CBD for Pets? Asking the Right Questions

We love our pets like they're our kids or our family. In some instances, it might be smart to ask if CBD is right for your pets.

CBD hemp oil for household pets is purported to relieve arthritis pain, anxiety and other conditions they may experience. It’s available in pet stores, supermarkets and chiropractors’ offices, as well as online. But should you consider a CBD supplement when your pet isn’t feeling well? Here are several things to keep in mind:

1. How does CBD affect the body?

All mammals, including our furry four-legged friends, have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that regulates a host of bodily functions. These functions include appetite, mood, memory and awareness of pain. Simply put, the ECS is like a communication system, where molecules and proteins—called ligands—can bind (that is, attach) to neurotransmitter receptors located in the brain and other parts of the nervous system. When we’re hungry, hurt or not feeling well, ligands transmit and bind to these receptors, enabling us to experience pain or discomfort.

However, cannabinoids—unique chemicals like THC and CBD from cannabis or hemp plants—can either bind (as with THC) to receptors or else inhibit (as with CBD) ligands from binding in order to reduce the intensity of the pain. When our pets are hurting or feeling anxious, a vet can offer prescription medication, usually after consultation. But we may want to give them relief more quickly, and CBD products, including oil tinctures, capsules and treats, don’t require a prescription.

2. Is the market for pet CBD products well-established?

Not yet. It remains unregulated, despite the many manufacturers and products available. Hemp oil became legal in 2018, and one research group estimated the CBD market for pets grew in 2019 at nearly 950%. No industry standards for product quality exist yet, so CBD content in a particular product may vary from one manufacturer to another. Like other unregulated supplements, CBD products aren’t tested and certified by the government.

The ingredients in pet CBD products aren’t universally established, either. For example, CBD products for osteoarthritis—a condition common in mature dogs—may contain other ingredients, such as anti-inflammatories like glucosamine, MSM and chondroitin. Many products also come with flavoring to make them more palatable.

It’s a good idea to make sure that any product you’re considering has been tested by a reputable third-party lab. You can usually find a copy of the product’s Certificate of Analysis or COA, which will list the product’s test results, on the manufacturer’s website or the store where you buy it. The product packaging should also display a seal from the National Animal Supplement Council.

3. Is CBD safe for pets?

CBD hasn’t yet been known to cause harm to most pets, when used as directed. However, in some pets, an adverse reaction to CBD can cause symptoms like reduced blood pressure, dry mouth, dizziness, increased drowsiness and decreased liver enzymes.

4. Does CBD for pets actually work?

Many people believe that CBD oil helps their pets, but the evidence remains anecdotal. As with CBD for humans, there are a few scientific studies but the results are inconclusive. The FDA hasn’t approved these products for use as supplements. This means vets can’t prescribe or recommend CBD for relief of canine or feline conditions like arthritis pain, low appetite, seizures and anxiety, for which effective prescription drugs are readily available. Manufacturers and sellers of CBD cannot make claims about its medical effectiveness.

There is one clinical study from Cornell University about the efficacy of veterinary CBD in dogs with arthritis. Colorado State University also conducted one pilot study on how CBD can affect dogs with epilepsy.

5. What should I do if I want to give my pets CBD?

Ask your vet if CBD is an option for your pet’s condition. They may be able to answer your questions as to CBD’s potential usefulness. Find out if CBD interacts with any medications that your pet is already taking. Yet, the decision to buy CBD oil is ultimately yours, so you should also begin researching products online.

6. How much CBD should I give my pet?

Happy pet cat feels good after his owner asked their vet about CBD supplements for his anxiety.

You shouldn’t give your pet any product with THC. Avoid giving them a CBD product that’s formulated for human use. Human products usually have more CBD than your pet may be able to handle. Depending on your pet’s needs, you might try a CBD tincture, capsule, chewable treat, or topical. Milligrams (mg) are the measurement for most CBD products. Look for the CBD-per-recommended amount, as well as the total amount of CBD in the product.

Age, weight and overall health, are factors that could determine the amount of CBD suggested for your pet, such as 1-5 mg per 10 pounds. How much to administer and how often requires some trial and error, so start with a low amount and gradually increase (or titrate) to the recommended amount until the desired effect occurs. You may notice a difference after just one or two uses, or it may take a month of consistent use to determine whether and how your pet responds

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