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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

An intro to CBD

by Katie McKay | Nov 01, 2020

Cannabidiol (CBD) is part of a family of more than 100 chemical compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. These cannabinoids interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system and helps the body maintain a stable equilibrium. The cannabis industry is booming expected to reach $125 million by the year 20224. CBD pet care products are emerging as possible treatments for pain, anxiety and seizure disorders, just like in people. The real experts are those that have been studying practitioners, actually using the products in patients extensively and keeping up with the current research and/or participating in clinical trials. Unfortunately more and more self-proclaimed experts are jumping on the bandwagon after reading a few papers and then making claims to an unknowing audience. If you are interested in these types of treatment options for your pets, it is important we distinguish the two and here are some great questions to ask.

  1. Who? Yep, pretty simple. Is this person someone who could gain anything, especially financially by “selling” you on this product? Obviously if I have a financial interest, I am very biased about which product to sell to you. If my talk or lecture is sponsored by a specific company or manufacturer, guess what, I’m probably also pretty biased. The catch here is that if I can fully support my information with references and show data or studies that support the conclusions I’m making, then my information is much more trustworthy.
  2. What are we talking about?To be clear, there is a stark difference between marijuana and hemp or hemp plants. For those of you living under a rock, marijuana is illegal in most states. Any recommendation by your veterinarian to use it would obviously be a red flag….just in case that needed to be said. Marijuana contains CBD (the active ingredient in cannabis derived from the hemp plant) and THC (the main psychoactive compound). THC is highly toxic to our pets, which means that an accidental ingestion or misinformation about what a product contains can be a fatal mistake.
  3. Do credentials matter? Fun fact, specialty courses and certifications are now offered at many colleges and universities related to the topic of cannabis. This was not the case until recently. Certainly someone with a more detailed knowledge of how these products work and how they are processed by the body is a safer option, however someone with in-depth information based on lots of practical experience but without certification can be just as knowledgeable.

    In that same token, advice taken from someone with certification but no practical experience should be taken with a grain of salt.

  4. Research matters! Ask for it. At this point, it’s pretty unfair to say something like “we don’t have any research” or “that hasn’t been tested in companion animals”. I challenge you to name one medication or supplement and find evidence that says it was given for exactly the same species and indication. I trust someone more who can also explain what they don’t know because that information is just as important.
  5. Details matter, ask lots of questions about the information you are provided. Many non-traditional products on the market come from plants so it is fair to say that you won’t have 100% consistency with each and every product. Findings from both the FDA and independent researchers show that some CBD products labeled for pets had absolutely no CBD at all. That’s some pretty convincing data. Many over the counter products have uncertain ingredients and poor quality control and with those caveats, we may not see the real benefits. Studies are needed to demonstrate further safety and quality of the products available.

After reading all this, you can see why the approach from most veterinarians is conservative on this topic. There are many safety and legal issues that contribute to this topic, and let’s not forget that they are there to provide safe and effective options for your pets as their number one priority. With that in mind, you can absolutely have a considerate discussion about these types of treatment options with them and understand that they may not recommend them.

Now that we are through the formalities, I do want to provide with some good news updates on some promising data about CBD in pets. In 2018 a published veterinary clinical trial of a cannabis-based treatment showed promising results for the treatment of arthritis in dogs1. The study was conducted at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine using a commercial cannabis-based product in olive oil. I’ll pause for a moment here to say that cannabis-based products contain low levels of THC (the hallucinogenic portion of marijuana) and other studies have shown that oil formulations are better absorbed, these details important when considering using CBD products. They come in many, many forms. Now back to our trial…. The study evaluated the dogs for pain levels, lameness and weight-bearing ability. Veterinarians assessed dogs given the CBD product vs placebo (control group).

Since this article, another has been published and the results strengthen the case for CBD for arthritis.2

Two trials certainly are not the end all, be all, but this is what we want to see when evaluating potential therapies for our pets. When evaluating these results, it is reasonable to consider oral CBD for dogs with arthritis but with caveats;

  1. Pets are not able to lose weight to improve their status and NSAIDs do not work or have already been attempted.
  2. You are using a product with similar formulation and quality control.
  3. You and your veterinarian are closely monitoring your pet for side effects and potential interactions with other meds.
  4. This data is not extrapolated to other conditions. For example, the data on the use of CBD for epilepsy in dogs is not as promising.

An option but limited. For now, there is stronger evidence for the benefits of NSAIDs and this is still a first line treatment for arthritis along with weight management. The good news for CBD is that its growing pretty quickly. Good science means that someone else can replicate your experiment and get the same or similar results. We aren’t there yet, but we are definitely headed in the right direction.

You can see there is a lot more to unpack with this topic. Tune in next month when we discuss the direct research associated with the different types of products available, like treats, oils, and creams and why one might be better than another. We will also talk about how to use this information to read labels and the potential side effects and interactions and what to look for in case your dog has a problem with a particular product. In the meantime, don’t share your special brownies with the dog.



1. Verrico CD, Wesson S, Konduri V, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of daily cannabidiol for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis pain [published online ahead of print, 2020 Apr 24]. Pain. 2020;10.1097

2. Gamble L-J, Boesch JM, Frye CW, Schwark WS, Mann S, Wolfe L, Brown H, Berthelsen ES and Wakshlag JJ (2018) Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Front. Vet. Sci. 5:165. : 10.3389/fvets.2018.00165
Cital, Stephen RVT, “Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine: The new “Wild West”. Vetted, Vol 115 No.9 September 2020.
Kosecki, Danielle “Is CBD Safe For Your Pets?”. Cnet Health and Wellness. September 13, 2019.

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