CBD has gone from a niche alternative to a widely used over-the-counter treatment in humans. Increasingly, people are looking to CBD to help pets manage pain, seizures and anxiety. But does it work—and is it safe?
First, what exactly is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. In humans, it’s taken to treat certain seizure disorders, and research suggests it may have value for treating chemotherapy associated nausea, depression, and pain. More research is needed to understand the more than 100 different types of cannabinoids that have been identified, each with different potential uses and effects on people and pets.
Inspired by promising results in human patients, CBD is also being considered for therapeutic benefits in dogs and cats. Two primary areas of interest for veterinary care include treatment for pain and seizures.
Unlike tetrahydrocannabinoil, better known as THC, CBD does not have psychoactive properties—meaning it doesn’t produce a “high” like THC does. However, because both compounds come from the same plant, poorly formulated CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC, something that has negative effects on pets. Pets can also be exposed to THC if they are exposed to marijuana (the entire cannabis plant).
What happens to pets exposed to THC (or marijuana)?
THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis plant and when ingested, pets can experience dose dependent signs like lethargy, vomiting, urinary incontinence, and neurologic problems. In the last two years, vethelpline®, the teletriage service available to all Nationwide members at no cost, has seen an increase in marijuana-related toxicity calls. If you are concerned that your pet may have been exposed to marijuana, we recommend seeking advice from a veterinary healthcare expert.
Why is CBD increasingly popular for pet uses?
While research is still in early phases, a marketplace for CBD pet products is nonetheless blossoming. Numerous companies have started producing CBD-infused pet treats, most with claims that the products relieve joint pain or calm anxiety.
As people use CBD in hopes of improving their personal health, many wonder whether positive effects could be applied to their four-legged friends. It’s important to know there is no regulation of CBD products for pets that guarantees safety from THC contamination, or efficacy that the advertised treatment will be helpful for your pet.
Are there adverse effects when pets take CBD therapeutically?
While early research may show promise in areas such as pain relief and seizure treatment, some pets experience signs of a reaction, including diarrhea, vomiting and elevated liver enzymes.
One of the big questions about CBD comes down to dosage; adjusting for differences in pet size, breed and species is not yet clear. Furthermore, production for over-the-counter CBD products is largely unregulated, and it’s not uncommon for the actual amount of CBD (or THC) in a product to vary from what’s on the label. Until better regulatory oversight on CBD products exists, these products remain something of a “buyer beware” situation.
As a precaution, it may not be advisable to give CBD to pets with existing liver damage. Pet owners who opt to regularly give their pets CBD should closely monitor for changes in liver enzymes with their veterinarian. We recommend consulting with your vet as part of your research before giving your pet a new treatment or supplement.
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