We’ve all heard of the myriad of purported health benefits of CBD for humans, which is probably why you’re now wondering if it could be a good solution for your pet.
Let’s be real, life is hard, and we could all use a little help - especially if that comes in the form of a non-toxic, non-habit forming, non-psychoactive, naturally occurring substance from hemp that is virtually identical to compounds made naturally inside the body (for both humans and animals).
Why are we not seeing more pet owners turn to CBD to enhance their pets’ quality of life? It’s the dang government.
While 2014 and 2018 saw the passage of revolutionary (and long overdue) legislation that legalized hemp and CBD at the federal level, these bills were far from complete, and ever since, CBD manufacturers have been caught between a rock and a hard place thanks to the lack of regulations and FDA guidance.
It isn’t much better for the pet-CBD world, either. While most states have at least something in place to outline what’s legal and not, veterinary use of CBD has been all but overlooked. Fortunately, progress is being made nationwide to make CBD accessible to your pet - sans the legal minefield - with states like California and Nevada leading the way.
Major Legal Victories for Pets, Vets, and CBD
Nevada - AB 101
In 2021, Governor Steve Sisolak enacted AB 101 into law, making Nevada the frontrunner in legalizing CBD as a veterinary treatment - and making it legal for veterinarians to discuss, recommend, and administer CBD products containing <.3% THC. This progressive bill was written in part by the Nevada Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, giving a glimpse into how public and expert opinion on CBD for pets is rapidly changing for the better.
California - AB 1885
About a year later, in September 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1885 into law, prohibiting the veterinarian’s board from disciplining a vet that recommends cannabis for an animal for its possible therapeutic effect or other health-boosting properties.
In addition, AB 1885 requires the board to create and adopt guidelines by January 2024 that vets can follow when recommending CBD within the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
Before the passage of these bills, veterinarians in California and Nevada could lose their licenses by recommending these products to pet owners, which understandably caused many vets to simply avoid the topic altogether out of fear of massive consequences.
- Tim Shu, Pet Cannabis Coalition President and founder of VetCBD
Dr. Shu went on to say how the new law was backed by the state’s Veterinary Medical Board and passed both houses of California legislature unanimously - “just incredible,” Shu says. But it’s only the beginning - Dr. Shu sees cannabinoid medicine expanding into the world of horses, ferrets, rats, birds, pigs, and rabbits in the near future.
Lab-tested and state-approved medical CBD pet formulations will be available by July 2025.
Current Survey of Veterinarians’ View on CBD
A 2018 study of over 2,000 veterinarians (who treat dogs) found that just 45% felt comfortable discussing CBD with pet owners. In addition, 68% said they lacked thorough knowledge of CBD and its benefits, 59% said the field needs more research, and 48% chalked their reluctance up to the still-illegal status of THC at the federal level (many CBD products contain small amounts of THC).
We want to help educate veterinarians on the plethora of benefits their clients’ pets could be missing out on. Nature provides some incredible medicines, and hemp is at the forefront for its compatibility with all living organisms (cannabis is the only plant that produces cannabinoids like the ones made naturally inside our bodies).
However, essential to be extra cautious with CBD products intended for humans (for example, some contain chocolate), especially if there is THC present. This is because dogs are much more sensitive to THC than humans, and overdoses are much easier to achieve (albeit they are rarely fatal, and other factors are usually involved).
In this survey, veterinarians reported that CBD did indeed help with some common problems, such as:
- Chronic Pain (34% reported CBD was very helpful, 56% said somewhat helpful)
- Acute Pain (25% very helpful, 60% somewhat helpful)
- Anxiety and Seizure Frequency (75% very helpful, 25% somewhat helpful)
As a veterinarian, Is it legal to carry or prescribe CBD in my state?
Chances are, the answer is no - however, they are some state-specific exceptions. California and Nevada, for example, have recently passed laws allowing vets to talk to clients (and even recommend) about CBD without fear of losing their license.
The Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association has told veterinarians to use discretion when discussing CBD products with pet owners. However, it is legal for pet owners to obtain CBD for their pets sans a prescription.
Colorado State University is currently performing numerous CBD studies for use in pets, focusing on issues like pain, seizures, and osteoarthritis. However, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association does not have an official stance on CBD in pets at this time, citing a lack of research, and recommends veterinarians use their clinical judgment in their discussions with clients.
There are no specific regulations on CBD use in animals, but the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association recommends that vets discuss the lack of published research in animals and the potential of toxicity with pet owners considering CBD use for their pets.
Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota
These are the three states that you want to watch your back with even the slightest mention of CBD or cannabis, as CBD remains more or less illegal in these jurisdictions. Perhaps it’s best to stick to giving your pet a bowl of bourbon or beer instead, as the locals are often rumored to do. Kidding, of course.