CBD is cannabidiol, one of the major constituents of cannabis. The CBD products available outside of dispensaries are made from industrial hemp and come in various forms. Although hemp and cannabis are the same plant, CBD products contain less than 0.3 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound that can get you high.
Interest in treating pets with CBD has been accelerating. A survey conducted by the Veterinary Information Network found that nearly two-thirds of vets responding said they are asked about CBD at least once a month. Pet owners appear to be using it for a number of companion animal health problems, including pain, anxiety, arthritis and seizures, but there is little research to show how effective this treatment is. One small study of nine dogs with epilepsy conducted at Colorado State University showed that CBD helped reduce the frequency of seizures in 89 percent. Another seven dogs in the trial received a placebo. The study was blinded, meaning that none of the veterinarians or medical staff involved knew which dogs received CBD until the trial ended.
Another study from Cornell University looked at the safety and effectiveness of using CBD oil to treat dogs with osteoarthritis. The animals received each of two treatments: 2 mg of CBD oil per kilogram of body weight or a placebo every 12 hours. Each treatment lasted four weeks. Results showed a significant decrease in pain and increased physical activity in the dogs treated with CBD. The owners reported no side effects. The veterinarians who conducted the study concluded that 2 mg per kilogram of a dog’s weight can help increase comfort and activity in arthritic dogs.
While these findings are encouraging, your veterinarian may be reluctant to discuss the subject, because under federal law CBD remains a Schedule 1 drug, in the same category as heroin. California is the only state that allows vets to discuss cannabis use for pets; it doesn’t permit them to dispense or administer cannabis-based products. Elsewhere, vets may respond to questions about CBD to treat pets, but don’t expect them to volunteer information about it until laws change.
Even so, you can find many CBD products marketed for pet health. The challenge is to find quality ones and to make sure CBD won’t interact with any medication your pet may be taking. A Consumer Reports article on the subject cautions that some pets have been harmed by contaminated or spoiled CBD products, and some have seemed to get “high” from CBD, possibly because the formulations contained more THC than legally permitted.
If you decide to treat your companion animal with CBD, be sure to buy a product made for pets. Those meant for humans could contain ingredients like grapeseed oil or xylitol that can be toxic to pets. And be aware that when buying CBD products online, you can’t be sure that any of them actually contain the amount stated on the label. A study from the University of Pennsylvania published in 2017 found that only 31 percent of CBD products sold online contained CBD that was within 10 percent of the stated amount.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Laurie-Jo Gamble et al, “Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs,” Frontiers in Veterinary Science, July 23, 2018, doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2018.00165