Is CBD Right for Your Pet? This Michigan Vet Answers Your Questions.

Photo via Unsplash

By Karel Vega

August 4, 2023

Introducing CBD to your pet’s health routine may seem daunting. Here’s what to know.

MICHIGAN — The use of cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has exploded in recent years, thanks to ongoing research into the cannabis substance’s potential health benefits—from pain relief to its anti-anxiety properties. But until recently, many Michiganders have been uncertain about how to pass those benefits onto their pets.

That all changed a couple of years ago after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation allowing veterinarians to have conversations about CBD with clients, although vets still aren’t legally allowed to administer or prescribe those treatments. But even with all of the products that are now available for people and pets alike, this emerging market can feel overwhelming, especially to any pet parent looking for ways to support their loved one’s health.

Dr. Jeffrey Powers, a Michigan veterinary practitioner with more than four decades of experience, described the 2021 law as a “necessary first step.” He’s studied the benefits of CBD in animals for a decade and is an advocate for its advancement in veterinary medicine. We caught up with Powers to answer your top questions about CBD treatments for pets.

Is CBD Right for Your Pet? This Michigan Vet Answers Your Questions.

Dr. Jeff Powers. (Photo via Beaver Island Hemp Company on Facebook)

The ’Gander: What are common conditions that you discuss CBD treatment with clients for?

Dr. Jeff Powers: Common conditions that CBD in pets is used for,—also the areas where there is a lot of research—is in arthritis and pain in dogs as well as seizures in dogs and skin conditions in dogs and cats. Other factors are anxiety issues like storm anxiety, fear anxiety situations, fireworks, things like that. Those would be the main areas as well as overall well-being. A number of patients or clients feel that their pets benefit directly in their overall attitude and health, and vitality by taking CBD routinely.

Will CBD make your pets high?

So, this is a common misconception. CBD is not psychotropic. It does not bind to the receptors in the brain, the CB1 and CB2 receptors, that cause the euphoria, or the high, that THC does. In fact it actually is what’s called an antagonist. And it modulates those binding sites in the nerve cells and can actually reduce to a degree the absorption of, or the effects, of THC. That being said, high doses of CBD can cause a mild sedative effect, or calming effect, because it does interact with the anti-anxiety receptors. When I say non-psychotropic, I mean, it doesn’t cause the high or the euphoria. But it can cause this, like, calming which is actually beneficial for pets and people.

What are known risks in giving your pets CBD?

CBD is very safe; it has a much greater safety margin than, say, THC, which can cause psychotropic side effects at even moderate doses. So we’ll see a lot of cases where dogs have accidentally gotten exposed to THC products, maybe by eating gummies or eating other products that were in the house. 

At higher doses, [CBD] can cause some sleepiness and sedation. It has been known to cause diarrhea in some cases, probably in cases where they’re eating a lot of or ingesting a lot of the oils that CBD is commonly suspended in … it may be as much the oil as anything else. Although there are rare cases where pets may be somewhat intolerant to CBD and [it] could even cause vomiting. 

There are some certain seizure medications where CBD can interact and slow the metabolism, thus causing a prolonged effect of the medication because CBD is metabolized in the liver by similar pathways to some commonly used seizure medications. The other thing is glaucoma in dogs. CBD often acts the opposite of THC. So it’s commonly known that THC, marijuana, can be beneficial for glaucoma by reducing intraocular pressure; CBD has the potential to increase intraocular pressure. So it wouldn’t be indicated in a dog that has glaucoma.

How do you find a safe CBD product for your pet?

Well, first thing would be any reputable company should have third party test results available. Actually, it’s mandatory. I actually have a small hemp company myself, that we make our own products, Beaver Island Hemp Company, and to even have a website, we have to list all the certificates of analysis of all our products on the website. And any reputable company will have direct links, often right on the product themselves, where you could scan with your phone or look up on the internet, or perhaps even included in the packaging would have the detailed analysis to show how much is exactly in there. 

That being, because the testing laboratories are not regulated by the government at this point in time, there are still studies that have shown that even though many tests will be detailed on our products, [the] information … may be off by up to 10% in many cases. So, I would look for reputable sources. 

Many veterinarians now are educated and will have knowledge as far as what would be quality companies. But still, it’s very important to see where these products are sourced as well. There are a lot of products that come in from outside the United States and I would steer customers away from that because imported CBD is not likely third party tested here in the United States.

Editor’s Note: CBD products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for dogs. But, as the American Kennel Club points out, neither are common supplements such as fish oil.

READ MORE: Ready to Try Marijuana for Anxiety? 5 Things Every Michigander Should Know First

Is CBD Right for Your Pet? This Michigan Vet Answers Your Questions.

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  • Karel Vega

    Coming from a long background in public radio, Karel Vega strives to find stories that inform and inspire local communities. Before joining The ‘Gander, Karel served as managing editor at WKAR, the NPR affiliate in East Lansing, Michigan.

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