There’s a huge interest in cannabis products for pets. Based on the queries from my patients, most of the interest is in CBD-containing supplements. While the internet and local pet stores may have well-stocked shelves of CBD chew treats, oils and creams, pet owners should exercise caution if they chose to administer such products to their favorite fur person.
The marijuana plant contains nearly 500 different organic compounds, but the two most important are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive cannabinoid, and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is touted as safer because it does not have the euphoric effects of THC in humans, but CBD does affect the nervous system, and its mechanisms are largely a mystery to scientists. Additionally, CBD’s effect on cats and dogs remains poorly studied.
The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies marijuana or extracts from the plant as Schedule 1 controlled drugs. This classification prevents veterinarians from prescribing medical marijuana and also restricts our ability to research the drug’s effects in different diseases. Despite its Schedule 1 classification, CBD containing products can be purchased in stores and online.
Some products on pet store shelves contain “CBD from hemp.” Industrial hemp is legal; however, the Drug Enforcement Agency has issued a clarification that while they indeed recognize industrial hemp research and its products as legal, this protection does not extend to CBD products, which remain illegal, regardless of the source of the CBD. Recent legislation may ease the use of CBD from hemp, but until the federal regulations are written, prescribing CBD appears to be off limits to veterinarians like me.
What is the dose?
Despite the huge interest, there isn’t a correspondingly large body of scientifically collected information on the impact of CBD in pets. Most of the information veterinarians have available to them comes from emergency room studies of pets accidentally ingesting marijuana. This means I, and my colleagues, cannot be very helpful to you regarding dosing your pet with CBD products, because of a lack of information.
The lack of information regarding dosage is compounded by the fact that many CBD-containing products don’t contain the amount of active ingredient indicated on the label. The FDA has quantified CBD levels in some products and found many did not contain the advertised levels of CBD. Some “CBD” products contain very little CBD, while others contain more. For these reasons, the FDA cautions consumers regarding the purchase and use of CBD products as the effects may be unpredictable in their pets.
More information soon
Although information about optimal dosing of CBD and the diseases most amenable to CBD therapy are lacking, more information may be coming. According to a recent article in the American Animal Hospital Association’s Trends Magazine, approximately a dozen studies of CBD products are underway in dogs, cats, horses, monkeys and birds. When the results of those studies become available, pet owners and veterinarians will have much better information on which to base therapeutic decisions for their pets and patients. Until then, the many unanswered questions regarding CBD continues to limit its utility in pets.