CBD is popular treatment for pets but research doesn't back it up

CBD Oil bottle

CBD has emerged as a popular treatment for cats and dogs, but there hasn't been enough research done on its effects to determine whether it's truly effective.

As the blast of the fireworks echoed throughout the house, Christine Dryden handed another CBD treat to her terrified golden retriever.

That was the dog’s third of her three-times-daily hemp treats, and they didn’t seem to be helping. As the sounds of the Fourth of July shook the walls, Dryden wondered if she had just bought into a “calming treat” scam.

Dryden lives in Stillwater, and every year when the city celebrates Independence Day, she is left trying to find some way to ease her dog’s anxiety.

Last July, Dryden decided to try some hemp CBD treats from PetSmart because she had always heard marijuana has a calming effect.

“Lexie had a bad experience with fireworks when she was a puppy,” Christine said. “I got her these treats this year so that maybe we could enjoy the evening, but they didn’t seem to work at all.”

Cannabidiol, more commonly referred to as CBD, is a naturally occurring oil derived from the cannabis plant. It’s no secret cannabis is sought after for its psychoactive affects and natural medicinal value.

THC is the compound in marijuana that gives the plant its psychoactive affects. Excessive amounts of THC, when given to pets can have a dangerous outcome. Experts warn to keep THC amounts higher than 0.3 percent away from animals, as the compound can be very poisonous.

With medical marijuana recently legalized in Oklahoma, many people wonder if their pets could also benefit from such medicine. Like humans, animals suffer from anxiety and pain, and recently, over-the-counter CBD has become a popular choice for treatment.

CBD products are known to help humans with a number of things, including anxiety, depression and physical pain. Because CBD products are marketed toward humans, there is limited information on what CBD can do to help dogs and cats. Hempire Dispensary in Stillwater sells one product for pets called Receptra.

“Receptra is an oil that is for dogs,” Sadie, a Hempire employee, said. “It calms their anxiety, is used as an anti-inflammatory. It maintains hip and joint mobility and supports their immune system.”

Sadie said Receptra has successful sale rates, and the product is popular. CBD Plus USA, another Stillwater dispensary, sells chicken flavored CBD drops, bacon flavored tincture and CBD dog treats. Carly, an employee at CBD Plus USA said she uses the oils on her German shepherd.

“My German shepherd has separation anxiety and hip dysplasia, so I give him the oils, and it sooths his pain,” Carly said.

Although giving pets CBD has become popular, the lack of research on its effects can pose a problem.

“There’s currently research being done on the short-term effects of using (CBD), but there’s not really a whole lot known right now on its pros and cons,” said Sam Stansbury, a fourth-year veterinary student at Oklahoma State. “There is medical CBD oil available at some local pharmacies formulated for animals that people can try, but from a clinical standpoint, there’s not a lot of evidence for its use right now.”

Lara Sypniewski, an associate professor of the OSU School of Veterinary Medicine, said CBD doesn’t affect animals in the same way it does people.

“One of the things scientific research has found is that oral absorption of CBD is low in dogs and cats,” Sypniewski said. “When hemp CBD is given by mouth, the liver, which is responsible for removing toxins from the blood stream, greatly reduces the concentration of circulating CBD product.”

Sypniewski said she is excited about the potential for CBD to improve quality of life for pets, especially when it comes to issues like anxiety, seizures and pain. Sypniewski also said she finds it interesting that medicinal drugs are considered unsafe until proven safe, but supplements, like CBD, are safe until proven otherwise.

In time, with proper research and trials, maybe one day Dryden and Lexie will be able to enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks together.

“I am hoping for more research to guide veterinarians on the proper use of CBD in pets, but unfortunately the market for the product has exploded without the research to back it up,” Sypniewski said.

“I am excited about the future of CBD in the treatment of many diseases of dogs and cats. I believe it has significant potential to help many of my patients.”