While the use of CBD (the abbreviation for cannabinoids, one of the compounds derived from the cannabis plant), has recently received a lot of press for its health and wellness benefits for humans, the use of CBD as an alternative treatment option isn’t really all that new.  In the 1940’s a chemist from Harvard synthesized and identified the first cannabinoids and by the 1960’s cannabinoids were being tested on non-human primates for potential therapeutic benefits. While widely recognized for their ability to improve sleep, reduce anxiety, manage pain, treat inflammation, and provide relief from depression, the therapeutic use of CBD-based products for companion animals is a more recent phenomenon.  So, why did it take so long given that we are all animals, possessing endocannabinoid receptors in our brains, to explore the varied uses of CBD-based products for our pets?

One reason it has likely taken so long to recognize the potential benefits of CBD for pets is that veterinarians are not allowed to “administer, dispense, prescribe, or recommend cannabis or its products for animals,” per rules imposed by the AVMA, the American Veterinary Medical Association.  In addition, many of the reported health benefits of CBD in pets are anecdotal at this point, with only a few scientific studies having been completed.  Hopefully, with more research being conducted, veterinarians will gain legal approval to address the topic of CBD products for pets in their care.  For now, pet owners are relying on guidelines and information provided to them by holistic practitioners and behavior specialists like myself, as well as pet store staff members and online forums. While much of what you read online indicates that there are no risks to giving CBD-based products to your companion animals, including sweeping statements made indicating that CBD doesn’t interact with other medications your pets may be taking, this can be quite misleading. The truth of the matter is that CBD can cause a drop in blood pressure, excessive sedation, reduced saliva production, and decreased liver enzyme activity (liver enzymes are needed to properly metabolize prescription drugs) in any pet. And all of these potential side effects seem to be much more prevalent if you are giving you pet CBD oil, as opposed to other CBD-based products like cookies and treats. And to further complicate the issue, all of the studies completed to date have been conducted on dogs, leaving cat owners to fend for themselves, worrying that they could be doing their feline friends more harm than good.

Here are the guidelines I provide to my clients considering CBD-based products for their pets:  Recognize that just as with people, not every pet will find CBD helpful/beneficial.  Understand that trial and error is part of the process; while all CBD-based products for animals are based on the individual’s body weight, some animals will need more (or less) than their body weight indicates. Start out with a smaller than indicated dose and observe your pet for their response. It is also true that the type of product you choose for your pet has an effect; the CBD in treats must be absorbed through the digestive tract first, so these products may take longer before you see any changes.  Using a CBD oil for your pet will likely work faster as it is placed in their mouth or under their tongue for faster absorption. The parent company does make a difference; choose a company with published research, testimonials, and who clearly states that they consistently use the same source for their CBD.  This will help to ensure that the products you purchase this month for your pets will be the same quality and consistency as what you purchase six months from now. If it’s not readily available on a company’s website, reach out and ask for their COA, Certificate of Analysis.  Read the label carefully, particularly if you know your pet has allergies. There are CBD-based products that contain gluten, wheat, corn, eggs, etc. that you may already know your pet cannot tolerate. For cats, it is particularly important to choose a CBD-based product with nothing more to it than CBD oil and a benign carrier, such as coconut oil. You still need to talk to your veterinarian, especially if your pet is on any other medications.  While veterinarians understand that they aren’t supposed to be discussing CBD with their clients, most will, as they know it is in the best interest of the pets in their care.  It is certainly true that some veterinarians will scoff at the use of CBD-based products for pets, but many are open to the possibility that these products can help ease pain, both physical and psychological, and provide a worthy adjunct treatment for many issues facing our pets including seizures, separation anxiety, canine cognitive disorder, stress with moving homes, discomfort/distress with car rides, the addition or loss of a family member, etc. Do not give your pet your CBD-based products of any kind. Most CBD products for humans contain at least trace amounts of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component in cannabis that causes people to feel “high.” Animals should not consume products containing THC; if your pet gets into your CBD-based products, or consumes any part of a cannabis plant, contact your veterinarian immediately for care instructions.

Finally, you want to choose the right CBD-based product for your pet.  Going with a company that makes condition-specific products is preferred to any company that just makes a “one size fits all” type product.  Choose products for your feline friends that are formulated for cats, and those formulated for dogs for your canine companions.  If your dog is having mobility issues, choose the formulation that works best on that specific problem.  The best companies out there have formulations designed to help pets with specific issues such as anxiety, pain relief, immunity support, mobility problems, etc.

If your veterinarian is unable to help you make an informed decision about the use of CBD-based products for your pet, don’t hesitate to seek out a trained, holistic veterinarian. You can find one in your area by visiting www.ahvma.org, the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s website for details.

And because I always get asked what company I choose for my own pets, I love Honest Paws, www.honestpaws.com.  They are one of the few companies providing a money back guarantee on their products.  If you’d like to try them, you are welcome to use my discount code on your first order: https://prz.io/Q0BgbvpI3

Julie Bond

Julie Bond is a voracious reader with eclectic tastes running the gamut from YA lit, to psychological suspense, and anything dog-related, of course. You can find her haunting her favorite San Francisco Bay Area indie bookstores. Email her at ObsessiveBookFanatic@gmail.com

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