Dog taking CBD hemp oil. White Swiss Shepherd licking cannabis dropper for anxiety treatment.

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Is CBD Safe For Pets?

Keegan Williams

By Keegan Williams

October 12, 2022

The recent boom and societal embrace of cannabis is so profound, it’s now gone beyond our species, with many conversations today surrounding our furry friends at home and treating them with cannabinoids. Overall, the question comes up time and time again, “Is CBD Safe for Pets?”

And for those paying attention to recent headlines, the news can send mixed messages around

In September of this year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom

, allowing veterinarians to recommend medical cannabis products to their animal patients. Prior to the new law, vets were only allowed to discuss these topics with the patients’ owner, leaving many to avoid the topic altogether rather than risking their licenses.

The new law was backed by the state’s Veterinary Medical Board and unanimously passed both houses of the California legislature, with many seeing it as a huge step to potentially influence policy in other states and countries. 

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Also last month, state officials in Idaho

, including CBD in food and supplements included for animals. The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) said that the decision was based on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Association of American Feed Control Officials not recognizing hemp, hemp-derived products and CBD as legal feed ingredients.

The ISDA also argued, “Safe levels of hemp and hemp-derived products in animal feed have not yet been established under federal or state law. As such, these products are not approved feed ingredients and cannot lawfully be added to or incorporated into commercial feed. This includes feeds, treats and remedies intended for pets, livestock, or any other animal.”

While the latter situation seems to be more rooted in federal and state law than the actual efficacy and benefits of allowing these medications, it does prompt a number of questions:

Is cannabis truly safe for pets? Why haven’t more legal cannabis states made the same move as California? What about


Is Cannabis Safe for Pets?

As an overarching question, the answer today surrounding cannabis and a whole and pets is generally a resounding “no.” However, there’s a lot more to this inquiry than meets the eye. 

When we’re talking about cannabis made for humans, with high levels of THC and human-level dosing, we’re having a distinct conversion. Veterinarians have shared the stance that cannabis is toxic to pets like cats and dogs, but closer inspection typically reveals a bit of an asterisk, specifically around


As it did with human supplements, 2018’s federal legalization of hemp in the U.S. offered more opportunities for veterinarians to explore CBD as an option. Several clinical studies have found that CBD treatments benefit dogs with

and . Another 2019 study similarly showed that CBD itself seems to be very safe for cats and dogs.

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So, is CBD Safe For Pets?

Most professionals agree that CBD is safe and well-tolerated by animals, but more research is still needed on the topic.

One of the main concerns, specifically in dogs, revolves around an increase in the liver enzyme alkaline phosphatase (ALP) during CBD treatment. When veterinarian Stephanie McGrath saw this change in

on CBD use in dogs, she ran another test to make sure the dogs’ livers weren’t failing and the results were normal.

She told

that she would be concerned about giving CBD to a dog with known liver issues, as, “We don’t really know how these things interact right now.”

Conversely, Dr. Gary Richter, a holistic veterinarian and owner and medical director of Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California, has used medical cannabis in his practice for years. After years of research, he’s stated that pets cannot overdose on CBD and that the elevated liver enzymes in McGrath’s study and others were incorrectly reported.

Speaking with

, Richter said that most medications, including Tylenol, raise liver enzymes. Liver damage can occur but only when dogs are given extremely high doses of these medications, or small doses over long periods of time. Though, some research has shown lifelong CBD use doesn’t have adverse effects on the liver. actually found the opposite, since elevated liver enzymes return to normal once cannabis leaves the system, unlike pharmaceuticals.

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And it appears to be effective to treat a variety of conditions: In addition to seizure disorders and osteoarthritis, CBD has shown benefits for animals in a range of conditions, including inflammatory problems, pain relief and anxiety.

The research and resounding opinions within veterinary medicine generally point to one conclusion: Yes, CBD is safe and can be beneficial for pets, but there’s still a lot more to learn.

So, what about THC?

The conversation takes a different tone when we shift to THC, which is largely considered toxic to pets. 

This is often observed in accidental cannabis consumption in pets, including edibles or even

. While animals rarely have seizures or become comatose because of cannabis consumption, and death is extremely rare, symptoms anywhere from less than an hour to several days, depending on the amount of THC consumed.

When a pet is consuming THC meant for humans, they are not just high or stoned.

notes that THC in pets can cause hyperactivity, excessive drooling, vomiting, gastrointestinal upset, urinary incontinence, seizures, disorientation and difficulty maintaining balance.

“In addition, many edible cannabis products may include added ingredients that are dangerous for cats and dogs, such as chocolate and xylitol,” the analysis states.

So, case closed, right? THC must be bad for pets.

Unfortunately, this one is also not so clear cut. 

It is absolutely a bad idea to expose your pet to THC-containing cannabis products because, as mentioned, they are dosed and designed specifically for human use. Could there be a world where THC could potentially benefit pets? Some veterinarians argue yes; with no THC products on the market specifically designed, tested and intended for pet use, we simply aren’t there yet.

The Future of Cannabis and Pets

Pet Cannabis Coalition President Tim Shu, founder and CEO of VetCBD, told

he believes that THC should be part of this conversation, as cannabinoids could be more effective and less toxic than other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.

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“THC has gotten a bad wrap… Too much THC can have negative side effects, but THC does have medicinal benefits itself. A big one is THC and inflammation,” he said. “Sometimes we will see pets do better with an increased amount of THC.”

The kicker is dosage, in order to avoid the array of potential negative effects. Ultimately, this points to decisions like California’s recent move, empowering experts in the field to take the reins of caregiving for animals in need and actually opening up the conversation surrounding cannabis as medication for pets.

Regarding THC and CBD, a major hindrance around further research and product development is the

Schedule I substance cannabis holds. This often leaves vets to use expensive, dangerous pharmaceuticals on conditions that could otherwise be managed with cannabinoids, offering more safety and less cost.

In the case of California, state records show there are no cannabis-derived products approved for use in animals by the Food and Drug Administration, though the Veterinary Medical Board is looking for funding to continue animal cannabis research.

But moves like California’s could be the catalyst to flip the script. The reform path for medical cannabis and animals is reminiscent of the path humans paved. When California legalized medical cannabis in 1996, doctors were similarly afraid of recommending cannabis and losing their licenses. A court case later affirmed their First Amendment right to “recommend” cannabis, but they couldn’t prescribe it. 

We won’t have to wait long to see how it all pans out: The bill requires the board to adopt and publish recommendation guidelines by January 1, 2024. From there, fully tested, state-approved medical cannabis pet products will be heading to dispensaries around the state, under new rules from the Department of Cannabis Control, no later than July 1, 2025.

I’m Buying CBD For My Pet Online. Is That OK?

You might already know that you don’t have to be in California or wait until 2025 to buy cannabis products for your pet — there are an array of CBD-focused products already available for purchase to use on your pet. But should you do it?

This is where it would is necessary to talk to a vet for more specifics, but generally the answer is yes, CBD products purchased online can be safe for pets. However, you must be diligent to ensure you are securing the proper products.

For one, go for full-spectrum CBD oil, and avoid CBD isolates or

. Full-spectrum CBD contains CBD, along with many natural terpenes and . CBD isolate only contains CBD, and hemp oil contains little to no CBD and isn’t therapeutic.

We also recommend avoiding oil made with chemical solvents in favor of CO2 extraction. To ensure optimal potency and effectiveness, the CBD should also be extracted from the flower itself, rather than from seeds or stalks.

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To ensure you understand exactly what’s in the product, also be sure that it has a Certificate of Analysis (COA) on the label, which will list out lab test results like cannabinoid amounts, along with three tests: microbial test, with results for pathogens like salmonella or E. coli; heavy metals test, with results for pollutants like lead; and pesticides tests. If you can’t find the COA on the label or website, try another seller.

While hemp allows for up to 0.3 percent THC, avoid any amount of THC if you can help it.

Since CBD for pets is still unregulated by the FDA, and you might not be able to get this information from your vet, make sure you understand the proper dosing as well.

suggested that CBD dosage for dogs should be according to their weight, 2mg for every kilogram or 2.2 pounds.

You might find the standard dosing rule for cats and dogs at 1-5mg per 10 pounds of body weight (1mg being a low dose, 5mg being a strong dose), but it’s ultimately important to check the label for recommendations, as products can also vary.

Wrapping Up

While researchers have routinely dug into this topic, we are still learning more about the potential possibilities cannabis holds for our pets. It’s a complicated conversation because, like the industry and research around cannabis as a whole, we are still playing catch up. 

But with moves like California’s — and ever-shifting and evolving cannabis legislation as a whole in the U.S. and around the world — isn’t it about time our animal friends get to enjoy the benefits of cannabis like the rest of us?

Keegan Williams

About The Author

Keegan Williams