Anecdotal evidence abounds about the benefits of using CBD to treat pets with anxiety, epilepsy or chronic pains. But so do stories of pets poisoned with accidental exposure to cannabis? Which of these are backed by science…well, both potentially, as the molecules involved are quite different, though veterinary scientists claim more research is needed to be done to determine exact effects.
We have all heard stories about pet owners who choose to treat their furry friends’ diseases with CBD products. Indeed, products developed specifically for this purpose are now available for purchase online and at physical stores in several countries. However, it is not yet clear whether these products are safe enough to be given to our pets.
As the use of medicinal cannabis booms globally, some people are also convinced that their pets would also benefit from the plant’s properties. While there is a collection of compelling anecdotal evidence available, there is little clinical literature on the subject of pets and cannabis.
It is therefore crucial to recognize and be aware of the potential side effects that our little friends may face after consuming cannabis.
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Why are people choosing CBD for their beloved pets?
As is often described in humans, some believe that CBD can offer a safer alternative to other medicines we can give our pets. For example, some owners describe CBD administration to help treat pain, anxiety and even epilepsy of their pets.
Compared to THC (the molecule cannabis is notorious for), CBD is not psychoactive – which means it does not cause a “feeling of euphoria” – but it has promising benefits in relieving some conditions, including those listed above. However, little or no research has been done on the impact of medicinal cannabis, or even CBD, on animals.
Although the differences between animals (such as dogs) and humans are well known, our pets can suffer from health problems such as anxiety and depression, just like us.
An example is epilepsy. A CBD-based drug called Epidyolex has been approved for use in cases of treatment resistant epilepsy in the UK. Studies have shown that CBD can help significantly reduce seizures in humans. In addition, some studies and experts have found that CBD can also be beneficial for animals suffering from seizures and epilepsy.
A preliminary study in the United States found that 89% of dogs that received CBD as part of a clinical trial had a reduction in seizures.
Although some see these findings as promising news, the reality is that it is still too early to say that the CBD is 100% safe for animals.
In the UK, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) classifies CBD pet products as veterinary medicines and therefore states that they require marketing authorization before they can be sold or administered. To date, no cannabis product has been authorized by VMD.
If CBD is relatively safe, why is cannabis toxic to pets?
Unlike CBD, in the right concentrations cannabis can be harmful to pets. Cannabis is known to be somewhat toxic to animals, and at a higher dose it can be lethal. It doesn’t matter if we hurt them intentionally or not. Smoking or consuming cannabis near our pets has its risks.
They can easily be intoxicated by inhaling second-hand smoke, eating food or any form of pure cannabis – extra care is needed when animals are near it.
THC, which is the most common psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, is believed to be the toxic component of cannabis for animals.
Obviously, the weight, health status and age of the animal affect the impact that cannabis can have on them, but it is usually quite dangerous.
According to VCA, dogs have more cannabinoid receptors, such as CB1 and CB2, in their brains than do humans. These receptors can be found on the surface of body cells.
Although CB2 is believed to regulate inflammation, CB1, which is concentrated in the brain, central nervous system and some other organs, is apparently responsible for most of the effects of cannabis.
Regardless of how much THC has entered the animal’s system, the effects can be even more dramatic and potentially more toxic when compared to us.
In addition, as discussed, dogs have more cannabinoid receptors, so it is easier for them to overdose, leading to fatal consequences.
Be responsible with your pets, treat them with care
Another problem that can have a severe impact on animals: only humans have prefrontal cortex, which is present in the brain and allows rational thinking.
Basically, when humans smoke cannabis, they are able to know what is happening and why. On the other hand, an animal might be frightened and anxious because they wouldn’t understand why they can’t move, run or even stand still.
According to the Pet Poison Health Line, in dogs and cats poisoned by cannabis, clinical signs can be seen within minutes to hours.
They, therefore, elaborated a list of overdose symptoms that every pet owner should be aware of, including dazed expression, glazed eyes, lack of coordination, slow response times and dripping urine, vomiting, salivation, changes in heart rate, vocalization, hyperactivity neurological stimulation, or even coma.
In short, the animals do not find cannabis consumption funny and this can significantly harm them.
Depending on further studies, however, it may be that cannabis extracts without THC, just CBD in other words, can help alleviate some diseases in animals.
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