Are CBD Products Safe for your Pet?
Cannabidiol, CBD, is quickly gaining popularity and credibility for its therapeutic use in humans including treatment of seizures, inflammation, arthritis, and anxiety. House pets are often diagnosed with similar problems, and individuals are beginning to wonder whether or not CBD would also work in these situations. The science behind it seems promising, but there are some precautions you should be aware of before you consider giving your pet CBD.
The Endocannabinoid System in Animals
Like humans, all mammals, birds, and fish have an Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This regulatory system consists of receptors on cells throughout the body which function to maintain several key body systems. CBD is one of the types of signaling molecules the ECS can use, and others are naturally produced inside the body. The reason CBD may have many therapeutic uses in humans is because it interacts with the ECS to reduce inflammation or seizures, for example. This means that CBD can also have similar effects in other animals that have an ECS.
Is CBD Safe For Animals?
The short answer is yes. Even very high doses of CBD are nontoxic to animals (Bartner 2018). Scientists in 1946 concluded this using the industry standard measurement for determining the toxicity of a given compound, the LD50. The LD50, Lethal Dose 50%, is a dose which is fatal to 50% of a test population. Usually this is tested on mice, but it is also tested on larger animals and then extrapolated to provide a toxicity reference for humans. They found that the LD50 of intravenously administered (directly into the bloodstream through an IV) CBD in dogs is > 254 mg/kg. This represents a much larger dose than would administered to a pet or a human. The vast majority of CBD is given to pets orally, and the bioavailability of orally consumed CBD is only 13-19% in dogs (Samara 1990). Based on the LD50 from the study, and low bioavailability, a 20 lb dog would have to eat more than 11,500 mg at one time to reach LD50 levels.
Many manufacturers making CBD products for dogs are recommending no more than 10mg a day for a 20lb dog. This is .08% of a potentially lethal dose. For comparison, one regular strength aspirin tablet is about .9% of a potentially lethal dose in humans. CBD has been determined to be safe for pets, but it is a good idea to make sure which products you are giving them, and verify the dose level you are administering. If you have questions or concerns, consult your veterinarian.
Should I Give My Pet CBD Oil? Where should I get it?
This is where giving your pets CBD gets more complicated. Veterinarians have been strongly advised not to prescribe CBD products to animals. The American Medical Veterinary Association (AVMA) released a report called “Cannabis: What Veterinarians Need to Know” in 2018. The conclusions reached in the report were that THC can be dangerous for animals, there haven’t been enough studies on the safety of cannabis in general, it is not approved by the FDA, and it is unregulated, thus the AMVA strongly advised against use of these products. While the safety precautions were more concerning the use of THC, the warnings about unregulated CBD products is very relevant to the use of CBD.
Pet owners cannot get CBD from their veterinarian, but can buy it from many different CBD manufacturers or internet providers. There are a wide variety of CBD products specifically made and marketed for animals emerging including oils, tablets, and treats. Much like regular CBD products, companies that manufacture them for pets are largely unregulated. This means that it is very important to buy products from trusted manufacturers who provide third-party lab’s test results, or Certificates of Analysis, for their products. This provides transparency for consumers on potency and other cannabinoids in the product like THC for example. Typical CBD products have very small amounts of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in hemp or cannabis. Although it cannot be more than 0.3% by weight by law, and therefore won’t affect your pet even if given a strong dose, an extreme overdose on a CBD product could make your pet high. The other alternative is to seek out a product that is advertised and provides test results as THC free.
Animals and THC
Although small doses of THC are safe for animals, its LD50 is much lower than that of CBD. Unlike CBD, THC is psychoactive, which results in a very noticeable change of behavior in animals. Side effects of large doses in animals include lethargy, loss of motor coordination, depression, vomiting, sensitivity to stimuli such as noise or pain, and in extreme cases, risk of respiratory or heart failure (Thompson 1973). Small doses for treating specific ailments can actually be beneficial to animals, but it important to be cautious in determining the right dose for your pet.
The number of cases of pets being taken to the vet because of consumption of cannabis is growing rapidly (Holohan 2018). However, this has nothing to do with CBD products. Recreational and medical marijuana laws have greatly increased access to high potency, THC edibles and capsules that are very likely to be eaten by dogs if they are left unattended (Fitzgerald 2013). Many of these edibles, often cookies or brownies, contain chocolate or raisins which are extremely toxic to dogs and other pets. Consumption by pet of these ingredients is far more toxic to pets than any amount of THC they would consume in the same product. However, the negative change in behavior and side effects of severe THC intoxication in animals is drastic and could be potentially dangerous.
Research on the Therapeutic Use of CBD in Animals
Countless studies with CBD have been done with animals to determine its anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety effects for therapeutic applications in humans (Izzo 2009). Although the majority of studies have been done on rats because they are easy to study, a number have also been done with larger mammals, including common pets like dogs and cats. For example, a study published back in 1986 looked into the properties of CBD in cats which could be used to treat seizures. They found that CBD does indeed raise the firing threshold of motor neurons, meaning it would reduce the overactive neuron firing which occurs during seizures. They then used this research to validate CBD’s use for seizures in humans.
Multiple studies at Colorado State University are currently in progress to determine if CBD is effective for treating epilepsy and osteoarthritis in dogs. The university reported that the preliminary results of the epilepsy study found 89% of dogs treated with CBD had a reduction in symptoms. As the CBD industry grows, it is likely that more research will be done to confirm its medicinal use in pets and determine the most effective doses.
CBD can be effective in treating seizures, inflammation, pain, and anxiety in pets similar to how it is effective in humans (Jones 2012). It is also non toxic and very safe for animals. However, it is very important to be informed on which products to give your pets in terms of quality and reliability, and be aware of the correct dose your size pet should take.