Have you heard the hype about CBD oil and its use for pets? If you spend any time on the internet, then you most likely have heard about CBD oil for pets, and you may be wondering what it is and if it actually works in dogs and cats. With a little research, you’ll find that while the benefits of CBD in humans is fairly well established, the science in dogs and cats is lacking. However, research is starting to be published with promising results.
What Is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a naturally occurring compound derived from hemp. Science has identified more than 140 naturally occurring cannabinoids, and these compounds interact with the endocannabinoid system in humans and animals—including your pets.
Cannabinoid receptors function to maintain homeostasis (a stable environment) in the body, and they are located throughout the body and brain. These receptors are involved in everything from pain, mood and anxiety to appetite, inflammation and immunity. CBD found in hemp can help stimulate these receptors.
What Is CBD Oil Used For?
In humans, CBD has been shown to help with anxiety, inflammation, nausea, mental disorders, chronic pain, mood disorders and seizures, and it is neuroprotective at higher doses. At lower doses, CBD promotes health through antioxidant properties. For example, in humans, CBD is a more effective antioxidant for the brain than vitamin C or E, and it can help with acne.
In pets, much of the evidence proving the efficacy of CBD oil is anecdotal, with most of the claims suggesting it helps treat pain.
CBD Oil for Pets: Helpful or Hype?
There are some recent studies that indicate giving pets CBD oil is helpful in certain circumstances.
Dr. Joe Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, DACVN, DACVSMR, associate professor and section chief of nutrition at Cornell University's veterinary school in Ithaca, New York, recently completed a study showing that CBD oil does help dogs with chronic pain from osteoarthritis; the results of the study indicated that there was a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity for the dogs participating in the study.
There also are plans to study the effect of CBD oil in cats with chronic pain, acute pain in dogs, behavioral issues in dogs and concurrent use of CBD oil with chemotherapy in canine cancer patients. Cornell also has a CBD safety study in cats that almost is completed.
Another study, conducted by Colorado State University’s veterinary school and published in June, found that CBD oil helps dogs suffering from epilepsy. In my practice, I have clients that use CBD oil to control seizures in their dogs. One canine patient in particular could not tolerate the side effects of the conventional drugs we prescribed to control his seizures and continued to have seizures while on the medication. The client chose to stop the seizure medications and started giving CBD oil instead. At a follow-up appointment, the client said his pet was seizure-free and doing very well without the prescription medications and by just taking the CBD oil.
But again, at the moment, much of the evidence in support of CBD oil for pets is anecdotal.
Dr. Fred Metzger, DVM, MRCVS, DABVP, owner of Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pennsylvania, and adjunct professor at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia, reports that more than 100 dogs at his hospital are being given CBD oil for chronic pain with osteoarthritis, and his team is witnessing positive results.
“It’s nice because you see results faster than with traditional joint chews with glucosamine and chondroitin in them,” Dr. Metzger says. “Typically, dogs are feeling better within a week, versus the month that it takes with traditional joint supplements. The results have been pretty dramatic—dogs that were literally going to be euthanized because of chronic pain and inability to move are enjoying improved quality of life again. It’s not a cure, but it helps.”
Pet parents have also seen what pet CBD oil can do for their four-legged companion.
Alicia H. from Simi Valley, California, gives her 10-year-old Golden Retriever, Maverick, CBD oil for chronic pain from lymphoma and arthritis.
“Maverick was diagnosed with lymphoma 2 years ago and was not expected to make it 6 months,” Alicia says. “Between the cancer and terrible arthritis in his back, my beautiful boy wasn't eating and stopped playing fetch.”
After doing some research, she began giving Maverick CBD oil to help relieve his pain.
“I began to see my boy come back,” Alicia says. “I am happy to say we are going on 2 years to the vet's disbelief and he is back to eating and playing as he always had … My family truly believes he is doing as well as he is because of the CBD and we will recommend it to all in a similar position.”
Lauren F. from Queens, New York, also gives her dog, Jay, CBD oil for pain relief.
“Jay was hit by a car when he was 4 months old and has metal pins in his right hind leg,” Lauren says.
Some days his leg would bother him so much that he wouldn’t want to play, she adds. Jay took some medications for pain relief but had to stop because he was allergic to some of the ingredients in the medicine. They tried physical therapy and other treatments that the vet recommended, but nothing seemed to help improve his overall wellness. On top of that, he was dealing with severe separation anxiety.
For Jay, CBD oil seemed to be the best solution.
“CBD did not sedate Jay, but brought him back to normal,” Lauren says. “It has been a true miracle for his health and my sanity.”
Pet CBD Oil vs. Marijuana
A common misconception is that CBD oil is derived from marijuana and can get your pet high. This is a myth. CBD oil comes from industrial hemp. While CBD oil for pets may contain trace amounts of THC (the compound in marijuana that gives the intoxicated feeling), it is not enough to cause any mental changes.
Before trying any CBD oil pet product, I recommended checking the label to make sure it is THC free because THC is toxic to dogs. Better safe than sorry!
Giving Your Pet CBD Oil
Many companies now make CBD products for pets, so you can choose from several forms, including oils, chews and treats. CBD is considered safe with few, if any, side effects, though some animals may experience upset stomach.
Check with your veterinarian for an appropriate starter serving when introducing CBD oil to your pet.