Nearly two-thirds of all Americans have a pet in their home, whether it is a dog, cat, fish or something more exotic. And, of course, people love their pets. In fact, Americans spend over $60 billion each year on pet care, almost half of which goes toward medical care. And yet, millions of dogs, cats, and other pets are continuing to suffer from chronic and degenerative disorders, including cancers, mobility issues, and emotional problems.
Many people facing similar difficulties are finally finding relief from cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound derived from the cannabis plant. New research has shown that CBD is an incredibly effective treatment for inflammation, anxiety, pain, and other problems. And now, we’re starting to learn that CBD can be an equally effective treatment for our animal friends.
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Is CBD Safe for Pets?
In a nutshell, yes. Unfortunately, when most people think of cannabis and pets, they think of news reports about animals who have become ill after accidentally consuming marijuana or an edible cannabis product. However, in these cases, the pet has consumed something that contained THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, not just CBD. THC is the cannabinoid that produces the “high” associated with marijuana, and it sometimes causes side effects like anxiety, hunger, and sleepiness. When you hear about a pet becoming ill from cannabis use, the chances are that pet has consumed a THC-based product. CBD and CBD-based products, on the other hand, produce no such “high” and therefore, are safe to use for pets.
Treating Dogs with CBD
Dogs benefit from CBD in many of the same ways that people do. First of all, it’s a potent anti-inflammatory, which means that CBD can work wonders for arthritis pain. Many dog breeds, including Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, and boxers, are particularly prone to crippling arthritis pain, especially later in life. CBD can help minimize both pain and swelling, increasing mobility. This increased mobility helps dogs stay fit, which in turn helps them live longer.
Beyond inflammation, there is excellent evidence that CBD helps people, and dogs, with seizure disorders, such as epilepsy. Also, new research shows that CBD may be used to slow the growth of cancerous tumors, which is a major problem for dog breeds like Rottweilers and golden retrievers. Finally, CBD can be used to treat anxiety. In dogs, stress often manifests itself as aggression. By making dogs more calm and sociable, and therefore less likely to lash out or bite someone, CBD can help them find and stay in their forever homes.
Treating Cats with CBD
Like dogs, cats benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD. It helps older cats with arthritis, allowing them to climb and jump well into their senior years. CBD also helps cats with other common problems caused by inflammation, such as pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease. If left untreated, these crippling diseases can limit the quality of life for your cat, or even kill him or her.
The number-one killer of older cats is cancer. In many cases, people just euthanize their cat in an attempt to spare them the pain of cancer or its conventional treatments. Now that there is evidence of CBD slowing, and even stopping, tumor growth, cats with a cancer diagnosis have new hope. Not only is there a chance of CBD halting cancer, but it also treats many of the symptoms of cancer, like pain and trouble sleeping.
Also like dogs, cats with anxiety can benefit from cannabidiol. Many cats show their unease by marking furniture and not using the litter box, often leading them to be surrendered to shelters and, sadly, killed. CBD can calm cats and minimize their anxiety, leading to better behavior and less marking. CBD can be particularly useful in cases where other behavior modifications have failed, perhaps due to an underlying anxiety disorder.
Treating Small Mammals, Birds, or Reptiles with CBD
You can treat small mammals with CBD. Many of the laboratory studies done on CBD have used mice and rats, so we know quite a bit about how CBD affects them. The main precaution when using CBD on small pets, including hamsters, guinea pigs, and ferrets, is making sure to start with a low dosage. It’s easy to overestimate how much CBD you need with small pets.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that CBD helps reptiles, amphibians, or fish. There is controversy about whether these animals have the cannabinoid receptors necessary to receive the positive benefits from CBD. There is also little evidence that CBD helps birds. Anecdotally, birds that received THC-based products have had adverse reactions. CBD, on the other hand, may help with anxiety and self-grooming issues.
How To Use CBD for Pets
Experts recommend giving CBD to pets either orally or by applying it to their skin. As with any new medication, you should start with a small dosage of CBD at first and see how your pet does with it. If you give your pet too much CBD, it won’t be toxic, but he or she may experience lethargy, dry mouth, or even low blood pressure, in which case you should lower the dose. If your pet is on other medication, do not stop taking it without first consulting your veterinarian.
If used wisely, CBD has the potential to improve the lives of millions of pets. It could even save those lives: people often euthanize cats and dogs with anxiety-related behavior problems because of lack of treatment. Cannabidiol can treat that anxiety. Today’s pet owners are fortunate to have pet-friendly CBD products available, and their pets are lucky to have them, too.
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