If you’ve been hearing a lot about the numerous benefits of CBD for pets and wondering if it could calm your dog’s fireworks anxiety or ease her arthritis, or soothe your kitty’s sensitive tummy or stimulate his finicky appetite, you’re not alone. In the past few years, manufacturers of CBD products for pets ranging from treats to tinctures to topicals and more have flooded the market with a bewildering array of products and claims.

CBD products took off after the 2018 Farm Bill removed restrictions on hemp and hemp products. Prior to that, hemp, a type of cannabis, had been classified as a controlled substance just like marijuana, another type of cannabis. CBD (cannabidiol) can be extracted from both types. The Farm Bill defined hemp as cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). The ubiquitous CBD products you see online and in pet stores are hemp-derived. 

Unlike THC, CBD won’t get your pet high. Whether it will actually help a specific health condition is largely unstudied. Only two controlled studies on treating disease in dogs with CBD have been published to date, one on CBD’s effect on epilepsy and another on osteoarthritis. Results show promise, at least for the particular product and dosage studied. But for the most part, you’ll have to rely on anecdotal evidence and customer testimonials as to whether a product does what it says it will. 

It’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian before trying a CBD product for your pet, especially if he or she is on medication. CBD should not be used with some medications, while it can affect the dosage needed for other medications for them to remain safe and effective. Unfortunately, there’s a Catch-22–many vets are hesitant to talk about CBD with their clients. That’s because even though hemp-derived CBD is federally legal, state laws and regulations vary and are murky on whether veterinarians can recommend, prescribe or even discuss the products, so many vets fear disciplinary or legal repercussions if they do. 

If you want to try CBD for your pet, you’ll need to know the terminology you’ll see on CBD product labels. Full spectrum, broad spectrum, isolate, entourage effect, CBD-rich, CBD-dominant … these are just some of the terms you’ll run into. Some are medically relevant and some are ambiguous. A good place to start educating yourself is https://www.veterinarycannabis.org/, which has a library of resources for pet owners. 

To help you choose a high-quality product, look for the following:

Certificate of Analysis. CBD pet products are not regulated by the FDA or any other agency. Products may not contain the amount of CBD claimed on the label, and/or they may contain potentially harmful contaminants. Look for a Certificate of Analysis, which details the results of independent, third-party testing on a product’s ingredients and their percentages. It also will reveal if any contaminants such as heavy metals were found. If you don’t see a COA on a company’s website or they won’t provide it, beware. 

NASC Seal. Another indication that a company follows good manufacturing practices is the presence of a seal from the National Animal Supplement Council, an industry group whose member companies agree to testing and data-gathering requirements.  

Clear Labeling. Labels should show the concentration of CBD in each drop of oil or dose of product. Liquid products should be sold with a marked dropper or syringe to ensure accurate dosing.

Experts also recommend oil-based products rather than alcohol-based and organic products made in the United States. Avoid products that have additives such as preservatives and coloring. Finally, don’t give your pet a CBD product designed for humans. It may contain ingredients that are toxic to pets, such as xylitol.

For more information, check out the following links:

Ask a Vet: The Best CBD Products For Your Pet

Is CBD safe for your pets?

Pets and CBD: Why Your Veterinarian Can’t Talk About It and How to Change That

Alphabet Soup: A Q&A about CBD

Cathy Foster

Cathy Foster

Cathy is a former managing editor of a pet-related trade magazine who has turned her lifelong love for cats into a pet-sitting career.

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