Considering the documented benefits of cannabis and destigmatization surrounding the use of cannabis, we are witnessing a surge of interest in the use of cannabis products to treat pets. However, despite the interest, cannabis products – THC and CBD – are considered illegal for pets. The FDA designates these products as pharmacologically active, and the FDA does not believe that there are sufficient studies demonstrating the benefits of CBD.
At this time of writing. ALL cannabis products are considered ILLEGAL for pets.
Wait, if it is illegal, how come I can find cannabis products over the counter or online? It seems so easy to get??!!
The answer is both complex and simple. The complex portion of the answer deals with the distinction between state and federal law and how these laws are enforced – this complexity is the proper subject of a legal treatise and not this article.
For the purpose of this article, it is sufficient to say that each state has its own laws regarding THC and CBD-derived products and for those readers living in states that have legalized the use of THC and CBD products for humans, then they are easily obtainable.
CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana sources. Because hemp is legal in most states, it is the most available form of CBD. Some states have legalized marijuana for human recreational use, making this product more available as well. However, it is important to keep in mind that marijuana contains psychoactive THC, which can cause toxicity to pets.
**For the current status of state-by-state policies, click here.
Veterinarians cannot legally sell or recommend products containing CBD and THC.
Since the FDA has not legalized THC or CBD, veterinarians cannot legally sell or recommend products containing these compounds. However, in California, veterinarians can discuss the use of cannabis on an animal for medicinal purposes. The California Veterinary Medical Board has indicated that it will be posting specific guidelines regarding THC and CBD by January 1, 2020.
While there are no cannabis products currently approved for animal use, it is worth noting that there is one human drug derived from the cannabis plant, Epidiolex, and two other synthetic drugs (dronabinol and nabilone) that veterinarians can legally prescribe under the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act, Schedule V. Limiting factor for using these human medications for pets is usually the cost associated with the medicine.
There are many research studies and clinical trials underway; no doubt we will hear more about CBD, and many changes will occur in the coming years. The College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University conducted a study regarding CBD use and its clinical significance for dogs with arthritis; the results showed CBD could improve the activity and comfort for dogs with arthritic pain. This study is published July 2018 at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2018.00165/full
So… What if I want to use CBD products for my pets?
The short answer is to be very careful and always consult with your veterinarian first because there are considerations beyond the scope of what many people would recognize.
Since the FDA has not legalized CBD products, there are no federal regulations or oversight regarding the manufacturing and production of these products. Thus, even in states like California, where CBD products have been legalized, pet products are not regulated in terms of their quality, purity, and strength of the extracts. The labeling may be inaccurate, the product may not contain what it claims to have, and contaminants such as toxins, metals, and pesticides can also be concerning.
Additionally, THC in some products can cause toxicity in pets, and veterinarians are encountering more patients with toxicity signs in parallel with the increase in popularity of Cannabis-derived products.
The use of CBD in pets, even without significant levels of THC, may not be entirely benign either. This is a compound classified as a drug, and it has complicated effects on the body. For example, CBD is documented to interact with an important enzyme system called Cytochrome P450, a system responsible for certain drug metabolisms as well as hormone synthesis and breakdown. Therefore drug interactions can be a serious concern. There are also reports indicating possible adverse effects to the liver with inappropriate use of CBD products.
And sometimes, very well-meaning staff from pet stores or dispensaries or online sellers may give misleading advice about the use and benefits of these products, especially given the complicated and not well-understood nature of CBD and the different individual medical conditions of the pets.
To use CBD products for pets safely and effectively, these are the most important considerations, in my opinion:
- Quality of product
- Optimal dosing for each individual pet, with special attention to the ratio of THC to CBD based on the condition being treated
- Possible side effects and complications
Talk to your veterinarian if you are thinking about starting your pet on CBD products. This is important for the health and well-being of your pet! Your veterinarian can discuss with you or make an appropriate referral to make sure your pet stays safe and healthy.
I am fascinated by cannabis-derived products and also the exciting discovery of the endocannabinoid system. The truth is, there is still much that is unknown and being researched.
Like many, I am excitedly waiting for more updates.
**The Clinical Pharmacology Laboratory at The College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University works with veterinarians to provide therapeutic drug monitoring for cannabinoid products that can help determine the efficacy and toxicity of the product.