by Dwight Alleyne
If you are the owner of a pet with a chronic illness, you don’t need us to tell you that it can be challenging. Dealing with treatments that are not always effective and long-term medications with potential side effects can be frustrating, and it is heartbreaking to see your four-legged friend be less vibrant than their usual selves. It is no surprise then that there is always a search for an effective alternative treatment. Cannabidiol (CBD), particularly CBD oil, is gaining ground for potential treatment of many chronic illnesses in pets, ranging from chronic arthritis to anxiety.
So, should you give your pet CBD? It’s a good question to ask. Research is still ongoing, but studies have been encouraging so far. This article explores the potential benefits of hemp oil for pets, and then looks at the safety of CBD and how to determine whether your pet is a good candidate for the product.
What Is CBD Anyway?
Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in hemp and cannabis plants. Hemp-derived CBD is the focus of most animal research because it is safest to use in pets, and it is typically extracted from hemp and produced as a tincture or a chew.
Research so far shows that CBD interacts with receptors throughout the body called the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are mostly concentrated in the brain, but are also in the intestines, heart, liver and other organs. Early studies are looking at what happens when these receptors are activated. There is some indication that when they activate, they may cause a cascade of events at a molecular level. What studies are particularly looking at is whether these events are positive in treating certain ailments in our pets.
Potential Benefits of Hemp Oil for Pets
Though more research is certainly needed to understand the full benefits of hemp oil for pets (and humans!), the existing research is promising. A recent study showed that CBD oil may be helpful with arthritic dogs. The study seems to support the possibility that CBD may lead to anti-inflammatory responses which can be helpful in dogs with chronic arthritis. Multiple anecdotes from veterinarians and pet owners alike also seem to back this up.
In addition to aches and pains cats and dogs can experience, anxiety is a common issue in many of our pets.
Because of the presence of CBD receptors in the brain, there is a belief that CBD products may help animals cope with the symptoms of anxiety like restlessness and other nervous behaviors. Studies are looking at the positive calming changes that can occur as these receptors in the brain are activated in humans, and it is thought that CBD can create similar effects in cats and dogs. It is important to note that research is still pending in this area, but at least anecdotally, there have been reports that CBD oil may play a role in helping nervous pets maintain a normal emotional balance.
There is also ongoing research into seizure control and autoimmune disorders. These are a few of the many benefits of hemp oil waiting to be fully scientifically explored.
Is CBD Safe for Your Pet?
Though research is still underway, the dogs in the arthritis study were given CBD oil from hemp and saw little to no negative side effects. The most important safety concern when it comes to CBD is ensuring that the product comes from a responsible source. CBD products may contain an ingredient called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which can cause side effects in your pets (it is the compound that causes psychoactive effects in humans).
According to studies, hemp-extracted CBD products are the safest to administer to your pets because they contain an insignificant amount of THC. Choosing natural hemp-derived products for your pets that contain consistent amounts of CBD, like Heelr’s tinctures and chews, is important in keeping them safe. Of course, you should always consult with your veterinarian before introducing CBD to your pet’s routine.
Is Your Pet a Good Candidate for CBD?
If your pet is showing any signs of illness, make sure they are evaluated by your veterinarian to obtain a definitive diagnosis for their symptoms. Once the vet makes a diagnosis, they can then evaluate CBD as an option for your pet. If you are curious about CBD, it is important to speak up, as many vets are hesitant to recommend it on their own due to unclear guidelines from veterinary boards.
Based on anecdotal reports from various veterinarians and pet owners, as well as preliminary scientific research, CBD has the potential to be a revolutionary new way to keep our pets feeling as healthy and happy as possible.
With continued promising results of research, CBD may become one of the many standard treatments for chronic conditions ailing our pets.
Dr. Dwight Alleyne is a veterinarian who has over a decade of experience treating cats and dogs. He is also the creator of “The Animal Doctor Blog,” where he provides general health advice and pet-product reviews.