Cannabis is the sum of all components derived from the marijuana plant that can be extracted from glands within the plant in the form of oils known as cannabinoids. There are many different cannabinoids present in the the marijuana plant, including the medical component, cannabidiol (CBD), and the psychotropic component, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Over the counter CBD oil products found at health food stores contain very little to no THC.
Medicinal uses for CBD in veterinary medicine are currently generally relegated to control of seizures, pain, nausea, and anxiety associated with any number of health conditions in dogs and cats. Results are anecdotal at this time with no real scientific studies available to quantify any benefits (or lack thereof). This does not mean that CBD oil is not helpful for any of the aforementioned clinical circumstances, there is currently just no research to confirm the efficacy.
Despite this, many veterinary practitioners, me included, have seen some level of benefit with administration of over the counter (OTC) CBD oil, but most have observed that the benefits are generally limited and should not be overstated. In many cases, CBD oil is a helpful component to aid with more traditional approcahes to management of clinical signs associated with disease. There is also a wide variation in results, likely due to lack of CBD oil quality control, differing severity of disease, and lack of any appreciable TCH to contribute to the “cumulative effect,” also known as the “entourage effect” in OTC products
Cumulative Effect (Entourage Effect)
The cumulative or entourage effect refers to CBD oil being reported by well versed alternative veterinary practitioners to have much more benefit when small doses of THC are added to CBD. Although THC is the psychotropic component of the marijuana plant, the aim is not to get a dog or cat high; but to titrate in a minimal amount of THC to CBD in order to enhance its medicinal effect.
However, there are three major challenges to treating with CBD containing THC. For states where even medical marijuana is not yet legal, there is really no way to legally obtain such a product. For states where medical marijuana is legal, the legal path to obtaining a CBD/THC product for veterinary use is murky, since there really is no legal mechanism to get a pet a medical marijuana card. Lastly, there are currently no THC dosing standards for THC use in veterinary medicine, and the dose seems to be a crucial aspect for success in treatment.
Pet owners interested in treating their pets with a combination CBD/TCH oil product in states where medial marijuana is legal should start with a conversation with their vet. The veterinarian should either be experienced with THC dosing in dogs and cats for various health ailments or at least be actively consulting with a veterinarian that is. Depending on the state, one potential legal path to getting CBD oil with THC properly dosed would be if a pet owner has his/her own medical marijuana card and purchases the correct dosing mix at a reputable dispensary.
While there are topical formulations of CBD oil available, topical absorption properties have not yet been quantified. Thus, most products available are oral formulations for dogs and cats; oral formulations for this reason are also preferred by veterinarians that recommend CBD oil.
More Research Is Needed
There is clearly more research necessary to establish the true efficacy of OTC CBD oil products, as well as correct dosing of THC to provide a cumulative effect to CBD oil. While there is a great still to be discovered about medicinal uses of cannabis in veterinary medicine, anecdotal evidence and research on its use in human medicine suggests that its benefits could be far reaching and safely beneficial in helping to manage any number of conditions in dogs and cats.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality throughout a number of subjects and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.