Ask the Vet: Weighing in on CBD oil for your pets

Ask the Vet: Weighing in on CBD oil for your pets

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I authored an article on the benefits of medical marijuana and the legal restrictions of a veterinarian’s ability to prescribe anything with the psychogenic component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), back in September of 2018. 

I touched on cannabidiol, or CBD, in that article and wished to expand on the reported benefits of CBDs. A quick disclaimer: As a veterinarian I am not legally allowed to recommend the use of this product. There is limited science behind it regarding safety, efficacy and purity of products.

CBD is a compound found in the non-THC portion of the cannabis plant. There are two known cannabinoid (CB) receptors in the body: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system. These receptors are activated by THC, the psychoactive portion of the cannabis plant and gives people the “high” associated with marijuana. 

CB2 receptors are found associated with the immune system and associated cells circulating throughout the body. CB2 receptors are activated by CBD and other non-THC compounds found in the cannabis plant. 

Almost all of the information we have in veterinary medicine comes from studies done on the human side so a look at those studies may prove helpful. CBD oils were first isolated from the cannabis plant in the 1930s and ’40s, and it was compared to phenobarbital, as well as other anti-convulsants, for its anti-seizure properties. 

There was a more recent human study that anecdotally reported a reduction in both seizure frequency and duration using a purified CBD product. As a matter of fact, preliminary results show that this product is more effective at treating seizures than a 50:50 blend of CBD:THC.  

CBD has been shown in humans to have an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety effect) similar to the benefit of a benzodiazepine, but there has yet to be a study performed on animals to support this claim.  

CBD products may also have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies on rheumatoid arthritis reveal that the administration of a purified CBD oil reduces the release of inflammatory chemicals such as gamma interferon and tumor necrosis factor, and CBD proved a more effective antioxidant effect than vitamin C. No studies have been performed in dogs or cats. Topical CBD activity has been shown  to be resistant against Staphylococcus bacteria in laboratory settings.

The future for the CBD oil appears bright, but some real studies need come about first to standardize some of the claims that are out there, as well as guarantee the purity and quality of products. There is only one CBD product approved for the treatment of epilepsy in humans. There are currently no approved products for pets. 

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.