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Is CBD Right For Your Pet?

When we talk about CBD-based derivatives it’s often in relation to treating an array of chronic conditions. Now that the distinction between cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has entered common understanding, CBD is at the fore of a vibrant new kind of health and wellness. Many of these conditions — chronic pain, anxiety disorder, acne, even severe epilepsy — whose sufferers relied on pharmaceuticals to treat, have in recent years receivedgotten considerable attention for being compatible with CBD treatments. 

So, would you give it to your pet?

I recently visited my cousin, whose husband Jacob owns a large property in eastern Ontario. For more than ten years he and his father have bred champion Doberman Pinschers. It goes without saying that a Doberman is one of the most athletic breeds in the world, and the sought after dogs bred by Jacob’s family certainly turns heads on the street. 

Like many breeds Dobermans can suffer from canine hip dysplasia, which leads to painful arthritis and can inhibit movement. What shocked me was that a dog typically might grow up with a dysplagic condition and learn to tolerate the pain as it gets older. After mentioning this to Jacob it wasn’t long before we started discussing whether to use CBD to treat this and other conditions for animals. 

Veterinary cannabis products can come in a lot of the same formats as they do for humans: there are chewables, tinctures and topicals just for pets available. And just like the products we use pet CBD products can have a wide range of effects on an animal’s body depending on how they’re used. A study released in 2018 found CBD lead to increased activity in dogs with osteodegenerative conditions. Another study released the following year concluded CBD may potentially reduce the number of seizures in epileptic dogs. For breeders like Jacob this all sounds promising, but studies like these are still preliminary — both were relatively small despite having an optimistic outlook. 

There’s plenty for pet owners to beware of. In general, CBD products for pets are safe because they contain little to none of the THC that’s known to be highly toxic to animals. Dogs are at a high risk of marijuana poisoning that can be caused by eating accidentally left out joints or edibles. Cats, who are pickier eaters by far, wouldn’t likely be interested in your bud but can still be vulnerable to secondhand smoke in closed environments (and you should never be blowing smoke in yours or anyone else’s pet’s face). Still, CBD-only products for animals can produce favourable results, from calming hyperactive behaviours to chronic pain relief, and in this way do not differ too much from products made for human consumption. 

The wide availability of legal marijuana products for humans is helping drive the conversation about the risks involved for their pets. In the United States for example, the rapid expansion of legalized cannabis throughout multiple states has contributed to a huge surge in calls to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Centre (APCC). Over the first few months of 2019 alone the APCC reported a 765% increase in calls about marijuana toxicosis from owners whose pets ingested their stash. Prior to legalization the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) issued a statement about this potential issue exactly, listing several signs pet owners should watch for if they fear that their pet is currently experiencing toxic shock from accidentally ingesting marjiuana:

  • Excessive sleepiness or lethargy in your pet
  • Depression, which can sometimes manifest as a disinterest in activity or low mood
  • Wobbling, pacing or uncoordinated movement
  • Sound or light sensitivity
  • Incontinence
  • Excessive salivation and or vomiting
  • Fast or slow heart rates
  • Low body temperature
  • Unusual vocalization

Naturally, if you notice any of these symptoms — make a call to your nearest animal hospital right away.  

An animal that’s essentially a family member suffering in the same way would be the deciding factor for Jacob in choosing whether or not to use CBD to help relieve their pain. Not all remedies are created equal, however. Jacob’s dogs have seen it all and only a small fraction of his Doberman’s problems can be treated with CBD; the rest are all treated by costly prescriptions. But just because it may be more affordable might not make it worth it. So, is CBD right for your pet? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Many CBD products aren’t classified as medication, which means they aren’t subjected to the same rigorous tests for purity or ingredients. If the THC content in a CBD product is too high, you may be unnecessarily putting your pet at risk.
  • Any reputable CBD company should be able to provide you with a breakdown of what’s in their product from a third party, either retrievable online or by direct call to the company. 
  • Since no current register exists for dosages by different breeds, ages, or weight, you should consider asking your veterinarian for advice.
  • Your veterinarian should also be able to give you directions on how CBD products may interact with your pet’s other medications, if they’re currently taking any.

The bottom line? The majority of information surrounding CBD for animals hasn’t yielded any alarming information. These are still early days, however, as we ultimately know very little. When you’re prepared to do anything for your pet, the very best thing you can do is stay informed about how CBD may impact your pet.

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