Recently, Oklahoma approved “medical marijuana” for people. I live in neighboring Texas, and the news has prompted debate not only over the purported benefits for humans, but also for our pets. Besides the potential for physical benefits, it’s thought that these products may help anxious and fearful pets during veterinary visits or other scary, angst-producing situations.
To sort out fact from fiction, I contacted Rob Silver, DVM, a holistic veterinarian and founder of http://nurseyourpet.com/ as well as pain medicine veterinary specialist Robin Downing, DVM, from https://downingcenter.com/.
Marijuana, Hemp, And CBD Oil: What To Know
The words marijuana, hemp, and CBD oil may be used interchangeably on the Internet, but each term refers to very different products that contain specific components. Some are legal in many states, and others are not. While some offer medical or health benefits, others can be dangerous or toxic, especially to pets.
Marijuana: Both marijuana and hemp are part of the Cannabis family of plants. The medicinal components are found in the flower. The psychoactive component of marijuana is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), but there are more than 80 different cannabinoids found in the flower.
Hemp: Industrial hemp—the stuff they use to make rope—can contain no more than 0.3 percent of THC in order to be classified as hemp and be legal. While low in THC, hemp contains many other components thought to be beneficial.
CBD oil (cannabidiol) is the medical component most often used for purported health benefits in pet supplement products. The flower of the plant contains CBD oil and other cannabidiols, and for pet products, most are derived from hemp. Dogs don’t get “high” from these products.
Can I Give My Dog My Human Product?
In a word, no. “The number-one animal ER issue in states in which medical and/or recreational marijuana is legal is marijuana intoxication,” says Dr. Downing.
Dogs are very sensitive to THC, and toxic levels can be a real danger for them. A dog may develop an adverse reaction called static ataxia—they stand stiffly with widespread paws, and can’t move other than to rock back and forth. At higher doses they may fall and eliminate on themselves. Some dogs have died from eating marijuana-laced chocolate treats.
The bottom line?
Don’t share your edibles or other cannabis products with pets.
CBD Oil Benefits For Dogs
Because our pets have cannabinoid receptors throughout their body, experts believe that CBD oil and other cannabinoids from hemp may offer benefits. The medical uses cited for cannabis in pets include the following:
- Analgesia (pain relief)
- Reduced inflammation
- Seizure control
- Anxiety relief
- Nausea management
- Appetite stimulant
- Cancer patient support
Choosing Hemp Products For Pets
Products sold as supplements and treats aren’t subject to the rigorous FDA testing required for other medical interventions. Hemp products fall under the same legal restrictions as marijuana, which makes it difficult for veterinarians to recommend or prescribe these products for pet patients.
“The only medical professionals prohibited [legally] from discussing and recommending cannabis in animals are veterinarians,” says Dr. Downing. That’s also a huge roadblock for research and development of cannabis and CBD-containing products for pets.
Dr. Silver says, “The Farm Bill of 2018 looks to change this and make hemp legal. It may become legislation by September of this year.” Meanwhile, Dr. Silver warns consumers to watch for specific red flags, such as misspelled words on the label or no phone number to call to ask questions.
“Reliable companies are interested in acquiring and repeating independent analyses that allow them to display a “Certificate of Analysis,” says Dr. Downing. Look for this designation on the label.
Follow the product recommendation for dosing, and tell your veterinarian what you’re giving. Not much is known about possible drug interactions yet, so it’s important that your pets’ doctor has all the information at hand.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.