Is CBD Safe for your Pets?

Wally, my 10-year-old Australian Labradoodle, doesn’t like loud noises. At the first rumble of thunder or pop of fireworks, he starts panting and pacing.  The minute fireworks go off, he runs to me and places his head on my lap for comfort.

At least, that’s what used to happen. But more recently, I found a way to control my dog’s noise anxiety: cannabidiol or CBD, a compound that can be extracted from hemp containing 0.3% THC or less.

CBD is thought to have many therapeutic properties, but unlike cannabis’s other main compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it doesn't get users high. And for me, as Chief of Technical Operations at Envy Hemp, I credit CBD for easing my dog Wally’s distress.

Fueled mainly by anecdotal reports, people are turning to CBD to help manage pain, arthritis, seizures, and other health problems in their pets. And a growing crop of CBD products marketed for pets—including tinctures, capsules, and chew treats—has burst onto the market to meet the consumer demand.

In the following Q & A, the American Kennel Club’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Jerry Klein, explains what CBD oil is, what it does, and its safety concerns and side effects:

What Is CBD oil?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in cannabis and hemp. Dr. Klein says it is essential to note that in most cases, CBD does not contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. In fact, most CBD products are derived from hemp and not from marijuana.

How does CBD affect dogs?

Currently, there has been no formal study on how CBD affects dogs. What scientists do know is that cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid receptors located in the central and peripheral nervous systems, which help maintain balance in the body and keep it in a normal healthy state.

What dog health problems can CBD oil treat?

While there’s no definitive scientific data on using CBD to treat dogs, there’s anecdotal evidence from dog owners suggesting it can treat pain, especially neuropathic pain, as well as helping to control seizures.

According to Dr. Klein, CBD is also used because of its anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety impact, and for possible anti-cancer benefits, although there’s no conclusive data on this use.

The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) is sponsoring a study, through the Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, that will evaluate the use of CBD in treatment-resistant epileptic dogs. The CHF hopes that this will be the first study to gain scientific data on the use of CBD in dogs with this condition.

[Read more about CBD and your Pet here]

What are the possible side effects of CBD in dogs?

While there’s no scientific data on the side effects of CBD usage for dogs, there are potential side effects based on how CBD affects humans. To minimize any potential side effects, make sure you are following the proper dosage.

Dry mouth: Research has shown that CBD can decrease the production of saliva. For dogs, this would manifest as increased thirst.

Lowered blood pressure: High doses of CBD have been known to cause a temporary drop in blood pressure. Even though the drop is small, it might create a brief feeling of light-headedness.

Drowsiness: Dog owners have used CBD to treat anxiety. The calming effect of CBD can also cause slight drowsiness, especially when using higher doses.

What are the risks of using CBD oil for dogs?

The safety and risks of using CBD for dogs have not yet been researched. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD and has not issued a dosing chart. Therefore, we do not know what size dosage would be toxic. Any medication or supplement carries the risk of a reaction. It is always advisable, when giving your dog something new, to start out with small amounts and then closely monitor the effects. And always check with your veterinarian first.

Choose CBD Products Carefully

If you and your veterinarian decide that you should try CBD as a treatment for your dog, there are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing CBD oil. Not all oils are the same; you’ll want a high-quality CBD product to have a better chance of it working.

Because CBD, especially for pets, is largely unregulated, it can be difficult to know which products have been formulated responsibly, are free from contaminants, and contain the ingredients that the product labels list.

So, when shopping—whether online, in a retail store, or a dispensary—look for products that claim to follow Good Manufacturing Practices.  These practices increase the chance that a product has been made with safe ingredients in a clean, high-quality environment according to Stephen Cital, a veterinary technician, cannabinoid consultant, and co-founder of the Veterinary Cannabis Academy.

Wondering whether you should give your dog a CBD product meant for humans?  While that may be fine, “some human products have other things in them, such as xylitol or grapeseed oil, that could be toxic to the animals,” Cital says.

And be particularly cautious about products that also contain THC. While some veterinarians use it to treat certain conditions in animals, experts don't recommend that you experiment with this on your own.

Look for the Product’s Certificate of Analysis 

For any CBD product for you or your pet, your best bet is to find a company that has commissioned independent third-party testing and can provide a Certificate of Analysis, or COA.

The lab results should show how much CBD (and THC) the product contains, as well as how the product did in tests checking for contaminants such as heavy metals and fungicides.  According to Cital, if you can’t find a COA on the company’s website or the company refuses to share it, that's a red flag.

[Read more about Certificate of Analysis here]

Dose Gradually

Although some CBD products have dosing instructions on the label, little is really known about what doses are most effective and safe. For example, while McGrath’s initial research in dogs used 2.5 mg per kilogram twice a day, she is now using nearly double that dose in her latest trial.

And Judy Morgan, D.V.M., a holistic vet in New Jersey and co-author of "Yin & Yang Nutrition for Dogs," recommends starting with 1 mg per 10 pounds of body weight twice a day—and monitoring your pet’s reaction.

Until more is known, the experts urge caution. Dr. Morgan advises that you “start low and go slow” when figuring out a dosage for your dog.  She also suggests that using tinctures rather than a chew treat can make it easier to scale dosages up or down.

Store Products Carefully

As Chief of Technical Operations at Envy Hemp, I am always concerned about our products’ shelf life and stability.  Cannabinoids are susceptible to degradation. CBD products should be kept at room temperature away from bright lights or sunlight.  Heating and extreme cold can dramatically change chemical composition. 

If you have an oil that has changed colors, it’s probably damaged and should be discarded. And if you see a separation of product, ingredients floating around, or ingredients settled at the bottom, it may be an indication of microbe growth or the emulsifier not keeping the ingredients together.

[Read more about storing your CBD here]

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