cbd oil is lethal for dogs

Veterinary experts warn cannabis can be a fatal poison to dogs and cats

Ingesting cannabis can be a pleasant experience for people but for dogs and cats, it will almost certainly require a visit to the vet.

In the hype around marijuana legalization, and the variety of cannabis products that will soon abound, it may be easy to forget that THC is toxic for pets.

It takes only a small amount to cause symptoms of poisoning in a dog or cat, said University of Alberta animal science instructor Connie Varnhagen.

“Dogs have so many more cannabinoid receptors in their brain and throughout their body,” she said, and that sensitive network can simply be overwhelmed by THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana.

“They can die from the overdose. People get high; dogs get poisoned,” said Varnhagen, who is also a veterinary nurse and president of the Alberta Helping Animals Society.

Cats are also susceptible to cannabis poisoning but are less likely to ingest it, she said. They are far pickier eaters, don’t generally have a sweet tooth and aren’t particularly attracted to unfinished joints or dried bud.

Although there have been no known fatal cannabis overdoses in humans, dogs in rare cases have been known to succumb when they ingest large amounts, said Natasha Russell, an Edmonton veterinarian and president of the Edmonton Association of Small Animal Veterinarians.

“The danger is more acute for smaller dogs,” she said. “Small dogs are especially sensitive to becoming hypothermic, so their body temperature can get too cold, and the body starts to change in ways we don’t want.”

When dogs are admitted to an animal hospital with THC toxicity, she said, “We keep them well hydrated in a safe, enclosed space where they can’t fall off anything, and then they just have to sleep it off.” Recovery usually takes between 12 and 24 hours.

Veterinarians will rarely induce vomiting, said Russell. However, if there are other accompanying toxins involved—such as chocolate in a brownie or the sugar substitute Xylitol—dogs may be made to purge, she said.

In advance of legalization last month, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) issued a warning to pet owners explaining what can happen when pets ingest THC. It pointed to a fourfold rise in reported toxicity in dogs following legalization in Colorado.

The increase may be due in part to a growing social acceptance of the drug, said Varnhagen, and a willingness among pet owners to come clean when their pets get into their cannabis.

She warned that even second-hand smoke can cause respiratory harm in pets, which have “smaller lungs and much faster metabolism. They’re much less able to cope with smoke of any kind.”

The CVMA recommends smoking cannabis outdoors or away from pets.

The promise of CBD medications

While the risk of THC pet poisoning is one obvious downside to marijuana legalization, there is huge therapeutic promise in the plant’s other major cannabinoid—CBD, or cannabidiol, said Varnhagen.

As is the case with humans, there is growing anecdotal evidence of CBD’s effectiveness for anxiety, various forms of pain and inflammation, epilepsy and even some forms of cancer. Last summer the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of CBD to treat human epilepsy, the first time it has approved any cannabis-related drug.

“We’re doing really poorly with epilepsy in dogs and cats right now, and owners can’t afford the new drugs available for people,” said Varnhagen.

So far Health Canada has not approved any veterinary medicine with CBD, which has prompted some to use either unregulated or human products, such as tinctures and oils, on their pets, said Varnhagen. Although the law may soon change, veterinarians are currently prohibited from recommending CBD.

“The big problem is there’s very little quantitative research on it, and veterinarians are not part of the conversation,” said Varnhagen.

“We can’t even legally talk about it with clients,” unless they choose to bring it up themselves, she said. “A lot of our clients will say, ‘I put some CBD oil on my cat.’ You can’t say much, but I do say you have to be very careful about the essential oil that it’s in, because it can be toxic.”

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Russell agreed giving pets CBD oil unapproved for animals could be risky, even if the cannabinoid itself is unlikely to cause harm.

“I’m worried about people giving pets oils—that’s where we will likely see an increase in toxicity cases,” she said, noting that human CBD products may still contain low levels of THC. “It’s hard to find those CBD products that are truly THC-free.”

Until cannabis-based medication for animals is legalized, both Russell and Varnhagen urge pet owners to talk to their vets first about CBD therapy before reaching for the oil.

“I want my clients to talk to me about it,” said Russell. “Even if we’re not allowed to prescribe it, they should be getting information about it from us, and only us. Even though our hands are tied for now, that’s going to change quite soon.”

If your pet ingests cannabis

It doesn’t take much THC to poison a dog or cat. A discarded joint or small amount of infused edible can throw your pet into distress, said animal science instructor Connie Varnhagen.

If you do suspect your pet has ingested cannabis—showing symptoms such as dizziness or wobbling, unusual lethargy, loss of appetite or incontinence, agitation, vomiting, increased or decreased heart rate, or lowered body temperature—keep it warm and offer, but don’t force, water to keep it hydrated.

Do not attempt to induce vomiting, because it could result in aspiration, also potentially fatal. Immediately take your pet to a veterinary clinic, where symptoms can be monitored during recovery.

Most important, be honest if you suspect your pet has ingested cannabis. It’s much easier to treat poisoning if your vet knows what caused it, said Varnhagen. “Your vet is not going to call the police on you.”

Cbd oil is lethal for dogs

By Tabatha Regehr, DVM
Associate Veterinarian &
Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT
Director of Veterinary Services

Cannabidiol, frequently referred to as “CBD”, is gaining in popularity and interest by pet owners and veterinary professionals alike. At Pet Poison Helpline, we get a lot of questions about the safety of CBD and the number of poison control consults regarding CBD products increased over 150% from 2018 to 2019. We wanted to take this opportunity to explain what CBD is, reasons it may be given to a pet, it’s current regulatory status, and what our experience has been when pets are accidentally overdosed on CBD.

What is CBD? CBD is an extract of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indicia plant. It is routinely described as non- psychotropic which means it doesn’t result in a “high” like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD often comes from hemp plants which are cultivars of Cannabis that are bred to contain very low amounts of THC (< 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis). Each hemp plant contains a small amount of CBD for extraction and use. The remaining majority of the hemp plant is processed for industrial uses such as fabric, paper, construction material, cosmetics, and more.

Where can you buy CBD? Everywhere! There are retail and online stores selling tinctures, oils, creams, lotions, and gummies for humans while chews, treats, tinctures, and topicals are available for cats and dogs.

Are CBD chews, treats, and tinctures considered supplements? No. Strictly speaking, these products are not considered dietary supplements by FDA and are not regulated as such. There are no over-the-counter FDA-approved CBD products for animals or humans; they are only available as over-the-counter unregulated products. There is one FDA approved prescription CBD product for people called Epidiolex. It’s formulated as an oral solution and labeled for treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy.

What about topical products like lotions and ointments? No again. The answer is the same as above–topical use products are not regulated either.

Why would someone give CBD to their pet? CBD is advertised to alleviate arthritis pain, control seizures, mitigate tumor effects, decrease anxiety, improve appetite, boost immunity, and more. Based on advertising claims CBD seems to be a pet and people “cure all”. Pet owners want what is best for their pets and advertisers know this. Why wouldn’t a pet owner be willing to try a cure all? Though usage claims can be outrageous like “CBD cures cancer”, most of these claims have not been substantiated and some are just plain false.

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What specific pet research exists? A randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded, cross-over study published in 2018 by Gamble, et al demonstrated statistically significant reduction of pain and an increase in activity in a group of 16 pet dogs with concurrent arthritis at Cornell University. The dogs were given 2 mg/kg of CBD oil by mouth twice a day for four weeks. Dogs were also allowed to remain on NSAIDs, fish oil, and/or glucosamine/chondroitin supplements during the study. Laboratory work showed an increase in a liver enzyme (alkaline phosphatase) during CBD treatment.

A randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study published in 2019 by McGrath, et al from Colorado State University’s veterinary teaching hospital investigated the effect of oral CBD in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on 26 pet dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. The treatment group was were given 2.5 mg/kg of CBD oil by mouth twice a day for 12 weeks along with their normally prescribed anti-epileptic drugs. The dogs that received CBD did experience less seizures than the placebo group; however, the number of dogs classified as “responders”—meaning they had at least a 50% decrease in seizure activity—was similar to the placebo group. As with the arthritis study, laboratory work showed a statistically significant increase in alkaline phosphatase during CBD treatment.

Additional studies have been performed in dogs and cats that have investigated the systemic absorption of differing formulations CBD (eg, oral vs topical), pharmacokinetic parameters such as half-life, the effects and safety of various doses, etc. These studies were not trying to treat any specific disease process but were helping us to develop a greater understanding of how CBD is absorbed and processed by the body. See the suggested readings at the end of this article for a listing of these studies.

This doesn’t mean other research is not available, but it is not controlled disease-response testing. Prior research is primarily lab animal based, in vitro, or case reports.

What agency regulates over-the-counter CBD-containing products? None of them! Non-prescription CBD products are not regulated so products only as good as a company’s commitment to quality and purity. This is a red flag screaming “Buyer beware”. FDA is in the process of determining how to regulate these CBD products but this could be months to years down the road.

Don’t products have to contain what the label says? Again, the answer is an emphatic NO! It bears repeating that these products are not regulated. Several recent studies tested ‘off the shelf’ CBD products for ingredient quality, CBD concentration, and contamination. Unfortunately, testing revealed disappointing results. Some products contained little to no CBD, even when the labels listed a defined dose. Others contained vastly more CBD than labeled. Additionally, it was not uncommon for CBD products to be contaminated with THC, synthetic cannabinoids (potent, illegal substances that can cause seizures and other severe effects), and other, potentially harmful, non-labeled ingredients.

Can a “good quality” CBD product be harmful? CBD is considered minimally toxic although long term daily use has been well documented to increase a specific liver value called alkaline phosphatase. Diarrhea has also been documented with administration of CBD products. Additionally CBD is metabolized in the liver by various cytochrome P450 enzymes which, in turn, can increase or decrease the rate of metabolism of other drugs and chemicals that a pet may be taking.

Considerable research on drug-drug interactions with CBD is ongoing, especially in human medicine. Fetal development could potentially be negatively impacted by CBD and is not recommended for pregnant pets.

What happens when CBD is overdosed? Remember CBD is not a regulated veterinary drug, so there are no established or concrete therapeutic doses. Usage recommendations are based on limited research, anecdotal evidence, manufacturer recommendations, and veterinarians’ personal experiences. A dog or cat ingesting a large amount of tincture or a full container of chews may exhibit clinical signs. Approximately half of the cases reported to Pet Poison Helpline involve a symptomatic animal. The most common effects reported in dogs are vomiting and diarrhea but some of the exposures we see are life-threatening.

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Why do some patients have signs of marijuana (THC) toxicity after taking a CBD product? This is mostly due to poor quality CBD contaminated with THC or synthetic cannabinoids which, unfortunately, is quite common.

Can CBD be given with other supplements or medications? Maybe. As discussed above, there are many medications that require liver enzymes called cytochrome P450s for metabolism. CBD impacts cytochrome P450s making reactions possible. This means that some medications should not be taken with CBD while others may need to have their dose increased or decreased in order to remain safe and effective. This is one of the most important reason that pet owners should talk to their veterinarians before giving CBD to their pets. The veterinary community is becoming more aware of the possible interactions but more research is needed to aid in full understanding.

How familiar are veterinarians with CBD for use in dogs and cats? Many veterinarians were not taught about CBD in vet school and have only recently started to learn about it. As there is relatively little published research on dogs and cats, vets are struggling to understand exactly how CBD works in the body and how it can impact their patients. To complicate

matters, the sale of cannabis products, including CBD, sits in a legal quagmire evidenced by a patchwork of state regulations which differ from federal regulations. Until recently, CBD was federally classified as a schedule 1 controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Schedule 1 substances are defined by the DEA as those with “no currently accepted medical use in the US…and potential for abuse”. Examples of schedule 1 substances include heroin, LSD, peyote, and “Ecstasy”. Because of this, prominent veterinary associations and governing bodies had discouraged vets from discussing CBD with pet owners. This left many vets confused and worried that talking about CBD with a pet owner could lead to legal repercussions or revocation of their medical license. Today, veterinary associations appear to be slowly changing their tune and trying to help vets better understand the potential therapeutic role of CBD.

Vets understand that their clients want to know more about CBD and are working to bolster their own knowledge. Companies such as Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting may be a helpful option as their veterinarians offer case-specific consultation involving both the pet owner and their veterinarian.

How do you know if a CBD product is of good quality? With so many companies and products on the market, it can be overwhelming to know what is safe to buy. Look for companies that clearly discuss product quality and readily display independent, also called third party, laboratory testing of their products. Testing helps to guarantee the labeled concentration of CBD is present in their products. Testing for THC, other cannabinoids, and contaminants should also be displayed. Also look for clear labeling of the concentration of CBD in each drop of oil or dose of product so you know exactly how much is being given. Liquid products should be sold with a marked dropper or syringe to facilitate accurate dosing.

You’ve read the information and still want to use a CBD pet product. First and foremost, pet owners need to talk to their veterinarian! It is crucial that their pet be examined so they can receive a proper medical work-up and correct diagnosis. It’s possible the pet’s condition has a simple and safe therapy readily available. If CBD is potentially helpful, the pet’s current medications and supplements should be reviewed to prevent a problematic interaction. While there are still many unknowns related to the best uses for CBD, this is expected to change rapidly in coming years. Stay tuned as more research becomes available! Pet Poison Helpline will be here to keep you informed and educated.