CBD and Pets


What science, vets, FDA and owners say about this centuries-old product
By Konnie LeMay

Jo O’Brien doesn’t need scientific research to tell her how CBD products can aid dogs. All she has to do is miss a week’s treatment with her little Miss Molly.

“Miss Molly is 4 and has been on the CBD oil for a little over a year,” O’Brien tells The Wagazine. “She is a Corgi with some arthritis in hip joints. Occasionally she has had to go a week without her oil, and it shows when she is off it. I try hard not to run out without having more on hand.”

A small wave of Wagazine Facebook followers, when asked about CBD products, added other stories of anecdotal support. 

Sue Rutkowski posted: “Dakota was rescued in a seizure and had little human contact for the first 10 months of her life. She was extremely anxious, afraid of everything and everyone. We worked with a veterinary behaviorist and anxiety drugs made a bit of a difference. We started her on CBD oil and after about 4 months, she is so much better. She now goes outside by herself, more of her personality is coming out. Is not terrified by strangers, and for the first time in over five years, our pet sitter can pet her. Amazing!”

Legal uncertainty

Veterinarians, however, are reserving judgment, waiting for more research and more clarity on even the legality of sales around the country. Several local vets contacted declined to comment on CBD products.

In Minnesota, sale of such products for pets and humans became legal as of January 2020, with very strict labeling guidelines, according to Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. 

CBD products became widely available in this state and others after the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill allowed states to “create industrial hemp research programs,” he said. “Clearly it was supposed to be a research program, and it was supposed to be a pilot project.” 

There also was a “market research” element to the bill, which many took to be green lighting sales of the hemp-generated CBD products. 

“Nothing in the 2014 act actually allowed for the actual sale of any product,” Wiberg said, but added “the proverbial genie was out of the bottle. There are so many brick-and-mortar (stores) and so many websites; nobody has the resources to go after all of these products.” 

The political will also is swinging, he notes.

With the 2018 Farm Bill, he said, “Congress made it really clear that hemp was not a controlled substance.” While still not legalizing CBD products, he said, it did spur development and sale of them.

Hemp history

Cannabidiol, more popularly called “CBD,” is derived from the hemp plant, the same family of plant that produces marijuana. But while marijuana contains a high percentage of THC, the psychoactive compound that makes you high, hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC and its products cannot make you high.

“Hemp has been used by humans for thousands of years for various things,” noted Wiberg, “from clothing to ropes to burlap sacks.”

CBD oil derived from hemp also has become popular, with fans touting its curative properties for both people and pets. 

In a story posted on the American Kennel Club website, the club’s lead veterinarian, Dr. Jerry Klein, is quoted as saying CBD has been used to combat pain, seizures, anxiety, appetite loss, inflammation and nausea, among other conditions.

Currently the only Food and Drug Administration-approved medical use for CBD is for treating epilepsy in humans. Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is undertaking a study of CDB in treatment of epilepsy in dogs.

Research is what CBD products lack, according to many experts, and is what causes so many in the veterinary field to approach them with caution.

Osteoarthritis study

One Cornell University study published in 2018, however, may give hope to pet owners who believe in CBD’s curative properties, at least for pain management. 

You can find the published study at “Frontiers in Veterinary Science.” It was funded by ElleVet Sciences, a Portland, Maine, company that makes pet hemp chews and oils.

The university’s College of Veterinary Medicine did a double-blind test study using CBD oil or placebos for 16 dogs with osteoarthritis. The dogs received doses of either the oil or placebo twice daily. Their pain was assessed by attending vets and owners, who did not know which product was given. 

The dogs showed “a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity with CBD oil,” the study concluded, with, as importantly, “no observable side effects.” The side effects are important because currently osteoarthritis is often treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can induce anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea and other urinary problems.

The Cornell researchers note that such a small sampling is not definitive, but that the study results certainly make further research warranted.

Customers speak

Pet owners, meanwhile, continue to turn to CBD oils and products with a large degree of hope.

“We’ve had great customer experience,” said Laura Sagen, sales associate at Rochester Pet and Country Store. “I haven’t had anybody come back to say it hasn’t worked for their dog.”

Sagen said one of the store’s main CBD product suppliers is Super Snouts Hemp Company out of Reno, Nevada, but it also carries products from Hempy Paws in Colorado, Earth Animal in Connecticut and Blossom in California. The products are guaranteed TCH free, which is recommended for pets.

CBD products are available for dogs and cats and suggested for a variety of ailments or conditions, but Sagen said that products for anxiety management seem to be the most popular, like Chill+Out from Super Snouts. The CBD products seem to help, she said, “even during fireworks, loud noises. We have a couple of dogs who don’t like the snowplow.”

A good sign of its benefits, Sagen added, is that customers are returning for more and with praise. ‘Oh, this is great,’” she quotes customers. “That’s awesome to hear. It’s been a good seller. It’s helped a lot of dogs. I wish more people would know.”

For her arthritic Corgi, O’Brien uses products from Hempworx, sold by a friend. The company has products for humans and pets. 

O’Brien keeps her veterinarian updated on use of the CBD products.

“Originally my vet did not suggest using the CBD oil on Molly,” O’Brien said. “Currently (the vet) does know Molly is on it and is all for it. I actually started using CBD oil for myself for a nerve injury. 

“As Molly developed arthritis in her hips, common in Corgis, I started researching doggy CBD oil usage for arthritis. … I decided to try it on Molly, researching again the correct dosage. Within about 10 days I notice an improvement in her gait; we walk daily. I use an eyedropper to administer her oil orally daily. If I run out, and she goes a couple days before I get a new bottle, her limp is more noticeable,” she said, adding “Molly noticed the difference, also. She willingly sits every morning waiting for her ‘medicine.’”

Konnie LeMay is a freelance writer and dog mom in Duluth, Minn.