February 28, 2019

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the potential benefits of using CBD products in pets. The purported benefits include pain relief, helping with anxiety-related behavior and aiding in digestive disorders. As veterinarians, we receive questions regarding the use of CBD on a regular basis from pet owners who are in search of a more natural solution to their pet’s ailments. In this blog post, I plan to differentiate between the different marijuana products, look at the evidence to support their use a well as discuss the legal gray area with using these products.

There are two different classifications of products containing cannabinoids, marijuana and hemp. Marijuana is derived from the leaves of the hemp plant and has medicinal and recreational uses in humans. There are many different positive effects that marijuana has been shown to have in the body including anti-tumor properties, improvement in appetite in patients with chronic illnesses and even as a proposed treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. The active compound in the marijuana plant usually contains a concentration of >20% THC and a very low concentration of CBD. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects, or, the “high.”

Hemp, on the other hand, comes from the stem of the plant and is often used to for producing fibers for making rope and fabrics. Hemp contains a very low concentration of THC (less than 0.3%) and high concentrations of CBD. Recently, it became legal to produce hemp in the United States. However, CBD still falls under the same Schedule I DEA status that marijuana as well as other recreational drugs (cocaine, heroin, MDMA, etc) do.

So is there any evidence to support the use of cannabinoids in pets?

There was study published this past summer that evaluated whether the use of CBD helped with pain secondary to osteoarthritis. The study evaluated dogs that had been exhibiting physical signs and radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis and evaluated the effects with a combination of veterinarian assessment and owner questionnaires. There was a statistically significant difference between the CBD treated dogs vs. the placebo. There hasn’t been a study performed to replicate the results but it appears that CBD may offer some pain relief in patients with arthritis.

Further studies assessing the use of CBD for seizure disorders, anxiety, chronic GI issues and other purported claims have not been performed yet.

What does all of this mean for your pets?

Even though marijuana and CBD is legal for recreational use in this state, it is still illegal for use in pets. It is also illegal for veterinarians to prescribe or even recommend its use in pets since it’s still a Schedule I drug (sigh).

The other issue with using CBD in pets comes from a quality assurance perspective. Since CBD is under the category of a supplement, it isn’t regulated by the FDA. This means that the companies that put their products on the market aren’t held to strict standards of purity and concentration. Therefore, the concentration of CBD listed on the label may not be accurate AND there could be greater than 0.3% of THC present in the product. Dogs and cats are very sensitive to the effects of THC, so too high of a concentration can cause them to exhibit signs of toxicity.

In summary, it appears that CBD is safe for use in pets and may have beneficial effects, however, due to legal reasons and questionable purity and concentration issues, we can’t currently recommend the use of CBD in pets.

Written by

Chris Lutton, Associate Veterinarian – Columbia City Vet Hospital

View All Posts