Pot for Pets?

Is cannabidiol hype, harmful or helpful?

Written by Claudine Wilkins, founder of Animal Law Source

Got a pet that freaks out over thunderstorms, fireworks, vet trips, car rides and separation anxiety, or is just plain hyper? Or an older pet with joint pain or GI issues or cancer?

Some owners have found that a dose of CBD can make a big difference.

Most people hear CBD (cannabidiol) and automatically think marijuana, but it’s important to understand the difference between CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is made up mostly of hemp, while THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana. CBD gives a relaxing sensation but does not give the high that THC does. Found in pot and hemp, CBD is also the key ingredient in Epidiolex, a seizure medication that is the first cannabis derived drug approved by the FDA.

In humans, CBD oil has been found to reduce anxiety and treat epilepsy, even in drug resistant cases. It also relieves pain and benefits the heart. Though there is no scientific proof on this now, it may help treat the symptoms of cancer treatment such as nausea, chronic pain and loss of appetite to help keep animals comfortable.

“After years of back pain and facing back surgery, I tried CDB therapy, and it drastically changed my life,” says Michael Dunn, founder of Blue Ocean Lifestyle and CDB America Shaman stores. “I am living proof of the benefits, so I changed careers to help others. I opened two CBD stores in the Atlanta area.”

Cannabis can provide many benefits to humans, from everyday health to treating diseases, but it has not been proven to work in animals. The veterinary community is not going to condone CBD treatment until evidence-based medicine is solid. Currently, the American Veterinary Association (AVMA) does not allow veterinarians to recommend or prescribe cannabis to their clients. With most technology, law is often lagging behind, and so is the case for cannabidiol therapy. But the 2017 House of Delegates meeting at the AVMA annual convention discussed marijuana therapies for pets, and recommendations included having the AVMA investigate working with other research organizations and medical stakeholders.

Right now, there is a lack of research on the effects of CBD therapy in pets. AVMA is concerned that pets may die as a result of possible overdoses, negative drug interactions or bad ingredients from an unregulated seller.

Go to Animallawsource.org to find our published “Animal Law Source Toolkit©” on this subject for pet owners.

Can veterinarians prescribe or even recommend CBD Oil for pets in Georgia?

No. Regardless that some states have legalized marijuana, and physicians can recommend cannabis for medical purposes to their patients without any disciplinary actions, the laws are different for physicians and veterinarians. So even in jurisdictions where marijuana is legal, without a specific authorization for veterinary use, veterinarians are not protected in recommending and discussing its use to clients.

Can veterinarians discuss cannabinoid products as a treatment option?

Currently there are no FDA-approved marijuana or hemp products for use in animals, and thus the legality of veterinarians recommending any unapproved products can be confusing. Furthermore, any discussion regarding any therapeutic regimen should be consistent with a valid Veterinarian-Client Patient-Relationship (VCPR).

If a vet cannot recommend it, can a pet owner buy and use CBD for their pets?

Yes, anyone can buy CBD oil online, and there is fierce competition to attract pet owners. But remember, it is unregulated field. Dosages and drug interactions could be harmful or even fatal. There are side effects. Since the AVMA warns veterinarians not to recommend CBD therapy at this time, who will you consult with about these issues? If you plan on using CBD, you should at least tell your veterinarian and keep several things in mind:

• Cheaper is not always better, don’t look for the cheapest product you want to make sure you are getting good quality oil for your pet, be sure to research where and how the hemp was grown.

• CBD not THC. Some CBD oils can have higher levels of THC than others. Be sure you are checking the concentration and buying products with high CBD and low THC. You want your pet to have the relaxation and health benefits without the intoxication.

• Good quality CBD oil is manufactured using the whole plant which adds terpenes as well as flavonoids from the hemp plant, making the benefits all that much greater.

• CBD oil is a new industry there are no regulations that control the manufacturing process. How does company produce their oils and if they use the “whole plant”?

What are the side effects?

Most mammals have an endocannabinoid system and can metabolize cannabis. There are risks when giving our pets CBD oil. An animal’s liver immediately processes cannabis and then eliminates through their urine. Cannabis can also affect the production of liver enzymes and how the liver metabolizes certain drugs. The production of salvia is affected by cannabis causing dry mouth which may cause excessive thirst. High doses of CBD may cause low blood pressure as well. It is important to notify your veterinarian before giving your pet CBD to discuss negative drug interactions.

The cannabis industry is growing at incredible rates and benefits are front page news. Evidence-based veterinary medicine is paramount, and the laws and regulations are moving very fast in this arena. By the time this article is published, I expect there will be more changes. Know what you are getting into and speak to your veterinarian.

Copyrighted by Claudine Wilkins, Founder Animal Law Source (2014), Past Chair of the Animal Law Section to the Georgia Bar, cwilkins@animallawsource.org, 770-356-9770, www.animallawsource.org.

Special thanks to Cassidy Brook for her contribution. Visit AnimalLawSource.org for a sample petition and order.