There are fads, and there are things that survive the test of time. (There are also things that we thought were fads, like bell bottoms, that circle back every few decades, and dog bikinis, which we wish hadn’t survived the test of time!). Some notable pet fads: BARF (bones and raw food) diets, which led to developmental bone diseases in large breed dogs, fractured teeth and lots of surgeries to remove bones from blocked intestines; not vaccinating dogs for fear of causing thyroid diseases; and grain free diets, which are now being associated with heart muscle diseases in some breeds. Novelties that sounded sketchy at first but are now being embraced by science/evidence-based medicine: decreasing the frequency of some vaccinations; choosing not to spay or neuter or neuter some breeds later in life to prevent health problems; acupuncture; the herb Yunnan Baiyao to treat bleeding problems.
It’s too early to tell whether using CBD products in pets is going to just be a flash in the pan or will survive the test of time and science. Certainly, industry and veterinary colleges are intensely researching the possibilities given what we hear about its health properties in people. California veterinarians are prohibited by state law from making specific recommendations about CBD products for animals. If you are in our exam room and ask about using CBD products, we can provide you with facts regarding what studies have been done and by whom and what concerns exist regarding negative effects. Generally, though, to all pet owners, we can also provide the following baseline education on the vocabulary being used for the products and general safety guidelines.
Cannabis is a genus of plants. Within that genus, like an umbrella term, are the two words we have heard most commonly over the years – hemp and marijuana. What distinguishes these two is how much THC, the ingredient that causes a “high”, each contains. Because hemp has such low levels of THC, it is not considered a controlled drug, although oils, leaves and juices have been used for medicinal purposes and as a recreational drug.
THC is one of many cannabinoids, which are compounds from Cannabis plants that interact with receptors in the body. The other cannabinoid we now easily recognize is CBD. Unlike THC, it’s not considered intoxicating and may have favorable effects on animal biologic processes. There are other compounds within the plants as well, terpenes and flavonoids, which interact with the cannabinoids and alter their effects on the body.
There are lots of things to be aware of if you’re considering using CBD containing products in your pet – it’s not as straightforward and safe as the rows of products on stores shelves might suggest and, as with anything you’re spending money on to put in a body, it’s worth gathering information first. Remember, there is no regulatory oversight on the safety of these products. There are also large differences between the safety of THC in dogs and in people, and large differences between recommended doses of CBD and whether to use products containing just cannabinoids or also including the terpene and flavonoids compounds, which lead to something called the “entourage effect”. Safety information is just becoming available and in very small numbers of patients. Information from testing in small numbers of patients does not always hold true when applied to millions of patients – human and veterinary medicine have proved that over and over again. If you’re struggling with a health concern with your pet we encourage you to voice that frustration to us – it’s our calling to help you navigate your options, both traditional and alternative, in keeping with your personal perspective on health management.