Cannabis oil for pets – what to consider

With so much hype about the legal use of marijuana recently, we wanted to find out what effects it has on our pets, and whether it is a good idea to give it to them, or not. While there is a group of people that swears by the good effects, there are vets who feel that giving animals cannabis oil – also known as cannabidiol – is not wise.

The good

Ceri Phillips from The Barkery is all for the use of cannabis oil and believes that there are many benefits for the animals.

What are the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD)?

CBD formulated with terpenes (compounds in cannabis that give it distinctive aromas and flavours) for animals can be beneficial for a whole range of ailments, including nausea, stress, cancer, arthritis, anxiety (including separation anxiety), seizures, epilepsy, pain, ageing, as an anti-inflammatory and for overall wellness.

Why is it better than normal painkillers?

It is not necessarily a better painkiller and isn’t there to take away from conventional medicines. However, some studies have suggested that CBD compounds are a safer, more natural alternative to certain stronger prescribed medications, which have side-effects.

Why are people sceptical to use CBD on their pets?

Most likely due to the legalities surrounding the usage of cannabidiol products, which is still in its foundation phase. People need to educate themselves further about the usage of CBD treats and tinctures (medicines made by dissolving a drug in alcohol).

Is there any research to prove its benefits?

There has been extensive research into the benefits of CBD worldwide and, so far, it has proved to be positive in many case studies all over the world.

Is CBD just a current trend?

Yes, there is no denying that it is a current trend worldwide. However, due to the positive effects it is having on people and their pets’ lives, it is not going away anytime soon. In fact, I believe the trend will become bigger and better in years to come.

What are the dosages that should be used?

Each dog and cat is different; some will need a lot more and some a lot less. Our feeding guideline is just that – a guideline – and is weight-related. For instance, you wouldn’t give a Great Dane the same dosage as a Chihuahua. We always recommend starting off on the lowest dose possible and building up to the recommended daily dose.

Can you give us a short success story of where CBD helped a pet?

In my own experience (and the entire reason we began developing our CBD range) we found it very beneficial for our black Labrador Retriever, Bentley. He was diagnosed with a lung tumour and given just days to live. On the vet’s advice, we began giving him CBD and saw the difference in him almost immediately. You could see his pain was less, he was moving more freely and was generally happy. Bentley went on to live well for a further 10 months.

While it doesn’t make them live forever, in Bentley’s case, it certainly gave us those extra few months with him and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

The bad

Dr Letitia Swartz is one of the veterinarians who believes that cannabis is not necessarily a good idea for pets, for various reasons.

What are the dangers of cannabis products for pets?

Dogs have more receptors, called cannabinoid receptors, in their brains than humans. This means that the effects of cannabis are more dramatic and potentially more toxic to them. A small amount of cannabis is all it takes to cause toxicity in cats and dogs.

Can pets overdose on cannabis products, and what are the symptoms?

Cannabis is considered to have a high margin of safety for people, however not all people – and certainly not all pets – follow a single pattern of intoxication. A small amount may affect one pet more than another, so there is no official safe level of exposure. Cannabis intoxication is however seldom fatal.

Warning signs

Signs of intoxication are neurological. Pets can become wobbly, uncoordinated, hyperactive or very vocal. The pupils of their eyes dilate, and they drool excessively or vomit. In severe cases, cannabis intoxication can result in tremors, seizures or a comatose state.

What should I keep in mind if I want to use cannabis products?

When it comes to using cannabis for pets, be careful. Pet parents may buy into overly ambitious claims about cannabis products from unreliable sources. As with any medication, consult your vet first before treating your dog with cannabis oil.

Does product quality have an influence at all?

Cannabis products, whether from federally legal hemp or illegal marijuana, are not effectively regulated, leaving plenty of room for suspicious production and dubious business practices.

What are the ideal dosages, should pet parents decide to use it?

Due to a lack of research, it is still unclear what the proper dosage is for dogs and cats, so administering it yourself can be dangerous to your pet.

Why is it so important to consult a vet before you use cannabis products?

There is something to be said about the doctor-patient relationship in treating the patient as a whole – this goes for pets and their vets as well. When we choose to use supplements, this needs to be disclosed to a licensed professional to allow for conversations about risks and continued health monitoring.

Would you recommend cannabis products at all?

No. While there is an abundance of interest from clients wanting to give CBD or medical marijuana products to their pets, there is still a very limited research pool from which veterinarians can draw conclusive evidence of effectiveness and safety.

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