Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

CBD--part 2 Don't Share your Brownies

by Katie McKay | Nov 29, 2020

Welcome back for part two of our discussion on CBD products for our pets. Last time we discussed the wild, wild west of CBD and what makes it so hard to find good sound research that shows a benefit to using these products. Science is great, Katie but we still want to try it out and see what happens….my dog is out of other options.

I support your education! Here we go.

There are conditions where there is moderate to better evidence for the benefits of CBD in humans. For example, nausea and vomiting in cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy can be treated with oral cannabinoids and chronic pain patients have experienced a reduction in pain symptoms.  These are certainly relevant to our animal counterparts but just because we have evidence in humans, does not mean we can directly translate that to another species. One example of a risk of a human adult taking a cannabis-based product is impairment behind the wheel. Despite what Subaru commercials you have seen, this is not a risk that we can extrapolate to dogs.

But for discussion sake, let’s agree that for these conditions there is scientific data showing a lot of potential. And let’s also agree that with any medical intervention that has benefits, there are also going to be risks and we’re still learning about that.

So where do we begin? Safety. Safety is the number one concern when considering one of these products for your pets. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of safety data out there and any benefits or risks are based on your friend of a friend’s dog’s experience. Just like dog food, labeling consistency and accuracy across products falls flat. But there are some particulars you can look for! Bear with me while I digress for a moment.

Once upon a time, in a lab in Chapel Hill, I made cellular therapy products to treat patients using their own cells, genetically modified by a virus to target their own cancer cells. These little cells taken from their own blood and programmed to grow a marker on the cell surface that would seek, identify and then destroy only cancer cells and leaving healthy cells is helping lymphoma and leukemia patients achieve remissions when their cancer no longer responds to chemotherapy. Each of these cell products was tested for safety (bacterial/fungal contamination), potency (its ability to target the correct cells, viability), and purity (proper identification of the patient and the cell type in the product) and this information was put together in a report, signed by the patient’s physician, the person making the cells and the quality control director (independent of the work and the patient).  All of this testing and release of the product had to be completed before the patient can receive treatment. If anything failed, we would start again with a new product. Believe it or not, this is commonplace in healthcare and the veterinary field for drugs, food, etc and this document is called a Certificate of Analysis. Although this is typically the cause of mark up on products, an expensive product means that a company is putting more work and money in to test the products for safety. This should be your number one priority when looking for a product, is it safe? And is the stuff that is supposed to be helping even in the product??

Here’s an example of what I mean:

ElleVet was one of the products used in a recent paper published about CBD and canine arthritis that showed promising results. A few studies have shown that based on the way CBD is absorbed, metabolized and eliminated, water-based formulas, cookies, etc are not effective and only oil-based CBD products are absorbed in effective levels. Ellevet makes chewables but they also make oil based soft gels and liquid, which is what was used in the study so there is some direct evidence there. What I really like about Ellevet and why I am bringing it up here is because of their safety, labeling and quality control. If you visit their website, you will find an entire article about this company’s practices, how they test and why they test. Not only do they provide a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) on their website for each batch of product, the testing for this certificate is performed by a 3rd party independent laboratory! This is relevant because it removes bias from the testing.  You can see for yourself by clicking here

Ellevet Certificate of Analysis Example

Although this is probably one of the more expensive products out there, you can see why it is probably worth the extra money vs a product that may not even contain the beneficial ingredient, which has been found to happen in more than 50% of the products tested by the FDA!

In case your eyes started to glaze over, here’s a quick summary:

  1. CBD is showing promise in the treatment of arthritis for dogs, but weight management and NSAIDs are still the best option and CBD should only be considered if these are no longer working for your pet.
  2. Look for an oil-based CBD product vs a chewable or water based formula. Although oil-based formulas are absorbed best, they still only last 3-4 hours in the body so keep in mind, you may need to give this product more often to see any benefits.
  3. Check out the company website. Make sure they do quality control testing and provide a Certificate of Analysis so you know what you are getting.
  4. Always make sure that your vet is aware of any supplements or medications that you are giving.

Many thanks to my friend Scott for sharing this perfect picture of his dog Willie Nelson for this post!


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