Canine CBD Usage

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CBD use in Dogs

As is frequently done, the questions on the human side of medicine crossover into questions for our pets as well.  The most current example surrounds the safe and legal use of CBD in canine patients.  There is a lot of information floating around the internet and other sources as well, not all of which is reliable and much of which is misleading.

My hope is that after reading through this blog, you will have more knowledge to make decisions for you pets regarding the use of CBD as an adjunct therapy.

What is CBD?

CBD is an abbreviation for “Cannabidiol”, a (phyto)-cannabinoid that is extracted from Cannabis. Like many other phytocannabinoids, CBD appears to lack the psychotropic (hallucinogenic) effects typical of THC, but maintains various positive medicinal properties. As such, it has emerged as perhaps the preferred cannabinoid to be used medically.

Currently, in the United States, CBD is a Schedule I controlled substance, regardless of the source. Schedule I substances are defined by the DEA as being substances with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”.  Other Schedule I substances include Heroin, LSD, Ecstacy, Marijuana, and Peyote.

There is only one single documented study for CBD use in dogs- it involved only 6 dogs and was done in 1988!!  It showed that when given orally at a dose of 9 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, the bioavailability was between 0-15%...  Basically, CBD is inactivated when taken orally by dogs at that dose.

So How Are Pets Dosed?

Most CBD containing products for pets come in treat form and contain about 0.9-1.4 milligrams per treat.  So a 10 pound dog (which is 4.5 kilograms) even at the maximum concentration in the treats, is getting only 0.33 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.  In order for a dog to have any measurable amount of active CBD in its system, one would have to administer about 40 treats, all at once, to a 10 pound dog!!  Which is literally 40 times more than the manufacturer’s recommendation for Treatibles. (  And this dosage would have variability of getting between 0% - 15% to the pet.

There are certainly other phytocannabinoids in commercially available treats.  It may be that some of these substances contribute to the anecdotal effects reported by owners.  However, if we feel like studies regarding efficacy or safety are lacking for CBD, the remaining phytocannabinoids have even less information available...

Commercially available treats and tinctures have such a low dose of actual CBD that they fall into a category for “special consideration”.  Sort of like “non- alcoholic” beer still has just a smidge of grain alcohol in it.

What is the legality of CBD use in pets?

Even though medical cannabis use is legal in some states (including IL), federal law still prohibits possession or distribution of THC and CBD containing products.

Is there any way around the legal concerns for veterinarians?

A veterinarian cannot legally dispense or prescribe CBD to a pet or patient. However, many pet owners inquire about these substances. A veterinarian cannot “instruct” a client to purchase CBD products. The veterinarian can document in the patient’s medical record that the “client is interested in CBD usage. I cannot legally recommend, but I provided information regarding safety so that if they decide to use it, the pet is not harmed.

It is important, if a client decides to administer a CBD product that the veterinarian helps inform the client of potential problems, issues and risks, and documents which particular CBD product the client purchases and how they administer the product. 

If a veterinarian makes a recommendation to a client about CBD use, that veterinarian can face federal prosecution, loss of their medical license and loss of their DEA license, which permits the prescribing of all controlled substances.

Veterinarians are not authorized to prescribe or recommend CBD use in any form.   More controlled studies are needed to show efficacy and proper dosing of these plant-derived products for conversion into viable therapeutics.  Current products probably do not have enough CBD to have any effect on canine patients and most of the effects seen by owners are likely due to the complex phytocannabinoid profiles rather than the CBD specifically, as the CBD contained in these products is actually negligible.

The nuts and bolts of the issue are pretty clear…  Please discuss use of any nutritional supplements for your pets with your veterinarian prior to administration.

Be Well!

Dr. Jessica Torok DVM - Fear-Free Certified Practitioner


Factual credit derived from proceedings written by:  Dr. Mark Rishniw BVSc, MS, PhD ACVIM Small Animal Internal Medicine (1996), ACVIM Cardiology (1997) (accessed 6/6/18)