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What’s the Deal with CBD for Pets?

With the legalization of marijuana, some pets are riding the green wave, too


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The passing of Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana use for Californians 21 and older, hasn’t just opened doors to more human consumption—some pets are riding the green wave, too.

Pet stores and dispensaries have seen an influx of cannabis-infused biscuits, tinctures, and oils claiming that the medicinal benefits of cannabidiol (CBD), one of the plant’s non-psychoactive compounds, can alleviate separation anxiety and cancer-related symptoms in animals as well. Cordial Organics, a local e-commerce line of CBD skin care and wellness products, sells a Calm for Pets oil made with whole flower medicinal grade hemp. Cordial co-founder Desi McKinnon adds a few drops into food for her six-year-old Chihuahua mix.

“Now Zeke doesn’t shake and cry when left alone or with someone new,” she says. “He’s chill and in his body. Otherwise he’s a trembling mess.”

But if you ask veterinarians for an opinion, they’ll likely have little to say. The California Veterinary Medical Board, though it doesn’t yet have a formal position on the matter, cautions that vets “are in violation of California law if they are incorporating cannabis into their practices,” since Prop 64 does not specifically allow it.

It’s the wild west right now in terms of CBD in animals. There’s great potential, but we’re not allowed to talk about it.

“It’s the wild west right now in terms of CBD in animals,” says Dr. Brian Evans of Coastal Animal Hospital in Encinitas. “There’s great potential, but we’re not allowed to talk about it. Because it’s a Schedule I drug, very few controlled studies have been formed to figure out the right doses and what is and isn’t good for animals.”

Dr. Evans warns against giving dogs THC, the plant’s psychoactive compound. “I’ve seen zero side effects from too much CBD, but I have seen side effects from dogs getting too much THC. They can get very sick. I saw a little Chihuahua with a whopping dose of THC come in with seizures.” Even the highest-CBD cannabis plant strains can’t eliminate the presence of THC entirely—by definition, “whole flower” CBD products still contain a small percentage of it—so for pet owners interested in trying this therapy, products made with pure CBD oil are most likely a safer bet.

The lack of FDA regulation didn’t stop Bankers Hill resident Candice Johnson from trying cannabis on Abraham Lincoln, her 8-year-old Lhasa apso mix who, two years ago, began sleeping more than usual, getting sore from previously easy walks, and scratching his tail, groin, and legs to the point of bleeding. Using her experience as a healer who had seen “miracles” using CBD tinctures on adult and pediatric patients, she went to Urbn Leaf dispensary to see whether it would produce the same results for her pup. She wound up with a THCA-CBD oil (THCA is a similar non-psychoactive compound that’s said to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects).

“They knew right away and showed me their pet line,” she says. “I also knew what I wanted, from dosing children. ‘If a child weighs this much, this is how much you start at.’ I did mention it to my vet once—he didn’t sound so sold on it. But I started Abraham in mid-January. By February I had my puppy back. The light’s back in his eyes. The itching gone. I haven’t seen him limp since late February. I take him on walks and walks and walks. On the weekends we don’t stop.”

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