With more than a half a dozen states having now fully legalized cannabis (both hemp & marijuana) and with 19 more medically legalized states, the momentum for full cannabis legalization is accelerating in the United States. Among the many benefits that cannabis legalization would bring, one that is not mentioned as often is the prospect of using cannabis to treat our pets. Many dog owners and veterinarians have already come out vouching for the healing properties of CBD oil, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis.
The use cases and benefits of CBD oil for humans have started to become widely known through various peer-reviewed studies. Among others, CBD oil has been recommended to help with conditions such as anxiety, addiction, depression, chronic pain, arthritis, seizures, and more!
As we get to know more about the effects of CBD for mankind, we find ourselves naturally asking: Could CBD help our canine companions? Scientifically, dogs (and most mammals) have a similar anatomy to humans. Studies in the last decade have shown that the endocannabinoid system can be found in most mammals. Considering that CBD works directly with this nervous system, we can confidently conclude that CBD will have some sort of influence on our dogs. But how?
Can CBD help our dogs?
Early research and anecdotal testimonials show that CBD has helped pets in many different ways. Here’s a preliminary list of various conditions that CBD has been found to help treat (and/or cure):
- Chronic Pain
- Deteriorating Quality of Life
- Digestive Issues
- Fatty Tumors
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Joint & Mobility Issues
- Phobias (Fireworks, Thunderstorm)
- Skin Problems
In more general terms, feedback from pet owners show that CBD can be used to soothe your dogs. Some particular examples are during situations such as separation anxiety, thunderstorm fears, social anxiety, and long-distance traveling.
One of the biggest use cases that veterinarians are coming to find are with joint pains that dogs tend to suffer as they get older. Hemp CBD has been found “useful in treating acute ailments like sprains and strains, torn ligaments, bone breaks, and even during post-operative care to reduce swelling, pain, and stiffness.”
More than anything, the most promising aspect of using CBD is the fact that it could help your dog get off synthetic drugs, which typically has many short and long-term side effects. Even if it can’t fully replace the conventional drugs, hemp oil could possibly help you lower the doses that the dog has to take.
Getting to know your dog’s endocannabinoid system
Research on how cannabinoids (including CBD) affect the human body has shown that they mainly interact with our endocannabinoid system, a nervous system that exists throughout our body.
This endocannabinoid system, also called ECS, has now been found to exist in all vertebrates, including mammals. Animals such as dogs were specifically found to share almost 70%biological homology with humans. Thus, it can be cautiously concluded that CBD interacts in a similar way in canines as it does in humans. Similar to how CBD interacts with receptors in our ECS, cannabinoids bind to receptors within the dog’s body. One study in particular found that the CBD “binds to these receptors for a longer duration [in dogs], and evokes long-lasting therapeutic response without causing toxic effects.”
Treating dogs with hemp CBD oil: How and how much?
The most widely known method of administering CBD oil to your pets is through tinctures. Using the tincture, you can put a few drops of CBD into dog’s mouth directly. However, since that could get messy quite quickly, you could just drop the oil into the dog’s food or treats.
Since hemp CBD is now legally sold in all 50 states, you can find many brands selling CBD products meant for pets online. It’s important to note that Hemp CBD is different from Cannabis CBD. Hemp CBD contains no THC and is therefore completely non-psychoactive. Cannabis CBD typically has a mix of CBD and THC, which makes it psychoactive. Cannabis CBD can only be found in licensed dispensaries in states that have legalized marijuana. (Giving your dog THC could potentially have negative side effects, including marijuana poisoning.)
When it comes to dosage, figuring out the right amount to give your dog can be the hardest thing. Dosing recommendations are hard to come by for humans as well. The general advice is that it will take trial and error before you find the appropriate dose that works for you (or your dog). Start at a small dosage and gradually increase depending on the effects (or reactions) you see from your pet.
One thing to remember is that once you give your dog a dose, it may take a couple hours before you notice any effects from your dog. If you believe your dog is not feeling any effects after a few hours, increase the dosage slightly later in the day or wait until the next day to try a slightly higher dose.
What pet owners are saying about CBD (testimonials)
Although CBD oil has yet to be approved by many veterinarians or the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), many dog owners have taken the initiative to try this alternative method for their dogs. Here’s a few snippets of what they have to say:
- “My dog has cancer and is almost 14. The only option was chemo but we decided that we don’t want him to go through that. Instead we are giving him CBD oil drops. He’s hopping away everyday and I’m glad we gave him ‘extra’ life”
- “My dog has had severe storm anxiety all his life. We have difficulty keeping his weight up because he vomits so much when he is anxious. The oil helps him sleep and helps him to be able to eat without vomiting.”
One article reports, “Though initially hesitant about giving her pet an unapproved drug, Denise figured where’s the harm? Miles has terminal cancer and would die soon. ‘I wasn’t that worried. I was actually pretty excited, because it has been used with human cancer patients for pain and nausea,’ Denise said. Since then, in the last couple of weeks, ‘Miles has been going to the beach, he’s been running, he’s being himself.’”
A survey conducted by American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) show that 61.8% to 95% of the surveyed pet owners have endorsed the health benefits of CBD infused products, rating it from ‘moderate to excellent.’
Why are vets still against CBD & cannabis?
Even with all the positive spotlight that CBD is getting to treat our pets, many vets and experts are still cautious of endorsing and using this plant and its extracts. From the reports and surveys conducted, their resistance seems to stem from two main factors:
1. Legitimate negative side effects caused by owners who use THC infused extracts (marijuana)
2. Lack of awareness in non-psychoactive cannabinoids
The first point is a legitimate concern for vets. Since the legalization of recreational cannabis in states such as Colorado, some veterinarians have indeed seen an increase in cases where dogs suffer from marijuana poisoning. If pets consume a large amount of psychoactive cannabis (THC), this can cause a dog to suffer seizures, go into a coma, or die. What makes it worse is that there is no specific antidote for THC poisoning. This requires the dogs to take multiple other drugs, which further complicates the situation.
The bigger issue here though is the social stigma that still exists around cannabis. There is still a “predominant view among veterinarians that marijuana [cannabis] is only a toxic plant”. Many vets are not even aware that different strains of cannabis exist, especially those that are non-psychoactive like CBD.
On the other hand, one could also wonder if there’s a different, external factor that might be contributing to the resistance in the veterinarian profession. The market for pet medication is a multi-billion dollar industry. The Federal Trade Commission reports that retail sales of pet medication was $7.6 billion in 2013 and is expected to hit $10.2 billion by 2018.
When there’s so much money on the line, one has to wonder if there’s something other than pure lack of awareness that’s pushing the resistance to cannabis.