Cbd oil bad for liver in dogs

CBD for dogs and cats: Is it safe?

A leading veterinary cannabis researcher explains what experts do and don’t know about giving animals CBD.

Danielle Kosecki is an award-winning journalist who has covered health and fitness for 15 years. She’s written for Glamour, More, Prevention and Bicycling magazines, among others, and is the editor of The Bicycling Big Book of Training. A New York native, Danielle now lives in Oakland where she doesn’t miss winter at all.

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Analysts predict the CBD pet care market will reach $125 million by 2022, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of the CBD sector.

CBD advocates tout a myriad of benefits for humans — but can it help our four-legged friends too? The answer is complicated.

When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, it wasn’t something veterinarian Stephanie McGrath thought much about day to day. But then the phone calls started coming. Pet owners and family veterinarians wanted to know what she thought about medical marijuana in relation to animals, and whether she was researching it.

This story discusses substances that are legal in some places but not in others and is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You shouldn’t do things that are illegal — this story does not endorse or encourage illegal drug use.

At the time, McGrath had no interest in cannabis and didn’t even know what cannabidiol (CBD) was, so she mostly ignored the topic. But the combination of receiving phone calls and seeing CBD products already lining pet store shelves made her realize she needed to get up to speed.

“Around 2013 or 2014, I started looking into what research was already out there and I realized that there was essentially no real, good scientific literature in the human world, let alone the veterinary research world,” says McGrath, assistant professor of neurology at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “And so I started investigating whether it would even be plausible for me to conduct any research.”

McGrath went on to become one of the pioneering researchers in the field of veterinary cannabis but even with her early efforts, research (and regulation) has struggled to keep pace with demand, as people increasingly turn to CBD products to treat their pet’s pain, anxiety and seizure disorders.

Thanks in large part to the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp-derived CBD, analysts now predict the CBD pet care market will reach $125 million by 2022, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of the CBD market.

For such a rapidly growing industry, there are still a lot of unknowns. Below, what you need to know if you’re considering CBD for your furry friend.

What is CBD?

Dried hemp flowers, like those shown here, naturally contain higher levels of CBD than other varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant.

Picture Alliance/Getty Images

Cannabidiol is part of the cannabinoid family, a class of chemical compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system, which helps the body maintain homeostasis.

Unlike its cousin delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD doesn’t produce a “high,” but it is psychoactive. In 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, an oral CBD solution, to treat Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two rare and severe pediatric seizure disorders. CBD is also being investigated as a possible treatment for pain , anxiety and schizophrenia symptoms in humans.

How is CBD administered to animals?

CBD pet care products come in many of the same forms you’re probably used to seeing for humans, including edibles (think: chewable treats and capsules), oils that can be added to food or placed under the tongue and topical creams or balms that are rubbed directly on the skin.

Like the CBD products meant for humans, each of these CBD pet care product types appears to have a different effect on the body — in dogs, anyway.

When McGrath started studying CBD in 2016, one of her first studies analyzed how three different delivery methods — a capsule, an oil and a cream — affected the way CBD moved through the bodies of healthy dogs.

Chewable treats are a popular form of pet care CBD.

Pharma Hemp Complex/Unsplash

“We measured the pharmacokinetics, which basically means you give the dogs a single dose of all three delivery methods and then you measure a bunch of different blood levels over a 12-hour period,” says McGrath. “So how quickly is the CBD absorbed, how high the blood concentration gets at that single dose, and then how fast the CBD is eliminated.”

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McGrath found that, out of the three specific formulations they tested, the oil had the best pharmacokinetic profile, meaning it reached the highest concentration in the blood, stayed in the bloodstream the longest, and performed the most consistently across different types of dogs. The capsule also performed well but the cream less so. It performed too inconsistently for McGrath and her team to draw any conclusions.

These results line up with what we know so far about CBD absorption in humans, but the research is too preliminary to be used to make any medical decisions.

How does CBD work in animals?

It’s unclear — and a puzzle researchers are still trying to solve in humans as well. For instance, dogs have an endocannabinoid system but whether CBD interacts with it in the same way experts think it does in humans remains to be seen. For now, all McGrath knows is that in dogs, like in humans, CBD appears to be metabolized by the liver.

Are there any health benefits to giving your pet CBD?

Veterinary CBD research has focused primarily on dogs, leaving a lot of cat owners with unanswered questions.

Research is promising, but it’s still early. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Pain in 2020 found that “Cannabidiol possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties and significantly improved the mobility of large domestic canines afflicted with osteoarthritis.”

This research follows a 2018 study found that CBD can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis.

In 2019, McGrath published a study showing CBD may help reduce the number of seizures experienced by epileptic dogs. But although these studies were well-designed and peer-reviewed, they’re still small and very preliminary.

“All we’ve basically done is give this drug to these dogs and said, OK, this is what we’re seeing,” says McGrath. “But whether or not the blood levels achieved are adequate enough to treat certain diseases, we don’t yet know.”

Still, McGrath is optimistic. Veterinarians don’t have a wide variety of drugs available to treat these conditions and some of the ones that do exist often come with debilitating side effects, such as weight gain and lethargy. “If CBD works, then I think it would hit the mark of being both effective and not carrying a lot of side effects,” says McGrath. “So that’s kind of what we’re hoping for.”

McGrath and other researchers nationwide are currently conducting larger studies on CBD’s effectiveness in treating osteoarthritis in dogs and cats, epilepsy in dogs and post-operative pain, but it will be a while before the results are published.

Until more is known, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian before giving your animal CBD.

Is CBD safe for animals?

CBD, in its pure state, appears to be safe and well-tolerated by animals, according to a 2017 World Health Organization report. However, both subsequent 2018 canine studies mentioned above noted an increase in the liver enzyme alkaline phosphatase (ALP) during CBD treatment.

As part of her study, McGrath ran a simultaneous liver function test to make sure the dogs’ livers weren’t failing and everything came back normal, so it’s unclear whether the elevated ALP levels were caused by something completely benign or could develop into a more serious problem long term.

“I would definitely be a little concerned about giving CBD to a dog that has known liver issues,” says McGrath. Similarly, because CBD appears to be metabolized by the liver, McGrath says she’d also be wary about giving CBD to a dog who already takes a medication that’s metabolized by the liver. “We don’t really know how these things interact right now,” she says.

The other big thing pet owners need to be aware of is quality control. Because the CBD market isn’t well regulated yet, CBD products can contain ingredients that aren’t listed on their labels — including THC, which is known to be toxic to cats and dogs.

When shopping for CBD pet care products, look for companies that support research and will provide a certificate of analysis, or COA, for every batch they sell.

One way to avoid potentially harmful ingredients is to only use products that come with a certificate of analysis, or COA (the batch number on the COA should match the number on the product’s label or packaging). A COA is issued when an independent lab tests the product to confirm its ingredients and potency, among other things.

Legally, CBD products must contain no more than 0.3% THC, which should be safe for animals. But there’s no reason to take chances. Whenever possible, stick to CBD pet care products that contain 0.0% THC and be on the lookout for symptoms of THC poisoning such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, restlessness and trouble standing.

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Bottom line: “We haven’t found anything that’s super alarming about CBD,” says McGrath. “But on the flip side, we still know very little about it, and it’s really important for owners to know that and use it with caution until we have more information.”

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

How Can CBD Oil Help Treat Dogs with Liver Issues

Many dogs will experience liver issues during their lifetime. Liver problems are common in dogs so every pet owner should be aware of and understand the symptoms of liver failure. Being cognizant of this will prevent potential liver issues down the road.

Recently, CBD oil has become very popular. Many dog owners are starting to learn how CBD oil can treat their dogs with liver issues and act as a great supplement. In this blog, we’ll touch on liver function and how CBD oil can help dogs with liver issues.

Liver Function

The second-largest organ in the dog’s body is the liver. The first largest is the skin. The liver plays a key role in metabolism and filters out toxins and waste found in medications and foods.

It is responsible for over 1500 different biological processes including:

  • Creating bile to aid digestion and break down fats
  • Metabolizing minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, protein, and fat
  • Filtering the blood
  • Regulating blood levels of amino acids
  • Producing proteins that are responsible for blood clotting
  • Storing iron that’s used in the hemoglobin process
  • Filtering bacteria from the bloodstream to fight infections

Liver Disease

When a dog has liver disease, its liver is compromised so it doesn’t function properly. It may have trouble performing some or all of the biological processes. This can negatively impact the dog’s health and quality of life.

There are different types of liver disease in dogs. For instance, liver tumors can put pressure on the liver and surrounding organs in your dog’s body. Some dogs may have a bile duct obstruction in which the tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder get blocked.

Other dogs may have a liver shunt or portosystemic shunt. The blood from the spleen, pancreas, intestines, and stomach bypass the liver so the blood is not properly detoxified.

Symptoms of Canine Liver Disease

Depending on the type of liver disease your dog is experiencing, the symptoms will vary. Visiting your dog’s vet regularly is crucial. During these visits, have the vet test your dog’s blood and thoroughly examine the body.

Being aware of these symptoms and getting regular exams is important to prevent putting your dog to sleep early as often times you may not initially see any symptoms. By the time you notice it, the liver disease may have progressed far enough to late stages that it will be too late to treat your dog. Thus, early detection is key.

If you see any yellowing in your dog’s eyes, skin, tongue, or mucous membranes, it may be a sign that your dog’s liver may not be functioning normally. Other symptoms of dog liver issues include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargic or low energy
  • Unsteady gait or loss of balance
  • Seizure
  • Fever

Top 3 Daily Exposures That Can Lead to Liver Issues in Dogs

Dogs live in the same environment as humans. Because of that, they are exposed to the same chemicals humans are exposed to, which can affect their liver health.

Below we will discuss three primary exposures that can compromise your dog’s liver health and function.

If you’re feeding your dog commercial dog food, you may not be aware that they are often contaminated with a toxin called aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are produced by certain fungi found in agricultural crops such as tree nuts, corn, peanuts, and cottonseed.

Eating commercial pet food can contribute to poor health in dogs. The aflatoxins can not be killed in high temperatures so even if you heat up the pet food, the toxin is still in there.

When the aflatoxins enter the body, it binds with your dog’s DNA and causes cell mutations. Constant consumption of aflatoxins has been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer. No matter if the commercial pet food is cheap or premium quality, they contain aflatoxins.

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The plants in our backyard or in our neighbor’s front yard may be toxic to our dogs. When our dogs head out for their daily walks to do their business, it’s natural for them to sniff around and even chew on plants that they see.

For example, many pet owners grow aloe vera in their backyard or patio. Although aloe is considered a medicinal plant for humans, its level of toxicity is considered mild to moderate for dogs. Other plants that are considered toxic to dogs are autumn crocus, begonia, castor bean, daffodil, lilies, sago palm, and tomato leaves.

Many dogs naturally lie on the floor, on the furniture, bathe in the bathtub and even counter surf. Pet owners frequently clean their floor or bathtub with household cleaning products that contain highly toxic ingredients.

For instance, bleach or chlorine is very dangerous for dogs. Bleach can be found in toilet bowl cleaners, dishwashing detergent, and laundry detergent. If dogs swallow it, the bleach can burn the inside of their mouth or throat, causing them to vomit and have seizures.

Not only are dogs breathing in the toxins, but they are also absorbing them through their skin when lying on the floor or through their paw pads when they’re walking around the house. Constant exposure to many household cleaning products can cause liver damage and poisoning.

How can CBD Oil Help Treat Liver Issues in Dogs

If your dog has liver issues, CBD oil can help improve its life. You can use CBD oil as nutritional supplements, in diet, and under veterinary supervision.

Pet owners should not overlook CBD oil as a treatment option because it provides huge potential benefits for dogs with liver issues. The CBD oil helps manage liver damage and improve the symptoms associated with liver issues.

The dog’s body has an endocannabinoid system in which the cannabinoid receptors help to manage their health and wellness. When dogs take CBD oil, it helps their body regulate their own cannabinoids.

Many vets will also prescribe high-quality CBD oil that is carefully sourced, organically grown, and carefully tested for dogs with liver disease.

There are many positive benefits of CBD oil. It can reduce the inflammation that is damaging the liver and help manage liver damage and symptoms.

Here is a list of benefits from taking CBD oil:

  • Alleviate symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, vertigo
  • Maintain a healthy appetite especially if your dog is losing appetite
  • Better sleep
  • Reduce pain and inflammation
  • Prevent or slow down tumor growth
  • No harmful side effects
  • Easy to metabolized
  • Reduce or prevent seizures
  • Improve your dog’s mood and physical balance
  • Boost your dog’s energy level
  • Alleviate digestive issues
  • Provide nutrients

By taking CBD oil, your dog will feel more comfortable and start to enjoy his life again. His quality of life will improve significantly after taking CBD oil.

When Not To Use CBD Oil for Dogs with Liver Disease

While there are no side effects for dogs taking CBD oil, it’s a good idea to avoid taking very large doses of CBD. This can cause diarrhea and a change in appetite.

There are two cases when you should not use CBD oil to treat liver disease. The first is when your dog has congenital liver shunts. The second is when your dog is on pharmaceuticals. CBD can interfere with the medication that your vet prescribed.

4 Types of CBD Oil for Dogs with Liver Disease

The good news is that there are four types of CBD oil available for dogs with liver disease. If one of them doesn’t work for your dog, the others may.

With capsules, you can put it in the dog’s food or directly into their mouth. Your dog won’t taste it and it is easier to get them to have it.

When it comes to extract concentrates, the amount of dosage varies depending on your dog’s size and the stage of the disease they are in. Ask your vet for the appropriate dosage amount.

Oil tinctures come with either a sprayer or dropper. This way the oil is applied directly to the dog’s mouth or into their food. Fortunately, it is flavored so your dog doesn’t taste the hemp flavor.

Treats are fun so you can replace your dog’s current treat with CBD treats. Make sure to check the ingredients first before you give these treats to your dog.