Ask the RV Vet
With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
Dear Dr. Deanna,
“I was browsing the aisles of my favorite health food store last week and came across an impressive display of CBD oil. CBD is cannabidiol, a compound found in Cannabissativa….yes, marijuana. . . . A brochure described how it could be used to treat some health disorders in pets. In people, CBD is prescribed for cancer, nausea, pain, lack of appetite, and inflammatory bowel disease, among others. Some pet owners are giving it to their furry friends. The results vary from “did nothing to help” to “gave my dog is life back. What do you think?” —Ingrid Andersen
First, a little CBD education.
Hemp and marijuana are two different subspecies of Cannabis sativa. The two primary cannabinoid compounds are cannabidiol (CBD) and THC (this can cause euphoria). Hemp contains mainly CBD, which is not psychoactive. Marijuana contains high levels of THC.
This means that CBD will not (should not) get your dog “high.” It also means that hemp is legal to grow in many states where marijuana is not. So if you live in a state where marijuana isn’t legal, it still may be legal to buy concoctions containing CBD.
In dogs, CBD has been used to treat seizures, anxiety, arthritis, nausea, cancer symptoms, and back pain. With the proper dosage, CBD has no life-threatening side effects.
Sounds great, right? But before you rush out to find CBD biscuits for your dog, there’s more to be aware of.
Although physicians can prescribe medical marijuana for their human patients, it is still classified as a DEA Schedule 1 drug, on the same list as heroin. Veterinarians cannot legally prescribe it, nor can they advise you to give it to your dog. Part of the reason for that is because we don’t know enough about CBD to even give you a suggested dose. Dogs have more receptors than humans for cannabinoids, which means they can have a much more powerful response to it. You cannot just reduce a recommended human dose for your dog; an overdose is very likely to result.
To my knowledge, as of now, there are no published scientific studies documenting the use of CBD as a treatment for anything in dogs, but there have been some clinical trials, specifically at Colorado State University. Some of those trials have ended, and the data are being analyzed. Hopefully there will be results soon, and veterinarians will be in a much better position to help anxious dog owners on the use of CBD.
In the meantime, be very careful with CBD oil and your dog. Like many other products that sound too good to be true, there are lots of imitators in the marketplace. A search online of CBD oil turned up thousands of results, most from companies you’ve never heard of.
I looked online at a bottle of hemp extract, advertised for dogs. The ‘Made in the USA” symbol was prominently displayed, but it turned out the product was actually made in India. This matters because some of the methods used to extract CBD from the hemp plant use toxic chemicals; some residue may remain, especially if the product is made in a country that may not have as strict standards as the U.S.
A bag of “calming treats” had the word “hemp” in the name, but in the ingredient list, the only hemp was ground hemp seeds; no mention of CBD. Remember, CBD has to be extracted from the hemp plant. Eating “organic” hemp seeds will not likely have any effect on anything,
It’s vitally important that you do your homework before buying a CBD product to administer to your dog. And please notice, I have only addressed dogs here. There is even less known about the effects of CBD on cats. Some so-called CBD oils sold for dogs and cats contain orange oil, which can be toxic to cats.
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Also be aware that there are six states where possession of any part of a Cannabis plant is illegal. If you live in Kansas, for example, and drive across the border to Colorado, purchase CBD oil, and return home, you are liable for prosecution.
I am cautiously optimistic that we will soon have studies showing the effectiveness, or not, of CBD oil, and when (if) that time comes, hopefully we will be able to purchase safe, tested products that can indeed help our pets. Until then, be very very careful!
Dr. Deanna welcomes your questions. Email her at YourRVvet@gmail.com
Dr. Deanna Tolliver has been a full-time RVer for over 3 years, although she has been an RVer for several more. She travels with a fifth wheel and a 1-ton dually truck. Her travel companions include 4 small dogs and a 36-year-old Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot. She has a BS and MS in biology and zoology, respectively, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She owned a veterinary hospital for many years and recently handed over the reins to a new owner.