Cannabidiol, or CBD, is becoming a popular remedy for improving health holistically. It has many benefits for humans, and several studies have shown that it is safe and has few side effects. If you can use CBD on yourself and your children, you might wonder if you can use it on your pets too. Good news! Whether you have a dog, cat, hamster, canary or lizard, you might be able to boost its health by using CBD.
CBD and Pets: An Introduction
Most people know that cannabis has a variety of therapeutic benefits – that’s why medical marijuana is becoming legalized in many states and countries.
However, you might have heard that you’re not supposed to give pot to your pet. That’s because THC, the main active compound in marijuana, can be toxic to dogs, cats and horses, according to the ASPCA.
CBD is the second-most plentiful compound in cannabis. It can be isolated from marijuana or industrial hemp and may have as many therapeutic benefits as THC or more. It doesn’t have psychotropic effects and is marketed as an herbal supplement. Many people are turning to CBD or full-spectrum hemp products that contain CBD for holistic pet care.
Every animal with a backbone, including fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, has an endocannabinoid system. This system has been studied extensively in humans and has driven the research on various cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC.
THC binds directly to cannabinoid receptors, which is one of its mechanisms for exerting mind-altering effects. One of the reasons that you might not want to use a product that contains THC on your dog is that canines have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains than humans. THC is rarely fatal for dogs, but it can cause adverse reactions, such as a loss of balance.
CBD acts on receptors indirectly, increasing and reducing the levels of other chemicals that work with those receptors. By affecting different neurotransmitters and receptors within the body, CBD can enhance endocannabinoid signaling and reduce inflammation, relieve pain, diminish anxiety, increase appetite, decrease the incidence of seizures and potentially fight cancer. Although more CBD studies have been done on humans than pets, experts believe that the compound can have similar effects on any animal with an endocannabinoid system.
Why Would You Want To Use CBD on Your Pet?
In a 2016 study on the use of CBD in pets, researchers found that an astonishing 93 percent of pet owners who gave their animals CBD felt that the compound worked as well as or better than other treats, medications or supplements.
Most people use CBD for ailments that have been diagnosed by a veterinarian. However, purchasing medication directly from the vet can be expensive. Plus, some people are hesitant to keep their pets on pharmaceuticals for a long-term period. Pet owners may even want to try offering CBD to pets that show symptoms of the following ailments but haven’t been officially diagnosed.
CBD for Pet Anxiety
Does your dog tremble as soon as a thunderstorm begins rumbling in the distance? Does your cat refuse to come out from under the bed? Is your lizard breathing heavily or acting fussy? These can be signs of anxiety.
Having an anxious animal can be stressful for pet owners. Physical examinations may not reveal any problems, but it’s hard to see your pet suffer.
CBD oil has been shown to reduce anxiety in humans and animals. Fight-or-flight and freezing behaviors are both signs of panic in pets. A hamster that runs incessantly on its wheel or a dog that hides in the bathroom when small children are around may be having a pet version of a panic attack. Studies show that CBD reduces this type of panic behavior in animal models.
CBD for Animal Pain
It can be tough to see your pet suffer. Whether your dog hurt its knee while jumping off the couch or your bearded dragons got into a fight, you might want to help soothe their distress.
They think that the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids may enhance healing. Also, the antibacterial abilities of cannabinoids make them ideal for applying directly to wounds. Using CBD topically may help pets that have cuts or scratches. Plus, CBD oil is safe for pets to consume. Therefore, you won’t have to worry if your animal licks the area where you applied the oil.
Many pets suffer from osteoarthritis as they age. Because cannabinoid receptors have been found in the cartilage of humans with osteoarthritis, experts believe that CBD may play a role in improving symptoms of this condition. Its ability to reduce inflammation may also relieve pain and improve mobility in animals with arthritis.
Cannabinoids may be more effective than morphine in managing other types of physical distress, including chronic pain. Plus, CBD is less likely to cause the intense side effects that narcotic-like pet analgesics produce. Therefore, you can try using CBD to make animals with arthritis or cancer pain feel better.
CBD for Pet Seizures
The most extensive studies on medical marijuana have looked into their ability to improve epilepsy symptoms, including seizures. As scientists researched the effects of the different cannabinoids, they found that CBD may have more anticonvulsant properties than THC. This has contributed to the use of high-CBD extracts for managing seizures in children. CBD may even reduce seizures in patients that are resistant to treatment.
Does your pet have a condition that causes seizures? CBD oil may help.
CBD for Digestive Distress in Pets
Dealing with vomiting or diarrhea in a pet can be frustrating. You should always have your pet checked by a professional if it’s vomiting or refuses to eat. If your veterinarian says that the condition isn’t serious and asks you to keep your eye on it, you can use CBD to improve symptoms.
CBD can reduce nausea. It can also stimulate the appetite. If your pet hasn’t touched its food dish, try offering some CBD and see what happens.
CBD for General Wellness
Even if your pet doesn’t suffer from any ailments, you might want to use CBD oil to maintain its general health. Reducing chronic inflammation that’s caused from activity or obesity may keep your animal agile as it gets older. CBD may also protect your pet’s brain cells, keeping it sharp as it ages.
Specific Examples of Using CBD for Pets
Now that you’re familiar with some of the research behind using CBD for pets, here are some useful examples of when you might administer the product to your animal:
- Before you take your nervous dog on a car ride
- When the weather service forecasts thunderstorms
- When guests are invited to the house
- On a regular basis to control diarrhea
- When your pet won’t eat
- When your dog with hip dysplasia or arthritis doesn’t want to move
- To get your dog to stop barking or chewing your things
- On a regular basis to reduce seizures
- On Independence Day if fireworks make your pet anxious
How Safe Is CBD for Pets?
CBD has a more favorable side effect profile than many other drugs. In humans, the most common adverse effects are diarrhea, weight and appetite changes and fatigue.
Side effects in animals are uncommon. Most people who have given their companion animals CBD say that they didn’t notice side effects. When they did, the most prevalent were:
- Lack of energy
- Increased appetite
- Increased thirst
If your animal takes other medications, you may want to check with your veterinarian before using CBD. Unfortunately, though, many veterinarians aren’t very knowledgeable about the product. Integrative health professionals that use herbal supplements, alternative approaches to care and holistic treatments may have better information than traditional animal doctors. Still, it may not be legal for them to recommend using CBD for your pet, although they can point you to resources with more information.
There is a notorious lack of research on CBD use for domestic animals. Critics may say that there isn’t enough evidence to support the benefits of using CBD on your pets. There haven’t been many large clinical studies because there is a general lack of funding when it comes to cannabis research. However, many of the small-scale studies that have been referenced in this article and published in medical journals support the health benefits and safety profile of CBD.
A researcher at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Studies has conducted two clinical studies to learn more about the effects of CBD on canines with epilepsy and arthritis. After marijuana was legalized in the state, many consumers wanted to know whether cannabis was safe to use on their pets.
The first study looked at CBD’s safety and effectiveness in 30 research animals. The results were promising.
Scientists may not know how CBD works, but many have proven that it does. It’s also important to note that experts aren’t sure how many FDA-approved medications function. Even acetaminophen, or Tylenol, has no recognized mechanism of action. Veterinarians often have no problem approving off-label medications for animals. Because CBD is derived from cannabis and has been surrounded by controversy in the past, though, they may be more hesitant to recommend it.
You can search online to find hundreds of positive testimonials from other pet owners who have used CBD for pets.
How to Give CBD to Your Pet
If you’ve determined that you want to give CBD to your pet, you might wonder what types of products to use and how much to offer. The dosage depends on the animal and the condition that you’re treating. Although some studies have found that CBD can improve acute pain, it may be more effective when it’s administered routinely.
The easiest way to give CBD to your pet is usually with a liquid CBD isolate that is administered with a dropper. You can drop the oil directly into your pet’s mouth or mix it with food or water.
If you can, place the drops under the animal’s tongue for rapid absorption. If the CBD oil is combined with food or treats, it will need to be processed in your pet’s digestive system before it’s absorbed. It can take at least 30 minutes to produce effects when it’s used orally.
Start with a small amount, and gradually increase the dosage or frequency.
To determine the dosage, divide the total amount of CBD in the bottle by the total amount of liquid. A 30-milligram bottle of CBD oil that contains 200 milligrams of CBD contains 6.67 milligrams of CBD per milliliter. One drop typically contains about 0.05 milliliters of liquid. Therefore, a drop of CBD from the bottle in this example would contain about 0.3 milligrams of CBD.
A general recommendation for dosing an animal is as follows:
- Low dosage: 0.05 milligrams of CBD per 0.5 kilograms of body weight
- Medium dosage: 0.125 milligrams of CBD per 0.5 kilograms of body weight
- High dosage: 0.25 milligrams of CBD per 0.5 kilograms of body weight
To find out how much your pet weighs in kilograms, divide the number of pounds by 2.205. You might want to start by offering your pet the lowest dosage twice a day and observing the results over the course of a week. Adjust the dose as necessary.
Case Studies from People Who Have Used CBD for Pets
There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence from people who have administered CBD to their animals. A representative from the Macaw and Cockatoo Rescue of New Mexico says that she has used 8 milligrams of CBD per kilogram of body weight for her rose-breasted cockatoo with remarkable results.
People who own rabbits have also questioned whether CBD would reduce anxiety symptoms or pain. Rabbits can eat hemp products, and many owners use hemp-based litter. Some rabbit owners posted on a forum that they had given CBD to their bunnies. They didn’t notice any adverse effects.
There are not many stories about people using CBD for reptiles, but this YouTube video shows a bearded dragon whose owner gives it cannabis for a muscle disease that causes pain and tremors.
The internet is also full of reviews from dog and cat owners that have used CBD successfully on their animals. The American Animal Hospital Association published a report detailing some of the studies that have been done on CBD in dogs. The document also includes a story about a veterinarian that administered cannabinoids to her 15-year-old cat with arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. The cat became more mobile and was able to return to her normal grooming routine, which is important for a feline’s mental health.
Because CBD oil is unregulated, it’s important to work with a reputable company. Extremely low prices or poorly built websites may indicate that the product isn’t high quality. Some companies that market their items as CBD oils don’t use any cannabinoids in their products. Use this CBD buying guide to make sure that you buy the best CBD for your pet.