Given the recent positive publicity of CBD oil in human medicine and popular media; it’s a natural progression that increasing numbers of veterinary clients wonder if it could help their pet, particularly in cases of painful diseases such as cancer, and osteoarthritis.
But, is this actually the case or is all just hype? Continue reading this article for the most up to date information about the use of CBD oil for dogs and pets.
What is CBD Oil?
So, first a little bit of science behind medical cannabis and its active components. There are a large number of cannabinoid substances found in marijuana plants but, there are currently two main chemicals of interest in the medical field.
Both of these chemicals have some degree of activity within the central nervous system; THC (Δ9-tetrahydro-cannibinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is the psychoactive substance (gives the “high feeling”) that directly activates the brain’s endocannabinoid system.
This system plays a role in regulation of pain and inflammation within the body.
THC also appears to have a moderate level of toxicity in pets, while CBD is considered safer. Cannabidiol, though not psychoactive, also acts on the endocannabinoid system; its exact mechanism of action, however, has yet to be fully elucidated.
Is CBD Legal in the U.K?
There are several over-the-counter products containing hemp within the nutraceutical and food supplement market. Nutraceuticals do not have a definition; however, they are generally considered to be: “substances that are not traditionally recognised nutrients, but which have positive physiological effects on the human body”.
As such, the term nutraceutical has no legal status and products are subject to existing food laws within the EU and UK. Coupled with the current age of online purchasing; regulation of products has no global minimum requirement which is challenging for consumers.
How can you be sure that the product is both legal within your jurisdiction and actually contains what is claimed on the label? Regarding the legal issue, it’s your responsibility to check local laws to ensure that purchase, import or possession of certain products is legal prior to purchase of a product.
In the U.K., some parts of the plant are legal, and some hemp containing products are commercially available including hemp seeds in your local health store. Knowing whether you can trust a label or not requires individual research but try to only choose products from reputable companies with external quality control testing.
Hemp products sold as food items are subject to EU food laws and thus have to comply with certain minimum standards if sold within the U.K. Doctors on the NHS are permitted to prescribe CBD for specific diseases in human patients, but this is strictly controlled, and such products are subject to rigorous medicinal regulations.
Any product claiming medical properties must have a valid market authorisation to sell within the U.K. Currently, there are no licensed cannabidiol-containing veterinary medicines available in Britain.
We are in the infancy of a new era regarding medicinal cannabis and its derivatives; thus legislation drafting is fluid, regularly changing and occasionally contradictory.
Certain strains of the Cannabis sativa plant may be grown in the U.K. under a special Home Office license; these strains must contain almost negligible amounts of THC (<0.2%). These are different to strains grown for recreational purposes which contain high levels of THC in order to provide the psychoactive effects (“high”).
Some CBD-containing products that are produced within the EU or the USA are permitted to be sold within the UK but may not be produced within the UK which means they may be subject to different manufacturing standards. These cannot make any claims to treat or prevent a disease by law unless they have a valid authorisation.
A lot more research is needed in both the veterinary and human medicine fields regarding CBD. To date in the U.K., only a small number of prescription medications containing cannabis derivatives, are licensed to help manage specific medical disorders.
None of these are currently available for veterinary prescription but this may change as we deepen our understanding of cannabidiol and its potential benefits.
Does CBD Oil Work for Dogs?
Early veterinary research has shown some positive results, with relatively low doses of CBD improving comfort in dogs suffering from clinical osteoarthritis. These pets could be good candidates for the addition of CBD to their treatment regimen, particularly if they suffer adverse side effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications usually prescribed.
There are cannabinoid receptors within the joints of these animals and may be targets of the drug. While early studies in 2018 are showing some promising results, there are more anecdotal reports from pet owners regarding hemp products aiding in cases of anxiety, gastrointestinal issues, pain, and in some immune-mediated disorders.
Most CBD preparations are available re-suspended in a vegetable oil such as olive oil with added anti-oxidants to protect against rancidity. Some research has indicated that this may improve the bio-availability (amount that can be used by the body) of CBD in pets. Relatively small amounts, given twice daily has shown improvement in dogs with painful osteoarthritis.
Human research has indicated improvements in quality of life and pain relief in cancer, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and spinal cord injury patients. Certain types of treatment-resistant epilepsy patients have also reported significant reductions in seizure activity following the addition of CBD to their medication regimen.
Many of the formulations available for humans contain both THC and CBD, though the THC concentration is generally significantly lower than seen in recreationally grown marijuana plants. The ratio of THC-to-CBD varies with plant strain and clinical trials are ongoing in diseases such as HIV/AIDS and glaucoma patients.
Another benefit of CBD is that may be used in conjunction with some medications that patients are already taking with little/no ill effects.
CBD Oil Side Effects for Dogs
There appears to be a myriad of benefits to CBD but like all medications, there may be adverse some side effects. These range from mild lethargy or gastrointestinal upset to possible allergic reactions and in some epileptic syndromes, an exacerbation of seizures.
If you discuss your pet’s individual case with your veterinarian, you may find that CBD isn’t an option. CBD has been associated with increased irritability in some human patients and may not be appropriate for a dog that has shown aggressive tendencies in the past.
Not enough is known about how CBD is metabolised and acts within the mammalian body, thus it’s important to be cautious with pets that have kidney or liver disease as we cannot be sure of its safety, nor the toxic levels in these animals.
There has been documented use of the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa for millenia including its use in the treatment of epilepsy. Conversely, many vets have experienced dogs being presented with marijuana toxicity which on face value should give us cause for concern about the use of the cannabis plant in companion animals.
The important distinction here is that CBD is one component of the cannabis plant, whereas toxicities usually present from ingestion or second-hand smoke of the whole plant.
As with current medications, regular blood tests would be prudent to identify any abnormalities before clinical signs of a problem develop. There is also the chance that your pet could be allergic, and severity of reactions could vary widely.
Recommended CBD and Hemp Oil Products for Dogs
Of course, as you should with any supplement or recommendation, please consult a registered professional before giving them to your dog.
Article Sources and Further Reading on CBD oil for Pets
Russo, E.B. (2007) History of cannabis and its preparations in saga, science, and sobriquet. Chem. Biodivers. 4:1614-1648
Fitzgerald, K.T., A.C. Bronstein, K.L. Newquist. (2013) Marijuana Poisoning. Top. Companion. Anim. Med. 28(1):8-12
Tzadok, M., S. Uliel-Siboni, I. Linder, U. Kramer, O. Epstein, S. Menascu, A. Nissenkorn, O. Bar Yosef, E. Hyman, D. Granot, M. Dor, T. Lerman-Sagie & B. Ben-Zeev. (2016) CBD-enriched medical cannabis for intractable pediatric epilepsy: The current Israeli experience. Seizure. 35:41-44
Gamble, L.J., J.M. Boesch, C.W. Frye, W.S. Schwark, S. Mann, L. Wolfe, H. Brown, E.S. Berthelsen & J.J. Wakshlag. (2018) Pharmacokinetics, safety and clinical efficacy of cannabidiol treatment in osteoarthritic dogs. Front. Vet. Sci. 5:165
N.H.S. (2017). Cannabis: The Facts. Available online at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/cannabis-the-facts/
Advisory Committee on Borderline Substances. (Undated). Appendix 6. Available online at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/603696/Appendix6.pdf
Home Office. (2018). Drug Licensing Factsheet- Cannabis, CBD and other cannabinoids. Available online at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/674713/Factsheet-_Cannabis__CBD_and_Cannabinoids-_January_2018.pdf
Veterinary Medicines Directorate (2018). Product Information Database. Available online at: http://www.vmd.defra.gov.uk/ProductInformationDatabase/Default.aspx