klein said, adding that potential side effects in people are drowsiness, dry mouth and lowered blood pressure.

Over-the-counter products do not undergo the same quality control measures as other medications, so they could contain different amounts of CBD than advertised — and even harmful chemical compounds such as pesticides, said Paul Armentano, deputy executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“There are no rules with regard to best practices, specific to the extraction process. There are no rules governing the products or the source materials. There is no independent testing of potency,” he said. “Essentially, buyer beware of market.”

Since 2015, the FDA has sent 23 companies over 45 warning letters for selling products that did “not contain the levels of CBD they claimed to contain” or were not FDA-approved for the “diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease.”

Epidiolex is the only CBD product the FDA has approved — only for humans and with a prescription — to treat seizures associated with two forms of epilepsy.

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“CBD companies could be misinforming buyers. If consumers don’t know the dosage or compounds they are giving their pets, they could be compromising their pets’ health,” Armentano said. “The FDA is a little behind at the moment.”

So are Florida’s marijuana laws, which prohibit medical practitioners, including veterinarians, from possessing, prescribing or researching marijuana or marijuana-based products, including CBD. So vets have little knowledge about correct dosages based on an animal’s size, physical factors and previous health history, Klein said.

Pet owners should be cautious, investigate the product, find breed-specific research and consult with online resources such as veterinarycannabis.org. People also should talk with their veterinarian, even if they have limited information, Klein said.

“At the moment,” he said, “we can’t give a whole lot of advice besides: Consult the right people and research what you can.”

Is CBD legal?

CBD products extracted from hemp are legal if they’re produced by a licensed grower under the regulations of the Farm Bill and state and federal laws. Some states still consider CBD products illegal, however.

CBD became legal in Florida July 1, a week after the Legislature removed hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances. That was six months after Congress approved the Agricultural Improvement Act, which removed restrictions on hemp products that contain less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol.

THC is what makes people feel high, but no one knows what it does to pets.

To learn more about hemp products, the FDA held a public hearing in May, then accepted public comments until July 16, receiving over 3,000 of them.

Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services has had three public workshops on the state hemp program it’s creating to monitor the cultivation, manufacture and sale of hemp and hemp-infused products.

The agency is “ahead of schedule,” with regulations expected to be finalized and adopted in early October, spokesman Franco Ripple told TCPalm. Then the U.S. Department of Agriculture has 60 days to review and approve the program.

“With the state hemp program in place,” Ripple said, “people will be able to purchase these products for themselves and their pets with the consumer safety standards they expect.”

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Nestle and Martha Stewart

U.S. sales of CBD pet products quadrupled to $32 million last year from $8 million in 2017, according to the Brightfield Group, a cannabis market research firm.

At that rate, sales will hit $1.73 billion by 2023, Brightfield estimates.

“It’s a fast-growing industry because of the lack of regulation by federal agencies, the legalization of marijuana, and the willingness of pet owners to buy premium products,” said Jamie Schau, a CBD research manager at Brightfield.

Nestlé, one of the largest pet-care companies in the U.S., started selling its own line of CBD pet products in April, under its Garden of Life brand. Even Martha Stewart is launching a product line, having partnered earlier this year with Canopy Growth Corp., one of the world’s largest marijuana companies.

Some companies, especially ones with household names, are banking on more than just their share of the $33 billion Americans spent on pet food and treats last year.

Introducing people to CBD for their pets could convince them to take CBD themselves.

“Companies are being very strategic,” Schau said. “Selling pet treats and products is a foot in the door.”

CBD of Stuart store manager Jill Glaysher said she’s just glad it works on pets, like her own 9-year-old golden retriever.

Tazer had seizures once or twice a month for nearly five years, but hasn’t had one in eight months, since Glaysher started giving him CBD oil every morning.

“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “He’s been happier and healthier. He’s himself.”

Treasure Coast CBD stores

You cannot buy CBD without a prescription from medical marijuana dispensaries such as Curaleaf and Trulieve, but you can buy unregulated over-the-counter CBD from many vaping, supplement, health-food and smoke shops, including: