Andy Bowen, Josh Stilwell, Mason Romero, DVM , and Erica Bowen, DVM
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dogs and meds

A guide to CBD use in dogs

Can I buy my dog a tincture or what?

Updated May 17, 2020

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First, what even is cannabis/CBD/THC?

The cannabis plant is composed of many different chemicals and compounds, each of which interacts with those consuming it. One group of compounds found in this plant is “cannabinoids.” Cannabinoids are an active component within the marijuana plant. An example of a cannabinoid is the now ubiquitous term ‘CBD.’

Another component is THC. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t lead to a “high” per se, but rather a bunch of therapeutic effects. In humans, the results vary from physical, to physiological to psychological.

The lowdown on the law

CBD oil is derived from either marijuana or hemp. Where it derives from affects its legality within the U.S. Marijuana-derived CBD will contain large amounts of THC — the component which leads to a “high” — making it illegal in states which have restrictions on marijuana use. CBD oil derived from hemp has a THC quantity of almost 0%, making it legal within most of the U.S.

But just because hemp-derived CBD oil may be legal doesn’t mean it can be grown at will. The plant must not have a THC percentage of over 0.3%, and you need a federal law license to grow it.

An unofficial CBD timeline

CBD legalization has had a rocky history, since its 1st recorded use in 1400-2000 BC.

  • 1937: The Marihuana Tax Act saw a tax being placed on the sale and distribution of marijuana – then spelled as “marihuana”
  • 1940: Robert Robert S. Cahn discovered Cannabinol
  • 1942: Roger Adams discovered CBD
  • 1964: Dr. Raphael Mechoulam discovered CBD had no mind-altering effects
  • 1969: The Marihuana Tax Act disabled — the original act was overturned.
  • 1970: The Controlled Substances Act — The manufacture, importation, possession, use, and distribution of marijuana is regulated.
  • 1978: Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act — Marijuana was accepted as a therapeutic substance for certain ailments. Guidelines for marijuana research are outlined.
  • 1990: The Solomon—Lautenberg amendment — a 6-month driver’s license suspension will be given to those who are caught driving under the influence of drugs. Some states have opted out, whilst some states have complied but excluded cannabis.
  • 1996: California Proposition 215 — also called the Compassionate Use Act, California allowed the use of medical cannabis.
  • 2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr amendment — The United States Department of Justice was prohibited from using funds to interfere with state-legal cannabis programs.
  • 2018: The Farm Bill — Hemp can be produced, but only if regulated.

Bob Marley and me and my pet

Marijuana use has had a rocky and laborious climb to legality and acceptance in humans. The same goes for pets. The research is lacking, and many veterinarians and governing bodies are hesitant to recommend CBD products until further research is conducted.

It must be repeated that CBD oil and marijuana are two different products. You should never give marijuana in its plant form to your dog, as it can lead to poisoning and side effects, which reflect human overdose.

There have been many anecdotal tales of the wonders of CBD oil. The manic twisting and twirling of an anxious dog being halted. The malignant tumors of an elderly Lassie being stopped in their tracks, giving the family many extra pain-free years alongside their faithful companion.

Although endearing, stories are not enough to spur on the CBD oil movement. There is minimal scientific research about CBD oil use in dogs. For this reason, the FDA has not approved the use of CBD oil within veterinary medicine. Therefore, good veterinarians are unlikely to prescribe cannabis-derived or related products and oils.

To research CBD oil use within veterinary medicine, researchers would have to create an Investigational New Animal Drug file with the Center for Veterinary Medicine. When researching CBD oil in human medicine, researchers must file an Investigational New Drug file with the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. In humans, the FDA has approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol), Marinol (dronabinol), Syndros (dronabinol), and Cesamet (nabilone).

The FDA is seeking to discover how CBD interacts with animals of different species, ages, breeds, and sex. They also want to see how CBD oil may enhance or reduce the quality and safety of agricultural products — such as wool eggs and meat.

Dangers for animals

Second-hand smoke inhalation in animals doesn’t occur often. Ingestion is the most common occurrence of marijuana poisoning. The lethal oral dose for dogs is 3g per kg. So, for a 3kg chihuahua, 9 grams of marijuana are lethal.

CBD, on the other hand, is tolerated better in dogs than its psychoactive counterpart. A study showed that it could lead to diarrhea. The researchers suggest more experiments analyze the long- term effects of CBD on the canine liver.

🧪 The studies

Compared to the medicinal effects of cannabis in humans, the research is lagging for animals. Most studies on animals have been on rodents to analyze the effects of CBD on human health, rather than the animals themselves.

Does it help with osteoarthritis? 👍 Yes

The use of CBD decreased pain in dogs suffering from Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a joint disease seen in up to 25% of dogs. Elderly dogs are most vulnerable. Although the owners reported no side effects, the CBD did change the internal chemistry of the dogs. Would this lead to issues in the future?

Does it help with seizures? 👍 Yes

CBD oil reduced the number of seizures in epileptic dogs. The amount of CBD in the dog’s blood was directly correlated to the number of seizures – with more leading to less. CBD oil was more effective in reducing seizures than gel or cream.

What’s on the horizon?

Researchers from the University of California, Davis are in the process of an experimental design, which will give them insight into the number of people that use cannabis-derived and related products on their pets. However, the results may not be out for a few more years.

Vet attitudes

There are many CBD products available. Despite this, some vets are not legally allowed to discuss the effects of CBD on animals. A recent study from 2019 showed that over half of the students asked felt that marijuana could have therapeutic effects in animals.

What to look for in CBD products

The FDA hasn’t approved CBD for use in pets, but there are still plenty of products on the market. If you decide to move forward with CBD products anyway, here’s what to look for:

Look for certificates of analysis (COA) These show that they have been tested by external (and therefore unbiased) companies. They see if the ingredient list is correct, including but not limited to the actual ingredients used and the percentage of each compound. Most products will offer a unique barcode which can give you the COA.

👉 Learn how to read COAs

👉 See an example of a COA

Look for items with low CBD and no THC — Ensure the product is hemp and not cannabis or marijuana-derived. Canna-pet is a great example. It’s a veterinarian-approved brand, and all its compounds offer strictly therapeutic effects.