Do Vets Recommend CBD Oil For Dogs

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Veterinarians are feeling the impact of the CBD oil trend reporting heavily via anecdotal evidence given by pet owners to assist in pain relief. CBD pet products claim to treat pain, anxiety and even seizures, but do they work? And are they even safe? The chief veterinary officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association weighs in. Wondering why your veterinarian isn’t keen to discuss or recommend CBD or cannabis for your cats & dogs? There’s a good reason, but you can help change it.

Why Do (or Don’t) Vets Recommend CBD Oil?

CBD oil is all the rage and we’re not talking about CBD oil for your pain. It’s received increased attention in regards to treating pain in our dogs. This initially sounds alluring, right? A natural product to help ease the health conditions of our precious dogs, because after all, dogs are like family. Anything that can make them feel better is our kryptonite. But like any new popular trend or fast emerging product marketed to make our lives easier – it’s going to have its fair share of pushback, particularly when it comes to health. Applying this to our pets just adds a whole other layer.

As a result, the CBD market is now rising with CBD-related questions from pet owners everywhere, as more people get access to products. And veterinarians everywhere are feeling the impact, being the source of a number of questions, requests, and expectations among patients regarding CBD’s effects on dogs.

Can it help my dog’s chronic pain?
Will it alleviate symptoms of cancer?
Can it chill my anxious dog when I need to leave the house?

The answer is… there is no definitive answer. Currently, CBD has been reported heavily via anecdotal evidence given by pet owners to assist in pain & arthritis relief. However, it’s important to note that due to the evolving, growing nature of this sector, there are going to be diverse opinions. Thus far, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) believes that research of CBD as a treatment for animals is still very limited. On the other hand, it can’t be denied that there are success stories – both within scientific and anecdotal evidence.

When it comes to discussing it as a treatment with your veterinarian, that’s where things get a bit more tricky. Regardless, you should always notify your vet if you’re thinking about giving your dog CBD. Just take note: some vets are on board with CBD for dogs while others are apprehensive. You may not always get the information you’re seeking. So what’s the deal?

Table of Contents

The Great Vet Divide: What side are you on?

This anonymous survey was conducted by the VIN News Service in early 2018 to assess veterinarian’s views pertaining to marijuana and CBD/hemp products. A total of 2,130 responses were recorded and evaluated. 63% of veterinarians reported they were asked about CBD oil at least once a month.

Some of the most interesting stats to come out of this survey based on first-hand observations or owner reports of:

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain, 34% identified CBD as very helpful, and 56% as somewhat helpful.

Acute Pain

Acute pain, with 23% assessing it was very helpful and 60% as somewhat helpful.

Anxiety & Seizure Frequency

75% of vets that participated noticed CBD as being helpful at reducing anxiety and seizure frequency.
There are now clinical trials that back this up.

More pertinent though is 85% reported rarely or never initiating conversations about CBD with their clients.

So why don’t some vets recommend CBD?

So far, the two most common reasons that come up as to why a vet would not advise or recommend CBD are lack of knowledge and illegality. Let’s go further into both these reasons.

Lack of CBD Knowledge

The fact is, public popularity and curiosity for CBD are surging faster than research on the matter. While there are some promising scientific studies and trials, it’s still relatively scarce and so far, most of what we know is related to CBD’s impact on humans. It’s not yet clear about what exactly CBD products are effective for, and what the potential long-term side effects may be. With that comes misunderstandings of appropriate CBD dosage for dogs and interference with other drugs. The good news is slowly arriving on the horizon though. A recent Cornell University study discovered that CBD can improve arthritis pain.

However, the information we know so far based on some minimal research and anecdotal testimonies is that CBD does help with pain management. And while there is some encouraging sentiment for further deep dives into CBD, for now, many vets are on the fence because they can’t, in good confidence, assure that it will be a helpful remedy. Some vets may just have more questions than answers, especially with safety and efficacy. Without more evidence-based research, it’s challenging for a medical professional to provide precise recommendations.

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If you decide to buy CBD for your dog, at the very least, most vets advise getting a certificate of analysis from the company for assured quality ingredient identification. Additionally, choose a product made for animals from a reputable CBD manufacturer. Human-friendly CBD products in gummy form might contain Xylitol which is toxic for animals.

Find safe products here in our list of best CBD for dogs in 2022

Dr. Wallace Graham of VCA Oso Creek Animal Hospital has made clear:

“My advice to people that ask me about using CBD and their pets is to buy it from a source that has a third party, or FDA analysis of their product.” So even if your vet doesn’t have all the answers, this can provide some sense of reliability.

Legal Ambiguity

This is where things get a little technical and complex because federal and state laws are different. Furthermore, CBD’s legality is different depending on whether it’s derived from industrial hemp or marijuana. In this case, we’re referring to CBD derived from hemp, meaning less than 0.3% THC.

The 2018 Farm Bill loosened the restrictions for hemp-derived CBD. This new law finally removed hemp that has been derived from cannabis with extremely low concentrations of THC (the psychoactive compound that produces a high) from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. Consequently, this pertains more to the use of CBD in humans as recommended by a human physician. More than half of U.S. states have passed legislation allowing medical marijuana for use in humans (under strict guidelines). This is good news for clinical trials, as this bill will open up a lot of research into CBD for human consumption.

In the terrain of veterinary medicine, the situation hasn’t really changed. There are not yet CBD products approved for use in animals, therefore veterinarians (under federal law in the U.S.) are not at liberty to legally administer, recommend or prescribe CBD for pets.

This doesn’t mean you can’t purchase CBD for your dog on your own will, on the contrary – you can legally purchase hemp-derived CBD products for dogs, as long as you’re 21 or older. But in most cases, you might not have the liberty to go through a vet for final approval.

Given this, CBD for animals looks different depending on the state and even on a clinic basis. In fact, recently in California, on September 27, 2018, lawmakers passed legislation that makes it legal for licensed vets to discuss cannabis products with their patients. While this doesn’t go the lengths of allowing a prescription, it’s still forward momentum. So far California is the only state to pass this kind of bill but the veterinary boards in Colorado and Oregon allow vets to also discuss cannabis with their patients.

One of the main roadblocks to widespread regulation is the limited research into the effects of CBD to treat dogs. As a result, the FDA hasn’t yet approved CBD for use in dogs. But research won’t continue to develop without legal backup. As states continue to pass statutes allowing further research, we could see more leeway. For now though, what about the vets that are discussing CBD and its effects?

Do Vets Recommend CBD Oil For Dogs

But do these products work? And are they even safe?

“What’s out there right now are not approved for therapeutic usage for animals,” said Gail Golab, chief veterinary officer for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

That’s because the Food and Drug Administration has yet to establish standards for regulating CBD. “One way we can have assurance that products are safe and effective is if they’ve gone through the approval process established by the FDA,” Golab said. The lack of federal oversight means it’s difficult for consumers to really know what’s in CBD products, she added.

That goes for CBD products marketed for use by pets and people.

Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a non-intoxicating molecule found in marijuana and hemp. The vast majority of CBD products come from hemp, which has less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol – THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its high and is toxic to pets.

CBD pet products range from oils and tinctures to foods and treats. Treatment claims made by the products are just those – claims – because there is limited research behind them, according to Golab.

But that’s starting to change. A small clinical trial at Colorado State University found CBD oil reduced seizure frequency in 89% of epileptic dogs that received it, according to the Associated Press. Another study found CBD oil helped increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis.

Despite those promising results, Golab says more research is needed. “There may be value in use of (CBD) products to help support the treatment of epilepsy or osteoarthritis, but the research that’s out there isn’t conclusive,” she said, adding there are approved medications for those conditions. “We don’t want pet owners to choose CBD as an alternative to those things that have been shown to work.”

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But if pet owners are using CBD products – or even thinking about using them – vets want to know because they could potentially interfere with a pet’s other medications, according to Golab. “It can change the amount of medication that needs to be given to be effective. It can also change (how frequently) medication is given to be effective,” said Golab. “It’s very important for pet owners if they’re actually using these products to tell their veterinarian.”

While CBD ingestion doesn’t appear to cause external symptoms in pets – unlike THC, which can cause incoordination and mild incontinence, among other things – that doesn’t mean CBD is harmless for pets. “There’s not a lot of safety information out there to really allow us to determine what the acute or long-term effects (of CBD use) are,” Golab said.

Despite this, Golab acknowledges that some people will still give their pets CBD products. While veterinarians shouldn’t recommend CBD products, they can help pet owners weed through the myriad of companies offering products, according to Golab.

At a minimum, pet owners should research companies to ensure they have what’s called a certificate of analysis, which means a third party tests their products, says Golab. “But again you need to be careful, especially if other medications are being used to treat a pet’s condition.”

Pets and CBD: Why Your Veterinarian Can’t Talk About It and How to Change That

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CBD and Pets: A Taboo Topic for Vets

The other day I was walking in town and passed by a pet store that was advertising CBD for pets, making claims about its usefulness in treating a host of ailments: pain, anxiety, arthritis, allergies, inflammation, and more. I went in and had a nice chat with one of the people working in the shop. I spoke with her not as a veterinarian, but rather as an owner of an aging dog that’s suffering from arthritis and perhaps the beginnings of canine cognitive dysfunction. Sure enough, she recommended a specific CBD oil and also dog treats that contained CBD. I thanked her for her advice and recommendations, didn’t buy anything, and went along my merry way. Well . perhaps not so “merry.” In reality, I was more than just a little bit frustrated — but, as you’ll see below, not for the reasons you’re likely thinking.

Now, this post isn’t about whether or not I think CBD can help pets suffering from a variety ailments. (FYI: I do think it can help some pets in some situations, and that’s not just “guessing” or “gut feeling,” but rather based on a series of early studies and case reports on the very topic. You can see more about those studies and reports in our more comprehensive article on CBD and pets.)

This article also isn’t an implied or tacit recommendation for you to try CBD for your pets, which is important for two very specific reasons:

    I don’t know your pets, their existing conditions and current medications/supplements, and have never examined your pets. These are the very things that are necessary to establish a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) with you and your pets to be able to safely (and legally) prescribe medications for your pets.

The Absurd Situation That NEEDS to Change

And that, my dear readers, is the topic of this post … the fact that an employee in a pet store, a person selling products at a stand in a shopping mall, and even a random person on Facebook can discuss, recommend, and even, (in reality) prescribe a particular CBD product for your pets, yet your veterinarian — the very person who’s most qualified and therefore should be providing you with such insight and advice — could get in trouble for doing so. And that’s just absurd! And it can be dangerous, as well.

Why usage of CBD in pets can be problematic or even dangerous

CBD isn’t always benign or completely safe for pets. Here’s why:

  • CBD can possibly interact with other medications and/or supplements that your pet is currently receiving. Which ones, you might ask? It’s a great question. The honest answer is that we don’t 100% know. Why? Because research into the effects, safety, efficacy, and even drug interactions of CBD has been, shall we say “stymied” because of the archaic and puritan laws surrounding marijuana, hemp, and its derivative products in this country. In people there are a few known or suspected drug interactions between CBD and a variety of different classes of drugs, including certain anti-epileptic drugs, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and others. For pets though, we sadly just don’t really know for sure.

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These are but a few of the potential problems that can arise from using CBD with your pets without proper veterinary evaluation and guidance. There are others. And all of these are part of the reason why the restrictions on vets discussing cannabis with clients need to change.

Why can’t vets discuss, recommend, or prescribe CBD for pets?

Even though the 2018 Farm Bill loosened the restrictions on hemp-derived CBD, removing it from the Schedule I designation (which was ludicrous to begin with – but that’s a topic for a whole other discussion), restrictions on the ability of veterinarians to discuss, recommend, and prescribe CBD for pets still exist. Or they may exist. We don’t really fully know as the law and regulations, both federally and on a state-by-state basis aren’t exactly straightforward. And given the fact that “getting it wrong” could leave veterinarians vulnerable to disciplinary or legal action should they discuss cannabis use with their clients, many veterinarians are (understandably) reluctant to do so.

The best scenario exists in California, where in 2018 the legislature there passed, and the Governor signed, Assembly Bill #2215, making it explicitly legal for licensed veterinarians within the state of California to discuss cannabis for medicinal use in pets with their clients. They’re still not allowed to recommend or prescribe it though. [Note: A bill has been introduced to hopefully make that legal in California, too. However, its fate remains unknown at the time of writing.]

In most other states though, even in states like Oregon, Colorado, and Massachusetts, where marijuana (for people) is legal both medicinally and recreationally, the practice of a veterinarian discussing, recommending, or prescribing CBD for their patients is still not technically legal, or is murky at best, and could potentially result in board discipline or even license suspension or revocation.

And this, as I hope you’ll agree, is absurd … Your veterinarian, the person who, outside of you, knows your pet best and has the medical, physiologic, pharmacologic, and other knowledge necessary to provide you with the best advice and guidance about using CBD for your pets can be disciplined by their state board or even have their license, and thus their very ability to work and earn a living as a veterinarian, suspended or revoked for discussing, recommending, or prescribing a CBD product for your pet … but the kid (or even adult) working at the local pet store, behind a stand in your local mall, or just commenting on a Facebook post can do so without repercussion. (At least for them. For you and your pets though, as mentioned above, there can actually be significant repercussions.)

Please tell me how this makes any sense at all?

Help change this absurd (and dangerous) situation:

If you agree that these draconian and dangerous restrictions on your veterinarian’s ability to provide you with the best knowledge, advice, and guidance on this particular aspect of your pets care need to change, here’s what you can do to help affect this change.

Call, write, and email your Senators and Representatives in both your state legislature and also within the US Senate and House. Here’s a resource to find your State Representatives & Senators, and here’s one to help you find your U.S. Congressional Representatives & Senators.

  • Ask them to improve the current laws that make the proper and safe study of cannabis unnecessarily difficult.
  • Ask them also to change the laws that govern the ability of licensed veterinarians to have these important and necessary discussions and make these recommendations to their clients. They can follow California’s lead and even use Assembly Bill #2215 as a framework for their own legislation in your state.

You can also help encourage Rep. Earl Blumenauer to work on passing these changes by retweeting the tweet embedded below. Rep. Blumenauer is a leading advocate for improving the cannabis laws in the US, and he recently had an important amendment related to cannabis passed in the US House. With any luck, we can piggyback onto that recent success of his to improve the laws and regulations related to pets and cannabis.

Finally, please share this post with your friends, family, and co-workers, as the more people who are aware of this and making calls, the better. In the meantime, and until these changes to the laws and regulations are made, please understand if your veterinarian is reluctant to discuss the use of cannabis in your pets with you. As you can see, their hands are kind of tied.

OK, rant over. Thank you for taking the time to read this and (hopefully) acting to help correct this absurd situation.

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