Are CBD products right for your pet? CBD can help dogs and cats with cancer pain, arthritis, seizures, neurological and digestive disorders, anxieties, obsessions,mood, and appetite
Cannabis for cats and dogs
In late 2019, Rachel Feldman returned home from work to find that her 14-year-old dog Foxie had trouble getting up. She was dragging her leg around in obvious pain. It turned out to be bone cancer.
Feldman gave Foxie the pain relievers prescribed by her veterinarian, but they weren’t enough. Then, she had an idea: If products containing CBD (cannabidiol), derived from cannabis, were being used to manage pain in people, perhaps they might help her dog. She mixed drops of hemp-based oils she found at her local natural foods store into Foxie’s food. After several tries, Feldman discovered a product and dose that worked: During the final weeks of her life, Foxie was able to go out and play in the snow.
“She lit up for a while and would frolic around in the yard,” says Feldman, director of sustainer strategies at the Humane Society of the United States. “She probably got an extra month of good time with us.”
With the loosening of cannabis laws, more pet owners and veterinarians are using products containing CBD to alleviate pain, decrease anxiety, relieve gastrointestinal issues and reduce seizures in dogs and cats. At the same time, companies are marketing an array of items with CBD—not to be confused with THC, the psychoactive part of cannabis that gets people high. Stores carry oils, tinctures, treats and even hemp-infused peanut butter for pets, leaving many owners wondering what’s real and what’s hype.
“Can CBD help pets? The short answer is, ‘Yes,’” says Dr. Gary Richter, who gave a webinar on the topic to members of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. Richter has seen dogs with chronic arthritis pain, who got no relief from anti-inflammatory medications, walking around more comfortably within a few days of starting CBD. “Not every animal responds to it dramatically,” he says. “This is no panacea. But cannabis is an amazing option.”
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist and HSVMA Massachusetts state representative, did a survey through his nonprofit Center for Canine Behavior Studies that found half of participating pet owners had used CBD products and the majority were satisfied. “CBD does work; it is safe,” Dodman says. “I guess I would regard it as a breakthrough.”
This is no panacea. But cannabis is an amazing option.
Dr. Gary Richter, Veterinary Cannabis Society
Both Richter and Dodman caution that pet owners should consult their veterinarians before using CBD or any over-the-counter supplement. CBD is sometimes mistakenly used not to manage cancer pain but as a cancer treatment, which it isn’t. Also, putting pets on CBD for pain too quickly could mask the underlying problem.
Whether your veterinarian will talk to you about CBD may depend on where you live. A 2018 federal law allows stores to sell hemp products that contain CBD and less than 0.3% THC, but these sales remain restricted in some states that don’t allow medical or recreational use of marijuana. In some states, vets can be penalized for even discussing CBD products with clients.
Fortunately, that’s starting to change. California’s veterinary medical board once tried to prevent vets from even talking about CBD, but it now allows them to discuss it as a treatment option. Colorado’s veterinary medical board goes further, permitting vets to recommend specific products and dosages, while a recently enacted law in Nevada allows veterinarians to both recommend and administer hemp and cannabidiol products.
Allowing vets to discuss and recommend CBD products is crucial, says Richter. “Pet owners are coming to veterinarians for advice. Telling someone to go to the dispensary and buy cannabis is a bit like me saying, ‘Go the pharmacy and pick out an antibiotic and take some.’ ”
Currently, CBD products for pets are sold as over-the-counter supplements, without approval or regulation from the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine. Quality can vary; unless pet owners look at lab test results, they won’t know how much CBD a product actually contains. Some have none, says Dodman. A 2021 study by Leafreport.com, an industry website, found that more than half of CBD products were inaccurately labeled; most of those contained more CBD than claimed. Recognizing the need for pet owners and vets to be able to rely on the quality of CBD products, Richter co-founded the Veterinary Cannabis Society to educate vets and improve industry standards.
What CBD can do for your dog or cat
What can CBD do for pets? Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the active constituents of the cannabis plant, can exert profound healing and balancing effects on all mammals. By stimulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD can help the body rebalance to homeostasis.
Pet owners use CBD for a broad range of behavioral and medical issues, including cancer pain, anxieties, obsessions, arthritis, seizures, neurological and digestive disorders, past traumas, social withdrawal, irritable moods, and getting along with other dogs and cats better.
While recovering from illness or surgery, CBD can stimulate appetite and speed healing. At the end of life, CBD can minimize the pain and anxiety your pet may be experiencing.
What is the endocannabinoid system and how does it work?
The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors located throughout the body and it’s named after the plant that led to its discovery. Natural endocannabinoid substances are synthesized by the body to maintain a stable internal environment, which is known as homeostasis. If the body’s endocannabinoid production lags behind what it needs, CBD supplements can help. CBD supplements can also stimulate the body to build more receptors, which makes natural cannabinoids work more effectively.
CBD interacts with the body’s system of receptors. To date, two types of receptors have been identified: CB1 receptors, which are mainly present in the brain, nervous system, glands, and organs; and CB2 receptors, which exist predominantly in the regulatory cells of the immune system.
One of the main roles of the endocannabinoid system is to control inflammation by regulating the immune response. An overactive immune response can trigger allergies and auto-immune problems; an underactive response can make the body vulnerable to infections or make it a more favorable host for the growth of cancer cells.
Is CBD safe for dogs and cats?
Hemp and marijuana are both classified as cannabis, but they are very different varieties. Marijuana is high in THC (which is responsible for the feeling of being high). Conversely, hemp plants contain almost no THC but are rich in the beneficial CBD compound. CBD extracted from hemp is will not make your pet high and it has no negative side effects. Because of this, hemp crops are not a controlled substance, and hemp products containing less than 0.3% THC are legal in all 50 states.
What is the best kind of CBD for my dog or cat?
CBD for dogs and cats comes in many convenient forms. The most common types are extracts, also known as CBD oil, which can be given from a dropper bottle directly into the mouth, added to food or a treat, rubbed into bare skin inside the ears, or dropped on an animal’s paw to be licked off. You may also want to give your dog or cat CBD biscuits, CBD capsules, and topical CBD balms that absorb quickly into the skin. Read How to Give Your Dog CBD to learn more.
How much CBD should I give my dog or cat?
The right CBD dose will vary from animal to animal and depends on the situation, so it may be necessary to experiment to find the right amount and frequency of dosing.
The typical suggested CBD dose for dogs and cats is 1 mg – 5 mg of CBD per 10 pounds of body weight. Make sure you’re looking at the actual amount of CBD in a dose, because potencies vary quite a bit, so the actual amount of liquid oil or biscuits you give may vary.
Typical suggested starting dose: 1 mg – 5 mg per 10 lbs. of bodyweight
Cats: 1 – 5mg
|Dogs:||10 lbs||20 lbs||30 lbs||40 lbs||50 lbs||60 lbs||70 lbs||80 lbs|
|1 – 5mg||2 – 10mg||3 – 15mg||4 – 20mg||5 – 25mg||6 – 30mg||7 – 35mg||8 – 40mg|
It’s often best to start with a dose in the middle of the range. Visible results usually occur within 30 minutes. If there is no change after an hour, offer a bit more CBD to get to the high end of the recommended range. For severe pain or anxiety, offer CBD approximately every 8 hours. For other uses, dose your pet with CBD once or twice a day.
Which is the best CBD for my dog or cat – isolate, broad spectrum, or full spectrum?
When choosing the best CBD for your pet, keep in mind that each type of CBD has its benefits. If you want maximum effectiveness and your pet isn’t picky, consider full-spectrum CBD products. They are the least refined and contain the greatest amount terpenes and cannabinoids – beneficial plant compounds that can work together with the CBD to create an entourage effect to increase effectiveness. Keep in mind that it does have a grassy flavor that may be off-putting to some pets.
On the opposite end of the scale, CBD isolate for dogs and cats is pure CBD, making it the most refined option. Because it contains no plant matter, it has no flavor. Even the pickiest pets will take it.
The middle ground is broad-spectrum CBD. This option retains enough plant material and terpenes to support the entourage effect, but it has a very mild taste.