Hemp, CBD, cannabis…will it help or hurt my pet?

This is such a hot topic, I wrote two very detailed blog articles about CBD, hemp, and cannabis products a couple years ago, but need to make a more personal one for the newsletter. You’re welcome. 🙂
Why are vets so wishy-washy on the subject:
Cannabis, CBD, and Hemp oil, even those with no THC, are still considered a schedule 1 controlled drug by the DEA. It’s the same level of legal as cocaine and heroin, which is not legal at all. Yet, a few years ago the feds said “if you states want to do your own thing, we might look the other way.” So various states have legalized various forms of cannabis and hemp products. So now we have the states saying one thing (it’s legal), and the federal government saying another (illegal). We thought this “looking the other way” was working until the feds a couple years ago sent a cease and desist letter to several cannabis and CBD manufacturers, saying they were breaking federal law. Talk about mixed messages!
So how is it anyone with a webpage can sell this, and vets can’t? Veterinarians are licensed by the DEA and are not allowed to sell Schedule 1 drugs. If we do, we can lose our veterinary license or face jail time. Is anyone enforcing this? Not now, but they could decide to at any minute, kinda like the cease and desist letter that went out a few years back. Do I know vets selling these? Absolutely! It’s all so weird.
Harry and his hemp farm can sell all the CBD products he wants online, make up doses, and give all the bad medical advice he wants. Worst thing that happens – he’s told to stop selling his product. No jail time, no major punishment. These products are very profitable, so we see everyone selling their own version – why not? Veterinarians aren’t allowed to give medical advice over the internet, yet every nurse,  groomer, dentist, shop owner, and car mechanic can give all the (very bad) veterinary diagnosing and advising they want online and no one cares. So we cannot legally prescribe, much less sell cannabis products, while everyone else around us can. We also can’t advise people on medical facts, while everyone else can make stuff up. It’s a maddening time to be a vet.

Can it help?
The evidence seems to say yes! CBD and cannabis products seem to be the most helpful for seizure disorders, anxiety, and severe pain. There are other uses being investigated as well. Studies are slow to come out because researchers are in a similar tough spot as veterinarians. To be honest, I would love to have more facts so I can safely prescribe it!

Can it hurt?
Also yes! Multiple studies have shown that CBD’s can elevate liver enzyme levels in dogs and rats. No long term studies have been done. If given regularly for years, will it take its toll on the liver? There’s a good chance it could, especially if dosed improperly.

How much to give?
This is the million dollar question. There has been one good study showing dosing for arthritis in dogs. That’s it. So for how much to give for other uses, it’s anyone’s guess. We are relying on the people who make it, and many have zero veterinary or medical knowledge.

Which brands are best?
Since these products are quasi legal, there is NO regulation of manufacture. At all. What is in that bottle is anyone’s guess. Is it scented olive oil? Could be! Does it contain strychnine? Some did last year! I wish they would legalize it so they could at least have some regulation. It’s scary to know that anyone can print anything on a label and it means absolutely nothing. There are some brands that tend to be more reputable, say they use FDA standards of manufacture. My friends in CO use Ellevet and Peak Therapeutics the most. They say they are reliable and seem to have decent (although made-up) dosing recommendations.
Just sayin’.

So am I for or against cannabis? I am for learning more about it. I think it has a lot of potential and would love to know how safe it was, what the effective dose was, potential long-term side effects, and that it is legal so I can discuss and prescribe it to animals it could truly help! I have many patients who we feel we have “nothing to lose” and I tell people in those cases, why not?

This was a brief overview. If you want to read all the details, here’s my article on the studies and the biology, and here’s my article on the legal aspects.