This 2019, experts estimate that U.S. pet owners will spend a whopping $75.38 billion on their pets. Of that amount, over $34.12 will go towards vet care, over-the-counter medicine, and supplies.
To non-pet-owners, this may come as a surprise. But for many of the 85 million U.S. families who share their homes with a pet, this kind of spending has become the norm.
So, it’s no wonder that those who call themselves “furparents” get into a tizzy when their pets get sick. It’s also no wonder they’re willing to try CBD oil for cats and dogs, which seem to be beneficial to animals and humans.
But is it, really? What kind of benefits are we talking about and are their studies that back these claims up?
We’ll separate anecdote from facts in this ultimate guide to CBD for pets, so be sure to keep reading!
To better understand the potential benefits of CBD oil for dogs and cats, let’s first talk about what CBD is.
CBD stands for “cannabidiol” and it’s one of the 60+ cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are chemicals that interact with the mammalian endocannabinoid system.
Mammals, including humans and animals, produce cannabinoids through the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Endocannabinoids are those produced by mammals. Whereas phytocannabinoids are those produced by plants, particularly by the cannabis plant.
The ECS is one of the mammalian body’s internal messaging centers. It acts as a “regulatory board” for signals about biological and physiological processes. These signals affect pain, sleep, appetite, and immune functions to name a few.
Within the ECS are cannabinoid receptors (CB), and there are two known at the moment: CB1 and CB2. Cannabinoids, like CBD, interact with these receptors, triggering a response from the ECS. This response depends on what cannabinoid binds to which cannabinoid receptor.
CBD doesn’t have a direct effect on the ECS. It instead blocks or activates other compounds present in the ECS.
For instance, it seems to disrupt the nerve pathways that pain signals use to get to the brain. This appears to be one of the ways that CBD can relieve pain.
There are two main plant sources of CBD: marijuana and hemp. Marijuana can either be from the species of cannabis indica or cannabis sativa. Hemp only comes from the cannabis sativa species.
Marijuana-derived CBD products, as beneficial as it may be to humans, can still contain THC. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s the compound that gives marijuana users that well-known “high”.
THC may have therapeutic effects on humans, but it’s toxic to dogs and cats in even the smallest amounts.
Whereas pure CBD, in minor doses, doesn’t cause toxicity. It can, however, result in some minor side effects and interact with other medications.
Note that for human use, the allowable (AKA legal) THC content in CBD products is less than 0.3%. Any higher than that, and your CBD oil is already illegal and it can already make you feel high. In animals, this low THC content can already cause symptoms of poisoning.
From seizures to pain to nausea, more and more anecdotal evidence is coming out in regards to CBD for pets. But what do scientific and clinical studies have to say about CBD oil for dogs and cats?
Let’s take a look at some of them.
Idiopathic epilepsy is the leading cause of dog seizures, but up to now, its cause is still a mystery. What’s more, up to 5.7% of dogs all over the world suffer from it. It also affects cats, although it’s more common in dogs.
In humans, CBD has shown effectiveness in managing epileptic seizures. It appears to do so by reducing the effects of seizures on the endocannabinoid system.
In dogs with epilepsy, one study found that CBD reduced seizure frequency in 89% of the patients. Granted, there were only nine dogs treated with CBD. Still, those initial findings are promising.
Studies using CBD to treat seizures in cats are yet to come. Do a quick Google search though, and you’ll find anecdotal information from cat owners. Some say that CBD helped reduce their feline’s seizures.
Arthritis is common in animals too, with about one in five dogs and one in three cats suffering from it. And like in humans, it’s painful for canines and felines too. They have it worse though, as many of them end up suffering in silence.
Most studies on CBD for arthritis involved rat models. Many of these studies found that CBD can help reduce arthritis pain and inflammation. Cannabidiol, after all, has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Because of this, many furparents have turned to pet CBD oil for their arthritic cats and dogs.
So far, there’s only one recent CBD study done on dogs with osteoarthritis. It found that CBD “can help increase comfort and activity” in osteoarthritic dogs. According to the researchers, the effective dosage is 2 mg of CBD per one kilogram (dog’s weight) given twice a day.
CBD is also purported for its anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects in humans. So, it’s no wonder pet owners are also touting CBD’s anxiety-relieving effects on cats and dogs.
You’ll also read or hear about pet owners using CBD to help ease nausea and vomiting in their furred pals. Some are also using it as an appetite stimulant for their four-legged family members.
Keep in mind that these are from personal accounts of pet owners and not formal studies.
If your catto or doggo is taking any traditional medication, don’t give them CBD right away. Ring up your vet fist to ask for any potential drug interactions.
Previous research found that CBD has a strong inhibiting effect on CYP450 enzymes. In humans, this means that taking CBD while on another drug can hinder these enzymes’ action. As a result, more of the medication gets into and stays in a person’s system.
Even if your pet isn’t taking any medicine, it’s still a good idea to reach out to your vet. These animal experts can give you more advice specific to your pet’s health.
If you decide to give your pet CBD oil, start with a small dose of 2 mg first, and administer it twice a day. It’s best to err on the side of caution and test for any potential reaction first.
From there, you can increase the dose to 2 mg per kilogram, twice a day. This was the CBD dosage for dogs used in the previously-mentioned study. You can follow the same guidelines for CBD oil dosage for cats.
Lack of information about CBD’s side effects on dogs and cats is also due to the lack of studies done on them. However, this doesn’t automatically mean CBD for pets won’t have side effects. It may trigger some reactions like the side effects that humans experience.
One of these is dry mouth, as CBD can limit saliva production. In dogs and cats, this may show up as being thirstier than usual.
Another potential side effect is slight drowsiness in your pet. This may result from the calming effects of CBD.
That said, be extra careful when administering CBD to your pets. If dry mouth occurs, be sure your cat or dog has more supply of water.
The first thing to look for when buying CBD oil for your pets is the plant source. It’s best to stick to hemp-sourced CBD, as this reduces the likelihood of the product containing THC.
Here are a few other qualities you should pay attention to when shopping for CBD pet products.
Choose a CBD product that clearly states it follows “Good Manufacturing Practices”. Reputable pet CBD brands also have a National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal.
These acronyms indicate that the product contains safe ingredients. They also mean that the CBD oil came from a clean and sanitary manufacturing facility.
Like chocolate, grapeseed oil can also be toxic to animals and not to humans. CBD products for humans can contain this type of oil though.
Xylitol, a sugar substitute, can also be in CBD products manufactured for humans. In animals though, this sugar alternative can cause low blood sugar and seizures. It can even lead to liver failure and if unaddressed, death in animals, particularly dogs.
That said, be sure to confirm that all labeled ingredients are safe for dogs or cats.
Make sure that the CBD products you’ll buy have gone through independent testing. Lab tests results will tell you how much CBD and THC the product contains. It’ll also confirm what the rest of the CBD oil’s ingredients are.
There’s no denying CBD’s potential as a treatment for both human and animal ailments. Also, we need to consider that most cannabidiol studies involved animals. So, it might just turn out that CBD oil for cats and dogs can be more effective on them than us!
Of course, we need more studies that are specific to cats and dogs to further prove CBD’s healing power. But if you want to try it now on your sick, furred pal, be sure to check in with the vet first. And remember to follow the dosing guidelines to a T so you can reduce your pet’s risk of side effects!
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