Pets and Vets What experts know about medical cannabis for pets

All good animal owners will agree that they will go to great lengths to keep their furry housemates happy, healthy and pain-free. It’s not uncommon that our beloved pets can suffer from anxiety, seizures, disabling joint pain and even cancer. Typical methods of relief for animals are similar to how humans are treated—prescription drugs and other sorts of therapeutic modalities. Medications can have side effects and anecdotal reports say that they are sometimes not effective enough. In the recent past, owners are turning to CBD for an all-natural remedy to ease any suffering their pets may be experiencing.

The internet can be a great resource for information, but is also filled with biased facts. It can be confusing to sift through the unknown when all you want to do is provide your pet with a plant-based remedy. CULTURE sought out to get some clarification with the question of, what do we know about CBD for pets?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound found in the cannabis plant that does not have psychoactive effects. Using CBD to treat pets has increasingly become a growing trend in the last few years. Testimonials from owners say that CBD is working wonders for their animals to reduce anxiety, seizure activity and to provide pain relief, but these claims lack one major thing, and that’s scientific data. Bottom line, there has not been enough solid research conducted to make valid claims about the effects of CBD, but this is slowly changing as medical professionals and scientists make strides by actually doing the research in controlled studies.

Dr. Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist at Colorado State University’s (CSU) James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, conducted an on-campus study at Colorado State University. From 2016 to 2017, Dr. McGrath and CSU scientists conducted a double-blind study with 16 dogs, to which half were administered CBD and the other half a placebo. The point was to study the effects of CBD on epilepsy in dogs. Per Dr. McGrath and her team’s research, they found that 89 percent of the dogs in the study showed reduced seizure activity. She described the results as “promising and exciting.” Dr. McGrath has plans to conduct similar studies in the upcoming year. The results are published in the June 1 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“There are a lot of claims out there for what CBD can do, and some of those claims are exaggerated or lack good evidence.”

Despite the availability of CBD, there is still so much uncertainty and grey area surrounding the distribution and application of it. Veterinarian Dr. Tim Shu is the founder behind VetCBD, a California-based CBD company for animals. We were able to seek his expertise about what we do know about our pets and CBD.

Dr. Shu expressed that although this sector of the industry is still in the early stages of research and developments, that there are conclusive benefits to CBD. “The legal barriers have made it difficult to conduct studies that we typically find with other therapeutic modalities, but more studies are being conducted around the world and are confirming the benefits that we’ve seen in real world cases for years. We can say for sure that CBD has the ability to decrease pain, anxiety, seizures and nausea. Other potential uses which are being studied include using CBD for neuroprotection, inflammation and cancer,” Dr. Shu told CULTURE.

The full-spectrum tincture from VetCBD is designed for pets, made from the cannabis plant as opposed to the hemp plant. Full spectrum refers to an array of beneficial components instead of isolating just one component from the plant. In addition to CBD, full-spectrum products contain a range of other beneficial cannabis compounds such as THC, CBN, CBG and CBC.

“This is important as studies have shown that full spectrum products provide greater therapeutic benefit compared to isolate forms of CBD,” Shu explained. Be advised that while a product may contain THC, this is not getting your pet “high.” It is important to note that mid to high levels of just THC are dangerous to animals. “THC has therapeutic properties and can benefit animals, but proper formulation and dosing are crucial to prevent any adverse effects. We utilize cannabis-derived CBD so that we’re able to utilize appropriate THC content for optimal medicinal benefit.”

VetCBD’s website further explains that in addition to the combination of THC and CBD, the cannabinoids CBC and CBG prove to benefit pain relief and inflammation.

It’s important to be aware of what facts we do know and to seriously consider each animal’s individual needs before treating them with CBD. Dr. Shu stressed that it’s vital to discuss your pet’s medical condition and CBD with a veterinarian first. “Not only so the veterinarian can provide reliable medical advice, but help the owner decide the best treatment options,” he said.

“There are a lot of claims out there for what CBD can do, and some of those claims are exaggerated or lack good evidence,” Dr. Shu said. He went on to express that in some cases, traditional practices such as medications or therapy are the best way. For your pet’s sake, explore all options.

Because of current laws and the fact that VetCBD products are made from cannabis as opposed to hemp, the product cannot be shipped at this time. However, they are in the stages of nationally launching a hemp-based pet CBD line named Dr. Shu’s Pet Care, which will allow for shipping nationwide.

Don’t be put off if your veterinarian is hesitant or doesn’t have all the answers regarding CBD for man’s best friend. As mentioned, the lack of research in the industry creates a lack of concrete evidence and most medical professionals will not be fully on board until more studies are conducted and published. Educate your veterinarian by bringing in solid research rather than anecdotal results from owners. CBD is making its way into the world of animals, and the industry is at the front lines of groundbreaking research and results.

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