Living with a dog that suffers from a health or behavioural problem can be a struggle. You hate to see your canine companion in distress and would naturally like him to receive immediate relief. The location of an effective treatment is not always straightforward, however.
Pet parents have a number of treatment options available, and hemp-based products like hemp and CBD are becoming increasingly popular. But do they work, are they safe and, more importantly, right for your dog?
Hemp for dogs
Hemp is essentially the same plant (sativa hemp) as that CBD comes from, says Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinarian who practices at Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California. “Except legally speaking, hemp plants are only allowed to contain, at most, 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC is the compound that triggers euphoria). So there are no effective issues until drug abuse.”
The “cannamones are incredibly nutritious,” adds Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinary writer, editor and consultant based in Fort Collins, Colorado. “They are rich in essential fatty acids, particularly in the form of hemp oil, and hemp powder is an excellent plant-based source of protein.
“Essential fatty acids in hemp oil can be helpful in the management of some skin problems and possibly also with diseases like osteoarthritis that benefit from a reduction in inflammation,” Coates continues.
Hemp is also added to products containing other supplements meant to treat a variety of conditions, but Coates stresses that more research is needed on the use of hemp in pets.
CBD for dogs
While hemp oil is made from the hemp plant, CBD oil is made from the flowers, stems and leaves of the hemp plant, which is where cannabidiol (CBD) is concentrated. According to Richter, “CBD can have a very positive effect as it pertains to stress, anxiety and a number of other medical conditions. It’s pretty good pain reliever, too.”
Most of the research for veterinary use is in its infancy, he says. “We’re just starting to see some studies come out looking at the use of CBD to treat arthritis in dogs, but as far as studies for stress and anxiety, there is all kinds of evidence when it comes to humans, but not just yet in the veterinary field.
Despite the lack of research, experts say that CBD is generally safe for pets. “There’s really no such thing as CBD toxicity,” Richter says. The “worst-case scenario is if a dog gets too much, he might get too sleepy, and every time on a blue moon you might see a dog with a tummy disorder, and they might have vomiting and diarrhea. And if that happens, you just stop giving it and they get better.
When it comes to anxiety related issues, what CBD can do is make behavior therapy easier to administer, Richter says. “You can’t medicate an anxiety disorder away. At best, a medication or supplement like CBD will calm dogs down enough to where they can pay attention to training and behavior modification, and in many ways that’s what you’re hoping to do,” he explains.
When should I give my dog hemp or CBD?
As with any supplement or pharmaceutical, hemp and CBD are not panaceas. They can be effective on their own for some dogs or for some conditions, or work best in conjunction with additional treatments in other cases,” says Coates.
Experts strongly recommend giving hemp and CBD dogs only under the direction of a veterinarian. The challenge here is that veterinarians can seem elusive on the subject, and with good reason. The DEA-the agency that licenses a veterinarian’s prescribing-writing capability-classifies all cannabinoids, including commercially available hemp and CBD, as Schedule 1 substances, says Dr. Casara Andre, founder of the veterinary hemp-education and consulting, based in Wheat Song, Colorado.
These legal concerns can be confusing. A company that is certified to grow hemp in its state can produce a product as long as it remains at or below .03 percent THC, Andre says. “Following the ‘correctness’ of this is often difficult, but it takes advantage of loopholes in the law and differences between state and federal regulations,” she says.
In multiple places, the policy contradicts itself. “However, between the written policy and the verbal statements by the DEA, no veterinarian can prescribe or recommend any cannabinoid,” she says.
Veterinarians can provide education, however. Vets can absolutely educate parents of the pet to promote harm reduction,” Andre says. If you would like to consider giving your hemp or CBD dog, talk still to your veterinarian, but be aware that the information you receive may be limited by need.
If you keep your expectations about hemp-based products for pets realistic, your furry family member may benefit. Whether or not hemp or CBD is suitable for your dog and situation is a decision that should be made with your veterinarian.
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