A number of pet owners tout the benefits of CBD (cannabidiol) oil for joint pain, anxiety, and even epilepsy. Some say it’s the only thing that helped after other treatments failed.
While there is little data to support the use of CBD for humans, and even less for animals, you can find it everywhere from gas stations and boutiques to specialty CBD stores, online retailers, and individual sales representatives. Some formulations are made specifically for animals.
As an animal Reiki practitioner and animal communicator, I often work with people who are trying to figure out how to help their sick, hurting, or inconsolably anxious animal companions. I’ve been there myself. As a journalist, finding accurate and unbiased information is also important. So if you’re thinking about trying CBD for your pet, I want to point you in a direction that will help you make an informed decision.
After doing my own research, asking around, paying attention to conversations on the topic, and talking with a trusted veterinarian, I suggest considering the following:
1. It’s legal, but veterinarians face restrictions.
As of March 2018, the cannabis-derived product is legal here in Indiana as long as it meets certain labeling requirements and contains less than 0.3 percent delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. (That’s the substance that produces the “high”). Cannabis laws vary by state.
On the federal level, the Drug Enforcement Administration still categorizes CBD as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe or recommend CBD. They can’t even discuss it unless the client brings it up. Check out this article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
2. Quality may vary, and interactions are unknown.
Do you know, or does the seller or manufacturer know, what’s really in your CBD oil? Is it less than 0.3 percent (the legal limit) THC? Where and how were the ingredients sourced?
There may well be some excellent animal CBD products out there with organic or responsibly sourced ingredients and airtight supply chains. Business owners and pet parents I deeply respect may be selling and using these products with due diligence and success.
With CBD relatively recently legalized and so many products hitting the market, there are probably a number of inferior, fake, or even toxic ones out there as well. The popularity and marketing of CBD products are outpacing research and regulation, Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club, told NBC News.
This brings up another unknown, and a question your vet cannot legally answer: How will even the purest CBD product interact with the medications or supplements your animal is already taking?
3. There may be better, safer alternatives.
CBD isn’t the only oil out there. Essential oils for animals are not without controversy, but you can at least discuss, say, peppermint oil with your veterinarian without legal restriction. The same goes for other supplements with more research behind their ingredients.
If you’re worried about the effects of traditional medications for pain or anxiety, talk to your vet about trying a lower dose, at least to start. With my own animal companions, I’ve found less can be more.
Reiki, a stress-relief modality which is part of my practice, can also help with issues such as pain and anxiety. I admit the research supporting this is not extensive, either. However, a 2017 Australian study, which looked at previous (human) clinical studies on whether Reiki provided more than a placebo effect, is encouraging. Reiki is non-invasive and substance-free, so even if you don’t see how it could possibly help, it will do no harm.
4. Trust is key.
Whether you’re giving your pet a prescribed antibiotic or considering a supplement such as CBD, you have to be able to trust 1) the person prescribing or selling it and 2) the maker of the product (whom the prescriber or seller presumably trusts).
Most important: Our trust in these folks needs to be worthy of our animal friends’ trust in us.
5. The research is ongoing.
Research on CBD for animals is in progress, so more conclusive information is likely to emerge. As it does, pay attention to what each study concludes (or doesn’t), who conducted it, who funded it, and whether any conflicts of interest were disclosed.
Also, see this story from Consumer Reports, which I consider a good source for unbiased consumer information, on the question of using CBD for animals. It includes guidance on what to look for should you decide to explore further.
What we know is expanding. In the meantime, I think caution is warranted.
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay