Whether your cat feels anxiety on car rides, or your dog can’t stand fireworks, many pet owners experience has been that CBD can be helpful for their pets. But what exactly is CBD for pets, and do they really work? And most importantly, is it safe?
Cannabinoids are known to interact with endocannabinoid receptors to help maintain balance in the human body and keep it in a normal, healthy state. Animals also have an endocannabinoid system that is capable of interacting with the chemical compounds in cannabis, such as CBD; but whether CBD interacts with it in the same way that experts believe it does in humans remains to be seen.
Research on CBD in pets is in its infancy, but some studies have found that it may be helpful in treating ailments such as anxiety, pain or arthritis. In fact, there are CBD products for pets that are marketed as an alternative way to treat these conditions. It’s important to understand that just because these products are for sale doesn’t necessarily mean they are considered safe or beneficial for pets.
Realistically, its far too early to know how effective or in what way CBD might effect other animals. In July 2018, the first clinical study examining the effects of CBD in dogs with arthritis found that more than 80% of the animals saw a significant decrease in pain and improved mobility. The following year another study was published showing that CBD can help reduce seizures experienced by epileptic dogs.
While these studies were well-designed and peer-reviewed, they were very preliminary. Therefore, veterinarians have mixed feelings about the CBD fad and many are hesitant to recommend it in the absence of scientific literature on the topic.
CBD can be derived either from the cannabis plant, or by synthesis in a lab. Flower derivations have a high concentration of CBD and low levels of THC, typically not exceeding 0.3%, a fundamental requirement for legality. Because the CBD market is still not well regulated, CBD products can come from marijuana plants and contain ingredients not listed on their labels, including THC, which is known to be actually toxic to cats and dogs.
In fact, the angle that has received the most research is that of marijuana toxicity to animals; in other words, dogs or cats accidentally eating their owner’s supply.
CBD for pets comes in various formats, such as chewable treats, capsules, oils, tinctures or topical lotions. In addition, there are three different types of products: isolated formulas containing only CBD; full-spectrum product, which also contain other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids; and broad-spectrum products, which have all of the above except THC.
It should be noted that because of the entourage effect theory, where all the compounds in the plant help each other to work better, usually if you have a full-spectrum product, you can use much lower doses.
The 2018 study we referenced in dogs with osteoarthritis showed that the most effective dose for increasing activity levels in dogs was 2 mg per kg of body weight, twice daily. However, because this study may be biased, this should not be considered a dosing recommendation.
Each animal will respond differently, so it is important for a veterinarian to start with a small dose, monitor the results and adjust from there. The big challenge when it comes to cannabis and pets is finding the right dosage for each animal.
While there is no definitive scientific data on the use of CBD in dogs, these are be some of the potential benefits most highlighted by pet owners who have experimented with it:
CBD oil is generally safe for cats, but in rare cases, some adverse effects are possible and may include gastrointestinal distress and sedation, which disappear after discontinuing CBD intake.
It is also key to provide the correct dosage to minimize possible side effects. Because they are smaller than humans (and dogs), they require much less cannabidiol.
You should also make sure the CBD has been tested for contaminants, as it may contain small amounts of THC that can be toxic to your cat.
Finally, five questions pet owners have before starting a CBD treatment: