Pets are an integral part of many of our lives. When our four-legged friends are unwell, we treat them like any other family member and try to seek out the best medical attention possible. Unfortunately, there are times when conventional treatments are unsuccessful, and this has led to many pet owners being curious about how medical cannabis or CBD oil may help. We answer all your Frequently Asked questions about CBD Oil.
What is CBD oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant species. Since its discovery in 1940, it has been researched for a range of medicinal actions in humans. More recently, investigations into the use of CBD for our beloved pets has surged.
Will my pet feel “high” taking CBD oil?
Unlike its major cannabinoid partner THC, CBD is not intoxicating and won’t provide the euphoric or ‘high’ feeling. CBD has been researched for a range of actions including being anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, anxiety-easing, a muscle relaxant and antioxidant. It is thought the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD contribute to its action as a neuroprotective.
CBD can be extracted from numerous cannabis varieties, Cannabis sativa subspecies are those most commonly used for the cultivation of high CBD, low THC hemp. Hemp CBD products adhere to regulations stipulating a THC content of less than 0.2%, this means medical CBD derived from hemp has so little THC that it will not cause your pet to feel intoxicated.
How will my pet take his or her CBD oil?
There are multiple ways that your pet can take his or her medical cannabis medication! In terms of veterinary applications, CBD is usually extracted into tinctures or oils and taken as a therapeutic dose orally or sublingually – it can even easily be mixed with food.
CBD can also be made into formulations for capsules, or topical and transdermal applications. One piece of research investigated the blood plasma levels of CBD following 3 different methods of delivery; microencapsulated beads, infused oil and transdermal cream. The CBD oil was superior to the other two products as it increased the chances of absorption and bioavailability. The authors note the transdermal application of CBD may not be absorbed as well into the dog’s blood as we see in humans and other animals due to differences in skin thickness and structure.
Despite this, CBD in transdermal creams or other topical application may be of benefit to pets with inflammatory skin conditions. Given how common dermatitis is in pets, more research in this area is definitely needed.
Powders, infused pellets or treats are available in certain markets, though aren’t favoured due to the difficulty in determining consistent dose.
How can CBD oil help my pet?
The benefits for CBD in pets are similar to those for humans. According to research, CBD oil may be helpful for pets with epilepsy, arthritis, chronic pain and anxious or depressed behaviours. Some pet owners have also shared positive outcomes when treating their pets with CBD for the symptoms of cancer, diabetes and gastrointestinal concerns.
A survey of dog owners in international markets shows CBD or medical cannabis products are most commonly utilised by pet owners for pain relief, inflammation, anxiety and noise phobias.
Is THC-containing medical cannabis safe for pets?
Medical cannabis formulations including THC are helpful in certain conditions in humans however, in pets THC may not be as helpful. Just like humans, all mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that maintains homeostasis (biological balance) across all body systems. In addition to this integral role, ECS receptors are responsible for mediating the psychoactive effects of THC through CB1 receptors. Dogs have a higher level of CB1 receptors in the brain making them more susceptible to the psychoactive effects of THC.
Just as in humans, cannabinoid medicines including THC may contribute to the entourage effect, where cannabinoids including THC, CBD and other phytochemicals act synergistically, enhancing the therapeutic effect.
Therefore there is a possibility that very small amounts of THC in pet formulations may have beneficial effects, especially in regards to pain, when combined with CBD. Vets have reported using ratios of 1:20 THC to CBD, though more clinical research needs to be done in this space, and if you have any concerns regarding the formulation, please ask your your vet or contact CBD Vets Australia.
Is there research supporting CBD for pets?
As a result of increasing research in humans for CBD, public interest into the use of cannabinoid medicines to treat pets has grown. Much like the medical cannabis industry at large, research is lagging behind public appetite.
So far the clinical research on pets is sparse. Nevertheless, there are a plethora of preclinical studies involving mice, rats and monkeys. Most of these have been done with the intention of furthering clinical research in humans, but just as we can extrapolate animal trials to human outcomes, the same is possible for pets. This seems to be viable to determine treatment options until pet-specific research elucidates more information.
CBD oil for osteoarthritis in dogs.
As yet there have been two key studies evaluating the use of CBD in pets. In 2018 research was published on the pharmacokinetics, safety and efficacy of CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis. It showed a dose of 2mg/kg body weight, twice per day reduced pain scores and improved mobility measures.
These positive outcomes were exhibited without negative side effects. So the researchers chose to also evaluate a dose of 8mg/kg, twice per day. This did not show any adverse outcomes or negative neurological changes. However, given the efficacy of the 2mg dose, the authors note this may be a more cost-effective and still therapeutically active choice, especially for larger dogs with higher body weight.
Can my pet’s epilepsy be helped by CBD oil?
A more recent study investigated the use of CBD for dogs with epilepsy when compared with a placebo. Over the 12 week trial, a significant reduction in seizures of 33% was observed in dogs taking CBD. Two dogs were withdrawn from the study after exhibiting ataxia otherwise, no other adverse effects typically seen with CBD oil treatment (somnolence, diarrhea, loss of appetite) were reported.
A relationship between seizure frequency and plasma CBD levels was observed, and dogs with a higher concentration of CBD in blood plasma exhibited few seizures, suggesting a higher dose may provide better outcomes. We know from research in humans with idiopathic epilepsy, that higher doses of CBD often provide better results in terms of seizure frequency.
Will my pet experience side effects from CBD?
As with any medication, be it for humans or animals, there are always pros and cons to be aware of. With the proper advice and prescription of CBD oil by a veterinary doctor, potential cons or side effects can be mitigated.
The main consideration for treating pets with CBD oil is gastrointestinal symptoms. Diarrhea and vomiting were observed in dogs by McGrath and colleagues, although they could not rule out these symptoms occurring due to other reasons eg. diet changes, stress, being housed in a new facility or sharing enclosures.
Other clinical signs observed in dogs across three delivery methods were erythematous pinnae (redness/inflammation around the ear), ocular and nasal discharge. Again this research utilised comparatively higher doses of CBD compared to arthritis or epilepsy study mentioned earlier.
What are the potential benefits of giving my pet CBD oil?
Potential benefits of using CBD for our four-legged friends are wide-ranging. As an antioxidant CBD has the potential to aid in reducing oxidative stress from environmental toxins and inflammatory diseases. CBD’s anxiolytic, or anti-stress action has been observed in humans in a number of settings and it is theorised it may have a similar effect on pets, reducing anxious behaviours, sound or social phobias.
Although it may be far off in humans, let alone pets, there is a potential for CBD to have an effect in the management of tumours or as an adjunct to increase quality of life during conventional cancer treatments.
Conversely, one blood measure that is often seen elevated in both humans and animal trials is alkaline phosphatase (ALP). ALP was found to be high in one study indicating CBD in dogs may have some effects on the liver or protein metabolism.
Is CBD oil safe for cats and dogs?
Safety of CBD oil in animals looks promising thus far, with one study showing a 6 week administration of high dose CBD (10-20mg/kg) did not affect bile acids or liver enzymes. This is an important discovery as one of the few safety concerns regarding CBD is its effect on liver enzymes and liver metabolism.
A pharmacokinetic and safety study conducted over 90 days on a small number of dogs (n=5) and cats (n=6), showed dogs were more likely to exhibit gastrointestinal symptoms, with loose stool being most common. Side effects most often exhibited in cats included head shaking and licking, with cats having significantly lower serum CBD levels when compared to dogs.
Together this information tells of different metabolism and excretion of CBD in cats and dogs, warranting separate research in the future. Despite recorded side effects, authors from this and other studies agree that side effects are often within clinically acceptable ranges and appropriately dosed CBD oil is generally safe for our most common pets.
Is there any advantage to hemp based CBD oil?
Beyond the application of medical cannabis or CBD oil, he products hold promise for pets (and their owners) as a nutraceutical. High in protein and “good fats”, hemp added to animal feed has the potential to improve cardiovascular health, reduce the chance of neurodegenerative diseases and contribute to a shiny healthy coat.
Other pros for pets and pet owners aren’t limited to medicinal actions of hemp-based CBD oils. Hemp products (where CBD is commonly derived from) are eco-friendly and can be used for nutritional support, shampoo, toys and bedding.
Accessing medical cannabis for your pet
Despite the fact there are few studies on treating illnesses with CBD oil in pets, those that have been completed show enough positive results to support the prescription of CBD oil in certain instances at present and encourage future research. Education of veterinary practitioners is paramount as pet owners become more inquisitive about the potential benefits of CBD in their furry friends.
At CBD Vets Australia we can recommend a local prescribing vet and we have a team well-versed in treating animal illnesses with CBD oil.
In collaboration with your vet, we can monitor your pet’s treatment plan to ensure the best possible health outcomes for your beloved furry friends.
By Jessica Kindynis