CBD for veterinary patients: Is it safe? Does it work? Is it legal?

What is CBD (cannabidiol)?

The marijuana plant contains more than 113 compounds. Although we know that the THC component is toxic to dogs (and likely cats), our patients (and the government) do appear to tolerate the non-psychotropic CBD component.

Is it safe?

Ongoing canine studies at Colorado State University (CSU) and Cornell University have shown that CBD is generally safe for use in dogs. Side effects do occur at high doses: all dogs experienced diarrhea in CSU’s trial, and elevated liver enzymes (but without actual evidence of liver damage during the 6 week trial) occurred with higher doses. Skin cream formulations produced redness/irritation at the application site (ear flap), and this was also seen occasionally with the oral versions. Other potential side effect symptoms observed during their trial included: eye and nasal discharge, intermittent “cherry eye,” fever, temporarily reduced urine concentration, temporary protein in urine. There have not yet been studies in cats or other veterinary species, nor do we have any studies regarding potential drug interactions with CBD or long-term side effects.

Does it work?

The exact method of effect in veterinary patients are not yet known, but ongoing research has led to the belief that CBD acts on the Endocannabinoid System, a network in the body that regulates pain perception, inflammation, and stress. CBD boosts mood and reduces anxiety by increasing dopamine levels. CBD also decreases cancer cell reproduction by blocking GPR55 receptors. A study from Cornell found a significant reduction in pain and increase in activity in dogs with arthritis using CBD. Arthritis and epilepsy studies from CSU are pending.

CBD may be beneficial for: allergies, anxiety/fear, anorexia, digestive disorders, arthritis/joint/mobility issues, cancer/tumors, skin disease, seizures, inflammation, glaucoma, spasms.

Is it legal?

Certain parts of the marijuana plant are still considered illegal by the federal government and many states, but hemp, made from parts of the plant that are less than 0.3% THC, is allowed due to a provision in President Obama’s 2014 Farm Bill. At our clinic, we choose to focus on better patient care and do not hesitate to discuss the CBD option for interested families. We feel it is important that pet owners get good information from veterinarians that understand how and why CBD works instead of relying on advertisements, companies, or the guy down the street.

What’s the dose?

We’re not sure yet. CSU’s epilepsy and arthritis studies have been using a dose of 5mg/kg daily. An arthritis study from Cornell found beneficial effects using 2mg/kg twice daily, and no side effects other than liver enzyme changes were found at doses as high as 8mg/kg twice daily.

Choose wisely!

CBD oils are not all created equally. If you choose to try CBD for your pet, be sure to select a brand that has no THC. Hemp plants are notorious for absorbing toxins/heavy metals from the soil they are grown in, so products that are made from American or Canadian-grown hemp may be safer. CBD oil manufactured by Applied Basic Science Corporation, ElleVet, and Rx Vitamins may be preferred options due to their hemp sources, manufacturing processes, and use in legitimate veterinary studies.

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