A number of cat and dog owners have embarked on the usage of cannabinoids and CBD-related products to treat and manage pain, stress, seizures, and many other conditions. However, what about cannabis-related medicines and your pets? Unfortunately, not a lot is known about the efficacy of cannabinoid medicine in your furry animals. However, that is slowly starting to change.
In 2019 California became the first state to allow veterinarians to discuss medical cannabis for pets, with their clients – but they still cannot recommend, prescribe, or administer it. In July 2018 the first clinical study examining the effects of hemp-based CBD on arthritic dogs was published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science. The results were very encouraging. More than 80% of dogs in the study saw an increase in mobility and a decrease in pain. While these results are promising, pet owners should not rely on a single study to determine whether or not marijuana-related medicine is safe for their animals. They need to explore additional research as well as the political, ethical, and scientific implications of treating their pets with cannabinoids.
The good news is that in 2021, more research has been conducted. In a survey conducted by a Veterinary Information Network, 79% of doctors surveyed who had clinical experience using cannabis products said that CBD was somewhat or very helpful for chronic pain in animals. Over 62% of these doctors pointed to its helpfulness in managing pet anxiety. It’s helpful that you can’t overdose on CBD. It might make pets sleepy, but there’s no toxicity. That said, the lack of regulation in the CBD market can mean that pet owners are buying products with other unlisted ingredients that are potentially toxic to their pets, such as THC. Experts advise that these products should be tested for the presence of heavy metals, pesticides, and THC. Given the lack of regulation, it really is the wild west out there in terms of product. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that 70% of the CBD products they analyzed didn’t match the concentration listed on the label, and 21% of their samples contained THC despite it not being on the label.
Another thing to consider is that because research in this area is so new, no one knows the long- term impacts of CBD use in companion animals, or what constitutes an effective and safe dose. Veterinarians’ knowledge about CBD use in pets is purely anecdotal at the moment because of the limited scientific evidence available. That said, researchers at Cornell University who conducted a double-blind study of CBD usage on dogs with osteoarthritis found “a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity” with CBD oil. They observed no side effects from the CBD treatment. Similar studies are being conducted on dogs who suffer from seizures. Many veterinarians are hopeful that perhaps we can start looking at CBD as an alternative treatment to existing anticonvulsive drugs, in the near future. ?
That said, many pet owners have begun to explore using CBD to treat their pets on their own and have reported significant improvement in their pet’s issues. A word of caution, researchers have found that some seller’s websites contain blatant lies about CBD and its effectiveness. There is a phenomenon called the caregiver placebo effect which may cause pet owners to misread their animals’ responses to CBD. This may, in turn, cause their pets to suffer unnecessarily when veterinarian-prescribed medications with scientifically proven effectiveness could have helped them. No pet owner wants their animal companion to suffer. So much of what is know about the health benefits of CBD is specific to humans. It’s effect on our pets can be quite different because they don’t metabolize it in the same way. Animal owners would do well to take these things into consideration and proceed with caution when it comes to administering cannaboid medicine to their pets.