Canines & Cannabis

An in-depth review of supplemental CBD for your fur babies

Byline: Cody Funderburk

Next to humans, dogs and cats are the most popular recipients of legal cannabis products. Pet owners claim the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) is helpful for a range of conditions, including the reduction of anxiety-type symptoms, regulated and prolonged sleep, increased appetite, fewer symptoms of arthritis, and even faster healing from injury. It’s important to clarify that cannabis and its constituents, including CBD, have no accepted or approved medical value from the FDA, and it can’t be recommended by veterinarians. Hesitation among medical professionals is mostly due to a lack of empirical research, although CBD is non-toxic for pets, that doesn’t necessarily mean “safe,” especially when considering the toxicity of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in pets.

A groundbreaking new study from Cornell University conducted this year examined the effects of CBD on osteoarthritic dogs. The study was a randomized, placebo-controlled, owner and veterinarian double-blind, cross-over trial, wherein dogs received each of two treatments in random order: CBD, 2 mg/kg every 12 hours, or placebo every 12 hours. Each treatment was administered for 4 weeks with a 2-week washout period in between treatments. Blood was collected to repeat complete blood counts and chemistry analysis at weeks 2 and 4 for each treatment. At each visit, the dog was evaluated by a veterinarian based on a scoring system, as well as by its owner (canine brief pain inventory [CBPI]). One limitation of this study is that only sixteen dogs completed the trial and were included in the analyses. Nevertheless, the trial results state that “…canine brief pain inventory and Hudson activity scores showed a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity with CBD oil. Veterinary assessment showed decreased pain during CBD treatment. No side effects were reported by owners, however, serum chemistry showed an increase in alkaline phosphatase during CBD treatment.” The study concluded that “this pharmacokinetic and clinical study suggests that 2 mg/kg of CBD twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with OA (osteoarthritis).”

While one study on sixteen dogs is highly inconclusive, the results are promising enough to anticipate further research. Most earlier research on cannabis examined the toxicity of high doses of THC to concern pet owners with the potential dangers of accidentally letting your pet consume THC-laced treats. The study from Cornell University is the first of its kind researching some of the positive effects of CBD for pets. An important point is dosage: researchers used 2mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight, considering the weight of your pet is very important in accurately dosing CBD.

THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis, is actually toxic for pets, unlike for humans, and it’s generally advisable not to give any THC to your pet at all. The research from Cornell was conducted with industrial hemp based CBD, which has only insignificant trace amounts of THC. Research has found that adding a fat to the oral administration of CBD for pets better facilitates absorption and efficacy, since cannabinoids are fat-soluble compounds.

The market has catered to the rising popularity of CBD supplements for pets, with CBD infused treats and tincture sold in a variety of stores. These products are formulated to have little, if any, THC, and often include specific charts for how to dose according to the weight of your pup.

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