Over the last couple of years, CBD (Cannabidiol) has taken off big time.  With many people swearing by its benefits, ease of availability, lack of unpleasant side effects and a relatively low-cost alternative to pharmaceuticals; some have begun to wonder about taking it one step further as a non-addictive wellbeing enhancer.

Animals – The UK has long been acknowledged as a nation of pet lovers and since many of our treasured furry companions share similar anatomical, physiological and even emotional characteristics to their human counterparts, what about extending the use of CBD to this part of our extended family?

Research and anecdotes wax lyrical about the wonders of this legal form of the cannabis plant; and CBD, one of its 104 chemical compounds, is low (0.2% or less – a legal requirement) in THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and will not get you, or your pet for that matter, ‘high.’  It does, however, have strong potential to ease a number of conditions, just in the same way as it does with human beings.  Let’s take a look at some of the conditions where CBD oil can benefit animals and pets:

  • Anxiety and stress We humans are much more susceptible to this nowadays, with hectic lifestyles and everyone who cares for a pet will generally know and recognise that we are not alone in this.  Take dogs and cats who are utterly petrified of fireworks.  Just in the same way that humans are not all the same, some animals appear not to be affected.  Others will physically tremble, crawl into a corner, absolutely inconsolable and will be unable to rest.  There is also the stress of being left alone for long periods occasionally or having changes in routine or circumstances.  Increase in cortisol invokes the fight or flight syndrome and CBD can and does make a massive difference in not only managing fear, phobias and anxiety but becoming less susceptible through preventative measures.  See also
  • Seizures Yes, animals can also be affected by epilepsy and an alternative to anticonvulsants could well be CBD oil.  Research has indicated that CBD is effective in some of the rarer and more difficult to treat forms of epilepsy.    Wouldn’t you want your pet’s condition to improve without non-toxic alternatives that have side effects?  After all, humans taking many antiepileptic medications require regular liver function tests to check that there is no impairment.
  • Pain – Chronic or acute. One of the more widely recognised benefits of CBD is that of pain relief.  It’s so difficult to know for certain if our pets are in pain as they are unable to verbalise in ways we understand.  Certainly, they may be quieter or behave differently, but that’s not always indicative of the presence of pain.  Many animals, particularly as they get older, develop arthritis.  This, along with a myriad of other forms and causes of pain, takes its toll and restricts activity and zest for living.  Animals also have an endocannabinoid system and CBD restricts the signal of pain being sent to the brain; thus easing the burden and severity of pain.  It’s hard to see a beloved pet getting older and appearing in pain, so the introduction of CBD oil could well see your pet getting a new lease of life. 
  • An appetite stimulant Sometimes our pets go off their food, and responsible pet owners should always consult a veterinarian.  Unfortunately, there is not always an obvious cause.  It could be indicative of stress, or indeed, a more serious illness.  The vet may well recommend and undertake tests; and in the meantime, introducing CBD is very likely to increase your pet’s appetite and alongside this, one more benefit is to quell any nausea that may be present.  There is also potential to ease digestive ailments.   
  • Cancer Sadly, animals also develop this disease and they too are subject to genetics and a carcinogenic lifestyle – in the latter case through often ‘well-meaning’ humans, in terms of diet, for example.  Of course, animals don’t endure chemotherapy, however, tumours can be removed through surgery.  In some cases, it may be too little, too late in terms of ‘curing’ cancer, although certainly CBD is known to boost the immune system, reduce the size of tumours and decrease the prevalence of cancerous cells.  So, whilst it may not always guarantee to eliminate cancer, it can ease suffering and increase longevity.   
  • Sleep Although most pets do not struggle to sleep, unlike some of their humans, it is worth remembering that CBD can aid sleep and relaxation.    

In the UK, CBD is easily available to people as a food supplement, but not so via vets for animals; where this is regulated.  The UK government website published an article in September 2018, in relation to the statement from Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), stating: 

We consider that veterinary products containing Cannabidiol (CBD) are veterinary medicines and should be regulated as such. We have made this decision on the basis that products containing CBD fulfil the following definition of veterinary medicine in the Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMR) by virtue of the effects they have:

any substance or combination of substances that may be used in, or administered to, animals with a view either to restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions by exerting a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action or to making a medical diagnosis.

In terms of not causing harm to your pet, you need to be aware that the quantity administered needs to be relative to the size and weight of the animal.  If any doubt, start with the tiniest amount, just in the same way as is recommended to humans.  You may also like to bear in mind some potential side-effects that have been noted by human consumers.  

The positives are that it is not habit-forming, nor addictive and the World Health Organisation states there are no effects that indicate abuse or dependence.  In terms of side effects, there is the possibility of lowering blood pressure, interactions with other prescribed medications (in humans) and others.  These are seriously worth bearing in mind alongside examining the positives.  

In light of the above, compared to the many potential benefits as advocated by millions of CBD users worldwide, you may well be wondering if your pet could also experience some of these advantages.  It’s certainly food for thought and with so many people now shying away from ‘big-pharma’ in favour of alternatives, if our animals had more of a choice, one wonders how far this may go over the next few years.