In late 2019, Rachel Feldman returned home from work to find that her 14-year-old dog Foxie had trouble getting up. She was dragging her leg around in obvious pain. It turned out to be bone cancer.
“Can CBD help pets? The short answer is, ‘Yes,’” says Dr. Gary Richter, who gave a webinar on the topic to members of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. Richter has seen dogs with chronic arthritis pain, who got no relief from anti-inflammatory medications, walking around more comfortably within a few days of starting CBD. “Not every animal responds to it dramatically,” he says. “This is no panacea. But cannabis is an amazing option.”
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist and HSVMA Massachusetts state representative, did a survey through his nonprofit Center for Canine Behavior Studies that found half of participating pet owners had used CBD products and the majority were satisfied. “CBD does work; it is safe,” Dodman says. “I guess I would regard it as a breakthrough.”
This is no panacea. But cannabis is an amazing option.
Dr. Gary Richter, Veterinary Cannabis Society
Both Richter and Dodman caution that pet owners should consult their veterinarians before using CBD or any over-the-counter supplement. CBD is sometimes mistakenly used not to manage cancer pain but as a cancer treatment, which it isn’t. Also, putting pets on CBD for pain too quickly could mask the underlying problem.
Whether your veterinarian will talk to you about CBD may depend on where you live. A 2018 federal law allows stores to sell hemp products that contain CBD and less than 0.3% THC, but these sales remain restricted in some states that don’t allow medical or recreational use of marijuana. In some states, vets can be penalized for even discussing CBD products with clients.
Fortunately, that’s starting to change. California’s veterinary medical board once tried to prevent vets from even talking about CBD, but it now allows them to discuss it as a treatment option. Colorado’s veterinary medical board goes further, permitting vets to recommend specific products and dosages, while a recently enacted law in Nevada allows veterinarians to both recommend and administer hemp and cannabidiol products.
Allowing vets to discuss and recommend CBD products is crucial, says Richter. “Pet owners are coming to veterinarians for advice. Telling someone to go to the dispensary and buy cannabis is a bit like me saying, ‘Go the pharmacy and pick out an antibiotic and take some.’ ”
Currently, CBD products for pets are sold as over-the-counter supplements, without approval or regulation from the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine. Quality can vary; unless pet owners look at lab test results, they won’t know how much CBD a product actually contains. Some have none, says Dodman. A 2021 study by Leafreport.com, an industry website, found that more than half of CBD products were inaccurately labeled; most of those contained more CBD than claimed. Recognizing the need for pet owners and vets to be able to rely on the quality of CBD products, Richter co-founded the Veterinary Cannabis Society to educate vets and improve industry standards.
51% of dog owners have used a CBD product for their pet.
Center for Canine Behavior Studies, 2021 survey