Does CBD have any medical uses, and can it be used safely for pet dogs?
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring chemical substance that is an active ingredient in marijuana. It is not a narcotic and has no psycho-active effects – unlike THC, the other major compound found in marijuana and hemp. In the past year, it has been extensively marketed as a beneficial treatment for a number of health issues and has turned into a huge industry. You can’t drive past a strip mall without seeing stores advertising CBD products.
What is it used for?
CBD products are available in capsules, pills, topical creams, lotions, oils and tinctures, food additives, smoothies, gummies, vaping products and pretty much any other form that can be taken internally or applied to skin1. They are marketed as treatments for a huge array of ailments, including anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain, arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, autism and Alzheimer’s disease2,3, in both humans and animals.
Does it work?
Does it? We don’t know.
There is clinical evidence that CBD is effective in treating some forms of childhood epilepsy. And early studies suggest that CBD has some effect on insomnia and anxiety in humans, and in treating anxiety in humans. Early studies indicated that it may have some use as an anti-inflammatory4. However, later testing showed no pain-relieving or anti-inflammatory effects in dogs5.
Recent testing has also shown that CBD was not effective in reducing anxiety in dogs, either alone or in combination with other medications. In fact, it seems to reduce the effectiveness of other medications when used in combination with them6.
The FDA has issued warnings to several companies, ordering them to stop making unproven claims about CBD’s effectiveness. However, these warnings have little effect, and the FDA is essentially playing whack-a-mole in trying to reign in consumer fraud regarding CBD.
Adding to the confusion is that dogs have entirely different digestive systems than humans and produce different digestive enzymes. Products designed for human consumption don not always work with dogs.
What are the issues with it?
First of all, there’s a serious lack of testing. And much of CBD testing has been of questionable quality, relying on owners’ and veterinarians’ impressions of effectiveness rather than objective testing. An AVMA spokesman estimates that the placebo effect of CBD studies can be as high as 40% 7. As discussed above, when controlled testing takes place, efficacy claims are placed in serious doubt.
Being an unregulated product, there is no way of knowing whether the contents of a pill, cream or other form of CBD actually match what’s on the label8. Further, its available in a wide range of forms. We don’t know it should be administered or what dosage may be effective – if it has any effect at all.
We do know that it can cause liver damage and that it can affect other medications. It can also cause mood changes and stomach upset9.
What’s the bottom line?
CBD has some interesting possibilities, but we have to wait for the scientific process to prove or disprove the marketing claims. It is probably safe in that it won’t cause harm to your pets, although side effects have been noted, but we have no reason to believe that it will be effective in treating any physical, emotional or mental conditions. And we don’t know how it may interact with other drugs, how it should be administered, what form it should take and what dosage is needed. Further, until it is regulated in some form, we have no way to know what’s in those pills or gummies that are sold online or over the counter.
My advice: If you think your dog needs medication for some condition, talk to your vet.
- Beginners guide to CBD. Retrieved from Your Guide to CBD (healthline.com)
- Mother Jones. (December 2018) Sorry, Hipsters. CBD Will Not Solve All Your Problems. Retrieved from Sorry, Hipsters. CBD Will Not Solve All Your Problems. – Mother Jones
- Hazekamp, A., (2018), The Trouble with CBD Oil, Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids 2018 (1). 65 – 72. doi: 10.1159/000489287
- Grinspoon, P. (August 24, 2018), Cannabidoil (CBD) – What We Know and What We Don’t. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing
- Mejia, S., Duerr, F. M., Griffenhagen, G. and McGrath, S. (2021). Evaluation of the Effect of Cannabidoil on Naturally Occurring Osteoarthritis-Association Pain: A Pilot Study in Dogs. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 57 (2), 81-90. doi: 5326/JAAHA-MS-7119
- Morris, E. M., Kitts-Morgan, S. E., Spangler, D., McLeod, K. R., Costa, J. H. and Harmon, D. L. (2020), The Impact of Feeding Cannabidoil (CBD) Containing Treats on Canine Response to a Noise-Induced Fear Test. Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2020). doi: 3389/fvets.2020.569565
- DVM360, CBD in Pets, retrieved from CBD in Pets (dvm360.com)
- Grinspoon, et al.
- S. Food and Drug Administration. What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-Derived Compounds, Including CBD. Retrieved from: What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD | FDA