Lisa Feinstein DVM MPH

As Marijuana (Cannabis) is becoming more available and popular, pet owners are increasingly looking to use CBD oil on their pets. We are all hearing stories of CBD oil helping with chronic pain, epilepsy, and even cancer. Are these facts or fiction? Is CBD oil safe for our pets? Where do you get CBD oil for your pet? These are some questions I am being asked by pet owners.

For this article, I referenced Pet Poison Control’s website and their webinar on “Pots and Pets: Updates on Marijuana Intoxication in Dogs and Cats, “from September 25, 2018.  They do these webinars because dogs (and occasionally cats) can get exposed to our pot based products (pot brownies, pot cookies, pot gummies), and Pet Poison Control is getting more phone calls every month as marijuana edibles are hitting the market. Marijuana (or Cannabis plant) is the plant itself, and THC and CBD oil are two of the 100 plus Cannabinoid compounds that are derived from the Cannabis plant.

THC is a psychoactive compound that induces a “high,” and higher levels of THC are, therefore, associated with higher levels of psychosis when consumed by people and their pets. CBD (also known as Cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound that is being researched for its medical uses in epilepsy and osteoarthritis. Unlike THC, CBD oil has a wide margin of safety. Synthetic Cannibinoids (nicknamed K2 or Spice) are an illegal recreational product that has severe nervous system effects and is not in legally marketed products.

CBD is being marketed for both people and pets for its medical benefits. One study at Colorado State University (Bartner et al, 2008) showed the CBD oil was the best delivery of CBD for dogs (versus CBD beads or creams). Another study at Cornell University (Gambel et al, 2018) showed that CBD oil did statistically decrease arthritic dogs’ pain and increase their level of activity. In both studies, dogs’ liver enzymes increased while taking the CBD. Anecdotally CBD oil is supposed to be helpful for epilepsy, glaucoma, arthritis, other pain, and even cancer.

The CBD Supplement market has been called the Wild West in the sense that there is little regulation. The CBD oil that you buy for your dog may actually have no CBD oil in it. It may even have THC (the psychoactive compound from Marijuana that will get your dog stoned or high) without having CBD. At the Pet Poison Control webinar site, they have a list of companies to which the FDA issued warnings because their products were labeled for CBD amounts they did not have. How do you know you are buying a safe product? You could research and google the product and even try to go onto the FDAs website to see if there are any warnings. It is important to understand that unlike other products (like antibiotics or heartworm/flea medications) that have been heavily tested and proven to be safe, CBD supplements are unregulated and, therefore, not without some risk. Use with caution and recognize the signs of THC in your dog (ataxia, depression, glazed expression) in case the product you bought has some THC in it.