CBD in Pets
Cannabis use–whether it’s hemp or marijuana-derived cannabidiol (CBD) or medical marijuana—is a gray area when it comes to pets.
The question comes down to federal law versus state rights in many cases, and there is a significant lack of research on animal uses. Federally, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) lists cannabis and cannabinoid products—under which CBD products fall—as Schedule I controlled substances, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers about purchasing cannabinoid-containing products sold widely across the country and over the Internet.
Only one cannabinoid-containing medication—used to treat pediatric seizures—has been approved by FDA, and only hemp products have been descheduled under the 2018 Farm Bill. Despite these federal rules, however, many states have moved forward with their own laws on recreation and medicinal marijuana, as well as CBD products.
While the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) cautions that state laws legalizing cannabis and CBD products for human use do not apply to animals, few states have issued any guidance specific to use of these products in animals.
As these products become more widely available to humans, veterinarians have increasingly faced interest from pet owners about CBD and cannabis products, but AVMA says there is little valid research on the benefits and risks of cannabinoids in animals. AVMA officials acknowledge that there have been limited studies, anecdotal reports, and case studies about therapeutic benefits in pets, and they note that more well-controlled research is needed to make evidence-based recommendations to veterinarians and pet owners. There is also a lot of uncertainty about the products available, whether they are derived from hemp or marijuana, and what concentrations of THC—the psychoactive component of cannabinoids—they contain. This uncertainty adds to concerns about cannabis toxicity, most often observed so far in dogs who were exposed to their pet owners’ cannabis-containing edibles.
At an FDA hearing on food and dietary supplements containing cannabis products in May 2019, Ashley Morgan, DVM, director of the AVMA State Advocacy Division, spoke on behalf of AVMA and said that while there might be therapeutic benefits for pets from cannabis products, there needs to be a clearer regulatory process for products coming to market, and that more research of efficacy and safety are needed. Morgan told dvm360 that the legal landscape for cannabinoid products for pets right now is “extremely complicated.”
“If you can confirm that the CBD product did indeed come from industrial hemp (legal federally under the 2018 Farm Bill), that’s one thing. But right now there’s no good way to do that,” Morgan said. “The product that is currently available is being shipped from state to state.”
Currently, veterinarians are at risk even discussing CBD or cannabis products with pet owners, as veterinary licenses are evaluated at both the state and federal levels. This applies to discussions not only about therapy, but also toxicity.
Gail Golab, DVM, PhD, chief veterinary officer of Scientific Affairs and Public Policy at AVMA, noted that there is some progress being made on the research front, but there only a small number of national studies taking place.
“There just isn’t the research. There’s not a lot of research in the veterinary space out there in total, and there’s even less in the way of studies that have been conducted that are well-designed,” Golab said.
Much of the research, she said, is completely observational, relying on a client’s impression of efficacy, and the veterinarian’s perspective. There has been little objective work done, and Golab cautioned that the placebo effect of cannabis-containing products can be as high as 40%.
Although exactly how cannabis laws aimed at humans applies to pets may be unclear, it can be assumed that pet owners who can purchase CBD in their state for their own use may also decide to use those products on their pets. Golab said with the popularity of cannabinoid-containing products on the human front, there is concern that pet owners may also choose them for their pets over other therapeutic agents with demonstrated efficacy, leading to therapeutic failures as well as potential adverse effective.
Components of cannabis can interfere with some medications and therapies, and veterinarians should exercise caution when pet owners express interest in these products both for the sake of the pets and the veterinarian’s own liability, according to Golab and Morgan.
AVMA officials do not want to discount the potential benefit of cannabis products for pets, Golab said, but there is a lot to consider pending better data.
“The therapeutic potential may be there, we just need to really understand what they do,” Golab noted. “I think the best thing veterinarians can probably do is provide the information and education to their clients. Clients also need to understand the issues with quality control around these products.”
Golab added there are a few companies currently researching animal-specific cannabinoid products and seeking FDA approval, and she believes these endeavors will yield useful data.
To learn how each state is approaching cannabis products, and whether they have addressed animal use, follow the map:
Is Hemp Legal in the U.S. and Canada for Pets?
There’s a lot of buzz out there about CBD products for pets. Since they hit the mass market, doting pet parents have been investigating their potential health benefits.
This is no surprise since the American Pet Products Association estimates that U.S. pet parents spent 95.7 billion on pet food, treats, over-the-counter treatments, vet care and other services in 2019. Translation: That’s a lot of money and a lot of love for our pets.. While hemp-derived CBD products are new in the wellness space, they’re quickly becoming mainstream. Some national pet stores are even starting to carry these products.
But there are still a lot of questions about the legality of CBD products for pets, and their legal status is different depending on where you live.
Are Hemp-Derived CBD Products Legal for Pets?
Because these products are so new, recent and rapid changes are still taking place regarding the legal status of hemp products for both humans and pets in the U.S.
The federal 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from its definition of marijuana, effectively making hemp-derived CBD products for pets legal in the U.S.
To break that down, marijuana remains a schedule 1 drug but hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% of THC are legal.
We’ll put it one more way: hemp-derived CBD products are available and legal as supplements, as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC.
Keep in mind that not all CBD supplements for pets are created equal. They may not be processed the same way or have the same testing and quality standards. Learn more about how to choose a safe and effective CBD supplement for your pet.
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is outlining marketing, labeling and claims rules for companies that make hemp-derived products . But demand is outpacing regulatory changes .
Labeling and Claims on CBD Products for Pets
Many consumers claim to see benefits from using CBD products in their pets, including:
- Reduction in chronic pain and inflammation
- Reduction in anxiety
- Help for other conditions
In fact, in my own practice we have seen promising results when implementing cannabis into a pet’s protocol.
However, it is not legal for hemp-derived products to make the same kinds of claims that pet medications do. CBD products designed for pets CANNOT claim to provide treatment for or cure any medical issue.
Research about the impact of hemp CBD products in dogs and cats is still limited. Much of what we know about the use of hemp CBD is anecdotal or has been inferred from human medicine.
We need a lot more research to be conducted, especially on different molecules of the plant—not just CBD. More detailed research on each compound in the plant can help establish and confirm what each part of the plant can or cannot do. But this will take time. We’ve only just now begun to understand this for human cannabis.
CBD Products: Differences in State and Federal Regulations
In order to understand the legality of CBD products for pets, it’s important to understand the laws and regulations for humans at both the state and federal level.
U.S. federal law does not recognize or protect medicinal marijuana possession or use. Even if medicinal marijuana is legal in your state, the federal government can still prosecute you for possession and/or use.
Even so, more and more states have legalized the medical use of marijuana , creating tension between state and federal marijuana regulations.
Hemp-Derived CBD Regulation
Hemp and marijuana are not the same, even though CBD can be extracted from both.
Hemp products are legal in the U.S. If the CBD comes from hemp plants and the products contain less than 0.3% THC (the intoxicating compound in marijuana) by dry weight at the time of harvest, the CBD products are legal at the federal level.
However, if the CBD comes from a marijuana plant, it is still considered illegal.
Are Hemp and CBD Products Legal in Canada?
The short answer is yes. There are many caveats to this though. In Canada, marijuana is legal and regulated at the federal level.
- Canada’s Cannabis Act places all phytocannabinoids on the prescription drug list. CBD is included here.
- Human marijuana and hemp products with CBD require a prescription from a doctor.
However, there are currently no approved CBD drugs for pets in Canada. The only legal way to buy cannabis products for your pet in Canada is by purchasing “veterinary health products” that have hemp in them. These products can be bought via retail avenues and are regulated.
Do I Need a Prescription for Pet CBD Products?
In the U.S., you DO NOT need a prescription for pet products that contains CBD. That said, it’s critical you do your research to find a reputable source for those products.
A 2017 Penn Medicine study found that only 30% of 84 CBD extracts bought online matched the label’s claims within 10% of the amount claimed on the labels. In fact, many contained more THC than the 0.3% maximum allowed.
Research companies before you buy. Buy from a trustworthy company that is transparent about where their products are sourced and straightforward about their claims. Any company over-promising or making curative claims about hemp-based products should be avoided.
In Canada, you DO need a prescription for CBD, however there are no approved CBD drugs for pets in Canada. Veterinarians aren’t allowed to prescribe, dispense or administer cannabis products to their patients. Instead, you can buy regulated “veterinary health products” directly.
A list of Canada’s veterinary health products is listed on Health Canada’s website . These products are regulated by the Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR). However, regulations and legal issues are changing quickly! Stay up to date at the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine ’s website.
Can My Veterinarian Recommend CBD for My Pet?
The answer to this question is complicated, and it depends largely on your location, your veterinarian’s comfort level with CBD products, and your veterinarian’s knowledge of state laws.
There is still a lot of confusion within the profession about what veterinarians can legally discuss and what they can’t in regard to cannabis use in pets. Some may even choose to avoid the topic altogether.
Keep in mind—your veterinarian is mandated by the state veterinary medical board. The board can limit how much your vet is allowed to guide you with CBD products.
If you are interested in using CBD products as part of your pet’s care regimen, ask your veterinarian about the rules in your state. Many veterinarians are advocating to have the agency they need to help guide you on which products are safe for your pet. Let your veterinarian know if you’re interested in guidance–even if they cannot currently provide it.
Legal Status of CBD for Pets: The Bottom Line
The legal landscape around CBD for pets is still evolving at both the state and federal level. But here is what you need to know about the current laws:
- In the United States, hemp products that contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight are legal in all 50 states and allowed to be sold as supplements. However, the FDA has not approved any hemp-derived CBD product as a drug for animal use.
- No veterinary products are allowed to make claims of treatment for CBD products, but much anecdotal evidence is available regarding potential benefits for pets.
- Additional research is needed to better understand and verify how CBD products impact specific medical conditions in pets.
- In Canada, only “veterinary health products” made from hemp are legal without a prescription.
- Your veterinarian may have limited ability to recommend or endorse CBD products. Consider asking them what their own familiarity with it is, and what they’re allowed to do regarding these supplements in your state.
You want the best for your pet. Seek out products manufactured for pets from a reputable company and get your veterinarian’s opinion to find out if your pet may benefit from hemp-based products. A simple conversation and good research can help steer you in the right direction for your pet!