Wrangling the topic of CBD with your veterinary clients

VettedVetted March 2020
Volume 115
Issue 3

This aint the wild west of CBD exploration anymore. Cannabidiol is becoming legalized, which means your veterinary clients are going to be asking about it more. Heres what you need to know.

KariDesign/stock.adobe.com/illlustration work by Nicholette Haigler.

KariDesign/stock.adobe.com/illlustration work by Nicholette Haigler.

So you've read my article on the legality of using cannabidiol (CBD) and think you're ready to take the plunge! But where should you start? Let's start with what we know.

In the Wild West of hemp-derived CBD, prior to legalization on the federal level this past December, it wasn't unusual for my clients to tell me they'd started their dog or cat on CBD. (We always ask what botanicals or supplements clients are giving their pets, as many of them have side effects that can be deadly either alone or when given in combination with other medications, so my practice was probably a bit more aware than many.) I was astounded at how many people used these types of products but wouldn't bring it up unless asked.

My point is, if you don't ask, you don't know, and you could be exposing yourself to a legal concern should there be an interaction with a medication you dispense. Not sure about the supplement? Download the About Herbs app that's maintained by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It's meant for humans, but it's still a great source of information on actions, precautions, interactions and adverse events.

Luckily for us, CBD doesn't seem to have any dangerous actions or interactions, and, unlike many drugs, it seems to only push body systems toward normal. I say “seems” because, up until very recently, even doing research on CBD was illegal. In the future, as CBD trials are performed, more concrete evidence on adverse and therapeutic effects will be available.

So what does CBD do?

Although there were not a large number of dogs in the study, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study at Cornell on the effects of using ElleVet's CBD oil on dogs with chronic pain of osteoarthritis showed an improvement in pain scores. More studies need to be done, but this study agrees with the observations of many of my clients who have used CBD products.

On the human side, the FDA approved a CBD product for the treatment of intractable epilepsy in children-so at least in humans, we know it helps with seizures. The other use in animals (besides pain) for which there's only anecdotal evidence is for the relief of anxiety, including noise phobias.

How do you know which products are best?

Prior to December 2018, there were only a handful of animal CBD products available. Now there are countless, and many include products that human CBD dispensaries are pushing for animal use. To help make this easier to navigate, here are my rules for use:

  • No human products. They may contain substances such as xylitol or other additives that are fine for people, but not so much for dogs or cats.
  • Ask the manufacturer for an assay from an outside lab. You want to make sure the stated strength on each batch is supported by a lab report.
  • Ask the manufacturer if they've had their product tested for pesticides and heavy metals. Remember, it takes a lot of hemp to make a small amount of CBD, so these unwanted substances may be concentrated as well.
  • Ask the manufacturer if they have more than one fraction of CBD or if the product contains terpenes. We still don't know what makes hemp or CBD work, and it's thought by some that products containing the different subtypes of CBD and terpenes may be more efficacious.

What about doses and frequency?

There are some minor legal implications if you give your clients a CBD dosage to follow when they administer a product to their pet. This can be interpreted as you giving a drug, which can increase your liability should something go wrong. It's best if you tell pet owners to follow the manufacturer's directions.

And, finally, it's important to convey to your clients that at this point in time, the number of studies supporting the use of CBD are scant, and we really don't know what long-term benefits-or problems-might arise from its use. Your clients want what's best for their pet's condition, and maybe CBD is part of that solution. However, in these early days of legalization, make sure they're aware of all of the cautions we've discussed here.

Dr. Michael Petty owns Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital, Canton, Michigan.

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