By Deirdre Frey, VMD: Veterinarian, Owner of Vet At Your Door, P.C.
I think at almost every appointment, we discuss CBD oil. It is popular in people to help manage a wide variety of ailments and people rightfully wonder if it helps with animals too. Well, we are here to say it does! A new double-blinded placebo-controlled study out of Cornell University says it helped 80% of the study’s osteoarthritis patients. This is seriously impressive - and exciting!
What is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol. It is a cannabis compound that can have significant medical benefits such as helping with osteoarthritis without containing any of the psychoactive ingredient THC (the stuff that makes you feel “stoned”). Now, the only proven medical benefit in companion animals is in the study above for osteoarthritis. However, anecdotal evidence that it also helps with anxiety, chronic pain, cancer pain, and seizures, abound for both dogs and cats. And the good news is that CBD has little to no side effects.
Does CBD come from marijuana? What is hemp? The marijuana plant has much higher levels of CBD than hemp does but as you know, it also contains the psychoactive ingredient THC. And, any oil derived from marijuana is federally illegal to prescribe to companion animals. The hemp plant, however, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant, has less than 0.3% of THC (i.e. very small traces) which is good because your pet won’t get high (lots of bad side effects can happen when pets take THC). Hemp is federally legal due to the farm bill recently being passed. However, it unfortunately also has lower CBD content.
Comparing marjiuana and hemp then, you need a lot more hemp than marijuana to get the same amount of CBD. It gets expensive to process that much hemp, so a lot of hemp oil products (which may label themselves as CBD oil), unfortunately usually don’t have very much CBD in it, which means they’re not very effective. To get to therapeutic doses in these products, oftentimes you have to give half the bottle! This is not be very cost effective.
Moreover, the dose of CBD that the Cornell Study used is 2 milligrams per kilogram twice daily. This means that a 75lb dog would need 70mg of hemp oil twice daily to go along with what is proven to help. A bottle of CBD (hemp) oil that you find at the store may, for example, have 300mg total in it. That would mean this bottle would be gone in two days. Not to mention that since there is no organization that regulates these products like the FDA, you are at the behest of the company to trust that their claim of how much CBD is in the product matches how much is actually in it.
OK so how do I choose a brand? There are a few things you can ask a company to see if they are legit. First, ask the company for a COA, or Certificate of Analysis, for the specific final product you’re giving. If they don’t have one, don’t use it. Here is an article written by a cannabis expert in veterinary medicine, describing what to look for in the COA that will help you determine if it is a good product.
We strongly recommend only buying hemp products (not marijuana products) for your pet, as you can’t trust that there is less than 0.3% THC in other products. It is a lot of work to investigate the brands and products out there, but it’s worth it to be sure that the product will actually help your pet and not just waste your money.