CBD for cats and dogs

by Tom Russell March 30, 2022

CBD for cats and dogs

In recent years CBD has become a popular supplement for people looking to boost their general health and well-being. Industry reports indicate that people in the UK spend a total of £690 million per year on CBD products. With so many people buying it it’s not surprising that several of them wonder if it might be effective for their cats and dogs too.

Why do people give CBD to their pets?

People who give CBD to their pets are hoping that it will produce similar effects in their animals as it does in them. CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that can be extracted from cannabis plants to create a range of food supplements, cosmetics and vape juices.

Dog cat endocannabinoid system (ECS)In humans, it interacts with a collection of receptors, human cannabinoids and enzymes called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Most animals, including cats, dogs, rabbits also have an endocannabinoid system.

CBD interacts with the ECS by blocking the enzymes that usually break down a human cannabinoid called anandamide. This results in higher levels of anandamide which acts as a chemical messenger to help the body restore a healthy balance between its different systems.

Is it legal to give CBD to your cats and dogs?

VMD Veterinary Medicines Directorate

In the UK the Veterinary Medicines Directorate classifies CBD as veterinary medicine. As a result, CBD products designed to be used in animals must have a marketing authorisation to be legal. Currently, no marketing authorisations have been issued in England. This makes it illegal to administer CBD products to animals without a prescription from a vet.

Retailers must not sell products designed for animals or recommend any human CBD products for use with animals. Vets may follow a set of specific steps called a ‘prescribing cascade’ to demonstrate that CBD is appropriate for certain situations, once this is complete, they can prescribe CBD, but this rarely happens.

Is CBD safe?

In 2018, the World Health Organization announced that they consider CBD as safe for use in humans as a food supplement. They described it as “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile”. However, this doesn’t mean that the same will be true for your pets:

Is it safe to give CBD to your dog?

CBD for dogs

Thanks to a few small-scale scientific studies it is generally considered that it’s safe to give CBD to dogs. In one study looking into “Preliminary Safety Assessment with Use of CBD-Rich Hemp Nutraceutical in Healthy Dogs and Cats”, 2mg of CBD and CBDa per kg of the dog’s weight was given twice daily for several weeks. Weekly examinations by vets showed no abnormalities and their blood tests showed no signs of organ problems. They concluded that products containing CBD-rich hemp extracts, “appear to be safe in healthy adult dogs”.

Later in 2020, another study looked at “The Impact of Feeding CBD Containing Treats on Canine response to a Noise-Induced Fear” used a daily amount of 1.4mg CBD per kg of body weight for seven days. They noted that “no adverse events were observed in any dogs following the administration of CBD treats during this study”.

While these studies are encouraging, they only use a small number of dogs and focus only on the effects of the CBD. CBD has been found to produce side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort and changes in appetite, so this could likely affect some dogs too.

Is it safe to give CBD to your cat?

Cats are known to be sensitive to some types of medications and supplements, so it’s taken longer for scientists to get a clearer picture of how they cope with CBD.

In the same 2019 study conducted on dogs, cats were also given 2mg of CBD per kg of body weight for twelve weeks. During this time, it was noted that some of them had blood enzymes levels that increased above normal safe levels. Some cats also showed side effects of excessive licking and head shaking.

CBD for catIt wasn’t until 2021 that a more detailed investigation was conducted. A group of 20 healthy cats were divided into five groups: two placeboes, one CBD, one THC and one CBD and THC. Then every three days they were given a single amount measure of the test substance with a steadily increasing amount until 11 doses had been administered.

The maximum amount of 30.5mg CBD per kg of bodyweight was safely achieved in all cats who received it. Some side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort and lethargy were observed but they were mild and more common in the formulations involving THC. It was also noted that when CBD was mixed with sunflower oil the cats showed fewer signs of stomach discomfort than when it was mixed with MCT oil.

These studies show that small amounts of CBD will likely be well tolerated in healthy cats. However, they were both short term or single-dose studies so there is still no data on safety in the long term.

What do vets say about CBD for cats and dogs?

Although vets can prescribe CBD, most are reluctant to do so because of a lack of precise evidence as to how it affects animals. Dr James Portsmouth, an Animal Trust vet based in Ellesmere Port, commented that "There is currently no data on whether [CBD for animals] works or is safe. That's not to say there won't be a place for it in the future, but we don't have any evidence at the moment."

Canine Arthritis Management (CAM), founded by veterinary surgeon Hannah Capon, states that the uncertainty in the UK CBD market makes it almost impossible for vets to recommend or prescribe any products:

“There are many rogue products out there and vets are rightly concerned about product quality. New studies are currently being conducted and in time evidence may present itself. When this occurs CAM will promptly review our stance on these products.”

The prescribing cascade

CBD for pets PuriBio

Even if a vet believed in the effectiveness of CBD and wanted to prescribe a product, they need to follow the prescribing cascade set out by the VMD. CAM explained that this would allow vets to prescribe products that have been approved for medical use on humans:

“Human product equivalents do exist, Epidyolex, Sativex, and Nabilone. However, these are simply not readily available to animals and cost-prohibitive to prescribe.”

The cascade also allows vets to prescribe a supplement made for humans that have been independently lab tested:

“For a vet to prescribe a product, it would need to have independent laboratory testing, a traceable batch number and an independent certificate of analysis (CoA). The safest way to prescribe is using a veterinary specialist manufacturer and products that are regulated by GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) and GDP (Good Distribution Practice) guidelines.”

These complicated procedures make it clear why some vets are reluctant to consider CBD as a viable treatment alternative.

Concerns about CBD use in animals

CAM also explained why some vets are concerned about the recent interest in CBD for animals. They said that some vets think that;

“The availability and claims being made regarding CBD will prevent pets from getting the veterinary care they require. This is of great concern to the veterinary community as we are already seeing cases too late because of freely available non-professional advice online.”

Precautions to take if you choose to give CBD to your pets

Disclaimer: At for the Ageless we are not suggesting or advising that CBD should be used for any pet. There are no authorised CBD products for animals in the UK. It is an offence to administer CBD to an animal without a prescription from a vet.

If you still want to give CBD to your cat or dog here are some things to consider:

  • Talk to your vet. Although your vet will be unlikely to prescribe CBD, they may be able to give you advice on alternative treatments or offer other useful advice.
  • Only consider products that come with a full set of third-party lab results.
  • Check that the lab results found no detectable THC. Studies that used CBD combined with THC noticed more side effects than those with CBD only.
  • Check the lab results for contaminants. Only consider products from companies that provide a detailed analysis of contaminants in their third-party certificates.
  • Check for other ingredients that may be dangerous for animals or that your pets may be sensitive to. For example, xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener that is extremely toxic to dogs.
  • Avoid products containing MCT oil. Studies found that when mixed with MCT oil more adverse effects were observed.
  • Keep regular, detailed notes of your pet’s symptoms and behaviour before and after they take CBD.
  • Start with a small daily amount of less than 1mg per kg of their body weight. For example, if your cat weighs 4kg, start with less than 4mg per day.
  • Observe them closely to check for side effects. Side effects reported in studies include excessive licking, increased head movement, gagging, vomiting, excessive drooling, or other signs of discomfort. If you notice any of these, you should immediately stop using CBD and consult your vet.

Legal alternatives to CBD

Other hemp-sourced cannabinoids such as CBDa and CBG have similar benefits to CBD. The Cannabis Trades Association states that they’ve received confirmation from the VMD that “minor isolated cannabinoids […] are not currently considered veterinary medicines.”

Currently, CBD is the only cannabinoid that the VMD regard as ‘medicinal by function’. This means that CBDa and CBG can be marketed for pets and sold legally if they’re not advertised with medicinal claims.

Conclusion

CBD should not be administered to pets because there is currently not enough evidence for the VMD to approve its use. As more is understood about how it works for animals and more studies are commissioned it may become a useful tool for vets and pet owners. In the meantime, it’s important to talk to your vet if you have any concerns about the health of your cats and dogs.

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Tom Russell
Tom Russell

Author

Tom Russell writes extensively about CBD oil and other groundbreaking food supplements. He and his wife share their home with two daughters and a lifetime’s collection of books.


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