Why won’t my veterinarian prescribe CBD oil to my dog/cat?
To start, I think it’s important to address those pet caretakers who are frustrated (and sometimes angry) at the inability to get straight answers from their veterinary team regarding CBD oil treatment. Despite the changing legal status in many states around the country, federal law currently states that marijuana is a schedule 1 controlled substance. This means marijuana is among those drugs classified with the highest potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Many researchers, physicians, veterinarians, and concerned citizens are now trying to change that classification to a lesser schedule that could, at least, acknowledge widely accepted medical uses. But because this is current federal law, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), the agency which regulates physician’s and veterinarian’s ability to prescribe controlled substances, states that “The DEA has not given veterinarians the authority to possess, administer, dispense, or prescribe cannabis or cannaboid products. Therefore, under Federal Law, veterinarians are prohibited from engaging in such activity.” – California Veterinary Medical Board (3/2017). This statement was taken from the governing body of veterinarians in California, where both medical and recreational use of marijuana is legal. Other states with stricter marijuana laws can go even further and discourage veterinarians from even discussing CBD products with their clients- meaning those veterinarians cannot provide any recommendations for trusted brands and cannot provide dosing guidance without risking discipline from their state’s Board of Veterinary Medicine. These legal ramifications, along with the lack of clinical studies, and the plethora of untested products on the market, make some veterinarians very uncomfortable and unwilling to venture into the emerging world of CBD oil for pets. We ask that you please don’t hold that against them and instead work to find a veterinarian in your area who is comfortable discussing options for your pet.
What is CBD oil?
Both Hemp and marijuana are subspecies of the plant Cannabis sativa L. The plants themselves contain over 450 different compounds, and of these 85 are cannabinoids. There are two primary cannabinoid compounds- delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp contains primarily CBD, which is not psychoactive and is known to have relaxing, anti-psychotic, and anti-bacterial properties. Marijuana, on the other hand, has higher levels of THC, and is known to be psychoactive with pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, anti-oxidant, and anti-itch properties. CBD oil is made by processing portions of the Cannabis plant high in CBD, but very low in THC; most specifically the stem vs. the dried leaves and flowers.
What does CBD oil treat in dogs and cats?
The most honest answer is that we don’t know. We extrapolate from our human medicine counterparts and the preliminary veterinary studies that CBD oil may help with:
Pain– CBD compounds seem to affect both the central and peripheral nervous system. They also seem to have anti-inflammatory effects, which can be very beneficial for arthritis pain, etc. Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine recently completed a study for dogs with arthritis pain and saw significant improvement in pain levels and quality of life for 80% of dogs treated with CBD products.
Cancer– Studies have shown that cancer cells and tissues have higher number of CBD receptors than healthy cells and tissues. Binding to these receptors could be a way to target malignant cell death.
Nausea/Vomiting/Low appetite– Cannaboids have been used to assist humans receiving chemotherapy to help relieve nausea and vomiting. Appetite stimulation seems to be mostly regulated by THC, but CBDs could play an important role as well.
Inflammatory bowel disease- The anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmotic effects of cannaboids could be very helpful in treating IBD. THC may also decrease the “leakiness” of inflamed GI tracts.
Seizures– Both Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine are currently enrolling patients to study the potential effects of CBD on patients with epilepsy.
Anxiety/Cognitive Dysfunction– CBD can help activate microglia, which can decrease inflammation and preserve mental function.
What is the dose of CBD oil for dogs/cats?
We don’t exactly know. Do you sense a theme and source of frustration for both pet families AND their veterinarians? This is one of the most difficult parts about using CBD oil in pets. Since marijuana has been illegal until very recently, we have very few studies in veterinary medicine regarding it’s use in animals. The Cornell study showed response to arthritis pain at a higher dose than most veterinarians are currently using with no side effects or toxicities noted. We do know that dogs have a higher number of brain receptors for cannaboids than people do, which could increase their sensitivity to toxicity in theory. Studies have shown that since the legalization of medical marijuana in Colorado, a higher number of cases of toxicity were reported in dogs compared to prior years. Some of these toxicity cases may be related THC itself (not found in CBD products) or to the other ingredients injected with the marijuana, such as chocolate or a sugar-free additive called Xylitol. The clinical signs of marijuana toxicity following ingestion in dogs are extremely variable. They can include high or low heart rates, low blood pressure, depressed mental status, unsteadiness, vomiting, abnormal behavior, increased salivation, weakness, low body temperature, and even seizures. Most of these toxicities include pets ingesting products containing THC so the implications for CBD products alone are not known. We suggest discussing individual products and doses with your veterinarian to see what the appropriate regimen for your pet might be.
What CBD Oil should I choose?
The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that consumers should beware of purchasing and using products containing cannabis for animals. They make clear that these products have not been approved by the FDA for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of diseases and that they also have not (YET) been documented as a safe and efficacious remedy by the professional veterinary medical community. In the aforementioned letter from Mr. Arnold of the DEA, he wrote: “…the Food and Drug Administration has not approved for marketing any drug product containing marijuana – again, either for humans or animals.” – California Veterinary Medical Board (3/2017). There is also a concern with the plethora of CBD products flooding the market, there is plenty of opportunity for products containing ingredients that do not match their label- either containing contaminants (heavy metals are a particular concern) or simply not containing the indicated amount of active ingredients. The FDA has tested some CBD products and found that label claims rarely matched the actual content of the product. Some products they tested had no CBD in them at all. Not knowing exactly which products to trust makes trying CBD products on your own a bit of a gamble. There are trustworthy CBD brands and speaking with your veterinarian or a holistic/integrative veterinarian should be encourage to help guide product choices.
If you have a pet who would benefit from CBD oil and an integrative medicine consultation, please contact Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice, In-Home Euthanasia, and Integrative Medicine at 757-474-5968.