With cannabis either recreationally or medically legal in over half of the United States, it is no surprise that consumers are becoming increasingly curious about the medicinal properties of hemp. Studies have found this not-so-humble plant packs a serious punch.
THC and CBD, two major compounds found in cannabis, are responsible for the majority of the medicinal effects. THC has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and appetite stimulating properties. THC is also the compound that makes you feel high. Recreational users (and some medical patients) usually look for a strain with a high concentration of THC. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive. If extracted on its own, CBD will not make you feel stoned or altered in any way. CBD has many medicinal benefits including anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, antioxidant, and anticonvulsant properties. Medical patients typically look for strains (or extracts) with a high CBD concentration.
We have a fairly good grasp on the effects of cannabis and human consumption, but what about our pets? Surprisingly, all mammals are born with an endocannabinoid system. The system, also known as ECS, is located in our brain and throughout our nervous system. The endocannabinoid receptors play a role in managing our appetite, pain-sensation, mood, memory, and in regulating the effects of cannabis. It’s pretty interesting that all mammals are born with a system in place to regulate the consumption of cannabis!
Why CBD and not THC?
Before you spark one up with your dog, it’s important to note the effects that both THC and CBD have on our furry friends. CBD, as previously mentioned, is non-psychoactive, and completely harmless for your pet. We’ll come back to that. THC however, has been shown to be toxic to animals in moderate amounts. Like humans, THC releases serotonin and a handful of other chemicals in the mammal brain. However, while the release of these chemicals in humans is controlled and moderate, the reaction caused in smaller mammals, specifically pets, is overwhelming and tenfold. Moderate THC consumption in pets can cause loss of bodily control, incontinence, irregular heartbeats, seizures, and excessive vomiting. If you’re still not convinced (and if that’s the case, you shouldn’t own a pet) a few, very tragic cases of pets consuming massive doses of THC have died. With that being said, we will only be focusing on CBD infused products, not THC. If your pet has consumed THC accidently (or otherwise), call your vet immediately.
How is CBD extracted?
There are a few common methods of extracting CBD from hemp plants along with a very small, legal (less than 0.3%) amount of THC. Some CBD companies completely remove any trace of THC, and some leave behind a small, legal amount (no more than 0.3%) creating what is called the entourage effect. Studies have found the effectiveness of the cannabis compounds (THC and CBD being two of 480 cannabinoids) increases when minor amounts of the other cannabinoids remain in the extract. The synergetic effect the cannabinoids have on each other is what makes cannabis so effective. The very tiny amount of THC left in the extract is not likely to harm your pet, but if you’re worried about it, there are a few pet relief providers who completely isolate CBD, leaving THC out of the picture.
A frequently used method is alcohol extraction. The chemist begins with a high-CBD, low-THC hemp strain. The plant is soaked in a solvent, in this case, alcohol. After a period of time, the alcohol evaporates (usually with the help of a Roto-Vap), leaving behind the CBD oil. Another common method is CO2 extraction. The plant is put in a pressurized and temperature controlled chamber, where CO2 is then forced through the vessel, separating the cannabinoids from the raw plant material. Both methods can be time-consuming and require some pretty hefty equipment. With plenty of trustworthy and knowledgeable CBD companies out there, I’d leave the extraction to the professionals.
CBD for Pet Consumption
CBD is a useful tool in treating a wide range of ailments in both humans and pets. CBD has been known to treat the negative symptoms associated with seizures, cancer and harsh cancer treatment, anxiety, allergies, appetite loss, arthritis, weakness with aging, and more. If your pet is experiencing any of the following conditions, CBD treatment may be an organic, viable option.
Because cannabis was unjustly outlawed for so long, scientific research is limited. Hundreds of testimonials are out there, but the long and strenuous process of formal research has struggled to keep up. Until the scientific community officially recognizes the benefits of CBD, veterinarians will be cautious in suggesting its use. Because CBD is extracted from hemp and contains a minuscule amount of THC, it is legal. You are more than welcome to ask your vet about CBD use, but don’t be surprised if he or she does not want to officially endorse the use, as it is not yet recognized in the veterinarian community (but soon will be).
If your pet is currently taking any medications, do not stop their prescription cycle without consulting your vet beforehand. While CBD can be an alternative option to conventional medicine, immediately discontinuing your pet’s current prescription cycle is not advised. Always consult with you vet before doing so. CBD is not known to cause any adverse reactions, regardless of the prescriptions your pet may be taking. Negative CBD reactions are very rare in mammals. CBD is not processed the same way THC is, making it a much more accessible compound.
If you’re ready to give CBD a try, there are many different reliable companies out there to choose from. CBD for pets can come in the form of a tincture, treat/edible goodie, capsules, and even a topical solution for skin problems. A simple Google search of “CBD for pets” will provide you with plenty of options. Medicated treats are an easy option for picky pets. If you want greater control of the dosage, a tincture is also a viable option. If your pet is experiencing any skin allergies or conditions, the medicated topical solutions have great reviews.
Many of the CBD companies online will provide you with the proper dosage amount for your pet, usually depending on the weight and severity of the condition. If the company you are looking at does not provide any dosage information, that’s a red flag. Again, while CBD has little to no recorded adverse effects, you want to find a company that has your pet’s best interests at heart, and providing proper dosage is part of that. Like any medication, it’s best to start low and go slow. You can use this simple reference chart as a starting point for dosage. Most products recommend one to two “dosages” per day. Again, the dosage amount varies, depending on the potency of the product and weight of your pet.
Here is a good dosing strategy we learned from veterinarian Dr. Robert J Silver:
Range of dosing: 0.05 mg per lb twice daily to 0.25 mg per lb twice daily
Tier 1: 0.05 mg per lb of bodyweight is the low end
Tier 2: 0.125 mg per lb of bodyweight is the middle ground
Tier 3: 0.25 mg per lb of bodyweight is the high end
Notice how small those dosages are.
Dr. Silver advises pet parents to start at Tier 1 twice daily and observe over a week. It may not be necessary to go to tier 2.
If necessary, go on to Tier 2 twice daily and observe for a week.
And again, if necessary to go higher, go up to Tier 3 twice daily.
Here are some examples at Tier 1 dosing:
Pet Weight Dosage
Up to 25lbs/11kg up to 1.25 mg – 2 times daily
25 – 50lb/11 – 23kg 1.25 to 2.5 mg – 2 times daily
50 – 75lb/23 – 34kg 2.5 to 3.75 mg – 2 times daily
over 75lb/34kg 3.75 mg+ – 2 times daily
** When in doubt, always start with a low dose.
** Keep in mind that every brand’s mg per drop content will be different. You will need to do some simple calculations to figure out the mg per drop of the brand you choose.
You can continue to administer CBD to your pet at the recommended dosage. However, if CBD has been successful in treating your furry friend’s symptoms, you may be able to decrease the dosage. If you would like to lower the amount you pet is taking (for any reason, to save some extra money for example) taper off the usage slowly. No need to stop the medication completely, find what works best for your pet.
While most of the websites that sell CBD are labeled for dogs and cats, a few websites offer medication for horses as well. Unfortunately, reptile, insect, and bird medication are not commonly offered. Research on the effects of CBD and cannabis have been much more limited in these animals, consult with your veterinarian before administering CBD to them.
CBD: Teenie’s Story
CBD became an important part of my life when my adopted chiweenie (Dachshund + Chihuahua) Teenie, was in chronic pain from an earlier leg injury.
After trying conventional medicine with little to no results, I decided to give CBD a shot. After just one dosage, Teenie’s symptoms subsided. After a few months of using a CBD tincture 1-2 times a day, Teenie can now go 3-4 days with just one dosage. After experiencing the remarkable effects of CBD, I wanted to share my discovery with as many struggling pet owners as possible.