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CBD Oil for Dogs: Everything You Need to Know But Were Afraid to Ask

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CBD oil for dogs is a popular new therapy

Now that some states have legalized cannabis, CBD oil has replaced coconut oil as the new miracle cure for humans AND dogs. With testimonials on social media promising cures for everything from anxiety to cancer, people are rushing to question veterinarians asking if CBD oil is right for their dog, often receiving a blank wall in response. While a lack of answers would frustrate anyone, it turns out there’s a reason your vet may be dodging your calls.

CBD Oil and the Law

Bottle of CBD oil

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound derived from the cannabis plant. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it doesn’t have psychoactive properties, so it can’t produce a “high.” While both marijuana and hemp come from the cannabis plant, CBD oil is derived from hemp, so no problem, right? Wrong.

See, federal law states marijuana and its derived products are Schedule I drugs and illegal. In 2018, the Farm Bill allowed the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp and hemp-derived CBD oil…in some states. However, except for California, that Schedule I listing makes it ILLEGAL for veterinarians to discuss, recommend, or prescribe CBD oil! They can face disciplinary action or even lose their license. In California, vets are allowed to discuss CBD oil, though prescribing is still out. (And you thought they didn’t want to talk to you!)

CBD Oil and Dogs

If you run a quick search on CBD oil and dogs, the testimonials are endless, with claims of solving seizures, pain, anxiety, nausea, all the way up to curing cancer. The reality, unfortunately, is there isn’t research to back up those claims. So how to tell fact from marketing?

In 2018, Cornell University tested CBD oil and arthritis in dogs, concluding reasonable benefits. (The paper is worth the read, but prepare for scientific jargon!) We know CBD oil shares a similar metabolic pathway to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), so we CAN consider it a treatment for some pain conditions.

In 2019, Colorado State University tested CBD oil for treating dogs with idiopathic epilepsy (a fancy description used when the cause is unknown). In this case, dogs only benefited when they were already receiving traditional anti-seizure medications, leaving more questions than answers. We know CBD doesn’t have psychoactive properties — that’s one of its best qualities — so expecting an effect on the brain is uncertain.

This also calls into question its use for anxiety. You may need to take those testimonials with a grain of salt until more research is done.

Side Effects of CBD Oil for Dogs

Sleepiness is common with CBD oil for dogs

No medication is without side effects, and while your veterinarian can’t prescribe it, CBD oil IS a medical treatment. Whether they can discuss it with you or not, you need to let your vet know you intend to start your dog on it — especially if they’re on any other medications. The last thing you want is a possible interaction, so keep your vet in the loop. (Believe me, they care, even if the law has tied their hands)

The most common side effects assosciated with CBD oil are:

  • Dry mouth: Okay, your dog isn’t going to tell you their mouth is dry. However, you’ll notice them drinking more frequently.
  • Drowsiness: This side effect is what people see most when they believe CBD oil treats anxiety; in truth, your dog is sound asleep! Monitor your dog’s sleeping pattern to make sure it isn’t increasing.
  • Tremors: Tremors are always abnormal in dogs.
  • Lightheadedness: Again, your dog can’t tell you they feel dizzy. Watch them, though; if they seem disoriented or have trouble finding their bearings, that could be a clue.
  • Low Blood Pressure: This one’s tricky because you can’t see it (though lightheadedness is a symptom). Luckily, you told your vet you started CBD oil, so they’ll monitor your dog’s blood pressure regularly.
  • Elevated ALKP: Again, you can’t see this side effect. ALKP (alkaline phosphatase) is a liver enzyme, and the research studies utilizing CBD oil showed increases, even at proper doses. We don’t know if the CBD oil irritates the liver or if it interferes with the measurement of ALKP, but your vet will need to do regular blood tests.

Research Your CBD Provider

Pardon the expression, but you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a CBD store, and many of them provide both human and animal products. But are all CBD products created equal? Not by a long shot! If you’re going to start your dog on CBD oil, do your homework.

  • First and foremost, human products are NOT safe for dogs. A lot of human CBD products contain Xylitol which is toxic to dogs. Stick to products designed for dogs and read the label.
  • You want an organic product. This means you won’t have to worry about exposing your dog to pesticides, fungicides, or solvents.
  • Look at the way the CBD oil is processed. Carbon dioxide and cold press extraction are SAFE. Cheaper processing methods utilize toxic solvents (propane, hexane, and butane) to extract CBD from hemp. This means you’ll have to pay more, but this is NOT where you want to be cost-conscious.
  • You should receive a certificate of analysis (COA) that provides the results of independent testing of the company’s products. You’re looking for a product to contain less than 0.3% THC, and you also want to see how much CBD the product contains.
  • CBD oil is the best form to administer because you can titrate the dose based on your dog’s response. Treats and chews are available, but it’s a lot harder to adjust them.
  • Research the company:
    • Have they been sued? Why?
    • Has the FDA penalized them for making false claims?
    • Is there a veterinarian working on the staff?
    • Read their reviews, and start with the NEGATIVE reviews first – not the positive.

Monitor Your Dog’s Response to CBD

It’s easy to fall under the sway of the glowing testimonials surrounding CBD oil, especially if your dog is in daily pain. It’s also easy to WANT to see changes – whether or not they exist. The best way to evaluate if CBD oil is benefiting your dog is to take videos and review them.

Is he moving better?

Is she jumping more?

Taking your heart out of the equation will give you an accurate measure of your dog’s response.

And remember to include your vet in the conversation.

More: My Dogs Nose Is Dry… What Should I Do to Help Him?

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria grew up in a pet-friendly household. On weekends, the family made trips to zoos and aquariums in the area. So it wasn’t a surprise when she gravitated toward a career with animals.

After six years working among the background operations at the Philadelphia Zoo, she gained a unique insight into the veterinary world. The vet staff provided her first lessons in terminology, the identification of medical equipment, and glimpses of radiographs (x-rays). She also enjoyed plenty of opportunities to talk with everyone, including the veterinary technicians. And they offered an alternative for someone NOT interested in surgical pathways: Namely, their course of study.

Andria enrolled at Harcum College. Philadelphia boasts two programs for vet techs, but only Harcum works with the Ryan Veterinary Hospital and New Bolton Center (University of Pennsylvania’s small and large animal facilities, respectively). Harcum’s vet tech students receive six months of hands-on teaching and experience alongside Penn’s vet students.

With the opportunities and connections available with one of the top veterinary schools, the decision was easy for her to make.

New Bolton Center: Large Animal Medicine
Andria ended up trudging through snow up to the knee and shivering in subzero temperatures during her winter semester, but she wasn’t disappointed with her choice. New Bolton provided a thorough grounding in large animal medicine. A horse-lover as a child, the experience renewed those old emotions.

And a few memories stood out and remained to this day:

  • Standing alongside a Clydesdale and feeling TINY
  • Holding the reins of a horse galloping at top speed on a treadmill
  • Nursing tiny foals through the first days of their life

Ryan Veterinary Hospital: Small Animal Medicine
Veterinary students can legally work at a practice while studying. Andria took advantage of the opportunity, gaining “real life” experience while attending class. It provided a slight advantage when she entered her three months at the small animal hospital.

However, as Ryan Veterinary Hospital offers treatments unique to the veterinary community, she continued to gain valuable experience. For instance, she spent a day working alongside their Chemo Team. The positivity of everyone she encountered – staff, clients, and patients alike – left a lasting impression.

Additional standout moments included:

  • An afternoon spent with the head of the feline kidney transplant program
  • A day serving as the anesthesia technician in their new radiation unit
  • Recognizing a radiograph of a giant elephant shrew (applying her previous zoo knowledge)

Emergency/ICU Veterinary Technician
Accompanying her Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology, Andria received a passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). The two led to her certification/license as a veterinary technician – first in Pennsylvania (CVT) and later in Virginia (LVT).

Emergency medicine appealed to her from the beginning. The flux of ailments, injuries, and even species kept her mind sharp at all times. The knowledge required to handle cats, dogs, exotics, and even wildlife is highest in an ICU setting. When a vet tech never knows the patient’s stability coming back to the treatment area, skills and the ability to respond in an instant always stay in peak shape.

With treatments evolving at a constant basis, Andria sought out the best Continuing Education opportunities. She attended the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (IVECCS) Conference whenever possible. This allowed her to discuss the latest wound treatments, medications, and advancements in diet formulations.

Cardiology Veterinary Technician
With the increased knowledge and experience, Andria noticed gaps in her abilities. Her grasp of cardiology remained at the basic level. She wanted to boost her skills and understanding as much as possible, improving her patient care. When an opportunity within the practice arose to move into the cardiology department, she accepted.

She sharpened her ability to read ECGs, recognizing arrhythmias of every type. Speaking with the cardiologist, she learned to read echocardiograms, picking out the most common disease processes. And, courtesy of her position in the department, she took in everything she could regarding the grain-free diet concern.

And throughout her ten-year career, she built her store of client interactions. She learned stories of heartbreak and hope. In the middle of the night, she shared touching and humorous conversations. Every moment taught her to engage with people. And the skill blended into her writing ability, capturing the interest of pet-lovers everywhere.

Check out Andria’s LinkedIn here

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