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Is CBD oil really safe for your pets?

cbd for pets happy dog in fall leaves
Photo credit: damedeeso/Getty Images

CBD (cannabidiol) is the new “it” ingredient, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. CBD, a natural chemical compound in marijuana, doesn’t cause a high — and among its many exciting capabilities is the potential to alleviate pain, anxiety and discomfort in cats and dogs.

But CBD is still such a new product that it’s a bit of a Wild West situation on the pet medicine front right now. Before you give CBD to your beloved pet, you should know a few things, including potential risks and what to look for in a product.

What can CBD do for your pet?

Many pet owners use CBD oil for their pets in the same ways that humans use CBD for themselves: to reduce anxiety, nausea and chronic pain, as well as to stimulate appetite. Unfortunately, science has yet to investigate CBD’s effects on pets fully.

“There has not yet been much scientific research on the effects and/or benefits of CBD in dogs,” Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club, tells Grateful. “Most reports are only anecdotal in nature. These reports revolve primarily around CBD use for anxiety, pain (both osteoarthritis and neuropathic) and seizures.”

Many other rather lofty claims about CBD oil lack conclusive evidence, including the ability to fight cancer cells and cure neurodegenerative diseases.

MORE: How CBD oil can improve your sex life — and what products to buy

Importantly, CBD does not have a psychoactive effect on pets. It won’t get them high as long as the product is dosed properly. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabis compound that carries psychoactive properties, not CBD.

If your pet is suffering, CBD may be a useful alternative to traditional pain medicines, which can come with scary-sounding side effects and risks.

“[CBD] doesn’t damage the kidney, liver, or GI tract. The dogs aren’t high or sedated,” Dr. Tim Shu, founder of VETCBD, told PetMD.

How much CBD should you give your pet?

CBD is becoming increasingly popular due to recent changes in cannabis and hemp laws; however, the FDA still doesn’t regulate CBD for pets and has not issued a dosing chart, Klein says. That makes calculating an appropriate dose tricky.

“Because this is not yet a regulated substance, an actual dose has not yet been determined,” Klein explains.

For this reason, it’s important to consult with an experienced veterinarian before deciding how much CBD to give to your pet.

“It has been suggested that approximately 2mg/kg of CBD every 12 hours may help increase comfort and decrease anxiety in dogs,” says Klein.

What are the potential risks of CBD for pets?

Because of the lack of regulation, you might not always get exactly what you think you’re getting. Some products might contain more THC than is appropriate for pets and result in a high. Symptoms of THC toxicity in pets include difficulties with standing and eating.

Other products might contain more or less CBD than they claim, making accurate dosing difficult.

“Some products have differing concentrations than what is actually on the label or even minimal amounts of CBD at all,” Klein says. “Since there is no accountability for the potency of many of these products, it makes it very worrisome in trying to calculate an appropriate and safe dose for a 6-pound dog versus a 200-pound dog.”

MORE: The best places to buy CBD candy & snacks online

Even if the product labels were to be accurate, no research on toxicity or reaction potential has been performed. That makes finding a safe, reputable CBD product and calculating a dose with the help of a pro crucial.

How to find the right pet CBD product

A million CBD products for pets seem to be on the market these days. They also go by other names, such as hemp oil and hemp treats. How do you sort through them all to find one that’s high-quality, accurate and effective? Here’s what the pros say:

  • Avoid pre-made CBD treats. They’re cute and tempting, but they’re not always safe. “Edible substances are especially suspect as to concentration variation of active ingredients, and if they contain chocolate or raisins, those can be toxic to dogs,” Klein says.
  • Go for a simple CBD oil or tincture. This also makes it easier to adjust your dog’s dose drop by drop.
  • Look for “certified organic” on the label. These products don’t contain pesticides or herbicides, which CBD companies are not required to disclose.
  • Choose a hemp-derived product. CBD can be extracted from hemp or marijuana. Klein says hemp is best, because it contains little to no THC.
  • Exercise caution when you first give it to your dog. “Never give a product and leave a dog unattended for the first several hours after giving to determine there will be no concerning effects or signs,” Klein says.
  • Above all, consult your vet first. “CBD should be discussed with the family veterinarian first. CBD products may vary greatly depending on the purity and source,” Klein says.

Looking for a human-approved treat? Check out our healthy candy taste test to discover the best-tasting treats. 

What are your favorite CBD products for your fur baby? Tag us on Instagram @makeitgrateful and #makeitgrateful!

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