We are frequently asked by clients about using CBD oil in dogs and cats. CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, a substance that is found in the flowering tops, resin, and leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant. CBD does not cause the euphoria associated with another substance found in marijuana, THC, but it does affect the nervous system of mammals. The specific mechanisms and effects are unknown at this time, but in people it is known to cause drowsiness and fatigue. THC and CBD are the most well known examples of a class of chemicals called cannabinoids. Cannabinoid receptors are found in various parts of the body including the brain, GI tract, and immune system.
The difference between hemp and marijuana is solely based on the THC content. Hemp, also known as industrial hemp, must contain less than 0.3% of THC on a dry weight basis, regardless of the CBD content. Hemp plants are simply lines of Cannabis sativa that have been selectively cultivated because they produce minimal amounts of THC. Hemp is cultivated by special permit in multiple states including North Carolina. Hemp is used as a food source (mostly the seeds), and the plant fibers have a variety of uses from rope to paper to clothing. Products made from hemp, including hemp oil, are legal to buy and sell. However, CBD is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, regardless of its source. This means that the production, distribution, and possession of CBD is illegal under federal law. However, 16 states (including North Carolina) have passed laws to allow for the use of CBD products for the treatment of certain medical conditions in people, which has put CBD in a legal limbo. Regardless, it is currently illegal for veterinarians to prescribe marijuana and its derivatives, including CBD oil, for animal use in all 50 states including those like Colorado where marijuana use is legal. There are currently several clinical studies on veterinary use of CBD ongoing, but at this point there is no available data about the safety or suggested doses of CBD oil for pets. Even if you come across a hemp oil or CBD oil that is being marketed for dogs and cats (and there are plenty of them available), there is no standardization for these products. This means there is no way to know if they contain the amount of CBD that they claim to, and there is also no way to know if they contain other substances or contaminants that may affect your pet. Cannabinoid products like CBD oil have potential to help with a number of conditions commonly seen in dogs and cats. However, until more is known about their safety and effects, great caution in their use is advised.