What CBD Studies Have Been Conducted for Pets?


Last Updated: August 19th, 2020

Close up of a happy dog

Guest Post by Aaron Smith

CBD oil is a fairly new product that was just recently federally legalized in the United States. In 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the Farm Bill) legalized CBD that is derived from hemp and contains no more than 0.3 percent THC. Though many states are still in a gray area on where they stand about CBD products and their use, in most states CBD is legalized for medical use. This includes medical uses for humans as well as pets. As with anything that’s new to the market, research is somewhat limited, but there are studies and clinical trials that are currently available and ongoing. 

CBD uses for dogs and cats

You may be wondering what CBD oil even does for man’s best friends. CBD products are required to have a very limited amount of THC, which means they won’t get your pet high and won’t have the harmful effects of marijuana on dogs and cats. Pet owners use CBD oil or oil-infused products to help with the following canine and feline health issues:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Arthritis and mobility issues
  • Cancer-related nausea
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Seizures

As a concerned pet owner, you’ll also want to know the science behind CBD oil products. What studies have been conducted that prove CBD has the properties to provide relief for your pet? What are the side effects if any? And, what are the short and long term effects of giving your beloved pet CBD products?

CBD treatment for pain and mobility in osteoarthritic dogs

On July 23, 2018, a study was published online that looked at the safety, side effects, and effectiveness of ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA oil in the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis (OA). The study was conducted using a placebo-controlled group in which the veterinarians assessing the dogs and the pet owners were blinded to which dogs received the actual CBD oil or the placebo. Over a duration of four weeks, the dogs were given either CBD oil or the placebo every 12 hours. Veterinarian assessments and pet owner questionnaires were completed before and during the trial.

The results 

For the dogs that received the CBD + CBDA oil treatment, the veterinarians’ assessments revealed a decrease in pain and the Hudson activity scores showed an increase in activity. The pharmacokinetics, or metabolization of the CBD oil, revealed no visible side effects in the test subjects, and the owners also reported no side effects. Even so, the study suggests that 2 mg of CBD twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with OA.  

The effects of CBD treatment to reduce seizures in dogs

A small study conducted by Colorado State University during 2016–2017 was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and focused on the short term effects of CBD oil to reduce seizures in dogs. This study also included a placebo control group of 14 dogs, while an additional 12 dogs were given the actual CBD treatment. All of the dogs suffered from idiopathic epilepsy, which affects 5.7 percent of dogs worldwide and is the most common canine neurologic condition. Over 12 weeks, the dogs were given either the CBD oil or a placebo twice a day in addition to existing antiepileptic treatments.

The results  

McGrath, a neurologist at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital who helped conduct the study stated, “We saw a correlation between how high the levels of CBD oil were in these dogs with how great the seizure reduction was.” Based on the research conducted, 89 percent of dogs who received CBD treatment in the trial had a reduced frequency of seizures. The alkaline phosphatase levels in the CBD group were also found to be elevated. No adverse side effects were reported.

A safety assessment of CBD on healthy cats and dogs

Medical research on the effects of CBD on cats is very limited compared to studies conducted on dogs. However, a study was published online in October of 2019 that looked at the effects on healthy cats and dogs over a 12 week period. As with the previous studies, the animals were given 2 mg of ElleVet CBD +CBDA oil, orally, every 12 hrs.

The results  

Though one cat had a rise in its ALT liver levels, the rest of the test subjects showed no clinically significant alterations. After the cats were dosed orally with the CBD oil, they showed excess licking and head shaking, but it's likely they just didn’t like the feel/taste of the CBD oil in their mouth. The chemical analysis for the cats also showed that the oral absorption rate was far lower than that of the dogs. This leads one to believe that the dosage for cats will differ compared to dogs and more research is needed to fully understand the cats.

Dog and cat snuggling

Do your research

According to the clinical studies and medical research that has been conducted so far, some types of CBD oil are indeed safe to give to your dog or cat. It is imperative to purchase your CBD from a reputable retailer as there are some illegitimate companies marketing products that have not been tested and may not even contain CBD. Though more long-term research should be conducted, veterinarians agree that CBD oil is a safe treatment for many health issues like pain, anxiety, and mobility issues. Pet owners across the country chime in with their own testimonials to the relieving effects of CBD on their pets. 

“Not all companies have the same quality of cannabinoids where CBD and CBDA are two critical molecules and the majority do not even test to get the correct dosing for your pets," said Christian Kjaer, CEO and cofounder of ElleVet Sciences. "We created ElleVet Sciences because we want more data and research on cannabinoids and pets to find out exactly how these products work and can be improved. We've worked with Cornell University, the University of Florida, and several experienced veterinary specialists to conduct studies and love seeing how CBD and CBDA can help dogs, cats, and other animals. But it's also important that pet owners know that not all CBD products are equal.” 

If you decide to give CBD products to your pets, be sure to do your research on the manufacturer. A reputable company will have a Certificate of Analysis or COA. This tells you about the quality, potency, solvents, microbial analysis, and if testing has been done for pesticides or heavy metals. Companies with high-quality pet CBD products should also be able to provide peer-reviewed studies supporting the PK (Pharmacokinetics) or dosing, safety, and efficacy of their products.

Going organic in the case of CBD products is also a good idea because hemp plants tend to absorb any chemicals used on them, like pesticides. The best regulated quality will also be from down-home, USA growers. Pick a trustworthy company, and you can feel good about treating your pet with CBD oil products.

Aaron Smith is a writer and copy strategist for several companies and nonprofits. He often covers topics important to pet owners, and is a dedicated dog dad to his three pups: Buddy, Roxy, and Kaya.

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