First thing’s first, if you are reading this in the UK, you need to know that CBD is illegal in pet products.
But that doesn’t mean that such products don’t exist. In the US, the pet CBD market is estimated to rake in $563 million this year, according to data from the Brightfield Group.
It’s tempting to want to help our four-legged friends by giving them something alternative such as a drop of CBD. But much like food items, some might not be suitable for their digestive systems or may interfere with their medication.
What does the science say?
There has been very little research on CBD for pets but there are some US studies, albeit conducted in small numbers of animal participants and mainly on dogs.
Veterinarians agree that THC is lethal for animals especially smaller cats or dogs and that hemp-derived CBD is safer for them.
Like us humans, animals also have an endocannabinoid system. Some American pet owners have posted online about using it to help their animals with anxiety, cardiac issues, loss of appetite and stress. However if your pet is on treatment for a condition, it could interact with their prescribed medication.
It’s important to understand what the law in your country says about using CBD to treat your furry friend.
It is a criminal offence to use CBD products on pets in the UK if you don’t have a valid prescription from a vet. All products containing CBD for animals need authorisation before they can be sold here. In September, the government wrote to dozens of manufacturers warning them to stop making false claims about CBD for pets.
At the time of writing, we were not aware of any CBD product given authorisation by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate in the UK.
“CBD products for use in animals … requires a marketing authorisation before they can be sold or supplied in the UK. There are currently no CBD based products that have been granted a UK veterinary marketing authorisation.”
There are no government guidelines regarding CBD and pet use in the Republic of Ireland. This means the sale and use of CBD pet products is allowed with plenty of online options.
Jessica Reid is a volunteer and board member with Homes for Unwanted Greyhounds. She currently home treats her greyhound, Ru, with CBD to help with his anxiety.
“Ru has extreme anxiety issues. He is very fearful of kids, people noises and bangers. I tried a number of vet remedies for him including Prozac and nothing seemed to help. It’s the only thing that has ever taken the edge off for him, slows his racing heart rate and lessens hyperventilating. I’d prefer if there was some more exact science on the effects for dogs and what strains are the most beneficial.”
She adds that,
“We didn’t realise how extreme his anxiety issues were until he was here with me. We couldn’t adopt him out knowing his behaviour which is why I kept him. I wish I had been able to try out some CBD oil on him in the early days as his anxiety was much worse then, he’s relatively chilled now comparatively.”
In the United States, the federal government is working on regulations for the sale of CBD which includes the veterinary industry. However this has yet to be implemented so the law does not currently ban CBD.
Some small studies show CBD can be beneficial to pets who suffer from conditions like epilepsy. A study in Colorado State University found that seizures in dogs were reduced by 89% when treated with THC-free oil.
Idiopathic epilepsy, which occurs with no known cause, affects 5.7% of the domesticated dog population worldwide, making it the most common canine neurologic condition. In this study, nine dogs were treated with CBD, while seven in a control group were treated with a placebo.
Dr. Stephanie McGrath, author of the study said:
“We saw a correlation between how high the levels of CBD oil were in these dogs with how great the seizure reduction was. It’s really exciting that perhaps we can start looking at CBD in the future as an alternative to existing anti-convulsive drugs.”
– Statement via Colorado State University
US vets are allowed to prescribe Epidiolex for canines but it’s an expensive script at $30,000 a year for an average sized dog.
Brightfield Group Cannabis Consultancy reports that there was a huge increase in the American CBD pet industry in 2019. The market grew over 10 times its 2018 size in 2019 alone producing $321 million in sales. It is projected to increase to $563 by the end of 2020.
The growth, according to this report, is being driven by pet owners looking for natural alternatives or alternatives where traditional medication has failed. The most popular form of treatment is tinctures and then edibles such as treats or chews.
Where does this leave the future of CBD in pet products in the UK?
Until more studies and live trials are completed showing positive benefits outweighing any risk of CBD-associated harm in animals, it seems unlikely the law will change.