CBD has been around a while but it seems to have become more mainstream lately. Part of CBD's popularity is that it is supposed to be “nonpsychoactive,” and humans and dogs alike can reap health benefits from the plant without getting “high.” CBD might be showing up on your social media feeds for humans and for dogs! More and more dog companies are coming out with treats infused with CBD and marketing them at high prices while labeling them as “calming,” but it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of information out there for dog owners to decide if that’s the right move for them. Here are some things to note when considering CBD for your pup.
What is CBD?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is a phytocannabinoid (a molecule produced by plants). What makes this molecule so special is the effects it can have on your dog, and possibly you. For the sake of this article, we are going to focus solely on what it can do for your dog and things to be aware of. It is first important to note that CBD does not contain any tetrahydrocannabinol, which is known as “THC.” In other words, CBD is not marijuana and will not produce a “high.” Any person or animal who takes CBD will not be ingesting a “drug”- it is a completely different molecule and part of the plant. THC is what can produce the euphoria-like effects or altered mental state that those who take marijuana can experience. CBD will not produce those effects, as it simply doesn’t have the compounds to do so.
Cannabidiol was first discovered in 1940 by a scientist named Roger Adams. He wasn’t aware of what he was extracting from the Cannabis sativa plant until years later when himself and other scientists decided to do more research on this chemical compound and look for what the possible benefits of consuming it might be.
How CBD Affects Dogs
As with most things of this nature, they started to test on lab animals and found that it did not alter their mental state. This study took place in 1946, and since then, more has been done to figure out what the potential benefits (and side effects) might be when it comes to man's best friend - dogs. Here are some things we’ve come to find:
CBD is commonly used to address anxiety and insomnia in humans. It has been hailed for treating a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating childhood epilepsy syndromes. Similarly, CBD products can help treat ailments in dogs such as…
Loss of appetite
What the Dog Parents Say
The New York Times covered a story about a twelve year old chow/shepherd mix who was diagnosed with bone cancer but was not able to tolerate painkillers well, but was prescribed a high dose. Once given a CBD tincture, he was practically off the painkillers and started returning back to his old self.
Lynne Tingle owns a pet adoption center and sanctuary and swears by CBD for older pets that have a hard time getting around or that have behavior issues. She gives them edible CBD treats or tinctures and says that “they’re not in pain” any longer and that there is a noticeable effect on their behavior and movement.
Many of the positive reviews regarding CBD products seem to pertain to seizure disorders or pain control.
Dr. Mcgrath from Colorado State, recommends that if you are using CBD products or thinking about it, make sure that you try to get a “Certificate of Analysis” which shows the amount of THC in the product (which should NEVER be over 0.3%),how it was made, whether it’s free of pesticides/chemicals, and whether or not it is organic.
Canadian veterinarians seem to be getting a head start on clinical research. Currently, the Veterinary Drugs Directorate at Health Canada has approved clinical trials for veterinary drugs containing phytocannabinoids, but it could take 6 to 10 years for any to come to market.
There are many owner stories that will make you tempted to try CBD products for yourself or your dog, but alas, not too many clinical trials. Adverse effects are a possibility, as with most things we can ingest, so it is important to be aware of them.
Things to be Aware Of
One of the possible side effects of using CBD on your dog could be digestive upset, as evidenced in a study done by veterinarians at Colorado State University. The goal of the study was to determine how healthy canine patients would tolerate higher than normal CBD doses. Dosage was based off those used in human studies, and dogs were given 10 or 20 mg/kg/day for this particular experiment.
“This study aimed to determine how healthy canine patients would tolerate CBD at higher doses than would be anticipated for clinical use. Since there is no established canine dosage, doses for this study were extrapolated from those reported in human clinical studies. The majority of human studies used dosages between 2–5 mg/kg per day, but some reported using up to 600 mg per day (15, 16). In this study, the dogs were administered 10 or 20 mg/kg/day”
Dosages at this amount resulted in diarrhea and stomach upset in the dogs in the study, however, this does not mean that your dog will experience the same side effects. More studies need to be conducted to get a clear number on dosing recommendations. This study followed dosages similar to those of humans, so it seems that dogs need a lower dose than we do. A veterinary geneticist at Embark Veterinary, Dr. Erin Chu, gave her opinion and stated: “CBD is not for every pet. Side effects potentially due to CBD treatment have been reported (McGrath et al, 2018). Further, CBD might be just one part of a comprehensive care plan that you build with your veterinarian! Talk with your veterinarian about all the possible options to manage your pet’s ailment, be it chronic pain, behavioral issues, or other. And give your vet some time to do their research! CBD is as new to pet health as it is to humans, and we as a profession are still learning (albeit very quickly!).”
Sadly, it’s harder than one would hope to get more research done on CBD. Research is hindered by the cannabis federal Schedule 1 drug classification which means academic research institutes are put in a “legally ambiguous” position. “The DEA divides drugs, substances, and certain chemicals into one of five categories, or “schedules.” The DEA considers Schedule 1 (I) drugs to be the most dangerous and addictive and Schedule 5 (V) drugs to be the least, with Schedule 2 (II), 3 (III), and 4 (IV) drugs falling somewhere in between.”
In short, if the CBD product is not FDA-approved, then it is a schedule 1 controlled substance. If it is FDA approved, it is a schedule 5 controlled substance. CBD is not approved by the FDA except for one drug called Eppidolex which is used to treat seizures. Because of its classification as a “schedule 1” drug (pretty much as bad as it gets) - it makes it harder to get funding for research, and usually the funding coming from any new studies is sponsored by companies that produce CBD products.
According to the FDA’s website:
The FDA has approved only one CBD product, a prescription drug product to treat two rare, severe forms of epilepsy.
It is currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement.
The FDA has seen only limited data about CBD safety and these data point to real risks that need to be considered before taking CBD for any reason.
Some CBD products are being marketed with unproven medical claims and are of unknown quality.
The FDA will continue to update the public as it learns more about CBD.
Where Things Get Tricky
It seems like we are in a bit of a stalemate. We need more testing and clinical research done to see the positive/negative effects of CBD yet we are not able to get funding for this research because the products in question are not FDA approved, and thus, no one wants to fund the project.
Don’t think about getting a recommendation or prescription from your veterinarian either, they could actually lose their license! Ken Pawlowski, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association says that it really puts vets in a bind. They have clients coming to them with questions, but they don’t have answers.
Interestingly, Canada doesn’t seem to be having this issue. In a recent report from the Canadian Council of Veterinary Regulators (CCVR) Cannabis Working Group:Under the Act, veterinarians are permitted to prescribe and dispense such drugs containing phytocannabinoids, whether human or veterinary label. Current human prescription products containing phytocannabinoids (e.g. Sativex) are often not appropriate for veterinary use.
Should You Use CBD For Your Dog?
CBD might turn out to be an anxiety reliever or seizure medication that has fewer side effects than prescriptions on the market, but it’s hard to tell at this point. The anecdotal evidence is on the rise and with more and more companies coming out with new CBD lines, we are sure to see this trend increasing. Hopefully we will be able to come to a conclusion in the near future and an agreement with the FDA to do more research on products using CBD before classifying them as any “schedule.”
It was announced in 2017 that the AKC Canine Health Foundation would be sponsoring a major clinical trial for CBD oils and dogs with seizure disorders and the use of CBD to treat these disorders. However, the study is still ongoing and no results have been made public as of yet.
Until then, it is our duty as pet parents to stay informed when it comes to CBD or any other product we give our pets that could either heal or harm. As with many things, we must take all of this information with a grain of salt and make our own conclusions with what is best for our pups and their situation.
In the meantime, a few Tthere are homeopathic veterinarians are coming forward trying to educate the public and even offering “pet-parent” classes on Veterinary Cannabis. These classes offer cannabis education, administration advice, and how to talk with your veterinarian about it. Perhaps with more companies like these popping up, it will lead to a more open discussion and thus - movement!