CBD marketing for dogs is far ahead of science, experts say

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Veterinarian and educator Joseph Vakschlag has found success with the use of CBD for a variety of health conditions in dogs. Photo courtesy of Joseph Wakschlag

NEW YORK, June 24 (UPI) – Dog owners give their furry companions CBD-based products to treat everything from anxiety to arthritis, but just like in humans, the benefits of the compound for dogs remain unproven, experts told UPI.

However, cannabidiol, or CBD for short, can be found in dog foods and treats, as well as in topical oils and oral supplements designed to treat a variety of health conditions, according to several veterinarians and pet owners.

As a result, about half of U.S. dog owners surveyed by Leafreport, an Israel-based CBD research organization, have tried these products, with 44% giving them to their pets to treat anxiety and 21% use it to treat pain.

Nearly eight out of 10 dog owners who have administered CBD to their dogs have done so after veterinarians recommended it, the study found.

However, most veterinarians or specialists advise not to use these products because with little regulation that regulates them, their exact ingredients are often unclear, according to industry experts and pet owners.

“A lot of people have told me that CBD is great for their dog, but I haven’t seen data that shows exactly what it does and how it works,” David Harmon, a professor of animal and food science at the University of Kentucky, told UPI by telephone. interview.

The CBD market “is definitely far ahead of the science” that supports its use, said Harmon, who has studied how CBD-containing treats affect a dog’s behavior.

Mixed results

CBD is found in marijuana and hemp plants, hemp CBD products are legal in all 50 states and Washington, DC. In all but three states, marijuana CBD is legal, according to Michigan State University.

CBD does not contain THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that gives marijuana an intoxicating or “high” effect, the school said.

In humans, CBD is used to treat anxiety, pain and sleep problems, but although recommended by some doctors, studies to evaluate its benefits have yielded mixed results, said Joseph Wakschlag, a professor of veterinary medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca. , New York

There is more solid evidence – from about 10 studies – that the compound can help dogs with pain from osteoarthritis, seizures and skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, an allergic reaction that causes dry, itchy skin, he said.

“The dogs in our study definitely scratched less,” said Harmon, whose group is investigating the effectiveness of CBD treats in dogs with the problem.

How exactly it works to treat these conditions remains unclear, although CBD appears to block some of the processes in the brain and immune system that cause inflammation, research shows.

In addition, its ability to reduce anxiety and make dogs who take it feel calmer helps with conditions such as atopic dermatitis, Harmon said.

As with people with the disease, itching caused by atopic dermatitis is often a source of concern for dogs, he and colleagues said.

Jeremy Willis, who has two dogs and runs the pet site peteducate.com, has used topical oils and oral supplements that contain CBD for their dogs – to treat anxiety in one and seizures in the other.

“CBD products have worked particularly well,” said Willis, who lives in Meridian, Idaho.

“We were able to calm Jesse down, and Bruce and I almost completely eliminated his seizures – he hasn’t had one in more than a year,” he said.

Its anti-inflammatory properties also appear to help with conditions such as osteoarthritis, which causes joint pain in both dogs and humans.

Jerome G. Enad, a doctor in Pensacola, Florida, began treating his 8-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier last year, who has osteoarthritis of the hip with a combination pill that contains CBD and glucosamine, a natural compound found in cartilage that often are used to treat joint pain.

The pill he gives his dog twice a day contains 18 milligrams of hemp, of which 10 mg. is CBD, as well as 230 mg. omega-3 fish oil and 100 mg. glucosamine, Enad said in an email.

This “dramatically improved his mobility and [has] our dog walks again and makes zoomies in the yard, “he said.

Conversely, the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug prescribed by his veterinarian did not work, prompting him to test for CBD himself, he said.

A 2017 survey of more than 2,000 veterinarians in the United States found that nearly two-thirds have never discussed CBD-based treatment with their clients, while about 20% rarely do so, with most showing a preference for prescription drugs. with a prescription supported by clinical trials.

“CBD is not a treatment recommended by most veterinarians or specialists, and it’s up to you to treat your dog,” dog owner Claire Grayson told UPI in an email.

Grayson, who lives in Denver, used topical oils containing CBD for her dog to treat pain caused by arthritis and found that they worked, although her veterinarian did not sanction the approach.

They say the risk is low

Although many in the veterinary profession are discussing the benefits of CBD-based therapies, the risks associated with their use remain low, experts said.

The most common side effects associated with CBD in dogs include dry mouth, low blood pressure, lethargy, dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting, inhibition of liver enzymes, and upset stomach, according to the American Veterinary Association.

However, in clinical trials published for the use of CBD in dogs, these side effects occur in less than 5% of the animals studied, and in some cases well below 1%, said Harmon of the University of Kentucky.

“We saw absolutely nothing negative, nothing healthy, no adverse effects,” he said.

That’s because most CBD-containing products for use in dogs contain relatively small amounts of the compound, Harmon said.

In the four studies conducted by Harmon and his colleagues, the treats used contained either 2.5 mg. or 5 mg. CBD per pound of body weight, he said.

Proponents of therapeutic CBD in animals, such as Wakshlag of Cornell University, believe that higher doses of the compound can lead to more positive benefits.

However, higher doses can also make side effects and “toxicity” more common, Harmon said.

In a report from August 2020, the American Veterinary Association stated that “there is an urgent need for accurate and precise analysis of CBD products,” especially studies that assess their long-term effects on pet health, including potential side effects.

There are currently few regulations regarding the labeling of products containing CBD, and the listing of the exact amounts of the ingredient in foods and treats often varies, according to the American Kennel Club, which promotes the sport of purebred dogs.

In their analysis of 27 CBD-based products intended for use in animals, Wakshlag and colleagues found that only 10 contained levels of the compound within 10% of the amounts indicated on their labels.

In addition, four of the products analyzed had potentially dangerous levels of “heavy metal contamination” with lead, mercury or other toxic substances, they said.

“When choosing a CBD product for your pet, it’s important to do your research to make sure you’re choosing a product that’s safe and effective,” said Tom Kelly of Los Angeles, who has two dogs and has used CBD for both. told UPI in an email.

However, he has used several CBD-based products to treat pain in his dogs and has found that they help without any noticeable side effects, he said.

“Some dogs are sensitive to it and may develop diarrhea, and some dogs’ livers will increase the enzyme, but there is no evidence of liver toxicity from the doses usually given,” said Robert J. Silver, a veterinarian who recommends CBD and has developed his own product, told UPI in an email.

However, “product selection is important because there is no basic regulation for CBD production and analysis,” said Silver, who practices in the Denver area and is the founder and medical director of Well-Pet Dispensary.

For dog owners who are interested in trying CBD on their pets, Silver, who also recommends several other natural and holistic remedies, advises asking the manufacturer to provide a “certificate of analysis” documenting the effectiveness and content of the ingredients.

This certificate must also state that the products have been analyzed for and do not contain heavy metals or other toxins, he said.

Ideally, dog owners should work with veterinarians who have experience in CBD. They can help with dosing and other issues, although it can be a challenge, given that so few recommend it, Silver said.

If dog owners decide to experiment on their own – something Harmon strongly warns against – they should start with a low dose, give it twice a day with little food, and wait 10 to 14 days to decide if that lower dose works without side effects before increasing the dose, advises Silver.

“Talk to your veterinarian about which products have some clinical science behind them and what dose to start with,” Wakshlag said. “Every dog ​​metabolizes cannabinoids differently, leading to very different concentrations in the body.”

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