CBD for Pets: An Update in Veterinary Medicine
The recent legalities and uses surrounding the use of cannabis products have created popularity, opportunities, challenges, and confusion for not only human consumption but for our animals as well.
Every day the veterinarians at Vet’s Here! come across questions about cannabis or CBD for pets, and whether or not it’s safe to use. Is there an effective, safe product for animals? Can it help improve life for a senior pet or sick pet? Is it as miraculous as they say it is? There is still much to find out about cannabis products and their uses, which is a driving factor behind all of the questions.
First, let’s explore what Cannabis really is and why there are so many different words surrounding it.
Cannabis vs. Marijuana vs. Hemp
Cannabis is a genus of plants that both marijuana and hemp belong to. The main differences between marijuana and hemp are their chemical compositions and what these two products are used for.
Marijuana and hemp have very different compositions of chemicals called cannabinoids. The most commonly known cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
THC has psychoactive properties and is found in higher concentrations in marijuana than in hemp. Hemp contains a higher CBD concentration and a relatively lower THC concentration compared to marijuana. It is not possible to achieve a psychoactive “high” with CBD like is achieved with THC.
Cannabis for Medical Treatment in Humans
Research has found a family of receptors in the human brain called the endocannabinoid system. Over the past 2 decades research on this system has found that cannabinoids found in cannabis products can interact with this group of receptors to provide a range of benefits.
These receptors have been found to affect the cardiovascular, immune, digestive, endocrine, among other systems. While THC has more psychoactive effects, CBD is thought to interact with the endocannabinoid system to decrease pain and inflammation, decrease the frequency of seizures, and improve sleep quality, among other benefits.
These claims have not been proven in humans or pets, however, and more research needs to be done to determine how effective these chemicals actually are.
Would Hemp or CBD Products Make my Pet High?
Overall, products containing THC will have psychoactive properties whereas those containing CBD will not. CBD products should not make a pet high in theory because the THC component is so low.
However, animals have many more receptors for THC making them much more sensitive to the effects of this chemical. Since marijuana has a higher concentration of THC it is more common to see marijuana-related toxicities than hemp-related toxicities. But we still see toxicities in pets that have been exposed to hemp/CBD products. This could be due to variations in cannabinoid concentrations between products or even side effects that we are unaware of with the products being used.
The Effects of CBD Oil
Overall, many think that hemp products low in THC and high in CBD are beneficial for pets.
However, we also know that THC causes toxicity in animals— there has been an increasing number of reports to the ASPCA poison control where pets have had adverse reactions to cannabis products. Most common adverse reactions include trouble walking, abnormal hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli such as sound and touch, dilated pupils, and urinary incontinence.
Many of these cases have been due to marijuana containing THC but CBD-based products have been reported as well. Death from cannabis is related not from an overdose of the drug itself but from the secondary effects such as aspiration.
Since these products are not very regulated, there is the potential for toxicity as THC and CBD may be found in varying levels.
The Truth and Danger Behind CBD for Pets
So far there have been no studies showing evidence of how cannabis is effective in our pets, but in humans, marijuana has been used for decades to treat various medical conditions and is used recreationally nationwide.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is a federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of drugs. If a medication is not FDA approved this means the appropriate testing has not been done to ensure how safe or effective a product will be in the target species.
The FDA has so far approved 3 cannabis products for conditions such as nausea and epilepsy in humans. As of now, there are no FDA approved cannabis products for animals.
As medical professionals, a veterinarian is responsible for guiding their clients responsibly and only recommending products that are known to be not only effective but safe. All products marketed as cannabis or CBD for pets, whether in a pet store or online, are not regulated by a federal agency. This means that there is no guarantee that what you expect to purchase is what you are going to get. There have even been reports of researchers buying advertised online CBD products and having them tested just to find out that there is little to no CBD in them.
Legality of Cannabis Products for Pets
Even though individual state laws may allow the sale and distribution of cannabis products, it is still illegal at the federal level.
While these products may be legal to buy for humans 21 years of age or older in some states, they are still illegal to use for animals across the US. And while is illegal for owners to purchase cannabis products for pets, the people usually held responsible are the veterinarian and the companies that produce the products.
The Vet’s Dilemma
This all puts veterinarians in a difficult position. As a veterinarian, our first priority is our patients’ comfort, and doing what is best for them. Although anecdotally successful results have been reported, there are currently no cannabis products that have been proven safe in our pets, so it is not possible to give a product recommendation at this time.
Additionally, the consistency, ingredients, potency, and effectiveness of a product can change from bottle to bottle and brand to brand. It is exciting and appealing to hear of a product with CBD for pets that appears to provide pain relief, reduce seizures, or provide relaxation for sleep. Unfortunately, there are none that can be relied upon at this time that we can stand behind legally or confidently.
The Future of CBD for Pets
The future for cannabis in veterinary medicine has great potential. Being a Schedule I drug, however, makes approving research difficult so there is still much to know about how the endocannabinoid system functions, what other effects the cannabinoid chemicals have on the body, and how to use the chemicals to benefit the patient.
Despite its current schedule classification, cannabis has been used anecdotally by many people for medicinal reasons and used in clinical trials with both reporting successful results.
We welcome feedback from our clients on their own experiences and look forward to a day when we can confidently stand behind a safe and effective product.
If you have further questions about cannabis products or CBD for pets, or are looking for guidance from a veterinarian for other reasons, our mobile vets are happy to help. Call us today at 1-888-838-2738 or schedule a visit online.