In the United States, 68 percent of households include at least one pet. Whether a dog or cat, fish or fowl, these creatures are part of the family. They’re a source of comfort in times of stress and they bring immeasurable joy to their owners.
For this reason, it’s no wonder people spend so much money taking care of their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent almost $60 million on their pets in 2017. A large portion of this spending went toward health care, which has rapidly increased in cost over the last decade.
Health care is often the most expensive aspect of owning a pet. The average veterinary visit can cost between $50 and $400. Costly vaccinations are often required by law. And dental care and medications tend to add up. Owners can end up spending more than $15,000 in health care costs over the course of their pet’s lifetime.
The increasing cost of health care overall has lead many people to look for alternative methods to treat illness and improve their mental health. Now, people are looking for alternative way to take care of their pets as well.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the alternatives many are turning to. Produced from the plant of hemp, CBD has been found to help both humans and animals relieve pain. It’s been used to treat anxiety. And it’s been proven to have an impact on alleviating more serious health issues like seizures.
Three ways CBD can improve your animal’s health
According to the International Association for the Study of Pain, 90 percent of cats experience osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD). Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage within a joint is worn away, causing chronic pain. An estimated 50 percent of cats demonstrate physical signs of impairment due to joint pain.
Osteoarthritis is less common in dogs, but the disease is the most common type of canine arthritis, impacting one in five dogs. Additionally, 20 percent of dogs over the age of one have osteoarthritis.
CBD can improve quality of life for animals experiencing chronic pain. The compound is a proven pain reliever. According to a 2012 report published in the Translational Psychology journal, CBD can temporarily hinder the absorption of anandamide, a chemical that reduces pain signals in the brain.
Additionally, CBD has anti-inflammatory properties. The compound interacts with cannabinoid receptors, producing a variety of immune responses, including reducing inflammation in the body. By lowering inflammation and reducing pain sensations, CBD can provide ample relief for animals with arthritic pain.
An estimated 6.5 million animals enter U.S. animal shelters every year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many of these animals have experienced some kind of abuse from their previous owners or the people they encountered after they were abandoned.
Every year, an estimated 1 million animals are abused. These experiences have dire consequences on the mental health of these animals. Those who rescue abandoned animals often have to find ways to deal with the emotional instability of their new pets.
Additionally, anxiety doesn’t just impact those animals that have been abused. Like humans, many animals experience anxiety in specific situations or environments. Many dogs react badly to loud noises like fireworks, creating chaos in homes around the country on the 4th of July. Similarly, many cats get agitated during car rides, making it difficult for feline owners to move or take their pet on trips.
Traditional anti-anxiety medications work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. A 2016 report in the journal of Neuropharmacology indicates that CBD has the power to do this as well.
Researchers in the published study found that CBD creates fast and maintained antidepressant-like effects in humans, indicating that the compound could represent a viable alternative to traditional serotonin-elevating drugs.
It’s estimated that between 0.5 and 5.7 percent of dogs suffer from epilepsy, but in certain breeds the incidence can be much higher. Additionally, less than 2 percent of cats experience epilepsy. While these numbers indicate that only a fraction of the pet population suffers from epilepsy, watching your pet have a seizure can be a devastating experience for a pet owner.
Seizures can be unpredictable. They can occur frequently and strike at anytime, often leaving pet owners feeling helpless. Additionally, seizures have irreparable consequences on the brain, creating mental deficits.
While a cure for epilepsy has yet to be found, decreasing seizure frequency and providing fast acting relief when a seizure strikes are key components of epilepsy treatment. The power of the cannabis plant in providing seizure relief is one of the main reasons medical marijuana has been approved in states around the United States. However, many pet owners have been using CBD to treat their animals’ seizure disorders for years.
In 2018, Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry released a report looking at evidence of the impact of cannabis and cannabinoids on epilepsy. According to the report, a reasonable proportion of patients, in the studies that have been conducted thus far, experienced a decrease in seizure frequency when using pharmaceutical grade CBD products.
While scientists and medical professionals have found evidence of the positive impact CBD can have on animal health, they stress that more research is needed. Consult your veterinarian before starting your pet on a course of CBD and start with low doses to determine which amount is right for your animal.
How To Safely Give CBD
There is a lot of controversy surrounding giving CBD (and cannabis products in general) to our furry canine or feline companions. But most of that controversy stems from the misconception that giving CBD to your dog is the same as feeding him a batch of high THC brownies. They are most certainly not the same. While dosing your dog with THC is unethical and can have fatal consequences for your friend, CBD may be able to heal some of your pet’s ailments and is completely safe.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that CBD has been legal in many US states for a long time, getting a veterinarian to agree on giving it to your cat or dog could be extremely difficult. After all, most veterinarians didn’t get the lesson on CBD, and it was never published in any university textbooks. In fact, there is virtually no academic literature on the topic at all. So a pet owner might be hard pressed to find a vet who concurs – although they do exist.
CBD is just as relaxing, calming and healing for an animal as it is for a human. Virtually every mammal on earth has an endocannabinoid system, and through this mammalian function we can access the many healing capabilities of the body. Whether your pet suffers from separation anxiety or downright fear of the New Year’s Eve fireworks, CBD may have a role to play in their lives.
CBD is non-psychoactive
Unlike THC, CBD is completely non-psychoactive. That means that giving your pet CBD is nothing like dosing them and making them high. In fact, at high doses, THC can be fatal to an animal’s life, and it is never recommended to give THC products to animals. No wonder some vets are reluctant about prescribing cannabis products as remedies.
There is no such danger with administering CBD to a cat or dog, or even to horses and other farm pets. While there is some confusion surrounding the exact dose of CBD to administer, there is virtually no threat of overdose. An animal may experience some adverse symptoms as a sign of having administered too much, but there is almost no chance of fatal consequences.
Co-founder of My Best Bud (manufacturer of CBD products for pets), Irena Raskin says that “Since pets, like humans, have an endocannabinoid system, the benefits are similar to humans”. According to Raskin, who is also the CEO of the company, the benefits can be “relief from pain, anxiety, seizures, arthritis, loss of appetite, GI issues and inflammation”.
How it can help pets
Humans aren’t the only ones that suffer from anxiety, stress and restlessness. In fact, many of these symptoms are experienced by pets. What’s worse is that when one of our furry friends becomes unwell, it is extremely difficult to diagnose and treat them. And watching them suffer is one of the worst fates a pet owner goes through.
There are people all over the world using CBD to manage some of the hard to treat symptoms of their pets. These are some of the ways that CBD may help:
- CBD may decrease symptoms of separation anxiety
- CBD may reduce seizure frequency in epileptic pets and may stop an already-initiated seizure
- CBD may calm pets during stressful experiences such as thunderstorms and fireworks
- CBD is a pain killer for dogs or cats that have undergone surgery or have an injury
- CBD is anti-inflammatory, and may help pets who experience arthritis or other inflammatory conditions
- CBD, applied topically or internally, may help to reduce tumor size in pets with cancer
For those who know a little something about CBD and the ways in which it can help humans, this list of benefits will look awfully familiar. That’s because cannabidiol may help pets in the same way that it may help humans!
How to dose your pet
Giving your pet the correct dose of CBD is perhaps the hardest part of this entire endeavor. The American Veterinary Association won’t even allow vets to discuss cannabis use with their patients’ parents (pet’s parents), let alone fund research into how CBD works in animals and which doses to give them. This is why there is much debate surrounding how to dose a pet with CBD.
With all of that in mind, the best way to dose a pet with CBD is to start small. And that doesn’t mean small by human standards. After all, pets’ bodies are much smaller and lightweight than humans, and do not require a high dose of CBD for it to take effect. Fundamentally, while animals also have an endocannabinoid system, their endocannabinoid receptors are different and have different sensitivities. Therefore, always start with the smallest possible dose.
Pet owners can use this as a general guide for how much CBD to give their pets:
As a general rule of thumb, you can give your pet 1 mg CBD per day, per 5 lbs that they weigh. It may take some time and experimentation to determine the perfect dose for your dog. You are not aiming for sedation, unless they are extremely distressed. The effect should be calming for them, but should not put them to sleep.
Signs you’ve given your pet too much cannabidiol
If you notice that your pet is behaving strangely after giving them a dose of CBD, you may have given them too much. Here are some symptoms of a too-big CBD dose:
- Drowsiness or excessive sleeping
- Stomach upset and loose stools (usually caused by too much oil rather than too much CBD)
- Uncoordinated movements and confusion
Most of the time, these symptoms won’t last longer than a few hours until the CBD has been metabolized by your pet’s body. If your pet has any of these symptoms immediately after a CBD dose, you can try giving a smaller dose the next time.
Professional assistance for pet owners
It is extremely difficult for pet owners to find professional assistance in giving CBD to their pets. Most veterinarians are not even allowed to professionally discuss the matter without penalization, let alone to prescribe CBD products.
Those that live in California have more access to professional veterinary assistance when it comes to administering CBD to their furry friends. In September 2018, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill giving permission to vets to discuss CBD with their patients (cat and dog owners), although they still won’t be allowed to prescribe CBD products. At the very least, the conversation can be opened in California and pet owners can get professional opinions.
Cannabidiol is a natural alternative to many extremely expensive veterinary medications that are prescribed to cats and dogs. And despite the fact that CBD is generally an expensive remedy, in comparison to veterinary medicines, it is a bargain.