CBD is big news and like all hyped and yet-unproven medical claims, it appears to be a cure-all for almost everything under the sun. However, hard scientific evidence remains elusive. If new, on-going research can support even some of its claims, it could introduce a whole new treatment paradigm in veterinary care.
At our AAHA Accredited Cabbagetown Pet Clinic, we closely monitor emerging CBD research and are always prepared to address our client’s questions and concerns.
Introduction to CBD for Pets.
CBD is on the minds of many pet owners, and not just for their own personal use. Fueled largely by anecdotal reports, pet parents are turning to this potential wonder drug to help manage pain, arthritis, seizures, and other chronic health problems in their fur-babies.
In the US, a growing crop of CBD products marketed for pets – including extracts, capsules, and chewy treats – have erupted onto the market to meet consumer demand.
In Canada, however, all legal CBD products for pets must be approved by Health Canada. They are taking a more cautious approach, as solid evidence on its efficacy is still unknown. To date, there have been no such approvals for any pet-specific CBD products.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol is a member of the cannabinoid family, a class of organic compounds naturally found in the cannabis or hemp plant.
Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid receptors located in the central and peripheral nervous systems of humans, which help the body maintain a normal healthy state, also known as homeostasis. It is generally believed that a similar interaction is replicated in pets, but more research is needed.
Unlike its THC cousin, CBD doesn’t produce a ‘high’, but it is psychoactive. Psychoactive – or psychotropic – is a term that is applied to chemical elements that change one’s mental state by affecting the way the brain and nervous system work. Alcohol and caffeine also fall into this group.
What are the Health Benefits of CBD for my Pet?
The jury – medical community – is still out on CBD’s effectiveness.
While there’s no conclusive scientific data – it’s ongoing – in using CBD to treat our furry friends, there’s growing anecdotal evidence suggesting it can treat pain, reduce anxiety, as well as helping to control seizures.
CBD is also purported to deliver anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation and anti-anxiety impacts, although there’s no conclusive data on these claims.
Risks and Possible Side Effects of CBD in Pets
The safety of CBD products for pets has not yet been adequately researched. Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have not approved CBD for use on animals. Consequently, there are no guidelines on what dosages to administer to your pet, based on species, breed, body weight or any other number of multiple variables. You’re not entirely on your own – always seek guidance with one of our Fear Free Certified Cabbagetown veterinary team first to discuss any potential risks associated with its application.
Any medication or supplement has the possibility of a positive or negative response. If a pet owner wants to use CBD on their pet – regardless of its legality – it is prudent to start out with small amounts and then closely monitor the effects.
More importantly, pet owners should be aware that there are no approved, legal CBD products available to consumers in Canada, although plenty of CBD products are being marketed and sold to those who seek it. If a CBD product does not have a drug identification number (DIN) or a notification number (VHP) then its safety and efficacy can’t be demonstrated.
If you DO choose to try the CBD route for your pet, how do you know what dosage to administer?
The short answer is, you don’t. While there’s no scientific data on the side effects of CBD usage for pets, there are potential side effects based on how CBD affects humans.
- Dry mouth: There is research to show that CBD can decrease the production of saliva. For pets, a noticeable increase in thirst may be apparent.
- Lowered blood pressure: High doses of CBD have been known to cause a short-term drop in blood pressure. Even if the drop is insignificant, it could create a momentary feeling of light-headedness.
- Drowsiness: Pet parents – especially dog owners – have been known to use CBD to treat anxiety. The comforting effect of CBD can also cause slight sluggishness.
Again, a discussion with one of our AAHA Accredited Cabbagetown veterinarians can help clarify risks and help mitigate potential side effects.
Is CBD Legal for Use with Pets in Ontario?
From the CVO – College of Veterinarians of Ontario, as of January 2020:
“As veterinarians are included in the definition of practitioner in this Act, veterinarians would be permitted to prescribe either substance if there was a legal pathway to do so. The Office of Controlled Substances at Health Canada has confirmed that there are currently no approved CBD products for animals, meaning there is no legal pathway to obtain these products for animals in Canada.
It is not enough that CBD oil or related products may be offered through a licensed supplier in Canada – the supplier must also be supplying a CBD product that is approved by Health Canada. Manufacturers would need to complete the approval process to get such a product approved for use in animals.
The College is aware that animal owners may ask their veterinarians about using products for their animals that contain active ingredients found in the cannabis plant. It is important that the public is aware that:
- There is currently no legal pathway for veterinarians in Ontario to prescribe medical marijuana to animals.
- There are currently no CBD products approved by Health Canada and therefore no legal pathway to obtain these products.”