As the legalization and use of medical marijuana has popularized in several US states, as well as throughout the world, it has also been making strides in the realm of veterinary medicine. Like humans, pets are subject to numerous physical, neurological, and psychological ailments. In recent years, owners and vets have been exploring the experimental use of CBD oil (cannabidiol) in pets to help ease symptoms of various conditions. If one follows any number of pet-related groups on social media, particularly those related to dogs and cats, it’s common to see a post about an owner dropping the oil for a range of maladies; from epilepsy to arthritis to fear of thunderstorms.
CBD, according to the National Institute of Health, “is one of the major non-psychoactive cannabinoids produced by Cannabis sativa L.” In essence, this property does not create any significant psychochemical result – AKA a high.
A 2016 study by veterinary researcher Stephanie McGrath, which examined which delivery method was most effective for therapeutic benefit, concluded that oil drops yielded the most consistent results. However, Dr. McGrath was clear to point out that research for human use, therapeutic efficacy, and long-term effects are still very much in the elementary stage of research. The clinical study for use in animals is certainly even more experimental. To draw conclusions in either setting would be very premature.
Still, the risk of unknown side-effects is well worth the advantages of CBD treatments to many pet owners. According to the American Kennel Club, about 0.75% of dogs experience a form of epilepsy. Dogs were historically treated with conventional medications, including phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Now, as the research and application of use of CBD oil indicates that human patients with some forms of epilepsy are experiencing therapeutic benefits, more people are exploring the CBD route for their pets.
It’s important to remember that the discovery that various compounds in cocoa and chocolate may be extremely dangerous for dogs is relatively recent. The medical and pharmaceutical field is one of constant evolution. It requires long, ongoing research, studies, clinical trials inclusive of placebo, case studies, and re-evaluation of patients for long-range statistical analysis of short-term and long-term impact.
Still, in her interview for CNET, Dr. McGrath expressed her own hesitations. She stated that she would feel uneasy about giving CBD to a veterinary patient with compromised liver function, for example. Aggravating the liver would certainly cause tremendous pain and suffering in the pet by way of taxing an already compromised liver even further. While it’s very tempting for people to follow a trend, particularly one that stems from holistic and natural approaches, one should explore the pros and cons carefully with their veterinary professional team in order to make a weighted, well-informed decision about how the introduction of CBD oil into the pet’s therapeutic regime would affect the pet one way or another.