Everything You Need to Know About CBD Oil for Pets

cannabis plant leaves

Marijuana use is quite a hot button issue at the moment, although the use of the plant for medical purposes is generally becoming more accepted and widespread. 10 states and the District of Columbia have now fully legalized marijuana use, both recreational and medicinal. On the other hand, it’s still fully illegal in 12 states, while the other 28 states have mixed laws — many allow medicinal use, though some only allow use of CBD oil. However, when you bring pets into the mix, everything becomes even more complicated. To help you avoid misinformation and provide the best healthcare possible to your pets, we’ll be going over:

  • What CBD oil is
  • The legality of using it for pets
  • CBD oil benefits
  • Possible side effects and risks of using CBD
  • How CBD oil is used
  • How to find good CBD pet products
a glass jar of CBD oil with hemp leaves
CBD Oil is a substance derived from hemp, meaning that it has no psychoactive properties. Image courtesy of Healthline.

What is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, oil is the medical component of the cannabis plant that can be extracted and used to treat various ailments. This substance is actually extracted from hemp, which is a variety of cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC content. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive component that gives marijuana users euphoric effects. This means that it would be impossible for your furry friend to get high on CBD oil, but they would still experience any positive medicinal effects. 

slips of paper that read "illegal" and "legal"
The legality of cannabis is complicated — some varieties are highly regulated, while others aren’t

The Legality of CBD Oil for Pets

The bad news is that medical marijuana laws don’t really apply to pets. The good news is that unlike marijuana, hemp and hemp-derived products that contain less than 0.3% THC are fully legal under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. Confusingly, CBD oil that contains less than 0.3% THC can also be derived from marijuana, but that CBD is still considered a controlled substance under the oversight of the Food and Drug Administration. In this case, it’s just easier to make sure that your CBD oil is derived from hemp. 

However, just because the substance is legal doesn’t mean that you should use it. Many vets warn against CBD oil products because they are considered to be supplements, and therefore are not tested and regulated like other medicines. Without regulation and further study, some of these products may contain varying levels of active ingredients that could harm your furry friend more than helping. However, while scientific study on this subject is sparse, there are many anecdotes that claim the healing power of hemp-derived CBD oil for pets. So, if you listen to these stories and decide to proceed, just do so with caution. 

a sad dog
If your pup is in pain, CBD oil may be able to help

CBD Oil Benefits for Pets

Cannabis provides benefits mainly by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which is the same in humans as it is in all mammals. This system contains two main types of receptors: CB1 receptors, located in the brain, nervous system, glands, and organs, and CB2 receptors, located in the cells of the immune system. The endocannabinoid system typically keeps the body in homeostasis, as well as controlling inflammation, but when the body can’t produce enough of its own natural endocannabinoid substances, CBD oil can be used as a supplement to bring the body back into balance.

This system is very important within the body, which is why CBD oil is said to be able to treat so many ailments, including any pain or inflammation, arthritis, anxiety, stress, seizures, nausea, cancer symptoms, skin conditions, allergies, and gastrointestinal issues. It basically just ensures that your pet’s body is working as efficiently and harmoniously as possible. 

Possible Side Effects and Risks

Those benefits are all very well and good, but CBD does also carry some side effects and risks, although they are actually quite minor. There has been very little research done about the long-term effects of CBD use, especially on pets, and even short-term side effects are not well known. For that reason, we have to extrapolate a bit and assume that CBD oil has similar side effects for pets as it does for humans. Those are:

  • Low blood pressure - this drop in blood pressure is small and temporary, if it occurs at all, and may cause a moment of lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth - your pet may also produce less saliva when being treated with CBD, which will just make them extra thirsty
  • Drowsiness - CBD is known to be a relaxing substance, and higher doses can cause slight lethargy

The only well-known risk of treating your pet with CBD oil is an overdose, which can cause THC toxicity — basically, your pet gets high, which in the worst case scenario, can last for a few days. This may not sound too bad, but actually THC toxicity can keep your pet from eating or even standing. If you think that your pet may have overdosed, you should bring them to your vet immediately. In rare cases, your pet’s life may be threatened by an extreme overdose. 

While CBD oil itself usually doesn’t pose a huge risk, the market may contain many unreliable products since the substance is not approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. In addition, little to no scientific research has been done concerning the safety of administering CBD oil to pets, so many of the risks may remain unknown. Your pet may have an allergic reaction to CBD oil, which is a risk that comes with any medicine. For all of these reasons, ask your vet before administering any substance, and even if your vet approves, start out with small dosages. 

cat eating food
CBD oil is usually administered orally, and an easy way to do that is to add it to your pet’s food.

How is CBD Oil Used?

CBD oil is very easy to give to your pet, which may be one reason that it’s often mischaracterized as a supplement. Some CBD treatments are topical, and can be rubbed into any bare skin, but most are meant to be eaten by your pet. You can achieve this by dropping the extract directly into your pet’s mouth, putting the oil in food or on treats, or dropping it directly on your furry friend’s paw so that they’ll lick it off. Certain treats already contain CBD, and it can be found in capsule form as well. 

Giving CBD to your pet may be easy, but the difficult part is figuring out the dosage that will allow your pet to experience the health benefits without the risk of overdosing. The good news is that CBD can be administered alongside other medicines, as it has no known negative interactions with other drugs. However, there is little to no information about how much CBD oil is necessary for an effective treatment, and many CBD products actually contain very little of the active ingredient. 

The best course of action when trying to decide on a dosage for your pet is to talk to a vet with experience. There are many factors that can make a difference in dosage, including your pet’s weight, the amount of CBD in your product, and what ailment you’re using it to treat. Typically, less is required for therapeutic uses, like anxiety or inflammation, while a higher dose may be used for medicinal uses, like cancer or epilepsy. This means that your dosage plan should really be specific to your animal and their needs.

How to Find Good CBD Pet Products

When you ask your vet about dosage, you should also ask about reputable manufacturers of CBD oil. But, if all else fails and you end up shopping on your own, there are a few signs for which you can be on the watch to ensure that you get high-quality CBD oil.

  • Independent lab results - even though the FDA hasn’t studied all the CBD oil products out there, many companies still do their own research and can verify the ingredients in their product with independent lab results
  • Go organic - organic CBD oil will not contain any pesticides, fungicides, or other additives that can be detrimental to your pet’s health
  • Look for an analysis - the vendor should be able to tell you exactly how much CBD is in the product, as well as THC (which should be very little)
  • Don’t be afraid to splurge - high-quality CBD products are more costly, but they’re also less likely to hurt your pet

CBD oil may be a great product for easing pain and keeping your animal healthy, but it shouldn’t be treated as a supplement and it’s certainly not a cure-all. The biggest risk comes from the lack of scientifically-backed information about it and the largely unregulated marketplace, so if you decide to move forward with a CBD treatment, use caution and listen to your vet. Hopefully, all will go well and CBD oil will be able to ease your pet’s suffering. 

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