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There has been a recent surge in the awareness and use of CBD, short for cannibinol, in health, nutrition and alternative therapies for people, but how does that relate to our pet companions? Dogs and cats share with their human parents a series of naturally occurring receptors that run throughout their bodies called the endocannaboid system. This system responds to naturally produced internal cannaboid messengers. Our pets have these receptors, CB-1 in the brain affecting the central nervous system and CB-2 receptors in the body helping the immune system. Reports show that dogs may have up to be ten times more of these receptors embedded in cell membranes compared to their human caretakers.
Phytocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in hemp (rope and fabric) from Cannabis sativa, or Marijuana plant. CBD is one of over 113 cannabinoids identified in cannabis. CBD has an affinity for the natural receptors and can stimulate effects by competitively binding to receptors over the natural messengers, There is much we don’t know about CBD due mainly to a lack of research because of federal classification as a Class I controlled substance (akin to Heroin.) However there is a wide range of potential medical benefits used to treat pain associated with arthritis, back pain, stress, anxiety, nausea, seizures and gastrointestinal problems and even cancer. Pet parents often report good success with treatment. Clinically, reports show CBD to be extremely safe with little side effects especially the “high” or psychogenic effect of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC sought out in recreational marijuana use. CBD wears off as it is metabolized by the pet’s liver and excreted in the bile, urine or stored in the pets body fat.
CBD is typically administered orally to pets as an extracted oil or in combination with nutritional supplements, other medications or traditional treatments. Topical application is reported to provide improvement with joint pain, chronic arthritis and some anxiety. You can find many forms available from pet stores, dispensaries and some veterinary clinics. But not all products are the same and since it is not FDA approved often the potency can vary, with some CBD marketed products containing little if any of the cannaboid when tested.
Making matters worse is how to accurately dose your pet to get the potential benefits. Since very little clinical research has been conducted the evidence is based on personal trail and anecdotal reporting. It is advisable to follow the package label on over the counter products or dose cautiously with concentrated extracts. Without study, veterinarians can’t accurately say how much to administer or how to predict effects after administration. There are clear cases of toxicity in pets getting overdosed especially with THC compounds and often side effects from related substances in edible preparations like chocolate and raisins. Recently, more CBD extracts are being produced and tested for potency which may have more predictable effects in an individual pet although dosage is still difficult and often based on response to therapy. Also, some CBD extraction can use inexpensive chemicals such as hexane or butane that can leave toxic residue so do your research and source safe products from a reputable supplier. Pet parents seeking alternatives to traditional medication or that need additional options for symptom relief should consult with their veterinarian for recommendations on how to best treat their individual pet.
There can be a place for CBD in treating various symptoms in your pets but it is not a cure all for conditions. Keep a journal and log your pet’s behavior and symptoms several days before and after administration to help monitor whether there is a positive effect and watch for any adverse signs of lightheadedness, stumbling or dizzy behavior, lethargy or low blood pressure.
Be sure to inform your veterinarian if you are giving CBD therapies as this may change treatment plans and medical decisions including dosing of other medications.