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As CBD has become a popular wellness trend, more and more products have hit the market, as has a confusing amount of information online. Of course, you want to treat your canine companion like royalty, but it can be difficult to determine if CBD products are safe and effective.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has gathered research on the clinical use of CBD in pets. This new comprehensive 50-page summary report on cannabis in veterinary medicine provides a basis for understanding the current landscape of canine CBD. The report provides a synopsis of manufacturing processes, examines product quality and regulatory matters, and reviews potential adverse reactions in animals, including dogs.

While research into canine CBD is still ongoing, here’s what you need to know about CBD products for pets.

What is CBD?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant, but it doesn’t cause a “high.” CBD is the main ingredient in many cannabis pet products.

Keep Your Edibles Away from Pets

Another important component in the cannabis plant is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the compound known for creating an intoxication effect.

Commonly found in edibles, THC is poisonous to dogs. Additionally, components that make edibles more appetizing for humans, like artificial sweeteners or chocolate, can kill dogs.

According to the AVMA report, THC toxicosis (a condition caused by being poisoned) causes a high rate of symptoms, but a low rate of death. Dogs have generally recovered from THC toxicosis, but it can be life-threatening and dogs have died from it.

The most common symptoms of THC toxicosis are impaired coordination and lethargy. Dogs may begin vomiting, dribbling urine, or bobbing their heads, and they also may be more sensitive to sounds or motions, which often manifests as flinching. Other common signs include dilated pupils, heightened physical sensitivity, excessive drooling, and a slow heart rate (bradycardia).

In less common cases, dogs can become aggressive or agitated. It can also cause a rapid heart rate (tachycardia), repetitive eye movements, abnormally slow breathing, or low blood pressure (hypotension).

In theory, if your dog inhales CBD, you may see symptoms within minutes, however, getting a dog to inhale CBD smoke/vapor is problematic at best. If they ingest it, it may take hours before symptoms show. Ingestible CBD for dogs, is available in tincture (oils), treats, chews, and capsules. Pet owners will typically see symptoms between one to three hours after ingestion, though it can take up to 12 hours before symptoms show. Toxicoses have been documented for dogs of all ages, but younger dogs are most likely to be affected.

Hypothermia (a significant drop in body temperature) is more common than hyperthermia (a significant rise in body temperature). But both can occur.

If you suspect your dog ate an edible, call your veterinarian immediately. The Pet Poison Helpline reports that up to 45 percent of CBD exposures reported required veterinary intervention. There’s no cure for THC toxicosis, but the veterinarian can monitor your dog’s blood pressure, heart rate, and overall condition. THC is typically pooped out.

senior dog

The CBD Label Isn’t Always Honest

In recent years, many CBD products have hit the market. But a lack of regulations casts doubt on their overall safety or efficiency. The AVMA report notes that there’s an urgent need for accurate and precise analysis of CBD products.

In one 2019 study, researchers analyzed 13 CBD oils intended for animals and discovered that they had inaccurate label information compared to the chemicals actually in the products. A Journal of the American Medical Association report and ConsumerLab analyses likewise revealed that many available CBD products contain different amounts of cannabinoids than written on their labels.

The AVMA report notes that the financial incentives in the cannabis industry are great enough that both existing and start-up laboratories are chasing the new business opportunities. Some of these efforts don’t include a high standard of rigor and professionalism.

Testing protocols of CBD products are not yet well-defined or consistent and change from state to state. Testing is also a slow process since the practice requires manual labor. As a result, there have been reported cases of the same sample sent to different laboratories that receive different results.

Quality testing is needed to ensure the production of consistently safe products. When well-developed protocols are in place to monitor the chemical safety of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, these products will be more successful in treating pet medical ailments. It’ll also result in wider acceptance and use of approved products.

CBD Use for Pain Treatment in Dogs is Promising

Most owners decided to use CBD products in dogs and cats to treat pain management, seizures, neoplasia, quality of life, and anxiety or other behavioral issues, according to one study cited in the summary report.

Though there are few studies currently available on the therapeutic potential of CBD for dogs, the research is promising.

One small study from Colorado State University to assess the short-term effect of CBD on seizure management found a significant correlation between CBD and seizure reduction. The results of this study suggests potentially positive results and highlights a need for further studies.

Three pain-management studies also highlight CBD’s potential to treat osteoarthritis. Assessments performed by owners in one study indicated a significant reduction in pain and increase in activity levels when their dogs received CBD-rich hemp oil.

In another study, 94 percent of owners felt the treatment positively impacted their dog’s quality of life. They reported that their dogs slept less and interacted with family more while using a CBD-rich hemp product.

A third osteoarthritis pain-management study found that dogs showed improvement walking.

More Research is Needed

Further studies are worth pursuing as the research that’s been done so far is positive. However, few clinical studies evaluating long-term benefits and adverse effects are available at this time.

Without further studies and regulations, many CBD products are untested and unregulated. That’s why it’s especially important to look for CBD products that have certificates of analysis for every batch. Pet owners should be wary of CBD products and speak to a veterinarian before using CBD products on their canine companions.

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