Confused About CBD Supplements for Your Pet?

A quick Google search for “CBD dog” this morning turned up over 7 million hits.  You can find CBD supplements for dogs at many major retailers.  What are these supplements?  Are they safe for your pet?  What is the evidence for their effectiveness?

What are CBDs?

CBDs are products derived from cannabidiol.  Although derived from majijuana, they do not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  In other words, CBD products do not cause a chemical high.  CBD products for dogs include treats, oils, and even dog foods.  Proponents claim that CBDs are useful to treat a variety of chronic diseases, including behavioral disorders, arthritis, and epilepsy.

Are CBDs safe for your pet?

Researchers have not had the opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the safety of CBD supplements in pets.  This state of affairs is due in part to the classification of CBDs by the DEA and FDA.  We will come back to this topic.  In contrast to the 7 million hits from Google, a search of Pub Med, a database of peer-reviewed research articles, turned up just 72 hits.  Even a broader search for cannabinoids in general only found 262 articles.  None of these articles included safety of CBDs when given to dogs.  The marketed products may seem safe based on a lack of reported toxicity after use.  But you should be aware that the safety of long-term use, potential drug interactions, and other factors has not been adequately determined through controlled studies or clinical trials.

To be clear, marijuana itself is toxic to dogs at higher doses, and there have been many reports of canine marijuana intoxication.  As a pet owner, you should never give marijuana to your pet unless you are under veterinary medical supervision.  It’s unlikely that many veterinarians would prescribe marijuana, even where it is legal.  However, in the future, you may have an opportunity to enroll your pet in a clinical trial.

Are CBDs effective?

Researchers have not yet determined the efficacy of CBD supplements in a controlled clinical trial.  Therefore, claims of effectiveness are anecdotal, at best.  This doesn’t mean that these supplements don’t work as claimed.  It simply means that there is not evidence to know for certain.  Any supplement that makes a claim to treat any disease, including arthritis, anxiety, or epilepsy, is technically in violation of FDA regulations.  As such, they are unapproved animal drugs.  This rule is often not well-enforced by the FDA due to a lack of resources.  Although the FDA has threatened legal action against some marketers, these products are still easily obtainable.

To make matters worse for those who would like to test these supplements, the DEA has classified CBDs as a Schedule 1 controlled substance (like heroin).  The AVMA is lobbying to have them reclassified, and many researchers and pet owner activists are putting pressure on the DEA and the FDA to allow clinical trials in animals.  Some veterinary programs, including the University of Colorado College of Veterinary Medicine, are running clinical trials.  Others, like the University of Pennsylvania, have cancelled trials due to the scheduling of CBDs.

Beware of products that make claims like “treats cancer” or “alleviates anxiety.”  These are simply misleading and the companies have not provided credible evidence!

Should you use CBD products?

If you choose to try CBD supplements, talk to your veterinarian and do your research.  Not all products are the same.  Some products may not even contain CBDs!  Make sure you read the label and look for “CBD” or “cannabidiol.”  Products containing only hemp seeds do not contain CBDs, which come from the flowers and leaves.   Observe your dog carefully and consider keeping a journal.  If you encounter any side effects, let your veterinarian know.

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