Rebuttal: How to Pick the Best Cannabis Products for Pets
Stephen Cital, RVT, SRA, RLAT, VCCS, VTS-LAM (Res Anesthesia)
A veterinary cannabis expert rebuts a newly published article about the “best” cannabidiol (CBD) oils for pets.
When American Veterinarian® reported last week on the best CBD oils for pets as named by the website RAVE Reviews, we received a few comments regarding flaws in the site’s findings and our lack of due diligence in reporting those findings. One of those comments came from a prominent veterinary CBD expert, who outlines here what those flaws are and explains what veterinarians need to consider when recommending CBD products for their patients. —The Editors
As reported by American Veterinarian, a recent article by RAVE Reviews named a handful of products as the “best CBD oils for pets” as determined by quality, price, customer reviews, and company transparency. The article seemed to support an evidence-based approach, and a number of the named products come from companies I would trust and even recommend. Nevertheless, veterinary practitioners and pet parents need to take a very cautious look at this and similar lists that are not created by veterinary professionals.
For the most part, cannabis products—whether from federally legal hemp or still federally illegal marijuana—are not FDA regulated, leaving plenty of room for suspicious production and dubious business practices.
Certificate of Analysis
Any company selling CBD products should be able to provide a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for each product. When requesting a COA, ask whether it is for the raw extract or the finished product as well as whether third-party testing was completed at multiple levels. Of course, the most important COA comes from the final product with a batch number that matches the product you purchased.
If a company refuses to provide a COA, walk away. These are plant-based products, so some variability is expected, but each company should have an “acceptable” range of variability so that dosing stays consistent. Following are the important things to look for in the COA:
- The cannabinoid profile tells you the amount and concentration of each cannabinoid present.
- Similar to the cannabinoid profile, the terpene and flavonoid profiles indicate the quality and efficacy of the product.
- The elemental analysis is vital for determining the presence of heavy metals, such as lead, in the product.
- A pesticide and fungicide analysis indicates whether any toxic chemicals are present in the product.
- Bacterial, microbe, and mycotoxin testing indicates whether the product has any bacteria or pathogens that could sicken the patient.
It is also important to understand whether the product is federally legal hemp or a federally illegal marijuana-based product. It is illegal at the federal level to manufacture marijuana or a marijuana/hemp hybrid product, so these products require extreme caution with dosing because they may contain potentially higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC—the molecule that gets you high). I am all about THC, but THC-containing products should only be administered under the close supervision of a veterinary cannabis expert to reduce the possibility of THC toxicity.
Lack of Scientific Evidence
None of the companies cited by RAVE Reviews as being the best have conducted companion animal scientific studies to verify the efficacy or safety of their products. Although RAVE Reviews does source some of its statements, it glaringly ignores 2 critical studies in dogs performed at Colorado State University and Cornell University. It’s also critical to understand that both universities used a product with a specific CBD and terpene profile. While both studies showed excellent safety data, with the Cornell study showing greater than 85% efficacy in treating dogs with arthritis using a product from ElleVet Sciences, we cannot assume the same safety and efficacy for all products as they do vary.
Finding the Best Value
From an economic standpoint, the product label is also instrumental in helping to determine whether you are getting the best value. In the CBD oil/tincture arena, bottle size and price do not necessarily equate to value or savings. Instead, you need to compare the total amount of cannabinoids (and terpenes for that matter) in the product with the total volume of the product.
Consider a product that comes in a 15-mL bottle containing 100 mg of CBD or cannabis extract. To determine how many doses are in the bottle, divide 100 mg by 15 mL. In this case, there are only about 7 mg of CBD or total cannabinoids per “cc” or milliliter of product. With current research and extrapolated dosing, this means that a medium to large dog, say 60 pounds, would need about 28 mg twice a day. With the concentration and total volume of the product used in this example, that bottle would only last you 4 doses! So, keep in mind that some of these companies will underdose your pet and strap your wallet with continued purchases.
The Bottom Line
While I am excited about the evolution of cannabis therapy in pets, I can’t caution pet owners and veterinarians enough on some of the dubious practices and products I keep seeing. My best advice: Remain cautious and ask questions!