Cannabis use and pets
As cannabis-derived products have become more available, veterinarians have seen increased interest among clients in using these products for their pets. These clients understandably are asking, “Are these products legal, safe, and effective for treating medical conditions in animals?” Our FAQs on the regulatory status of cannabis, cannabis-derived, and cannabis-related products can help you understand the legal landscape.
For a detailed guide to cannabis and its impact on veterinary medicine, view Cannabis in veterinary medicine.
Safety and efficacy
Under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, products for which therapeutic claims are made must be approved by the FDA in order to be legally manufactured and marketed. The FDA approval process is the means by which the safety and efficacy of such products is demonstrated. Assurance regarding the efficacy and safety of products is obviously important to veterinarians who are considering whether to use them in the treatment of their patients.
Cannabis-derived products that have been suggested as therapeutic agents for use in animals to-date have not followed the traditional path to FDA approval. Relatedly, although cannabinoids such as CBD appear to hold therapeutic promise in areas such as the treatment of epilepsy and the management of pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, the available scientific evidence pertaining to their use in animals is currently limited. While findings from a few well-controlled studies have been published, much of what we know is related to anecdotal or case reports or has been gleaned from studies related to use in humans, including the study of animal models for that purpose. The AVMA continues to encourage well-controlled clinical research and pursuit of FDA approval by manufacturers of cannabis-derived products so that high-quality products of known safety and efficacy can be made available for veterinarians and their patients.
Also of concern are recent reports of lab analyses indicating that a substantial portion of products currently available on the market are labelled inaccurately with respect to both the identity and amount of active ingredient found within the product.
In July 2019, the AVMA submitted comments to the FDA urging the agency to provide regulatory clarity about expectations for the labeling, safety, and use of cannabis-derived and cannabis-related products. This is critical to assure the safe and appropriate use of these products in animal drugs, food, feed, and food/feed additives. You can read our full comments here.
A single product derived from cannabis has been approved by the FDA for use in people who suffer from seizures related to particular syndromes. That drug can be used in an extralabel manner by veterinarians in accord with the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA).
Veterinary cases of cannabis toxicosis in dogs stem most commonly from exposure to edibles. In these cases, there may be additional toxic ingredients involved – such as chocolate, raisins, or xylitol – which result in a poorer prognosis. Cats may also directly consume the plant material.
There are a wide range of clinical signs that have been associated with cannabis toxicosis. A classic presentation is a depressed or ataxic dog that is dribbling urine. Several deaths have been reported due to cannabis toxicity, and these appear to be the result of associated complications, such as aspiration. If you know or suspect your pet of having been exposed to any form of cannabis please consult your veterinarian immediately.
Federal and state laws regarding cannabis products are complex, and the legal landscape around these products is evolving. We’ve summarized the regulatory landscape surrounding use of these products in Cannabis as drug, food or supplement in veterinary medicine, and also provided an update incorporating additional information published by federal agencies.
In January 2021, the USDA published the final rule regulating the production of hemp in the U.S. Key provisions of the final rule include licensing requirement and procedures for testing the THC concentration levels for hemp to support the growth of hemp of known chemical consistency so that CBD products derived from such hemp are also of known chemical consistency.
CBD Oil for Dogs: What You Need to Know
As with any pet wellness trend, when it comes to CBD oil for dogs, there’s a lot of information floating around the internet, and it’s difficult to know what’s accurate and what’s exaggeration. Of course, you want to do what’s best for your pup, which leads to the question: What do I need to know about CBD oil for dogs?
The AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Jerry Klein, explains what CBD oil is, what it does for dogs, and its safety concerns and potential 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 oil 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 to 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.
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 an 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.
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.
CBD Products on the Market
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 high-quality CBD oil to have a better chance of it working.
- Look for organic. If the CBD oil is not organic, it at least should not contain pesticides, fungicides, or solvents.
- Don’t only shop based on price. Higher quality and purity are usually associated with a higher cost. A cheaper option could contain toxic substances such as pesticides, herbicides, or heavy metals. Make sure your CBD oil is free of additives.
- Get the analysis. The manufacturer should provide a certificate that certifies the amount of CBD that is in the product. Many CBD products contain only small amounts of CBD. You’ll also want to make sure there is little or no THC in the product.
- Buy CBD as a liquid. You can buy dog treats containing CBD, but the best form to administer is an oil or tincture. This way, you can adjust your dog’s dose drop by drop.
The CBD Wellness Trend
Why are we hearing so much about CBD oil now? Dr. Klein points to the legalization of marijuana in many places, which has triggered interest in potential health benefits of marijuana-related products. “We are likely to see continued interest in CBD and an increase in research about its uses and efficacy in the coming years,” he says.
Learn more about the CBD study funded by the Canine Health Foundation.
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