It’s pot for pets—sort of.
CBD products, like oils and savs, are increasingly being marketed to pet owners as a viable treatment for their ailing animals.
But does it work and is it safe?
Pete Sessa said he’s already seen what it can do.
He said his 5-year-old pit-boxer mix, Honey, like a lot of shelter dogs, doesn’t like being far from family.
“She’s very attached, she wants to be right next to you,” Sessa said. “She definitely had this anxiety and she would cry and cry and cry."
So Sessa said he turned to a treatment he’d been using himself: CBD hemp oil.
“It works,” he said. “But we found that it didn’t only help with her anxiety, it helped with her mobility, her appetite; these kinds of positive side effects we didn’t really expect.”
CBD v.s. THC
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound extracted from cannabis, which includes marijuana and hemp.
The CBD oil that Sessa uses for Honey is not marijuana and it’s not getting his dog high.
That’s because CBD from hemp has little or none of the THC molecule which creates that ‘high’ effect. THC has been found to be harmful to dogs.
People don’t need a prescription for CBD from hemp in the way you would need one for medical marijuana.
CBD products from hemp, not marijuana, are legal in every state and most can be purchased online.
Since all mammals have the same endocannabinoid system, it’s believed CBD has the same effects on dogs and cats as it does in humans.
Angela Ardolino sold her successful Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine to cash in on the growing cannabis craze.
Her own experience living with rheumatoid arthritis lead her to CBD, she said.
"I didn’t want to take the prescription medications being offered to me so I started searching for something more natural that didn’t have awful side effects,” she said.
Ardolino's Lutz-based business, CBD Dog Health, is now manufacturing these pot-like pet products being distributed across the country.
She said one of the biggest misconceptions about CBD is that it’s getting your pet high. The other is that it’s only good for treating anxiety.
“We have gotten rid of cancerous tumors, skin tumors, fatty tumors, terrible rashes, bug bites, burns,” Ardolino said of her own experience using the oils and savs on animals.
“If you try it you’re going to be a believer.”
Ardolino said pet owners should always look for “full spectrum” CBD because it contains all elements of the hemp plant, so it’s the most effective. She said a good rule of thumb to follow is that if the price seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t a full spectrum.
What’s the research say?
Tampa veterinarian Dr. Melissa Webster said she’s heard plenty of the anecdotal evidence too, but she argued, it’s just that: anecdotal.
“The jury’s still out on how we can use CBD in pets,” Webster said. "It has its place and we’re learning about it."
Webster said she believes more research is still needed before she’ll feel comfortable recommending it to her clients. Some of the first studies looking into how CBD metabolizes in dogs and if it poses any health threats only began as recently as 2016.
Webster acknowledged she can’t simply ignore her client's questions about it either.
A recent survey by the Veterinary Information Network, an online community of veterinarians, found nearly two-thirds of vets said they were asked about cannabis by their patients at least once a month.
Webster said she can make sure you’re asking the right questions when considering trying it with your pet:
1.) Are you getting your CBD from a reputable source?
2.) What are the concentrations in it?
3.) What kind of dosage are you giving your pet?
“I am curious because if it can do what it says it can do, holy smokes,” Webster said. "I look back on who would know that with mold on bread you could make penicillin, so it's worth paying attention to.”
While Sessa said he welcomes more research, he’s already sold.
“No matter why it’s working, it’s working and I don’t see any negative effects from it,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you need to educate yourself to figure out what’s best for you and your pet.”
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate CBD pet products.
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