With the loosening of cannabis laws in the United States, pet owners might wonder whether products that help humans can also work for dogs and cats. Research suggests they might. More and more veterinarians are using products containing CBD to reduce pain, anxiety, gastrointestinal issues and seizures in dogs and cats

Photo of various CBD products
From hemp-based oils to hemp-infused treats, CBD pet products are becoming increasingly popular.

What is CBD?

CBD (cannabidiol) is an oil that naturally occurs in multiple species of cannabis plants, including hemp. CBD is different from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive part of cannabis that gets people high. 

Hemp plants and other cannabis plants (including what we think of as marijuana) contain CBD and THC. Many CBD products are extracted from hemp plants rather than marijuana plants because hemp is legal in more states.

Many brands sell CBD oils, tinctures, treats and even infused peanut butter for pets. But it can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s hype.

Is hemp safe for dogs and cats? What about CBD?

Yes, CBD and hemp products are safe for pets. They can be especially effective at reducing pain. Veterinarians have seen CBD help dogs with chronic arthritis pain walk more comfortably, for example. Ongoing research suggests CBD might also help make seizures less intense and less frequent.

It’s important to know that not every animal will have a dramatic response. And you should remember that over-the-counter supplements like CBD are not cures or treatments. CBD can’t cure a dog’s cancer, but it can help manage their pain. 

However, remember that using CBD for pain too quickly can mask an underlying problem or illness. Always tell your veterinarian if you use CBD for your pet. 

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How to choose a CBD or hemp product for your pet

You should ask your veterinarian for help choosing a product. However, in some states, vets can get in trouble for recommending products. They will let you know if that’s the case.

When selecting products, keep a few things in mind. Because CBD products for pets are sold as over-the-counter supplements, they are not approved or regulated by a federal agency. That means quality can vary. In fact, one study showed that more than half of CBD products were not labeled correctly. Most contained more CBD than listed on the package. 

Try to choose products that print lab test results on the packaging. That way you know that the product has been tested and verified. (Third-party lab results are especially helpful, because they show that an outside lab has verified the product.) 

Always follow the instructions on the label, including dosage and frequency.