Visit a dog park in a state where cannabis is legal, and you’re sure to overhear someone recommend giving CBD to their pet. Similar to the way we talk about CBD and humans, there is a plethora of examples where CBD might help–anxiety when traveling or going to the vet, pain maintenance, using THC as a tumor inhibitor, etc. If you Google search “cbd and pets” right now, the results show three times the options of “pet-friendly” products to buy as there are educational resources. There is no question that people are already medicating their dogs with forms of cannabis and CBD extracts.
Despite the rise in experimentation, there remains very little research on the subject. So the very big question remains: Is it safe to give cannabis to my pet?
Part of the mystery around cannabis and animals is because of the fact cannabis is still federally illegal, so there hasn’t been funding or legal access to cannabis for potential projects. Without that research, the American Veterinary Medical Association can’t state that vets are allowed to even discuss cannabis as a possible recommended medication without risking their medical license. That being said, they released a document to members in February of this year titled “Cannabis: What Veterinarians Need to Know” to help doctors “advise clients and treat patients who may have been exposed to marijuana.”
Fortunately for cannabis-curious pet-owners, the spread of legalization across the country is giving doctors enough resources (nerve) to take research into their own hands. In Colorado, Dr. Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist and assistant professor at Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has completed two clinical studies since 2016 on the effects of cannabidiol in dogs with osteoarthritis or epilepsy. In January, the American Kennel Club granted Dr. McGrath $350,000 for her to begin a three-year crossover study of CBD for epilepsy in dogs. Legislation has been proposed in New York and California that would establish guidelines and allow veterinarians to legally discuss the use of cannabis products with their clients.
Until then, when you go shopping for tincture or “pet-friendly” cannabis or hemp products, just don’t hold back when asking about ingredient sources, any available testing on the cannabis material, and where it was grown/produced. This intersection of the FDA, the DEA, conflicting state laws and the equally-conflicted veterinary community means that a lot of medical claims and questionable synthetic formulas have been thrown around recklessly. We all just want our pets to feel good–make sure they’re getting the real deal.