With a growing list of potential health benefits and no known side effects, CBD is gaining in popularity among US consumers and their pets. While the research is more robust for humans, promising results are starting to come in for the use of CBD in treating ailments of cats and dogs.
With CBD products for pets easily available online from companies like Honest Paws, more and more pet parents are finding they have questions about this cannabinoid.
A recent Cornell University study found that once the right dosage is determined for a pet, cannabidiol can improve pain stemming from arthritis. In addition, some consumers have had success in using CBD oil for dogs to help relieve a variety of ailments. It was that sort of success in fact, that led to the founding of Honest Paws.
The company was born when co-founder Chelsea Rivera saw its effects firsthand in her dog Baby Rose. Now 13 years old, Baby Rose is healthy and thriving, but that wasn’t always the case. From a young age, the malti-poo suffered from serious seizures. In her efforts to treat this condition, Chelsea decided to try CBD. A month later, Baby Rose’s seizures had stopped, and her health and quality of life was on the upswing. Having seen the impact that it had for her pup, Rivera and her co-founders started working to bring CBD to more pet owners.
In most states, veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe or recommend a cannabis product for your pet. But some vets have seen the benefits of CBD in animals up close and have opinions about its use. For example, Dr. Gary Richter, a holistic veterinarian practicing out of Oakland, California, found that cannabis had extraordinary results for his own dog, Leo, who also suffered from seizures.
We asked Dr. Richter about what is understood about cannabis for pets and how to safely unleash the benefits of CBD for your furry friends.
“While I cannot personally prescribe it, I have seen CBD and other forms of cannabis be a very effective alternative treatment option,” said Dr. Richter.
While current research on CBD for dogs is focused on arthritis, many pet owners—and vets—have found it to be effective for other off-label uses.
According to Dr. Richter, “it can help with everything from pain and soreness to stress and anxiety, upset stomach…and seizures.”
“People don’t understand the difference between CBD and medical cannabis,” explained Dr. Richter. “CBD is a single component found within cannabis.”
Before it’s used in pet products, CBD is extracted from hemp cannabis. While cannabis flower can be toxic to dogs, “CBD from hemp is considered to be very, very safe,” according to Dr. Richter.
Getting products that have been transparently tested is key, says Dr. Richter. “Ask for a certificate of analysis to show the product contains what it claims on the label,” he advises. “Check the [certificate] to confirm there are no pesticides, fungicides, fungal toxins, etc.”
“[CBD] can absolutely be used in conjunction with traditional medicine or, in some circumstances, it can replace the need for Western medications,” said Dr. Richter.
It’s always best to discuss with your own vet to determine whether CBD is a good fit for your pet, though. If your vet is not well-versed in CBD, the Honest Paws team recommends that you seek counsel from a holistic vet who has experience recommending cannabis-derived products for pets.
There’s going to be a certain amount of trial and error in finding the right therapeutic dose for your pet, but a good starting point is going to depend on your pet’s size and age, and what you’re treating with CBD.
To get you started, you can plug some factors into a calculator like the one developed by Honest Paws. As when discussing prescription interactions, it’s worthwhile to find a veterinarian versed in CBD who can offer experienced insights on dosing issues.
“The most effective way to administer cannabis to pets is orally, either with an oil or given as treats,” said Dr. Richter. While snacks like Honest Paws dog treats can be an easy starting point, Dr. Richter says oil is typically a more effective way to administer CBD.
“CBD is not particularly well absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract so ideally an oil is best, as some of it will be absorbed transmucosally—through the tissues in the mouth,” explained Dr. Richter. That’s why Honest Paws also offers an array of CBD oil for small, medium, and large dogs—as well as CBD oil for cats.
The currently known side effects of CBD are mild. “As long as the product is of high quality, the worst side effect is likely to be a little drowsiness if the dosing is too high,” said Dr. Richter.