*Jerry Seinfeld voice* What’s the deal with CBD for pets? Sure, you yourself might dabble in the wellness supplement every now and again, but what about its purported benefits for dogs and cats? We asked all of the questions on the subject — is it safe? what’s better: oils or chews? — and we’re presenting you with everything you need to know before giving your pet some CBD.
First off, you might be wondering why you would consider CBD for your pet in the first place: “Most of the studies with promising results [for CBD’s purported benefits] are for management of painful conditions, anxiety-related issues and seizures,” NYC-based veterinarian Dr. Francisco Di Polo, DVM, CVA, CCRT of Worth Street Veterinary Center, tells Refinery29. “CBD, and the terpenes [natural components of hemp that provide the plant’s color, smell, and flavor] found in the hemp plant, are powerful molecules that may have other known benefits in the future — we are just scratching the surface at this point.”
How does it work, might you ask? “CBD stimulates the endocannabinoid system present in multiple organs of mammals — including humans and pets,” Di Polo writes in an accompanying blog post. According to him, the endocannabinoid system is “very active” in maintaining homeostasis, or normal, healthy state of being. In other words, if your furry friend occasionally experiences any of the previous symptoms (or things like separation anxiety or nervousness around strangers, as many reviews specifically call out), you may want to discuss the possible benefits of incorporating CBD with your vet.
“Based on the information we have, it seems that the transmucosal absorption is the most powerful, so the application of oils under the tongue is my preferred method,” Di Polo tells us. “The crystallization into a treat for GI absorption may not be as effective.” A 2018 study published in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research appears to support this theory: In the study, three different formulations — microencapsulated oil beads (aka capsules), CBD-infused oil, or CBD-infused topical cream — were administered to 30 research dogs to compare efficacy. The experiment measured serial cannabidiol (CBD) plasma concentrations, and determined that “higher systemic exposures” were recorded with the oil formulation.
“Since CBD is a lipophilic molecule, meaning that it has a physical affinity to fat or oil, the oil form is the most powerful and bioavailable,” Di Polo explains. “Tinctures are absorbed the same way, but they are not as powerful and also lack the terpenes present in the oil form, while edible treats require the digestive absorption, making it the least bioavailable.” The benefit to chews or treats, however, is the ease of delivery — not to mention, clear dosing since each treat or chew typically has a consistent amount of CBD, much like gummies for us humans. “For example, a 750mg bottle will have a range of one drop per every two to five pounds, and that equation would change if the bottle has 1500mg,” Di Polo adds.
While major retailers like Chewy and Petco can stock hemp-based products (which don’t contain CBD, but can allegedly have a calming effect), we seem to be in the age of direct-to-consumer CBD brands like Charlotte’s Web and CBD FX beginning to offer pet options, too. What’s more, is that we’re also seeing brands like Greenwell Pet (if you like subscription boxes!) and Heelr that specialize in pet CBD. (Other brands, like Goodboy, are looking to fill a void in the market with for-Fido supplements that can offer daily support your dog’s health.)
Just as you should consult a physician before incorporating CBD into a daily wellness routine, you should always talk to your veterinarian about any possible risks associated with CBD for your fur baby. “If used at the right dose, CBD seems to be a very safe product,” says Di Polo. “Perhaps the most common [negative] side effects are vomiting and diarrhea. This is true for most supplements, however, and is exceedingly rare.” That said, every pup and kitty is different, so make sure you’re paying close attention to how your pet reacts — and stop if you’re seeing any adverse reactions.
While research in CBD’s benefits for dogs and cats are in nascent stages, many brands and medical professionals see plenty of potential in this being a game-changer for helping your pet generally live his or her best groovy (as one R29 dog mom likes to put it) life. “I am very excited about the potential applications of this molecule in veterinary medicine, and even though I strongly support its use, I don’t think it is a panacea to all diseases,” Di Polo says. “Your veterinarian should be included in the conversation of when and how to administer this therapeutic option.”
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