The legalization of hemp has led to a growing demand for products containing CBD, and pet owners are no exception. Hemp products for dogs has become one of the fastest growing markets in the CBD industry, and many pet owners are wondering: Is CBD safe for my dog? 

Hemp is a type of cannabis that contains hundreds of specialized compounds known as phytocannabinoids. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the most prevalent phytocannabinoid found in hemp, and scientists are currently conducting extensive research regarding its properties.

THE ECS (Endocannabinoid System)

The phytocannabinoids in hemp interact with an internal subsystem that all vertebrates have, known as the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS works by regulating imbalances within the body, and it consists of its own cannabinoid (CB) receptors and neurotransmitters, known as endocannabinoids. These receptors are present all throughout the body, with concentrations in the brain and the spleen.  

Phytocannabinoids are molecules, and they are specifically designed to interact with CB receptors. When activated, CB receptors will release endocannabinoids, which perform a wide range of duties within the body.   

ALL VERTABRATES HAVE AN ECS

Any animal that has a backbone or spinal column is a vertebrate, which means that all mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes have an ECS. Considering the current popularity of CBD products, it’s no wonder that pet owners are curious about whether they can give CBD to their animals.  

Because hemp is cannabis, it was previously outlawed in the United States until the recent passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Unfortunately, hemp suffered the stigma of being related to commercial marijuana, which is a type of cannabis that is bred to have a high tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, content. THC is the only phytocannabinoid that causes psychotropic effects, which is what causes marijuana users to feel “high”. Hemp only has trace amounts of THC, so it does not induce those kind of effects when ingested. 

Ongoing Research

There have been various studies conducted regarding the safety of CBD for animals, with several focusing on dogs in particular. A 2018 study titled “A Report of Adverse Effects Associated with the Administration of Cannabidiol in Healthy Dogs” concluded that overall, the CBD was “tolerated clinically”, although researchers noted a few symptoms after administration, including diarrhea and some elevations in serum alkaline phosphatase levels. The researchers did not correlate these findings with the CBD but indicated that it might be something worth following up with additional studies.   

A more recent study that was designed to assess the impact of CBD on epileptic dogs stated that “no adverse behavioral effects were reported by owners.” It also concluded that more research was needed to determine the long term effects of CBD. Further analysis regarding the pharmacokinetics and safety of CBD treatment for osteoarthritic dogs showed that once administered, it took about 4-5 hours for CBD to completely leave the dogs system; this study also observed that the dogs appeared to have no side effects related to the CBD administration.

Unfortunately, CBD can still be a very taboo subject for some veterinarians, and there are states where it is prohibited for them to even mention CBD to pet owners. In 2018, a national survey was sent out using the Veterinary Information Network to gauge the level of knowledge that US veterinarians have about CBD and other cannabinoids in relation to dogs. The answers were submitted anonymously and included about 2130 participants. While most contributors felt comfortable discussing CBD use with other colleagues (around 61.5%), 45% responded that they did not feel comfortable discussing the topic with clients.

One very important thing for people to consider while choosing a CBD product for dogs is to make sure that the hemp extract has not been mixed with a carrier that could be potentially harmful to animals, including peppermint oil, citrus oil, cinnamon oil, or lavender oil. Products that have been formulated specifically for pets should help alleviate this issue, but it is also good to check that a product has independent lab results to ensure that the product has been accurately labeled. 

It is estimated that about 67% of U.S. households own a pet, so it is likely that many more studies will be implemented to continue testing the properties and safety of CBD products for animals. Ideally, all pet owners should do their own research in order to determine what products they think will be best suited for their pets. There is nothing more important than ensuring the well-being of our family!

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