CBD & Your Pet: Clearing Up the Confusion
Recently, pet owners have been turning to CBD to promote calm and relaxation in the presence of chronic pain, anxiety, and inflammation. While there are numerous potential health benefits for CBD, there is still much we don’t know enough about this compound naturally occurring in cannabis.
We are frequently asked about CBD, so we wanted to create this quick primer to answer some of your most pressing questions.
Is CBD the same as medical marijuana?
No. They are two very different things.
CBD can be derived from either hemp or marijuana plant. Hemp contains very low levels (legally 0.3% or less) of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is found in marijuana. Marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC.
How does CBD work?
Once in the bloodstream, CBD can influence the activity of various receptors that can regulate specific nerve receptors. These include receptors that regulate pain, pleasure, digestion, metabolism, inflammation, sleep, movement, neuroprotection, immune function, appetite, body temperature, mood, memory, and cardiovascular function.
In dogs and humans, CBD primarily targets two receptors: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 is a pain receptor and mood enhancer in the brain, fat, liver, skeletal, and muscular tissues. CB2 is found in immune systems cells and the central nervous system. It tends to have an effect on anti-inflammatory functions.
Some studies have suggested that CBD helps these two receptors balance our endocrine systems, counteracting stress, anxiety, depression, inflammation, and overall well-being. The problem is that many studies are in different species and it cannot be assumed that the same results are applicable to dogs, cats or humans. There is still a significant gap in research in each species in regard to best dosage, dosage route, concentration, and many other variables.
Again, there isn’t much scientific evidence to support that same conclusion with dogs and cats, but the potential seems to exist.
Is CBD safe and effective to use on my dog or cat?
The short answer is “Yes, but consult with your veterinarian first to see if there are any underlying health issues with your pet.” Some studies have shown elevated liver enzymes in pets given CBD, so if you pet has any liver concerns or disease it would be best to avoid these products until we know more.
The longer answer is, “Customers are trying CBD, and some say their pets are getting benefits and others are not.” The reason for this is because, again we don’t have good information on dosage, frequency and how it is best administered. In short, there are a lot more unknowns than knowns.
Like with many pet supplements, animal research with CBD is in short supply, so we can’t validate the many purported health claims and benefits with any confidence. The bottom line is that we feel there hasn’t been enough clinical research done with animals to allow us to recommend specific uses and dosages.
How much CBD should I give my pet?
Several factors go into dosing CBD, with the three primary considerations being:
1) Potency of the CBD
2) Your pet’s weight
3) The condition you’re hoping to treat
CBD is a fat-soluble compound. Since our bodies are mostly water, traditional CBD oils will not be fully absorbed in the gut. This is why many CBD oils are delivered via a dropper to the mucus membranes in the mouth. For humans, the best absorption takes about 90 seconds. Good luck getting your dog or cat to not swallow the oil!
Fortunately, nutrition technology advancements are creating CBD products that can be absorbed through fat or by using water-soluble technology and nano-particles to pass through the gastrointestinal tract.
That’s why we recommend CBD supplements that use nano-particles because they more easily pass through the blood-brain barrier and end up being more effective.
We also caution our customers against using edibles or dog treats with CBD. These products typically have heat applied during their manufacturing. Heat significantly reduces the CBD’s potency and ability to be absorbed by the body.
OK, but how much CBD should I give my pet?
Exact dosing standards for dogs and cats are still being established and are largely up for debate. Fortunately, federal law requires that CBD derived from hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC. This makes the risk of overdose from CBD relatively low.
However, using CBD hemp products in pets should always be measured and monitored. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations and the directions on the product label.
Are there any negative side effects if I give my pet CBD?
Since there is little data regarding the benefits of CBD and pets, there is also not much information when it comes to CBD’s adverse effects. Some studies have pointed to potential liver issues, so it is essential that you discuss CBD use with your veterinarian before giving it to your pet.
Our more significant concern is the lack of regulation with CBD supplements. Most CBD-infused products are marketed as supplements, so they do not fall under FDA regulation but are regulated at the state level. This means little consistency and varying approaches to ensuring product safety.
This concern is complicated by the non-scientific blogs and retailers making unsupported claims about CBD’s benefits. This climate continues an atmosphere of mistrust and highlights transparency issues in the medical community and with CBD manufacturers.
About the Author:
Nicole is the founder & owner of multiple-award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut, USA. She has completed undergraduate work in biological sciences, business and holds an M.S. in Nutrition. Currently, Nicole is pursuing a PhD in Comparative Biomedical Sciences (Canine Nutrition/Metabolomics) at the prestigious University of Georgia in the USA.
Her background includes experience in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading figures in the human and pet health industries. Nicole has been heavily involved in police canine nutrition within the USA, helping to improve the modern care and feeding of working dogs. Her interests include working dog nutrition, raw feeding, pathogens, metabolomics, and nutrition’s relationship to disease in humans and canines. Her current research involves the exploration of the canine urinary metabolome and the relationship to diet.
Publications: Cammack, N.R., Yamka, R.M., and Adams, V.J. (2021). Low Number of Owner-Reported Suspected Transmission of Foodborne Pathogens From Raw Meat-Based Diets Fed to Dogs and/or Cats. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 8. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.741575.
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