As a holistic veterinarian, one of the most common questions I get from my pet parents is about CBD. There are constant news stories on how CBD cured seizures, cured cancer or helped someone’s anxiety. Of course hearing all of these success stories will naturally make someone want to use it on their pets. So how does this translate over to our pet’s health and helping their ailments?
Let’s start at the beginning — what is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis. There are about 100 cannabinoids present in the plant, and the two most common are the CBD and THC molecules. CBD is the non-psychoactive molecule, and THC is the psychoactive molecule that gives people their “high”. The psychoactive effect from THC comes from the way it binds with receptors in the brain, which are known as endocannabinoids. CBD also interacts with these receptors but does not directly bind with them, which is why you do not get “high” from CBD alone.
All mammals (any animal with a backbone) have an endocannabinoid system. This system plays a crucial role in regulating a broad range of physiological processes in the body. There are two receptors present that are affected by THC and CBD. CB1 receptors are present in the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are present in the peripheral nervous system, immune and lymphatic system. We can use different ratios of THC and CBD to affect different organ systems based on how they interact with these two different receptors, which is pretty amazing! The endocannabinoid system needs to be in balance, or in homeostasis, otherwise disease results.
Some of the common conditions CBD is being used for include chronic pain, anxiety, seizures and inflammation. We are finally starting to see research coming from universities on pets to show how CBD can help osteoarthritis and seizures. Unfortunately due to the federal law, veterinarians are still not allowed to prescribe or recommend it. In Colorado, we can help with harm reduction though, so if a client brings up CBD to the veterinarian, we can discuss it openly and honestly. So make sure your vet knows if you are using it on your pet, and if they disagree or do not know enough, find someone who can help you!
This brings me to how do you know what to use and how to use it?!
There are so many products available commercially. Being in Colorado, the market is saturated with everyone making their own products. Also, I find that a lot of sellers are telling pet owners to dose their pets like they would for themselves, which is not correct and can create problems. In addition, there can be interactions with other medications. CBD is metabolized by the liver and it upregulates certain enzymes. When a human ingests an edible, the amount of THC present actually doubles due to the liver metabolism that occurs! The metabolism can be delayed, which means that person may not feel the effects until later and ingest another edible. Now they may have potentially ingested 4x the dose they wanted! Snooze time! This is important to keep in mind for our pets though. We are not using large doses of CBD, but they may be on drugs that are metabolized through the liver and there could be other adverse side effects. It is important to work with a veterinarian that can monitor what is happening and make the right adjustments to the amount of CBD being used and even other medication dosages.
Back to products! There are so many choices! So how do you pick a product that is quality and not going to harm your pet? Once again, work with your veterinarian but here are a few criteria that are important:
* Make sure the product is organic.
Just like with our food, there are a lot of pesticides being used. You do not want to be putting more chemicals into our pets. The cancer rate is already higher than it has ever been, and this is probably partly due to the amount of chemicals and pollution that we are exposed to every day.
* Don’t go cheap.
Cheaper is definitely not better in this industry. The amount of times I have seen pet parents wasting money on products that did not have anywhere close to a therapeutic dose in the product is sad. Make sure that you know how much CBD is actually present in the product. The company should make it very easy to measure and calculate the amount needed for whatever condition is being treated.
*Check the companies certificate of analysis (CoA).
You should be able to obtain this information off of the product or on the company’s website. If you cannot find this information easily on the website, the company should be more than happy to provide it if you give them a phone call or email. This information will tell you how many cannabinoids are present, has a residual solvent test, pesticide test and terpene profile.
*Buy the product as a tincture.
This form of the product is much easier to dose and adjust for animals and is usually more effective. You always want to start on the lower end of dosing for animals and you can work your way up to the therapeutic dosage to make sure your pet tolerates it. CBD is very safe for pets!
*And finally avoid isolates.
Choose “full spectrum” hemp-rich CBD products. Full spectrum means it includes a variety of cannabis compounds, including a small amount of THC (0.3% or less) in keeping with the legal definition of hemp. The cannabis compounds work synergistically in the body to provide the therapeutic effects you want. This is also what keeps herbal medicine more safe than conventional medication, because the natural compounds balance each other in the body.
CBD is a hot topic right now, but you shouldn’t have to navigate this big world alone! There are veterinarians, like myself, who are knowledgeable and willing to help so you can help your pet achieve optimal health and well-being. There are so many natural options available for treating medical conditions, and I look forward to helping these become more available for pet parents so we can help our pets live longer and healthier lives.
One of the products I have used for years with my own pets and clients is organic, sourced seed to final production and is overseen by a veterinarian and fulfills all of the above requirements.