Author: Robert J. Weiner, VMD, ABVP
Cannabinoids, products derived from marijuana have become a hot topic for humans and for pets. Cannabidiol (also known as CBD) products have become ubiquitous and can be purchased at the salon, the gym and even the convenience store. Medical marijuana has been legalized for humans in New York but not for dogs. Products derived from industrial hemp are legal. In fact, hemp contains very little cannabinoid and both CBD and TCH (tetrahydrocannabinol, the component of marijuana that produces the “high”) are actually derived from the marijuana plant and are therefore of questionable legality. Legal products must contain less than 0.3% THC. Recently the FDA warned 15 companies for illegally selling various products containing CBD and the agency stated the details of its safety concerns. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis. Violations include marketing unapproved new human and animal drugs, selling CBD products as dietary supplements and adding CBD to human and animal foods. The FDA addressed not only the safety of CBD, but also the purity of the cited preparations including the risk of heavy metal and other contaminants. In particular, the FDA is concerned about unproven therapeutic claims. General Mills was cited years ago for making the claim that their brand of oatmeal lowered cholesterol. This claim caused the FDA to consider oatmeal to be a drug. As a result, the FDA cited General Mills and forced the company to withdraw the claim. Cannabinoid products are very complex and contain not only CBD, but compounds called terpenes that can have therapeutic effects as well. There are cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system and also within immune system cells. CBD likely has wide ranging effects that the veterinary profession is just beginning to understand. A few companies, one of them ElleVet (www.ellevetsciences.com), have products that have undergone more rigorous testing. This company has done a study in conjunction with the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell that demonstrated safety and some degree of efficacy in a doubleblind study of 12 dogs with arthritis. The study is available on their website.
Readers are referred to the American Veterinary Medical Association position on cannabis:
https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2018-08-01/cannabis-research-veterinary-patients-advancing-cautiously. Readers are also referred to www.AVMA.org and should search “cannabis”.
Research is underway to determine in what way these products can be useful and what safe and effective dosage will be. Doses may vary from product to product and from application to application. The analgesic dose for arthritis may be different than the dose for neurologic or behavioral applications. Only a few products have been adequately and independently tested for content, consistency and purity. Like the Wild West, some CBD products tested are reported to have no CBD or higher CBD than the label indicates and some have had more than 0.3% THC. Readers who want to administer CBD products to their pets are recommended to consult with their veterinarian.