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Is CBD oil okay for pets?

CBD or hemp oil may have their uses in enhancing your pet’s quality of life but they could have side effects. Here's what you need to know

While there is much demand for these items, some pet owners also frequently worry that the products can give their animals a high or make them feel intoxicated.
While there is much demand for these items, some pet owners also frequently worry that the products can give their animals a high or make them feel intoxicated. (Unsplash)

Of late, information about the miracles of CBD oil and hemp oil therapy has been flying across the Facebook and WhatsApp groups of pet parents. Some pet owners think these treatments can work for anything from a skin illness to cancer. Its attractiveness is increased by the fact that it is natural.

I recently had to explain to a pet parent that CBD or hemp oil alone could not stop the progression of the kidney disease their cat was ailing from.

Since there is so much demand for these items, however, it is crucial to understand the best ways to give them to pets. Cannabidiol, known as CBD, is a substance in cannabis plants. In 2019, CBD products with low THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive substance found in cannabis plants) levels were legalised for use in India, regardless of a user’s medical condition.

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Consult a veterinarian if you plan to give your pet any of these products because they are primarily used to enhance your pet’s quality of life rather than treat an illness. And remember, giving your pets human-grade CBD oil is not a good idea because it could also include hazardous substances for dogs like xylitol or grapeseed oil.

Pet owners frequently worry that the products can give their animals a high or make them feel intoxicated. Umesh Karkare, director, Happy Tails Veterinary Speciality, Mumbai, says CBD oil used for medical purposes in pets only includes trace levels of THC (0.03%). It’s enough to treat pain and inflammation without producing any THC-related euphoric effects or addiction.

While hemp oil and CBD oil are sometimes used interchangeably because both are derived from cannabis or the hemp plant, hemp seed oil is derived from the seeds, while CBD oil is derived from the stem and leaves. These products can be used in cats as well as dogs. Of the two, CBD oil seems better at providing pain relief.

Dr Karkare says research has shown that CBD oil has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pain-relieving properties. He claims that recent advancements in hospice care for people with terminal illnesses are receiving more attention than other advancements but there are currently no studies that can be relied upon for terminally ill pets.

Studies do indicate several trustworthy applications for CBD oil in animals, however. The US’ Colorado State University found in 2017 that epileptic canines given CBD oil had fewer seizures. This study is still on to ascertain a safe dose and its interactions with other medications. However, it does seem promising for dogs who have epilepsy.

Some dog owners whose pets suffer from arthritic pain believe they look much more at ease after a CBD or hemp oil supplement. A 2018 study conducted at Cornell University, US, supports this.

The third most frequent application of this substance appears to be for anxious pets. People use it to treat issues ranging from separation anxiety to intolerance to loud noises, though there isn’t enough data to demonstrate that it does work. Sedation has been noted as one of the most significant negative effects.

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Before purchase, Dr Karkare says pet owners should ensure the product is of high quality, checking whether the manufacturer offers a certificate of analysis detailing the amount of CBD (and THC) the product contains as well as the results of tests looking for contaminants such as heavy metals and fungicides. “It’s also crucial to store it properly at room temperature, away from harsh lighting, to maintain the integrity of the product,” he says. The medication can be given orally, as drops, or included in your pet’s diet.

It is important, too, to keep in mind that these products have certain severe side effects because safe levels have not yet been established. Higher dosage may result, therefore, in vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, and, occasionally, trouble walking.

Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.

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