Treating Dogs with CBD | Author: Dr. Cliff Redford, Veterinarian
CBD in Veterinary Practice
Ever since medical and recreational marijuana was legalized in Canada and parts of the United States, pet owners have inquired about administering it to their pets for some conditions instead of prescription medication. At first, our licensing organization, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario, did not permit us to discuss or encourage its use. All of that changed recently so we can now educate pet owners interested in making CBD a part of their pets’ health care regiment.
But first, a disclaimer. Marijuana and its derivatives like CBD, fall under the same off-label category as health supplements. We do not have formal scientific data on the mode of action of CBD within companion animals. However, dogs are physiologically similar to humans, permitting us to make educated guesses. Consequently, the benefits we discuss here are anecdotal.
What is CBD?
The Cannabis Sativa plant has two primary species, marijuana and hemp. Both contain almost a hundred natural compounds called cannabinoids of which THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the two most prominent. Hemp contains a higher percentage of CBD while the opposite is true for marijuana.
Both THC and CBD interact with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.THC produces the psychoactive “high” but CBD does not bind as strongly with those receptors. Consequently, it does not create the same effect. Instead, it links with other molecules in the brain and body, including the serotonin system, which regulates depression, anxiety and pain. It is also known to help modulate blood pressure, hormonal production and digestion.
Treating Dogs with CBD
Since we started recommending CBD use for dogs we have noticed improvements in inflammation and pain. Consequently, we now suggest it for dogs with arthritis or cancer who suffer from chronic pain. CBD also has demonstrable benefits with seizures. We complement it with drugs like phenobarbital and potassium bromide, particularly for epileptic dogs that do not respond fully to the anti-seizure medications. Some dogs with cardiovascular conditions appear to benefit from CBD supplements, and it certainly stimulates their appetite. And lastly, humans have benefited from CBD for mental health conditions like anxiety. Consequently, we consider its use in daily small doses for dogs with separation anxiety, fear of thunderstorms and fireworks, excessive stress that is induced during grooming, and even for those who fear going to vet appointments.
Treating Dogs with CBD: The Dosage
As mentioned above, we presently do not have official guidelines for CBD use in animals. Furthermore, every dog species might react differently to it. Until proper studies and dosage recommendations are developed and available, we proceed with caution. Before beginning any CBD treatment, consult your veterinarian so they can note this in your pet’s file for reference, and also to ensure that the CBD will not reduce the efficacy or interact negatively with existing medications.
Once you have clearance from your vet, start with a very low dose of 1mg per 10 lbs of weight to ensure your dog can tolerate it. You can slowly increase this up to three times, as required, to help him/ her with their condition. For example, if your Labrador weighs 60 lbs, then start him/her on 6 mg of CBD. As you gradually increase the dosage, make note of any improvements or side effects they suffer and keep your vet informed.
Side Effects of CBD
Like with any supplement or drug, we expect side effects with CBD. Common ones include dry mouth, hypotension (low blood pressure) if they are on heart medication and drowsiness. Outward symptoms that pet owners should watch for are excessive drinking, a wobbly walk or unsteadiness even when sitting still. Some dogs may sleep excessively or exhibit lethargy.
If you start your pet on a very low dose and give them a few weeks to process the CBD, you can minimize and even prevent side effects. The increase in dosage should be very gentle and gradual until you get to a level where it controls the symptoms of their illness.
Another way to reduce unwanted side effects is to ensure you purchase products from a reputable source. Several companies now develop CBD oils specifically for pets that you can administer with precise doses. Organic CBD products will not have additives or fungicides that can cause irritation but prepare to pay top dollar for them. If you are adamant about providing your pet with the best, then reputable companies will also provide you with a certificate or statement of purity. You need a guarantee that there is no THC in the products you purchase because it can be very dangerous for your dog. Indeed with CBD oils, you get what you pay for.
CBD and Dogs: Make Informed Choices
Making informed decisions about your pet’s care is the best way to ensure they receive the right treatment for their circumstances. The science behind CBD is still evolving but you should ask your vet lots of questions. The College of Veterinarians governs the standards by which we operate in Ontario. Accordingly, you should expect nothing less than clear and ethical advice about this subject. If you are still unsure, don’t be afraid to ask more questions or obtain a second opinion. We always ensure our clients understand the benefits and risks of all medications and supplements so we can jointly make confident decisions for your pets.
ABOUT DR. CLIFF
Dr. Cliff Redford, DVM, is an experienced veterinarian and owner/operator of the Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Markham Ontario. Fondly known as Dr. Cliff to his clients, he has tended to the wellness of pets and animals for over two decades. Hands-on experience in his clinic, combined with animal advocacy and rescue missions locally and across the globe, has allowed him to curate a vast body of knowledge on animal health and welfare, including preventative counselling, soft tissue surgery, advanced dental procedures, internal medicine and emergency care.