Pet ownership in the United States is at an all-time high. 65% of all households own at least 1 pet. That equates to 80 million homes across the country.
Many of these homes have more than 1 pet. As a matter of fact, it’s estimated that over 300 million pets have homes in the US. That’s 1 for every person.
Pets are a source of comfort and consolation for many people. Owners enjoy the unconditional love that a pet can provide. Many pet owners refer to their pets as their children or “fur babies”.
But pets can be an expensive venture. After all, you have to pay for food, toys, and pet-specific items like cat litter, wood shavings, crates/cages, and much more.
But probably the most costly investment for a pet is their health. Pets require a lot of care. These include shots, heartworm pills, grooming, checkups and more. If a pet gets sick, medication can be quite expensive. Most people don’t have pet insurance (although it’s available), so owners pay a premium for a prescription on top of the visit to the veterinarian.
Many people who have taken a more holistic approach to their own health have started extending it to their pets.
Isn’t CBD Marijuana?
While CBD can be derived from marijuana, in the US, most CBD is derived from hemp. It sounds like a fine line since both marijuana and hemp are in the cannabis family of plants, however, the difference is in 2 of the 113 cannabinoids that make up all cannabis plants.
In marijuana, large concentrations of the cannabinoid THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is found in the plant. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. In other words, it’s the part of the plant that makes you high.
However, in hemp, there are only trace amounts of THC. As a matter of fact, federal law requires that hemp growing in the United States have less than 0.3% THC.
Hemp has high concentrations of CBD, especially the seeds. Hemp seeds and plants are crushed to pull out the highest concentrations of CBD.
Benefits of CBD
Many owners who have tried CBD or cannabidiol for themselves have considered using it for their pets. To meet this demand, many CBD manufacturers have created products specifically for pets. But can a pet benefit from CBD?
The short answer is yes.
In the animal kingdom, which both pets and humans are a part of, most animals have what’s known as an endocannabinoid system or ECS. In a nutshell, the ECS contains neurotransmitters, receptors, and proteins that affect the central nervous system.
The endocannabinoid system helps to regulate many physiological and cognitive processes including fertility, pregnancy, during prenatal and postnatal development, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory, and processing the effects of cannabis.
It should be noted that long-term research on CBD on pets is limited, but the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is encouraging studies that conform to the Food and Drug Administration’s standards for drug testing.
However, despite the lack of long-term research, evidence supports that CBD can treat a number of conditions in animals, including:
- Aggressive Behavior
- Bacterial Infections
- Bowel Issues
- Generalized Pain
- Joint and Muscle Inflammation
- Parasitic Infections
- Skin Problems
If you’re on the fence about treating your pet with CBD, consider this: many prescriptions that veterinarians prescribe for your pets are the same prescriptions that your doctor would prescribe for you if you had the same illness. For example, in a case of inflammation, a doctor may prescribe the steroid Prednisone to treat the issue. A veterinarian can prescribe Prednisone for your pet as well.
Is CBD Safe for My Pet?
If you’ve been researching medical cannabis for your pet, it’s likely that you’ve come across issues where a pet, most likely a dog, had either an adverse reaction or even died from consuming cannabis.
These headlines are meant to draw a reader in and also put forth an agenda. Have pets died that have consumed cannabis? Yes. But it wasn’t because of the cannabis or the CBD. It was because the pet consumed the cannabis in a delivery method that was toxic to them.
To further explain, medical cannabis has a number of different ways that a user can take it. One of the methods is edibles.
According to the AVMA, animals who’ve gotten sick or died of toxicity when they consumed cannabis, died not because of the cannabis, but because of the type of edible that the pet ate. The most common case was dogs who ate chocolate edible. Chocolate is toxic to dogs.
The AVMA hasn’t endorsed CBD for animals. Not because they think it’s unsafe, but because they need more testing before they’ll consider endorsing it.
In that same vein, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t said that CBD is safe for animals or humans.
But CBD for pets has been available for over a decade. If there was an epidemic of pets getting sick or dying from CBD, we would have heard about it and there would be thousands of lawsuits.
Also, because of the similarities in both human and animal ECS systems, the effects of CBD are essentially the same.
The limited research that’s been done on medical marijuana (some of which comes to us from the 1800s) usually starts with a test on animals first. If the animals reacted negatively or even worse, died, then the research couldn’t ethically have moved on to humans.
The main safety concern with CBD is products that are not properly labeled or have been introduced to contaminants.
Some less than reputable manufacturers may take short cuts when producing CBD resulting in the CBD being laced with industrial solvents, heavy metals, and alcohol.
Despite a lack of endorsement of CBD by the FDA, they have put out a warning regarding CBD for both human and pet consumption.
The FDA recommends that consumers request a company’s latest 3rd party test results on their products to ensure that they are selling a pure product. All CBD companies that are reputable will be able to provide this information upon request and some even post the results on their websites.
So is CBD safe for your pets? Yes, it is.
Types of CBD Products for Pets
One of the top considerations when starting your pet on CBD is the method of delivery. As a human, you have choices such as vaping, baked edible goods, gummies, and candy. But not of these methods will work for a pet.
Other methods that you have include oil tinctures, topical creams, pills, and suppositories will work for pets, but you need to get products that are designed for pets so that they get the correct dosage.
In general, you can expect to find the following CBD products for pets:
- Topicals – Creams or ointments that can be rubbed onto the pet’s skin
- Chewables – Pet treats that are CBD infused
- Tinctures – Bottles of oil or liquid that can be administered orally to a pet via an eye dropper
- Pills – Pills, capsules, or gel-caps that can be fed to the pet
- Suppositories – Solid CBD that can be inserted into a pet’s rectum for fast absorption into the bloodstream. This is usually reserved for larger pets.
Many products are designed universally for pets. For example, a tincture could be used on a wide variety of pets. But some are aimed at specific animals. These include such items as:
- Dog Treats
- Cat Treats
- Dog Food
- Cat Food
- Equine Pellets
What’s the Correct Dosage of CBD for My Pet?
The dosage of CBD is complicated for humans and pets. Many products will provide guidelines for the dosage that works for many animals, but it’s not the ultimate guide.
The dosage that you need to administer to your pet can vary on a number of factors including:
- The potency of CBD oil
- The type of pet you are administering the CBD to
- Your pet’s weight
- Your pet’s age
- Your pet’s body chemistry
- The condition being treated
- The severity of the condition
- If multiple conditions are being treated
- Other medications your pet may be taking
To add to the confusion, there’s no standard that’s currently set for CBD dosage and it may be a while before one is created. Neither the AVMA not the FDA has put out guidelines for CBD dosage on humans or animals.
Also, as with any drug or supplement, the longer that your pet takes CBD, the more accustomed to it their body becomes and they’ll need more for it to be effective.
This is partially the reason why manufacturers recommend starting out with lower doses and gradually increase the amount you’re administering to them.
The other reason they recommend this is because too much at one time can cause lethargy and make them sleep all the time.
That being said, there are a few ways to determine how much CBD to give your pet. These include:
- Body weight – As a starting point, use 1 mg of CBD for every 10 pounds your pet weighs 1 to 2 times a day.
- Condition severity – Consider the condition severity of the pet. For instance, an older dog with arthritis and glaucoma will need more CBD than a younger pet with inflammation.
- Start lower and observe – Start with low doses of CBD and see how your pet responds. If they seem tired all the time, then they need less. If they are restless and the condition is not improving, they may need more
- Consult your veterinarian – Talk to your veterinarian about giving your pet CBD. They can provide a lot of advice, help with dosage, and let you know if it will have an adverse effect on any other medications your pet is taking.
Luckily CBD isn’t toxic to pets. So you can’t hurt your pet if you administer too much to them, they’ll be okay. However, they may sleep for a long time, have diarrhea, or vomit.
Can I Legally Get CBD for My Pet?
The United States Congress passed 2 laws, 1 in 2014 and 1 in 2018 that made hemp legal to grow, manufacture, and transport across most state lines.
However, just because the federal barrier has been removed, that doesn’t mean that all barriers have been removed.
Currently, 3 states have outright bans on CBD. These states are South Dakota, Nebraska, and Idaho. If you order CBD in these states for either yourself or your pet, you could be running afoul of state law.
In addition, 15 states allow CBD for specific purposes. These usually require a prescription of some sort. In these cases, you may have to consult your veterinarian to avoid breaking any state laws.
The following states, territories, and jurisdictions have approved laws allowing both medical and recreational use of cannabis. As a result, CBD is perfectly legal in these places:
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Washington DC
While most states allow for CBD and even cannabis for human medical consumption, some states may not. You’ll want to check before you order to see if it’s okay in your state. Remember, medical and recreational cannabis laws are for personal consumption and other use may run afoul of state law.
Is CBD Right for My Pet?
CBD can be an effective tool in managing your pet’s health. Whether they show signs of anxiety, have issues with arthritis, or are fighting off an infection, CBD may be the answer both you and your pet need.
It should be noted, CBD is a treatment for some of these issues, not necessarily a cure. And if you suspect that your pet has an illness, you should consult your veterinarian first to determine the best course of action.
But if your pet has a chronic condition, such as arthritis, CBD in combination with the treatment plan that your veterinarian recommends can act to mitigate your pet’s symptoms and pain and enhance their quality of life.
Veterinarian Resistance to CBD
Just like there are doctors that aren’t fans of holistic medicine and treatments like CBD, there are veterinarians that feel the same way.
There could be any number of reasons for this. They could be resistant to treatments that haven’t been recommended by the AVMA or the FDA. They could be fans of prescription medication. They may have had a bad experience with CBD in some way.
Regardless of the reason, hear them out. Find out if there’s a valid reason for the vet to tell you not to administer CBD to your pet. It could be as simple as they’re on another medication that CBD will interfere with or that a prescription is an actual cure and CBD will only alleviate symptoms.
But there are still some that will argue that CBD is simply ineffective and that it doesn’t have any medicinal value.
The vet is entitled to his or her opinion, but so are you. If the vet is adamant about not giving CBD and can’t provide a good reason, it may be time to find another vet.
Much like you should do when you search out a new doctor, set up an appointment, and interview the vet to see if you’re on the same page. Tell him or her that you’re looking to start a regimen of CBD for your pet and ask their opinion. If they can give you a good reason not to, listen to them. But if it’s simply a matter of personal opinion, then move on to another vet and keep going until you find one that aligns with the type of care you want your pet to have.
Much like humans, animals can benefit from CBD too. When you start a course of CBD with your pet, you may want to try a few different ways to administer it. The tincture method may be the best method for a smaller animal (and may be the only method). Larger pets like dogs and cats provide more flexible choices such as treats, CBD infused pet food or pills. Larger animals, like horses, may also have CBD infused food, or you may need to mix oil into their meals.
No matter how you choose to administer the CBD, be sure to observe your pet. The way they act can determine if they’re getting too much or not enough CBD. And if that’s the case, it’s not going to be effective for them. So observe and adjust the dosage accordingly. If that fails, ask your vet for some advice.