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CBD for pets: What you need to know

The Active Times logo The Active Times 6/24/2019 Dustin Niles
a brown and white dog: CBD and Pets: What You Need To Know © istockphoto.com CBD and Pets: What You Need To Know

Recently, the health product market has become flooded with CBD products claiming they can reduce pain, reduce anxiety, stimulate appetite and even treat seizures. But since our furry friends suffer from many of the same ailments as we do, can they also benefit from CBD products? Here’s what you need to know about CBD for pets.

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Let’s straighten out some common misconceptions. First, CBD (also known as cannabidiol) is one of many compounds found in cannabis plants. THC is a different compound found in cannabis plants that causes psychoactive effects like changes in perception, mood or behavior. CBD, on the other hand, will not get you high and is legal in some states (the legality of CBD products differs state by state). According to the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, in order to be federally legal, CBD products must be derived from hemp plants, which are cannabis plants that contain less than 0.3 percent THC and are grown by licensed growers in accordance with federal and associated state laws.

Whether or not CBD products will get your pets high is a different story. There isn’t enough research out to determine how much THC it takes to have a psychoactive effect on pets, and it will depend on size, age, breed and other factors.

Products made from cannabis plants almost always contain a mix of CBD and THC, along with other cannabinoids. Since CBD products are not classified as medication by the Food and Drug Administration, it is not guaranteed that these products are tested by the FDA before hitting the market. Some CBD products are tested by outside laboratories and the exact cannabinoid mixture is specified either on the label, online or by request from the manufacturer. You should always make sure that you check the cannabinoid content of any CBD product before you buy it.

You should also discuss any and all medication or supplements you plan to give your pets with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may be prohibited by law from recommending CBD for your pet, but if you’re planning on giving your pet CBD they should know regardless.

What can it do for your pets?

CBD products are widely used to treat pain, low appetite and even seizures in humans. But some things that are good for humans aren’t so good for dogs. Research on CBD has only been allowed since 2014, so there is little research available for how CBD specifically affects humans, and even less on pets.

Dr. Sara Ochoa, a small animal veterinarian in East Texas and advisor for doglab.com, sometimes prescribes CBD to pets who visit her clinic. “CBD oil is shown to help decrease pain from arthritis, help with skin disease, help with certain cancer, help with glaucoma and help decrease seizures,” Ochoa told The Active Times in an email. “CBD can also be used on the skin to help repair the skin barrier.”

Some evidence suggests that CBD may be helpful for dogs who suffer from these conditions. A study from Colorado State University showed that “89 percent of dogs who received CBD in a clinical trial had a reduction in the frequency of seizures.” Another study published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science suggested “that 2 mg/kg of CBD twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with OA (osteoarthritis).”

So while the research is still in the early stages, there are signs that some of the benefits that are available for humans are available for dogs. However, there is virtually no research out regarding CBD and cats. There is some anecdotal evidence that indicates that CBD could be helpful to cats suffering from anxiety or joint pain, and some companies sell CBD products marketed toward cats, but proceed with caution.

What are the risks?

While CBD is a relatively safe substance, there are still some risks associated with giving CBD products to your pets. CBD products are not classified as medication by the FDA. This means that they aren’t subjected to testing for purity, ingredients, or anything else by the government before they enter the market, though the FDA will pull products off the market if they get complaints about safety.

“All good CBD oil companies should give you a breakdown of what is in their substance by a third party,” Ochoa said. This information should be listed clearly on the label and verification of their third-party testing should be easy to find on their website. “If they do not have this information on their website, you should be able to easily get it with just a phone call or chat."

Next, there hasn’t really been a great deal of testing to see what dosages are most effective for different breeds, sizes or ages of pets. So when considering how much of any given product to give a pet, many people go based on the manufacturer’s recommendation, which may not be supported by research from outside organizations.

While the effects of having too much CBD are probably going to be benign according to the ASPCA, manufacturers could be putting other ingredients in their products. Those ingredients could be harmful to pets in higher doses — and you can’t be sure what they are or how much the product contains.

Finally, we don’t have enough research to know how CBD interacts with other medications or illnesses. “If your pets have any other medical conditions or are on other medications, it is best to consult a veterinarian to make sure that they will not interfere with each other and cause problems,” Ochoa said.

How to use it

CBD comes in a variety of forms, making it relatively easy to administer to your pet. The most straightforward form is the CBD extract put into an edible oil, like coconut oil. These products usually come with a dropper that lets you feed it to your pet directly. You can also mix it with their food. “The oils with no flavor taste horrible and most pets do not like the taste, but once they are mixed with a flavor they are very tasty,” Ochoa said.

Manufacturers have also created CBD treats with CBD extract baked into them. However, animal foods or treats containing CBD are actually prohibited by the FDA. For treating joint pain or skin problems, CBD also comes in salves, lotions and creams, which can be administered directly on the affected area to speed the soothing effects and target the area specifically.

As always, follow the directions on the label of the product you’re using and read any warnings before proceeding.

Is it worth it?

When it comes to your pets’ health, you want to be sure that they’re getting the best care possible. That means working with your veterinarian to find the treatments that will work the best for your pet specifically. Before considering CBD for your pet, you should consult your veterinarian to discuss if CBD is right for what your pet is experiencing. If so, CBD may have numerous benefits for your pet if used correctly. If you’re thinking about trying CBD for yourself, check out these 32 things you need to know before you do.

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