CBD is the darling of the supplement world right now. Preliminary research and many personal anecdotes suggest it has several potential health benefits with few side effects. The chemical has seemingly been added to every product that can be put on or in your body, including face cream, deodorant, beer, chocolate, and even dog treats.
That’s right: Now your dog can jump on the CBD bandwagon, too. But are there any benefits to dosing Rover—and, more importantly, are there any risks?
There’s not a lot of research on CBD’s effects in humans—let alone in dogs—but researchers generally agree the chemical is safe. The most popular uses of CBD in animals are to reduce anxiety, alleviate pain, and control seizures. Anecdotally, CBD appears to be effective at helping dogs with these conditions, although, given the nature of the patient, a lot of its effects are open to debate.
The only indications that the drug may be working in an animal are behavioral changes—if the dog stops limping or whimpering in pain, or stops freaking out from anxiety when left alone. CBD acts on more than 65 different types of chemical receptors throughout the brain and body, such as serotonin receptors, which are implicated in depression and anxiety.
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“CBD has so many different targets in the brain and body that the dosing of it becomes very important,” says Joshua Kaplan, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington who researches medical cannabis in people. “For instance, if you’re using CBD to treat anxiety or depression, people find that low to moderate doses are effective at treating those symptoms. But to treat things like epilepsy, for instance, you need much higher doses. And at the dose that’s required to treat epilepsy, you often lose its effects at treating anxiety or depression.”
Despite the dosing conundrum, there are no known risks if either you or your dog take a bit too much CBD. This is in contrast to THC, which can be toxic for dogs at high levels. CBD is non-toxic and non-psychoactive, meaning it’s not going to get your dog high and is unlikely to cause any negative feelings of anxiety or paranoia like THC can.
Stephanie McGrath, a veterinary neurologist at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, is one of the only researchers currently studying the effects of CBD on dogs. She says based on her research that she feels reassured that CBD is relatively safe and well-tolerated in dogs, although she cautions people to make sure it’s very low in THC if they're going to administer it.
Julianna Carella, founder and CEO of Treatibles, one of the leading producers of CBD products for pets, recommends a dose of one milligram of CBD for every ten pounds of dog. McGrath's biggest concern is where the chemical comes from and whether there are traces of contaminants like pesticides in it. “It worries me how unregulated the market is," she says, "and how little we know about it."
CBD is not an FDA-approved food ingredient or drug for dogs, meaning there is little oversight of its production (typically from hemp farms) or its packaging and sales. Carella says the products from Treatibles, which is an offshoot of the cannabis edibles company Auntie Dolores, are made in an industrial kitchen designated for that purpose and come with a certificate of analysis of the ingredients and their sources. However, other smaller CBD dog treat companies often make and sell the products out of home kitchens, raising questions about ingredients, sourcing, and consistency.
“I would be really careful about where these products are coming from, what their source is, and what the ingredients are," McGrath says. She also advises people to ask for a certificate of analysis for any product they might purchase. "They can say whatever they want, and they can put whatever they want on the label," she says. "Who knows what’s in this product?"
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