Is CBD Oil Safe For Pocket Pets?

white and gray hamster eating a snack

It’s difficult to see your companion in pain, no matter how small they are. While CBD oil has shown promising effects in larger pets, like dogs and cats, whether it should be used on pocket pets is still largely a question mark. We may not be able to give you a direct yes or no answer to that question, but we hope that by providing all that is known about CBD oil and pets, you’ll be able to come to your own conclusion. Whatever you do, try to consult with your vet before beginning any treatment, although depending on the laws in your particular state, they may be restricted from giving advice on that particular topic.

What is CBD Oil?

Because of its association with the cannabis plant, the most common misconception about CBD oil is that it will get your pet high. In fact, cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of many compounds found in cannabis and is entirely separate from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is a compound that contains psychoactive properties and causes the sensation of being high. CBD, on the other hand, carries many of the medicinal properties associated with cannabis and can actually mitigate the effects of THC.

Hemp and Marijuana Leaves with THC to CBD Comparison
Hemp and marijuana look very similar because they are simply two different varieties of Cannabis sativa. Image courtesy of Lindgren Functional Medicine.

The reason it’s important to make a distinction between the two is because CBD oil is extracted from hemp, which means that it always contains less than 0.3% THC. This also means that it’s legal everywhere, under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which states that all hemp and hemp-derived products that contain less than 0.3% THC are fully legal. However, because hemp and cannabis are so closely related — they aren’t even different species, just two different strains of Cannabis sativa — it is also possible to make CBD oil that contains less than 0.3% THC from the marijuana plant, but this is still considered a controlled substance. You don’t really have to worry about this, as all above-board sellers are peddling hemp-derived products and there’s really no incentive to sell marijuana-derived CBD oil — they’re the same product, one just may be illegal, depending where you live.

How Does CBD Oil Work?

All right, let’s get ready for some science! CBD oil interacts with endocannabinoid system, which is the same across all mammals, meaning that it will have an effect even on your tiny mammal friends. The endocannabinoid system plays a huge role in the body, controlling mood, pain, sensations, metabolism, stress, energy, and more. 

Let’s look a little closer at this important system, and how CBD fits into it. There are two main categories within this system: endocannabinoids, which carry messages through the body, and receptors, which receive these messages and carry out their instructions, causing an effect on the body. The CB1 receptors control mood, memory, motor function, and sensations from their position in the brain, and their counterparts, the CB2 receptors, respond to pathogens and regulate inflammation from the immune system. 

Clip Art of How CBD is Delivered to the Body
CBD exerts control over the system indirectly by binding to receptors and making it impossible for some messages to be delivered. Image courtesy of Foria Wellness

CBD actually doesn’t fit into either of these categories. It’s a phytocannabinoid, which means that its role in the system is a little more complicated than just being a messenger or a receptor.  Though it carries out a multitude of direct and indirect modulations, the two most common ways it exerts influence over the endocannabinoid system is through inhibition and destroying enzymes — perfect examples of both negative and positive feedback, which you may remember from any biology class.

CBD has the ability to modify the shape of certain receptors so that the endocannabinoid messenger no longer fits, and its message is never translated into action by the receptor. For example, by modifying the shape of THC receptors, CBD can reduce some of the more negative effects of THC, like anxiety or short term memory impairment. Because your body naturally produces most of its own endocannabinoids, CBD can be a good solution for people whose bodies are producing too many of a certain endocannabinoid. This is why CBD can be an effective treatment for symptoms of an overactive immune system, like allergies, asthma, or autoimmune disorders. 

The endocannabinoid system, like most other systems, is partially regulated by enzymes, which destroy endocannabinoids after they successfully deliver their message to a receptor. CBD has the ability to destroy certain enzymes, which allows feel-good endocannabinoids, like anandamide or 2-AG, to stick around and continue to exert their positive influence on your body.

TL;DR: The production of endocannabinoids can sometimes be thrown out of whack, whether that be because of stress, diet, exercise, or disease, and one of the ways to bring it back into balance is through the introduction of CBD into the system. While this theory holds true for all mammals, and even some other animals, putting it into practice safely is another matter entirely.

Mouse Being Held in Hands
If your pocket pet suffers from anxiety or a particular phobia, CBD oil may be able to help her relax.

What Are The Benefits Of CBD Oil for small pets?

It may be easy to mistake CBD oil as a miraculous cure-all because of the large variety of roles it can play within the endocannabinoid system, but in fact it mostly just works to lessen the unpleasant side effects of many ailments instead of eliminating them altogether. That being said, it may be able to make your furry friend more comfortable in many situations, including the following: 

  • Allergies
  • Lack of appetite
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Anxiety
  • Inflammation
  • Seizures
  • Obesity
  • Chronic pain
  • Diabetes

What Are The Side Effects And Risks Of CBD Oil For Pocket Pets?

Is CBD oil really safe for pocket pets? The simple answer is: we don’t know. Because of the lack of research on CBD oil, especially as it relates to smaller animals, there is no way of telling whether the product will harm or help your animal in the long run. The decision is really up to you.

CBD Dropper Bottle Held in Hands
Because of the tiny nature of pocket pets, it can be easy for them to overdose on CBD oil. Image courtesy of PopSugar

With that being said, the largest known risk, especially for pocket pets, is overdosing. This can lead to THC toxicity, essentially causing your little friend to be high for a few days at the most. While this very likely won’t be fatal, it will be uncomfortable for your pet, and she may have trouble eating or even standing for its duration. If you suspect that your pet is experiencing THC toxicity, take her to the vet ASAP. Overdosing is an especially common risk when using CBD oil because the market for CBD products derived from hemp is completely unregulated by the FDA, meaning that you can never be sure of the contents of CBD products.

Lethargy and gastrointestinal upset are both possible side effects of CBD oil, as well as the possibility of an allergic reaction. All of these can be stopped by discontinuing the treatment, and if you notice any changes in your pet’s health as a result of the treatment, be sure to visit your vet. That’s not to say that your pet will necessarily experience any negative side effects, as all animals are different. To be sure that your pet has no adverse reactions, start her out on teeny tiny dosages, and work your way up from there. Please keep in mind, however, that the long-term effects of this medication has not been studied, so it may have other unknown long-term side effects.

White Mouse Chewing on a Snack
One of the easiest ways to give your pocket pet CBD oil is by adding it to their food.

How Do I Give My Pocket Pet CBD Oil?

Though the market is exploding with CBD treats for cats and dogs, similar products for pocket pets are conspicuously absent. If you’ve decided to treat your pet with CBD, you’ll have to stick to either the original tincture or capsules. Capsules may be more difficult to convince your pet to consume, and they contain a set dosage that may often be too large for your little guy. Tincture would seem to be the ideal alternative, as it can be mixed into food or dropped onto treats, and each drop contains a predetermined amount of CBD, making it easy to dose. 

Speaking of dosage, the general rule is that the dose should be between 0.05 mg and 0.25 mg per pound of bodyweight, given twice every day. Make sure to start on the lower end of the spectrum, perhaps even with a dosage that’s less than 0.05 mg per pound, then very slowly work your way up if you observe no negative effects. If you’re going to give your pet CBD oil mixed into their food, make sure that they eat the entire dish, though the only ill effect of an under dosage is that nothing happens. Every brand will have a different mg per drop, so double check the dosage on the label and do your math carefully to avoid overdose. 

If you decide to use CBD oil as a treatment for your pocket pet, the lack of research or even anecdotal evidence means that your taking a risk. However, if the treatment proves to make your pet more comfortable, as it may well do considering the science behind the inner workings of CBD, that risk could be worth it. Ultimately, the power is in your hands.

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