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CBD Pet products are booming, with analysts predicting a market in the U.S. that falls somewhere between $125 million on the conservative side and $1.16 billion, according to cannabis analyst Brightfield Group, by 2022. Either number is mind-boggling for products that most people had not even heard of just two years ago. Now CBD is infused into dog and cat treats, sold as tinctures, offered as supplements and even labeled “calming skin serum” topicals for your pet. You probably have a friend who swears by a CBD product for her cat or dog. Or maybe you have given it to your precious Rover or Kitty-Kitty yourself. But what do we know about cannabidiol, or CBD, and what it does or does not do for your pet? Here are 7 things we know for sure about CBD and your pet.
CBD became all the rage for people and animals largely due to the personal stories of those finding relief, or swearing their pet did, after using CBD products. Many people say CBD tinctures, topicals, and supplements helped ease their anxiety, boost deep sleep, clear up skin conditions, relieve PTSD, lessen joint pain and more. CBD may help eliminate or prevent seizures, and is being used by parents to improve focus and behavioral issues in kids with severe autism and ADHD. In dogs and cats, CBD is believed to have the same potential health benefits, especially easing anxiety and bringing relief from pain. The best advertising is word of mouth. No matter what the scientists and companies say or don’t say, if your best friend tried it and swears by it, chances are you’ll try it too.
When researchers began trying to figure out exactly what cannabis does in the body, they discovered that human and animal bodies have systems that process naturally made chemicals that are almost identical to the chemical compounds like CBD and THC found in cannabis. They labeled this system the endocannabinoid, or internal cannabinoid, system. In plants, these compounds are called phytocannabinoids, because phyto means plant. Throughout our bodies and pets’ bodies too are natural receptors that interact with these chemicals. The receptors are everywhere – in our brains, livers and immune system, for example. When the chemicals interact with our receptors, they reduce inflammation wherever they go.
Because CBD and the other 100-plus cannabinoids found in hemp travel to receptors that are located all throughout our bodies and animals’ bodies, it makes sense that CBD seems to help so many different ailments. Whatever the problem is, when the cannabinoids interact with the receptors in any part of the body, that part of the body seems to get an extra boost to help correct itself back into homeostasis, or stability. If the receptors in your brain interact with CBD, it may have a calming effect and help relieve insomnia. If CBD jump starts the receptors in your or your pet’s skin, it makes sense that eczema, dry patches, and other skin conditions may improve.
Pet products abound for dogs, cats, and even birds. In a post on the Macaw & Cockatoo Rescue of New Mexico Facebook page, one group member posted extensively about the scientific study she had found about giving CBD to her Rose Breasted Cockatoo Chacco. The bird had underlying conditions that were so severe that the pet was on a drug “cocktail” of diazepam butorophenol prescribed by her veterinarian. When she found an avian vet who recommended CBD, she gave it a try.
“Chacco is a whole different bird now – the change is remarkable,” the pet owner shared.
CBD is found in large amounts in industrial hemp, a cannabis plant that has little to none of the euphoria-producing cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In fact, for a cannabis plant to be classified as hemp it cannot contain more than 0.3% THC. Marijuana, on the other hand, is well-known for its THC content of as much as 30% and the way it gets users high. CBD and other cannabinoids naturally occurring in hemp do not create a high feeling or sense of euphoria in users. In fact, most people say they don’t feel anything when they take CBD, except the gradual realization that the pain or anxiety they were experiencing is gone. CBD will not make your pet high. CBD may reduce your pet’s seizures, help him feel calmer during a storm, and reduce anxiety when you are gone from home. But it will not get Fido stoned.
Dr. Stephanie McGrath is a neurologist at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital who last year released a study of the effects of cannabidiol, or CBD, for dogs with epilepsy. Sixteen dogs enrolled in her clinical trial, and 89 percent of the dogs who received CBD had a reduction in the frequency of their seizures. That kind of outcome is hugely promising, but more studies need to be done to ensure that CBD is safe over the long-term. Because hemp was classified as a controlled substance in the U.S. until last December, doctors and scientists were limited in their ability to legally study cannabinoids or conduct any trials on people or animals.
“People are using CBD and they are excited about its potential,” McGrath said. “It’s a topic that is gaining traction in the media, but we truly know very little about it from a scientific standpoint.”
Hemp plants are “hyperaccumulators.” That means they easily absorb everything from the soil in which they are planted. That means you have to know where your hemp is grown and what testing methods have been used to make sure it does contain the CBD it promises and does not contain other unwanted toxic elements like heavy metals or soil contaminants. Trace any pet products you consider back to the source before giving them to your pet. Look up the company that makes them. Do they use independent, third-party laboratories to test the hemp and CBD they put in their products? Are those test results posted publicly? Can you tell where the hemp was grown? So far, the Food and Drug Administration has not created a regulatory standard for products with CBD in them. Therefore, these products cannot make any health claims. CBD products run the gamut from true cannabinoid-infused tinctures to little more than tainted coconut oil. Consult your vet. Do your research. Know what you are getting before you give it to your best friend.
Since CBD products are largely unregulated to date and research is ongoing, it is vital that you administer CBD to your pets only under the care and advice of your veterinary specialist. Consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s health routine. If your vet is not educated about CBD, ask them to look into it or consider trying another vet. Veterinarians can help with the proper dosing and teach you how to watch for any adverse effects.
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