Should You Try CBD for Your Pet?
People are using CBD to ease there Pets ailments.
Ella, a 10-year-old Saint Bernard, doesn’t like loud noises. At the first rumble of thunder or pop of fireworks, the dog starts panting and pacing, says Jeffrey Powers, D.V.M., Ella’s owner and a veterinarian who practices in northern Michigan. “The minute fireworks go off, she’s running to hide,” he says.
At least, that’s what used to happen. But recently, Powers says he has found a way to control his dog’s noise anxiety: cannabidiol—aka CBD, a compound that can be extracted from cannabis, which includes marijuana and hemp.
CBD is thought to have many therapeutic properties, but unlike cannabis’s other main compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it doesn't get users high. And Powers, who is also vice chairman of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents, credits CBD for easing his dog’s distress.
If, however, you want guidance from a veterinarian about CBD for your pet, you'll have to start the conversation. Some vets have knowledge about CBD for your pets but most will need to do some research.
Despite this lack of official guidance, pet owners are increasingly seeking out CBD for their furry family members. In a survey conducted this year by the Veterinary Information Network, an online community of veterinarians, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said they were asked about cannabis by their patients at least once a month.
Have Realistic Expectations
While some pet owners swear by CBD, keep in mind that researchers are just starting to learn how to use it for pets and at which dosages, says Stephanie McGrath, D.V.M., a veterinarian and assistant professor of neurology at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
In 2016, she conducted some of the first studies looking into basic questions about how CBD is metabolized by dogs and whether the compound poses any immediate health threats. “There were no studies on CBD [and pets] at that time," says McGrath, who published two of her CBD studies in 2018. "But people were using it and they were desperate. I [thought] we need to start answering these questions.”
After her initial research, McGrath began two clinical trials, one on dogs with epilepsy and another on dogs with osteoarthritis. Early results are encouraging, she says, but notes that the results are not yet final or published.
A separate study from Cornell found that 2 mg per kilogram of CBD twice daily “can help increase comfort and activity” in dogs with osteoarthritis.
Talk With Your Vet
If you live in a state that has legalized CBD, there’s nothing to stop you from giving it to your pet on your own. But experts say it’s a good idea to talk with your vet first. And while veterinarians can’t bring it up themselves, they can certainly answer questions you have in an effort to reduce any potential harm to your pet, Andre says.
If your vet doesn’t know much about CBD, consider going to veterinarycannabis.org for help. The company, which offers consultations, courses, and education to pet parents and veterinarians, can work with you and your vet by providing guidance about CBD products, dosing, and potential interactions.
Choose Products Carefully
Because cannabis, especially for pets, is largely unregulated, it can be difficult to know which CBD products have been formulated responsibly, are free from contaminants, and contain the ingredients that the product labels list.
So when shopping—whether online, in a retail store, or a dispensary—look for products that claim to follow Good Manufacturing Practices or that have a seal from the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). These labels increase the chance that a product has been made with safe ingredients in a clean, high-quality environment, says Stephen Cital, a veterinary technician, cannabis consultant, and co-founder of the Veterinary Cannabis Academy.
Wondering whether you should give your pet a CBD product meant for humans? While that may be fine, “some human products have other things in them, such as xylitol or grapeseed oil, that could be toxic to the animals,” Cital says.
And be particularly cautious about products that also contain THC. While some veterinarians use it to treat certain conditions in animals, experts don't recommend pet parents experiment with THC on their own.
Look for the Product’s Certificate of Analysis
For any CBD product for you or your pet, your best bet is to find a company that has commissioned independent third-party testing and can provide a Certificate of Analysis, or COA.
The lab results should show how much CBD (and THC) the product contains, as well as how the product did in tests checking for contaminants such as heavy metals and fungicides, Cital says. If you can’t find a COA on the company’s website or the company refuses to share it, that's a red flag.
Although some CBD products have dosing instructions on the label, little is really known about what doses are most effective and safe. For example, while McGrath’s initial research in dogs used 2.5 mg per kilogram twice a day, she is now using nearly double that dose in her latest trial.
And Judy Morgan, D.V.M., a holistic vet in New Jersey and co-author of "Yin & Yang Nutrition for Dogs," recommends starting with 1 mg per 10 pounds of body weight twice a day—and monitoring your pet’s reaction.
Until more is known, the experts urge caution. “Numbers are really useful, but cannabis is a very individualized medicine,” Andre says. She advises that pet parents “start low and go slow” when figuring out a dosage. She also suggests that using tinctures rather than a chew treat can make it easier to scale dosages up or down.
Store Products Carefully
“Cannabinoids are susceptible to degradation. Oils and treats should be kept at room temperature away from bright lights or sunlight,” Cital says. “Heating and extreme cold can dramatically change chemical composition.” If you have an oil that has changed colors, it’s probably damaged and should be discarded.