CBD (cannabidiol) is the most talked-about cannabinoid that’s not intoxicating. The dominant chemical compound in the hemp plant, this gentle, nontoxic, and non-psychoactive plant derivative has gotten loads of praise over the last decade, ever since it became legal on the market. At the same time, cannabis researchers have been studying its effects intensively since the 1940s, so we actually have a surprisingly good idea of what kinds of benefits it can offer.
You’ve likely noticed that CBD pet products are popping up in many places where hemp products are sold. But, are these products actually safe for cats and dogs, and what kinds of benefits can they offer? More importantly, is CBD for pets the same as CBD for humans, or are there clear differences that have to do with things like safety and effectiveness? Let’s compare CBD pet products to CBD human products, so that you know what you can and can’t give your furry friend.
CBD (Cannabidiol): What Exactly is It Anyways?
First, let’s establish a good base understanding of what CBD is, since there’s still a lot of confusion. Like we said, CBD is the nonintoxicating, nontoxic chemical compound that dominates the hemp plant. It’s a cannabinoid, which is a type of compound that’s unique to cannabis, working with the endocannabinoid system to offer an array of benefits (more on that later).
CBD, which is short for cannabidiol, was discovered in the 1940s, which is why we actually have a lot of studies to look to when it comes to trying to understand how the chemical compound can benefit us. CBD also comes in a wide array of product types, including edible products, tinctures, topicals, and more. It absorbs into the body very easily, and so there are a number of delivery methods, all of which are highly effective in their own right.
Another thing worth pointing out is that as of 2018, CBD is legal in all 50 states, both for humans and for pets. There aren’t any restrictions on how CBD products can be made or sold, except for the fact that these products are not permitted to contain more than 0.3% delta 9 THC – the intoxicating cannabinoid responsible for the high of marijuana.
Is CBD Safe for Pets?
So, we now know what CBD is, but does that mean that it’s safe to give to our pets? The answer, in fact, is yes. CBD isn’t just nontoxic to humans – it’s nontoxic to all mammals, and that includes our beloved cats and dogs. Their bodies are able to process CBD just fine, because like humans, they have an endocannabinoid system that is designed specifically to use cannabinoids like CBD as beneficially throughout the body as possible.
One thing to throw out there is that CBD is safe for pets, but no safety profile has been done on other cannabinoids in cannabis. At the same time, intoxicating cannabinoids, like any form of THC or HHC, are considered highly dangerous for pets.
Why Do Pets Use CBD?
So, what is it about this plant compound that makes it so universally beneficial to mammals? Like we said before, it’s because of the endocannabinoid system. In the 1990s, a group of researchers uncovered the answer, which is the endocannabinoid system – a system of the body that all mammals share in common. The endocannabinoid system consists of a network of cannabinoid receptors, representing all systems of the body – the immune system, nervous system, digestive system, and so on. Then, there are endocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids made within the body, which interact with these receptors.
Cannabinoid receptors, as you may have guessed from the name, are in charge of receiving cannabinoids – more specifically, cannabinoids attach themselves to these receptors as an ongoing process of regulating processes performed by these bodily systems with which cannabinoid receptors are correlated. For example, cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system use cannabinoids to regulate processes like mood, sleep, and pain tolerance, while cannabinoid receptors in the immune system regulate processes like inflammation.
This super complex process exists as means to keep the body of a mammal in homeostasis, by constantly regulating all processes involved in our functionality. We said earlier that the body makes cannabinoids, but researchers believe that many mammals are deficient in them, which is why consuming plant cannabinoids like CBD may be so beneficial. At the same time, it’s been suggested by numerous cannabis researchers that the body produces less cannabinoids as we age, which is why CBD seems to be so particularly useful to senior pets.
Essentially, this means that by giving your pet CBD on a daily basis, you’re promoting homeostasis within their systems, to correct imbalances and offer what their endocannabinoid systems need in order to function as well as possible.
We already said that CBD has been researched for its properties for several decades. A number of studies have tested CBD specifically on pets, while even more studies show how CBD can offer potential benefits to humans.
As of now, researchers are confident that CBD offers the same overall benefits to all mammals, as the endocannabinoid system of a canine ultimately performs the same tasks as that found in a human. That being said, let’s look at some of the most exciting properties that are found within cannabidiol, that might be incredibly helpful to your precious companion.
Over the years, many studies have found that CBD promises major anti-inflammatory effects, which seem to come from the cannabinoid’s attachment to CB2 receptors, which are cannabinoid receptors that pertain to the immune system. Many, many studies have shown how effective CBD is as an anti-inflammatory, but one study in particular gave dog owners a reason to run out and purchase cannabidiol for their dogs.
In a recent Cornell University study, dogs with osteoarthritis were administered cannabidiol daily, to find out whether or not it could actually improve their symptoms. What the study found was that CBD helped them with their comfort levels as well as their mobility, proving that the cannabinoid was able to effectively reduce inflammation in their joints.
The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are great for pets who are in pain due to inflammation. At the same time, CBD has been found to promise significant analgesic effects, meaning that it can regulate our pain tolerance, pain intensity, and pain response through mechanisms within the nervous system. This means that administering CBD to dogs could potentially ease pain by lowering the sensitivity of pain receptors.
Cats and dogs show us that they’re dealing with anxiety in different ways, whether that be through aggression, through avoidance, through a disinterest in play, or through physical anxiety symptoms like shaking, panting, pacing, and gnawing at their fur/skin. Of course, no pet owner enjoys seeing their pet in emotional distress, even though anxiety is a very common condition in canines.
One of the most common applications of CBD for dogs is addressing anxiety and stress behaviors, as well as aggression, which is almost always just a manifestation of anxiety. In fact, a study showed that dogs who were administered CBD were less reactive to loud noises – a common trigger in dogs, which any dog owner who has experienced a thunderstorm or fireworks will tell you. This offers real, clear evidence that cannabidiol may be a useful tool in calming your pet’s nervous system during moments of stress.
Potential to Calm Hyperactivity
The same properties that can regulate a dog’s stress response and potentially ease anxiety can help a dog who is hyperactive. CBD offers a balancing effect on neurotransmitters which affect our mood, energy levels, cognitive functions, and more.
Potential Anti-Seizure Properties
A lot of cannabis researchers are excited about the link between CBD and epilepsy. We’ve seen lots of studies about the way in which the cannabinoid interacts with the neurological system, and it seems to have to do with the cannabinoid’s neuroprotective properties, which balance neurological function and support healthy neural activity in the brain. CBD’s potential as an anti-seizure agent is so strong that it’s the only FDA-backed application to date.
It's not surprising, therefore, that a surprising number of pet owners who have cats and dogs with epilepsy give their pets CBD. Studies consistently show that CBD seems to reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures in all mammals.
Like we said, CBD regulates our neurotransmitters, and that has surprising effects on things unrelated to mood. For instance, appetite is largely regulated by serotonin, and so CBD actually has a balancing effect on appetite, and more specifically, many dog owners have reported that giving cannabidiol to their pets before feeding time helped them eat more of their food. This can be extremely useful to any pet owner whose feline or canine does not consume the ideal amount of food each day.
The anti-nausea effects of cannabidiol are also well-known, and also seem to come from the cannabinoid’s ability to regulate serotonin levels in mammals. Of course, as is the case with all of the properties above, if your cat or dog is struggling with frequent cases of nausea and/or vomiting, they should pay a visit to the vet to determine whether or not the symptoms are caused by serious health issues.
Animals get skin problems just like humans, but it can be harder to notice due to the fact that they’re covered in fur. Sometimes, the issue is external, like a scrape or irritation caused by an allergen. Other times, a skin problem reflects something going on inside of their body that’s disrupting their skin health. Either way, CBD can offer topical benefits when applied to the affected area, and even has been shown in many studies to help with common skin conditions including those of an inflammatory nature, like eczema.
CBD for Humans vs. CBD for Pets: What’s the Difference, and Does it Matter?
Now, let’s take a look at the differences between CBD products made for humans, and those made for pets. At the end of the day, the difference does matter, but it really comes down to the formula in each product when actual safety is a possible concern. We’ll elaborate on that below.
First, there’s the matter of dosing. A pet’s body isn’t like ours. Not only are most pets smaller than us (with the exception of very, very big dog breeds), but their endocannabinoid systems are built differently, with pets generally having fewer actual cannabinoid receptors than we do. So, what does this mean? That pets almost always require lower doses of cannabidiol than we do. Because of that, it’s just impractical to use, say, a CBD tincture made for humans for a pet.
Let’s say that CBD tincture delivers about 100mg CBD per dropper – that’s far too much for cats and dogs, so you’d have to go through the trouble of dividing a dropper into individual drops, counting them carefully. On the other hand, you could just buy a CBD pet tincture, in which each dropper offers a full dose for most pets’ bodies, so you don’t need to do any effort to divide up the serving.
Not only that, but pet CBD products come with really helpful dosing directions, so you don’t need to guess what the right amount is for your pet according to their weight.
Another thing that you need to be really conscious of is the ingredients in a product. CBD pet products contain ingredients that are safe for cats and dogs, but that’s not necessarily true when it comes to CBD products for humans. We usually underestimate just how many ingredients that are totally safe for us are actually harmful to felines and canines. This includes lots of commonly used essential oils, like peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and lavender, which are often found in CBD topicals and tinctures, and happen to be toxic to your pet. The same goes for a lot of flavoring ingredients and sweeteners that may be found in edibles and tinctures, which are known to cause serious health problems when ingested by a feline or canine.
Basically, you should always look at the list of ingredients in a CBD product before giving it to your pet. And, by going with CBD products made exclusively for pets, you just don’t really have to worry about this problem. However, you should still look at the ingredients in a CBD product, even if it’s made for pets, just to be safe. There’s always the risk of finding a product made by a company that does use harmful ingredients, and aside from that, if your pet has any allergens or sensitivities, you need to know that you’re buying them a product that is free of those ingredients as well.
CBD products come in a variety of delivery methods – in other words, the way in which the product is “delivered” into the body – and each one affects us differently. Besides that, some delivery methods just aren’t practical for pets. You’re not going to get a pet to vape or smoke CBD, nor should you, because that can be really harmful to their respiratory system. Capsules are also pretty impractical, because getting a pet to swallow a pill, as any pet owner knows, is a pain. The delivery methods you’ll find for CBD pet products are:
- Edibles: Edibles are products that are ingested, which offer the longest-lasting effects out of any delivery method. You’ll find plenty of CBD dog and cat treats that come with the added bonus of being flavored to appeal to their senses.
- Tinctures: Tinctures are formulas that come in dropper bottles, consisting of hemp extract diluted in a carrier oil. These products are usually administered sublingually (under the tongue) but can also act as a super convenient way to add CBD to your pet’s daily meal. They come in a variety of strengths, and are easy to dose out with the dropper cap.
- Topicals: CBD pet topicals, like salves, sprays, and balms, are made for their skin and deep tissue. Basically, these products are applied to the affected area of the body, where the cannabinoid absorbs into not only the skin but the muscle and joint tissue, to provide relief in a conveniently localized, targeted way.
Another thing to consider is that pets tend to be picky when it comes to taste and smell. So, it might be hard to give your pet a CBD product made for humans that is scented like, say, flowers – not to mention the fact that again, the ingredients used to produce that scent can be toxic to their bodies. CBD products made for pets go the extra mile to appeal to a cat or dog’s senses, often sold in flavor options that pets love, like chicken, bacon, and fish.
CBD pet products come with labeling that gives pet owners information that they need to know, such as dosing directions, milligram strength, and what the product can be useful for. Without this information, pet owners can be confused about how to administer CBD to their furry friend.
The main takeaway is that there are plenty of CBD products made for humans that pose no threat to pets – like a CBD tincture that consists of just hemp extract and MCT oil, both of which are nontoxic to cats and dogs – but still, dosing can be an obstacle, because these products are bottled and labeled according to human dosage amounts. Therefore, it’s always in the best interest of you and your pet to go with a product made for their bodies, and not yours.
Give Your Pet CBD Meant for Their Bodies, Not Yours
At the end of the day, there’s really no good reason for not giving your pet a CBD product formulated specifically for their species. There are plenty of fantastic, highly effective CBD formulas made specifically for cats and dogs, designed to appeal to their nose and taste buds, all while giving them the right dosage amount for their size. The CBD treats, tinctures, and other formulas at Chill Paws do just that, with ingredients that are safe for pets to consume, plant-based formulations, and plenty of options to choose from.