Pot for Pets?
Got a pet that freaks out over thunderstorms, fireworks, vet trips, car rides and separation anxiety, or is just plain hyper? Or an older pet with joint pain or GI issues or cancer?
Some owners have found that a dose of CBD can make a big difference.
Most people hear CBD (cannabidiol) and automatically think marijuana, but it’s important to understand the difference between CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is made up mostly of hemp, while THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana. CBD gives a relaxing sensation but does not give the high that THC does. Found in pot and hemp, CBD is also the key ingredient in Epidiolex, a seizure medication that is the first cannabis derived drug approved by the FDA.
In humans, CBD oil has been found to reduce anxiety and treat epilepsy, even in drug resistant cases. It also relieves pain and benefits the heart. Though there is no scientific proof on this now, it may help treat the symptoms of cancer treatment such as nausea, chronic pain and loss of appetite to help keep animals comfortable.
“After years of back pain and facing back surgery, I tried CDB therapy, and it drastically changed my life,” says Michael Dunn, founder of Blue Ocean Lifestyle and CDB America Shaman stores. “I am living proof of the benefits, so I changed careers to help others. I opened two CBD stores in the Atlanta area.”
Cannabis can provide many benefits to humans, from everyday health to treating diseases, but it has not been proven to work in animals. The veterinary community is not going to condone CBD treatment until evidence-based medicine is solid. Currently, the American Veterinary Association (AVMA) does not allow veterinarians to recommend or prescribe cannabis to their clients. With most technology, law is often lagging behind, and so is the case for cannabidiol therapy. But the 2017 House of Delegates meeting at the AVMA annual convention discussed marijuana therapies for pets, and recommendations included having the AVMA investigate working with other research organizations and medical stakeholders.
Right now, there is a lack of research on the effects of CBD therapy in pets. AVMA is concerned that pets may die as a result of possible overdoses, negative drug interactions or bad ingredients from an unregulated seller.
Go to Animallawsource.org to find our published “Animal Law Source Toolkit©” on this subject for pet owners.
Can veterinarians prescribe or even recommend CBD Oil for pets in Georgia?
No. Regardless that some states have legalized marijuana, and physicians can recommend cannabis for medical purposes to their patients without any disciplinary actions, the laws are different for physicians and veterinarians. So even in jurisdictions where marijuana is legal, without a specific authorization for veterinary use, veterinarians are not protected in recommending and discussing its use to clients.
Can veterinarians discuss cannabinoid products as a treatment option?
Currently there are no FDA-approved marijuana or hemp products for use in animals, and thus the legality of veterinarians recommending any unapproved products can be confusing. Furthermore, any discussion regarding any therapeutic regimen should be consistent with a valid Veterinarian-Client Patient-Relationship (VCPR).
If a vet cannot recommend it, can a pet owner buy and use CBD for their pets?
Yes, anyone can buy CBD oil online, and there is fierce competition to attract pet owners. But remember, it is unregulated field. Dosages and drug interactions could be harmful or even fatal. There are side effects. Since the AVMA warns veterinarians not to recommend CBD therapy at this time, who will you consult with about these issues? If you plan on using CBD, you should at least tell your veterinarian and keep several things in mind:
• Cheaper is not always better, don’t look for the cheapest product you want to make sure you are getting good quality oil for your pet, be sure to research where and how the hemp was grown.
• CBD not THC. Some CBD oils can have higher levels of THC than others. Be sure you are checking the concentration and buying products with high CBD and low THC. You want your pet to have the relaxation and health benefits without the intoxication.
• Good quality CBD oil is manufactured using the whole plant which adds terpenes as well as flavonoids from the hemp plant, making the benefits all that much greater.
• CBD oil is a new industry there are no regulations that control the manufacturing process. How does company produce their oils and if they use the “whole plant”?
What are the side effects?
Most mammals have an endocannabinoid system and can metabolize cannabis. There are risks when giving our pets CBD oil. An animal’s liver immediately processes cannabis and then eliminates through their urine. Cannabis can also affect the production of liver enzymes and how the liver metabolizes certain drugs. The production of salvia is affected by cannabis causing dry mouth which may cause excessive thirst. High doses of CBD may cause low blood pressure as well. It is important to notify your veterinarian before giving your pet CBD to discuss negative drug interactions.
The cannabis industry is growing at incredible rates and benefits are front page news. Evidence-based veterinary medicine is paramount, and the laws and regulations are moving very fast in this arena. By the time this article is published, I expect there will be more changes. Know what you are getting into and speak to your veterinarian.
CBD and Dogs
Shortly after Kylee Ryan adopted her six-month-old puppy, Rollo, the Blue Heeler/Pit Bull/Lab cross started showing signs that something wasn’t right.
“He was an extremely nervous dog,” says Kylee, who lives in Jade City, British Columbia. “He would pee if a male human was around or close to him. He also started having ‘episodes’ where he would rock back and forth and he would try his hardest to sit still. He would try to lay down but you could see he was struggling. The second he entered this state, he became even more skittish. The longest episode lasted four hours and he was dribbling urine the entire time.
Later, Kylee would find out that Rollo was having seizures, and was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy, meaning the episodes arise spontaneously or for unknown reasons.
“We felt so helpless, as Rollo was obviously very scared when he had seizures,” she says. “He was getting them two to three times a week. We had just rescued this guy and it terrified us to see him this way.”
The vet wanted them to try phenobarbital, but “warned us the drug would basically make him a different dog,” Kylee says. “Although his seizures would go away, he would be more lethargic and anxious.”
Her Husky, Blu, was already taking cannabidiol, a cannabis compound derived from hemp—unlike THC, it’s non-psychoactive, meaning it won’t get you or your pet high—to help with his weight loss, vomiting, and poor appetite. She decided to try it with Rollo. Within a week, his seizures were gone, and his anxiety had improved.
Kylee is just one of the many pet owners out there turning to cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, to treat their dogs’ ailments.
The acronym is getting better known, but misinformation is still out there. “Sure, it’s controversial, but unfairly so,” says Dr. Patty Khuly, a companion animal veterinarian at the Sunset Animal Clinic in Miami, Florida and a pet health writer. “It’s only because of marijuana’s reputation as an illicit drug and the fact that this product happens to be derivable from the marijuana family of plants. The reality is that if this product came from any other plant family, it wouldn’t be controversial at all.”
Dogs are highly sensitive to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the principal psychoactive component of marijuana, but CBD is derived from hemp and is non-psychoactive. It’s a natural product—its value is in its ability to offer relief from anxiety and seizures for patients like Rollo, as well as treat pain and inflammatory diseases, including arthritis and bowel diseases; depression, stress, poor appetite, tumours and cancers, allergies, and nausea.
“The THC gets you high and is toxic to dogs. The CBD does not get you high and is perfectly safe,” says Dr. Khuly, whose blog, drpattykhuly.com, has won accolades from the veterinary community as one of the Ten Best Blogs in Pet Health by Fox News. She’s been voted one of the 25 People to Watch by Pet Product News, has won the Veterinary News Network’s Rising Star Award, and was selected by Veterinary Practice News as one of 13 Veterinarians to Watch in 2013. “In fact, we’ve learned that most of the effects of these plants aren’t related to the high at all. A sense of well-being, relaxation and some anti-inflammatory effects are some of the CBD molecule’s effects on the body. These have nothing to do with the high we associate with marijuana.”
Hemp derivatives, including CBD, have been used in dogs for as long as they have in humans, says Dr. Khuly. “Hemp supplements for dogs, but not the purified CBD molecule, have been available for decades. Now that we have a better understanding of how the CBD molecule works on the body, it’s being made available as a single-ingredient product.”
And according to Dr. Khuly, CBD oils, tinctures, and treats are here to stay. “For comparison, its efficacy has already been shown to surpass that of our ubiquitous joint supplements (containing glucosamine and chondroitin, among other additives), which means it’s no mere fad,” she says.
Grits, a deaf and vision-impaired male terrier mix with severe anxiety and behaviour issues, is another dog who benefits from CBD. The shelter dog was likely headed towards euthanasia when he met Megan Masters through an animal rehabilitation program.
“His anxiety was the worst I’ve ever seen,” says Megan, a trainer who specializes in deaf dogs. “Grits has a severe case of anxiety and barrier frustration. He can’t be left alone. He can break out of crates and injure himself.”
She did the only thing she thought she could do—she brought the rescue dog home.
“I couldn’t stand the thought of him being euthanized because someone didn’t train him properly, communicate with him in a way he understood, get the proper medical intervention for him in a timely manner, and let his condition spiral out of control,” she says. “On the other hand, his condition has made me a more patient and empathic person.”
Although he is on the prescription medication Clomicalm, which already helps him quite a bit, Grits’ condition “makes me feel overwhelmed, alone, alienated, and like a failure,” says the Huntersville, North Carolina dog trainer. “I know how to train dogs, but this is beyond anything I have experienced.”
Determined to help, Megan tried three kinds of CBD oil before she found one—Colorado-grown Suzie’s CBD—that worked for her dog.
“Everything you read makes it seem like a miracle cure for everything. It doesn’t cure him or make him not have anxiety. It takes the edge off and decreases the severity of his symptoms,” she says, noting that she saw immediate improvement with the right oil.
Lily’s owners also saw her amazing recovery from being unable to walk to being fully mobile again within two months—something they credit to CBD. The 10-year-old Pug was diagnosed with a form of intervertebral disc disease in March 2018. When a complication made surgery out of the question, Lily’s owners, Tiffany and Jeff West of Tacoma, Washington, helplessly watched as their dog deteriorated.
“To get around the house and the backyard, she would drag herself with her front legs to get from point A to point B,” Tiffany says. “Stairs are completely out of the question and her days of sleeping with us on the bed were over. We were also expressing her for poop and pee which she was not happy about at all… We were also incredibly sad that our daily routines were changing.”
Lily was prescribed medication for her pain and inflammation, but the Wests were reluctant to keep pumping chemicals into her body. “If she lives for another five years, that would be five years of constant chemical medication and I didn’t see that as a good option for her,” Tiffany says. “They were keeping her comfortable, which was important, but we wanted her to walk again.”
Tiffany had read numerous articles about CBD oil, and, cautiously optimistic, the Wests did their research. They gave themselves a six-month timeline to see results before ordering a wheelchair for Lily, but changes happened quickly. Within one month, they saw improvement, and two months later, Lily was fully mobile. “She is a little wobbly, especially on the hard floors, but she has no problem keeping up with her little sister (also a Pug). Considering where she was before we started CBD, we consider it a huge win. She pees on her own so no more expressing her bladder, which is great for us and for her,” says Tiffany.
Sweets, a toy Poodle mix, also has physical conditions that CBD has helped.
Diagnosed with arthritis at only four years old, she also suffers from Cushing’s Disease and a heart murmur that causes the now 11-year-old dog to be restless.
“Some days, (the arthritis) would be so painful, she would become aggressive,” says her owner, Casey Painter of Grand Haven, Michigan. “She would not allow us to pick her up. If we tried, she would nip at us. She also became very stiff and struggled to jump at all. This was very hard to watch her be in that much discomfort. We never felt upset with her for lashing out at us. We were just concerned and wanted her to get relief,” says Casey.
Sweets had been prescribed Meloxicam for pain and Alpraxolam for anxiety, both worked, but had negative side effects—and had undergone laser therapy. Like Lily’s owners, Casey and his wife wanted a treatment that was both natural and safe. They found CBD was effective for Sweets’ arthritis, restlessness, and anxiety. She wasn’t as stiff, her muscles felt more relaxed, and she slept more soundly.
With all the positive outcomes being reported, many pet owners are still hesitant to try CBD. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and it doesn’t help that many veterinarians, like Kylee’s and Megan’s, are hesitant when pet owners broach the subject. Dr. Khuly agrees. “Most veterinarians are not yet on board with CBD,” she says. She adds that “while it’s a popular topic,” “veterinarians continue to be more concerned with the product’s legality than with its potential medical uses.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that there are no adverse health effects from use of CBD for canines. You’re also safe from legal issues: both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana and marijuana-derived products like CBD are legal in Canada, and as of December 2018, with the passing of the Farm Bill, it is federally legal both to possess and use hemp and its derivatives (including CBD) in the United States as well. The Senate passed the bill 87-13 on Dec. 11, and it was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018. CBD still isn’t FDA approved which limits its production and distribution, but there is no longer the possibility of federal criminal charges for the possession or use of CBD.
Even before that, Dr. Khuly says she’s never heard of any law enforcement action against any veterinarian or pet owner for using CBD.
For the growing number of pet owners for whom CBD has benefited, doing their own research has been worth it.
“A year ago, we thought Lily would never walk again,” says Tiffany. “CBD oil gave Lily her legs back. She’s a normal 10-year-old Pug with normal 10-year-old Pug issues, but she can walk and her quality of life is so much better than we ever expected, given her condition.”
Rollo, too, is enjoying a better life. Now three years old, he has been seizure-free for two years. “We still have to be wary of his epilepsy as loud noises, commotion and lots of people can trigger it,” says Kylee, who also has a CBD prescription to treat her own anxiety, loss of appetite, and insomnia.
Plenty of humans are using CBD, and as New York University School of Medicine assistant professor Dr. Esther Blessing told The New York Times in an interview for an article titled, ‘Why Is CBD Everywhere?’ October 2018, “CBD is the most promising drug that has come out for neuropsychiatric diseases in the last 50 years,” she stated. “The reason it is so promising is that it has a unique combination of safety and effectiveness across a very broad range of conditions.”
That’s what Kylee has found for herself and Rollo. “CBD has allowed him to come out of his shell and be a normal dog. CBD has not only changed my life, but my two dogs’ (lives) as well. I am so thankful for this medicine and the ability it gives me to enjoy more adventures with my dogs.”
Want to Give CBD a Try?
These CBD products are designed especially for dogs.