Treating Your Pet with CBD

Using CBD to treat your pet’s ailments is the new fashion in healthcare. While CBD is enjoying promising results in humans, studies looking at the effects of the compound in animals are limited.
Written by 
Dr Shane McKeown, Acute Internal Medicine (AIM).
|Check IconMedically reviewed by 
Eloise Theisen, RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC.
|Last Updated:
CBD for pets

Currently research and anecdotal evidence from veterinarian’s is that CBD can be used safely and with some effectiveness in treating conditions like separation anxiety, firework aversion, arthritic pain and even epilepsy. As with humans care must be taken so that your pet does not have any medication that will interact with CBD.

Introduction: Animal vs Human CBD

Treating your pet’s ailments with CBD has become the latest trend as people use it to treat a variety of human health complaints. Most commonly cats and dogs are being offered CBD containing treats to help soothe nerves, calm anxiety or reduce pain from conditions like arthritis.

In this article we look at the reasons why we can use CBD with pets, which conditions may be treated with CBD and safety when giving your pet CBD products.

Treating your pet with CBD: What The Research Says

An important point to take note of is that there are currently only a few preliminary studies relating to cats or dogs and CBD. What we do know is that cannabinoid receptors are found across the animal kingdom, including in the types of animals we keep as pets. These cannabinoid receptors form what is called the endo-cannabinoid system and every human has one. Having this system allows us (and animals) to receive the benefits found within the cannabis plant.

Anecdotally it has been found with vets and owners that giving domesticated animals CBD containing products seems to give benefits similar to those experienced when a human ingests it. Humans have cannabinoid receptors (that cannabinoids binds to) throughout their body, including the brain, gut, pulmonary and reproductive systems and it is assumed that animals receive CBD’s therapeutic effects through similar pathways.

THC and Veterinary CBD

A common concern when people begin to learn about CBD is that it is derived from cannabis. Of course the worry is that your pet might unwittingly experience a ‘high’ when taking it.

While a lot of CBD is derived from cannabis, many suppliers also derive it from hemp. Regardless of the method, when you purchase a CBD product labelled ‘broad spectrum’ it will have no THC. Full spectrum do contain some THC but it is a minimal trace amounts below the threshold where it might be psychoactive. This means you can give CBD to your pet at home without being worried about them becoming ‘stoned’.

This is important to check as cats and dogs are sensitive to THC and may become unwell if they were to ingest too much.

Now that we know how CBD works in animals, let’s take a look at some of the potential areas that this chemical may be useful.

Treating Pet Anxiety

When we talk about anxiety in pets, this is obviously a bit different to the way we talk about it in humans. There are a number of ways that anxiety may present in a pet.

More common examples include separation anxiety, aversion to loud noises such as fireworks or trips to the vet. According to PetMD, around 64% of people felt that taking CBD helped their pet in these matters.

Other reasons you may want to use CBD in this way include:

  • Adopted animal with behavioral issues
  • Hiding or nervous animal on moving home
  • Excess negative traits like furniture biting

Treating Pet Arthritic Pain

One of the first studies into using CBD in animals was carried out in Cornell University, looking at dogs with osteoarthritis. The researchers did conclude that giving the dogs two doses of CBD a day did in fact increase their activity and reduce their pain levels.

An important side note is that the scientists also looked at the pharmacokinetics, i.e. how the drugs affected the dogs and changed within them, as well as looking at how safe the dosing was as well. The findings were promising, with no observable side effects or adverse events being recorded.

Using CBD to affect appetite in pets

This is a bit of a double edged sword for pet owners. While some effects of CBD (like pain relief) are fine to have as a secondary effect of ingesting the compound, an increase in appetite may not be the best thing for every pet.

For some animals however, existing or long term illnesses, medications or pain can all reduce appetite or the ability to eat properly. CBD has been shown in humans to do a good job of reducing nausea and vomiting, especially in severe cases like chemotherapy treatment.

Sometimes stress can be the reason that your pet is choosing not to eat. As CBD has been found to reduce symptoms of anxiety and worry, this is another way that the drug may be used to improve food intake.

If you have a pet that is losing weight or has suddenly stopped eating the first thing you must do is go to a vet and have them checked for underlying health concerns. Lack of appetite can sometimes be a sign of something more serious so it should always be checked out before treating the symptoms with CBD.

CBD for canine epilepsy?

Not many of us have to deal with a pet who has epilepsy but if you do it can be upsetting and tiring. Fortunately there has been progress in this area as well, likely in part thanks to the news focus on Epidiolex (a CBD epilepsy medication) success in humans.

As with humans, where children with severe epilepsy were given Epidiolex, puppies in one study were given CBD to see how well it would control their fits. Amazingly, what was true in humans seemed to translate to dogs as well, another win for the therapeutic potential of CBD.

To give you an idea of just how effective CBD medicines could be in the future, another small study looking at 16 dogs found an almost 90% drop in seizure activity with twice daily dosing. What’s even more impressive is that giving the dogs tried and tested anti-epilepsy drugs only managed to reduce the seizures by just over 40%. This gives CBD (in this study at least) a 50% lead in disease management effectiveness!

Pet CBD and Safety

CBD may be sold as a supplement in some stores, but it is important to remember that it is still a drug that affects animals’ bodies.

While there are many ways to give your pet CBD, it is always a good idea to ensure that you can keep track of the dosage that they are receiving. The easiest way is with CBD as a liquid, this allows you to measure each drop so you know the exact amount being delivered.

If you choose to give CBD in treat or snack form make sure you supervise what is happening rather than simply dropping them into a bowl to be eaten at random.

As a final note, Veterinary CBD is not licensed in many countries around the world, although it is legal to give them CBD meant for humans. The issue with this is of course safety! A simple example is many human treats are sweetened with Xylitol. If CBD gummies contain this chemical and you give it to your pet they will become very unwell.

Where possible, look out for veterinary approved products.

Conclusion

While there is still a lot of research to be done into just how effective it is for our pets at home, there is mounting evidence, both anecdotal and scientific that CBD could be of great help for a variety of animal based illnesses and conditions.

The extent to which it may help your pet and how safe it is to use in the long term are still questions that need to be answered. Based on the current scientific evidence available it is safe to say that short term CBD use may have some beneficial effects for your pet and may be worth trying if other methods have failed.

As a pet owner it is your responsibility to monitor your pet’s behavior, energy and symptoms to best determine whether CBD is the right choice for them or not.

References

  1. Gamble LJ, Boesch JM, Frye CW, Schwark WS, Mann S, Wolfe L, Brown H, Berthelsen ES, Wakshlag JJ. Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Front Vet Sci. 2018 Jul 23;5:165. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00165. PMID: 30083539; PMCID: PMC6065210.
  2. What’s the deal with CBD? Veterinary Practice News. https://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/whats-the-deal-with-cbd/ Accessed March 2020
  3. Mannucci C, Navarra M, Calapai F, Spagnolo EV, Busardò FP, Cas RD, Ippolito FM, Calapai G. Neurological Aspects of Medical Use of Cannabidiol. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2017;16(5):541-553. doi: 10.2174/1871527316666170413114210. PMID: 28412918.
  4. Gamble LJ, Boesch JM, Frye CW, Schwark WS, Mann S, Wolfe L, Brown H, Berthelsen ES, Wakshlag JJ. Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Front Vet Sci. 2018 Jul 23;5:165. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00165. PMID: 30083539; PMCID: PMC6065210.
  5. Franco V, Perucca E. Pharmacological and Therapeutic Properties of Cannabidiol for Epilepsy. Drugs. 2019 Sep;79(13):1435-1454. doi: 10.1007/s40265-019-01171-4. PMID: 31372958.
  6. McGrath S, Bartner LR, Rao S, Packer RA, Gustafson DL. Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of oral cannabidiol administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2019 Jun 1;254(11):1301-1308. doi: 10.2460/javma.254.11.1301. PMID: 31067185.
  7. Xylitol toxicity in dogs. VCA corporate. What is broad-spectrum cbd? Plus, 7 products to try. Healthline. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/xylitol-toxicity-in-dogs Accessed March 2020
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Dr Shane McKeown
Dr Shane McKeown
Acute Internal Medicine (AIM)
Dr Shane McKeown is a UK clinician with experience in both Medicine and Surgery. With a strong background in education, he currently teaches all grades of doctor and sits as examiner for foreign medical staff looking to work in the United Kingdom. Working within rehabilitation and therapy, he utilizes complementary treatments like CBD to provide holistic care where it is most effective. His expertise with CBD continues to be called upon by numerous brands to optimise their product offerings.
Eloise Theisen
Eloise Theisen
RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC
Eloise Theisen is a board certified Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner who specializes in cannabis therapy. For over 20 years, Eloise has worked primarily with cancer, dementia and chronic pain patients. In the last 6 years, Eloise has focused her efforts on cannabinoid therapies. Eloise has worked with over 6500 patients to help them effectively treat age-related and chronic illness with cannabis.

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