Cannabidiol (CBD) is big business, and not just among the human population. CBD pet products are becoming increasingly popular, accounting for $32 million in sales in 2018 alone. But do they live up to the hype? What does the research say?
What Is CBD?
For a bit of background, CBD is one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds produced by the drug, which interact with the brain and nervous system. The best-known cannabinoid is THC, the psychoactive compound that causes users to get high. Since CBD and CBDA are non-psychoactive cannabinoids, they don’t lead to any sort of intoxication.
Like all cannabinoids, CBD and CBDA work by helping to regulate the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is made up of receptors that bind to cannabis compounds (like CBD + CBDA) in the central and peripheral nervous systems, contributing to health and well-being.
Because human beings and dogs have roughly the same endocannabinoid system, many pets may be able to benefit from CBD in the same ways as their human companions.
Research on CBD for Pets
Research into CBD for pets is still limited, but the existing research does show tremendous promise. One comprehensive pet CBD study was conducted by Cornell researchers. The dogs were given ElleVet hemp cannabinoid oil, including CBD and CBDA. The 8-month double-blind study was carried out with dogs suffering from multi-joint pain and osteoarthritis. The control group was given a placebo. Hemp is the basis of most commercial CBD and CBDA products, as it contains natural CBD with only traces amounts of THC (less than .3%) and is therefore legal in all 50 states.
The researchers found that over 80% of dogs who received the hemp-based CBD and CBDA oils saw significant improvements in their arthritis symptoms compared to the dogs in the placebo group. The veterinarians who carried out the study referred to these results as “a game-changer that will change the face of veterinary medicine.”
Various other animal studies have also shown positive correlations between cannabis compounds and pain relief in dogs. One comprehensive review in the journal Clinical Neuroscience Research outlined how CBD and CBDA have been shown in animal trials to relieve inflammation, pain, and anxiety. Gastrointestinal problems were also reduced, which is noteworthy as gastrointestinal distress represents one of the most common pet health problems.
Why More Information Is Still Needed
Though the preliminary findings are extremely promising, researchers caution that more research is still required. There have been two thorough studies on the efficacy of CBD for pets in a 12-week study led by ElleVet Sciences and a 52-week study led by the British Pharmacological Society, but more long-term research is always needed.
In addition, because CBD and CBDA are largely unregulated at the federal level, different products can vary greatly in their cannabinoid concentrations and effects. Varying extraction methods can affect the quality of the product, and not all CBD formulations contain the amount of the compound that’s advertised. The presence of other cannabinoids and terpenes (aromatic plant oils) may also impact the effects of the CBD as these compounds interact with one another. This is commonly referred to as the entourage effect.
Though more research is still needed to address the complexities of this compound, it does appear that there are legitimate benefits.
How to Administer CBD to Pets
If you want to try giving CBD or CBDA to your pet for pain, anxiety, or another condition, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Stick with products that are specially formulated for pets.
2. Look for products that contain a certificate of analysis from a third-party lab. This will help to confirm that the CBD concentration is as advertised.
3. Use as directed, and do not give your pet a higher dosage than is recommended by the manufacturer. Small doses are sufficient. In the Cornell study, researchers administered doses of just 2mg and 8mg. Too much CBD may lead to certain side effects like drowsiness, dry mouth, and a temporary drop in blood pressure.
If additional research reinforces the preliminary findings, it may forever change how we care for our pets.
About the Author
Aaron Smith is a writer and copy strategist for several companies and nonprofits. He often covers topics important to pet owners, and is a dedicated dog dad to his three pups: Buddy,
Roxy, and Kaya.