It’s estimated that more than a third of American households have dogs. That’s a lot of dogs; about 69 million. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) tracks spending on all these dogs and other pets in the United States and finds that spending reached a record high in 2017.
The main factor driving that increase, according to the APPA? Americans want their pets to live healthier, happier lives. In the pursuit of pet happiness, a growing number of owners are turning to CBD.
It’s not hard to find CBD products for dogs. More and more companies offer oils, chews, supplements, topical creams, treats, and other CBD products specifically for dogs. According to one report on pet retail expo, Superzoo, at least 7 new dog or cat treats featuring CBD or cannabis ingredients were showcased at the 2018 event, and there were more than 25 booths displaying cannabis-based treats.
Why are so many people giving CBD to their dogs? For the same reasons that they use it on themselves. Dogs are being treated for seizures, arthritis, pain, inflammation and autoimmune diseases, nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, allergies, and various types of skin irritations. How can one chemical work for so many different problems? Researchers believe that CBD interacts with something called the endocannabinoid system. This system has receptors all over the body, and helps regulate many different things including mood, immunity, sleep, metabolism, and pain. This is why CBD is thought to be so help with so many different health problems.
CBD doesn’t work for all dogs, but it seems to help a significant number. Researchers from Colorado State University surveyed 632 people about their use of hemp products for their pets and found many positive assessments. Of those people who used a hemp product for a dog, close to half said that it helped moderately or a great deal for pain, sleep, and relieving anxiety. It was also reported to be effective for treating seizures, inflammation, nausea, and vomiting.
More Research Is Needed
Before you get too excited about CBD, you should know that while this substance has become incredibly popular, there is still not a lot of scientific evidence about how it works. There have been some positive findings though. For example, researchers recently studied the effect of CBD oil on dogs with osteoarthritis. The dogs were treated with either hemp-derived CBD or a placebo over a four-week period. The dogs that received CBD had less pain and were more active. Owners did not report any side effects.
More studies are on the way. In 2017, the American Kennel Club (AKC) that it announced that it will fund a clinical trial on CBD for drug-resistant epilepsy in dogs. According to the AKC, this is an important topic because epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder among dogs, and many of the drugs currently used to treat it are ineffective or have serious side effects. Veterinary neurologist and head researcher Stephanie McGrath explains, “It is important work because we are constantly searching for an effective anticonvulsant drug to treat epilepsy in dogs.” She says, “If CBD does prove to be an effective anticonvulsant, this would affect thousands of dogs worldwide.”
An Abundance of Anecdotal Evidence
While scientific research is limited, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence on CBD. If you do an online search, you’ll quickly find miracle stories about sick dogs that have been transformed through CBD. For instance, a Michigan woman says that her dog Mac was suffering from liver failure after years of prescription drugs for arthritis and anxiety. After five months of using cannabinoid chews instead, she says that Mac’s liver function was back to normal and he was more energetic and less anxious.
Near Chicago, another owner reports that she started giving her fourteen-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Snoopy, CBD after he lost his energy and started to have trouble standing up. She says that his health had gotten so poor that she was worried that she might have to put him down. She started using CBD, and says, “Now he is running and jumping and back to his usual self.”
While stories like these might inspire you to try CBD for yourself, unfortunately it can be difficult to know exactly how. One major problem is that there are no official guidelines to follow on dosage. Further, because CBD products are not approved or regulated by the federal government, it can be difficult to know whether or not you’re actually getting what it says on the label. Overall, experts advise caution. McGrath—researcher for the AKC epilepsy studies—is quoted on the Cannabist website expressing concern over many of the CBD products currently being sold for pets, due to the lack of research and regulation. She says, “Looking at it from a scientific standpoint and as a doctor, I felt really uncomfortable with the products being offered.”
Most experts recommend that you start by talking to your vet, however that can be difficult too. There is a good chance that your vet may not want to discuss CBD with you at all. The American Veterinary Medical Association explains that while veterinarians are routinely asked about the use of cannabis for pets, they are prohibited from prescribing, administering, or even recommending its use.
So, what should you do? Well, regardless of the law, some vets do discuss and even recommend CBD, so depending on where you live, you can try to get veterinary advice. Regarding dosage, experts stress that if you’re giving your dog CBD, you should start with the lowest possible dose, and see how it affects your pet. According to the AKC, potential side effects for dogs could be: dry mouth; a temporary drop in blood pressure, which could cause the dog to feel light-headed; and drowsiness.
It’s also a good idea to research your CBD product to make sure it’s good quality CBD and accurately labeled. You can ask where it came from, what’s in it, and whether it has been tested by a third party for purity and contamination. Look for a product that tells you exactly how much CBD is in it, so you will know how much you’re giving your pet.
Dogs and THC
If you’re looking for a CBD product for your dog, it’s also very important to research THC content. Dogs are much more sensitive to THC than people, and it can be toxic to them if they ingest too much. The Pet Poison Helpline reports that as marijuana has become more common in households in recent years, it has seen a 448 percent increase in marijuana cases. It says that symptoms of marijuana poisoning can show up anywhere from 5 minutes to 12 hours after exposure. They include: “Sedation/lethargy, dilated pupils or glassed over eyes, dazed expression, difficulty walking and vomiting. Other symptoms can include either a low or high heart rate, vocalization such as whining or crying, agitation, trouble regulating temperature causing the body temperature to drop or rise and incontinence/dribbling urine, tremors, seizures and potentially coma.” In severe cases, THC poisoning can cause death.
There are mixed opinions on whether or not it is ok to give your dog any THC at all. Some people insist that any THC is a poison to dogs. However, others argue that like CBD, THC has medical benefits and as long as you’re careful not to use too much, a little bit of THC is ok, and even beneficial, for your dog.
In some states there have been proposals for regulations that will make it easier for pet owners to learn about CBD. For example, a bill proposed in California would let veterinarians talk about cannabis with their clients. Advocates hope that in the future, laws like this will make it easier for pet owners to get information about something that could be life-changing for them and their pets.
Written By: Andrea C. Nakaya