Cannabis for Pets: Beyond the Basics

cannabis pets beyond basics boulderholisticvet blog post

As legislation for medical and recreational marijuana sweeps the country, the application of cannabis for dogs and cats has become a point of focus for pet parents and the veterinary community. This article, will cover more detailed information about cannabis and it’s medicinal use in dogs and cats. For a more basic understanding of cannabis for pets, check out my articles for cats here and dogs here.

Endocannabinoid System

Are you ready to geek out? There is a whole system in both human and animal bodies known as the endocannabinoid system. This system is located in the nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) and is made up of receptors. These receptors bind THC and CBD among other components of the cannabis plant. This system influences many processes related to pain, mood, immune function and much more. As this system is studied we will be able to understand why cannabis works so well for certain conditions. We may also expand the scope of what cannabis may treat.

There is still much to learn about the endocannabinoid system in people and pets. However, we do know that dogs have many more THC receptors (CB-1) in their brains compared with people. This is why they are more sensitive to effects of THC compared with their human counterpart. In other words, the amount needed for a person to become comfortably euphoric (high) can cause extreme high with negative effects of the nervous system in dogs.

As cannabis is bred to have more and more THC, veterinarians see more and more toxicity in dogs. Some of these cases can be deadly and cause much suffering for patients. If your veterinarian is not open to discuss cannabis (even without THC), this is most likely the reason. We all took an oath to first do no harm. As cannabis becomes legal across the US, veterinarians will have more opportunities to learn about the difference between hemp and marijuana.

Entourage

You may have heard of the ‘entourage effect’ when it comes to medicinal marijuana. This simply refers to the synergistic effect of THC on CBD. In other words, the presence of THC is thought to increase the medicinal effect of CBD. Many experts in the field recommend only products with THC due to this concept.

While this synergy may be beneficial for people, it is important that we consider our animal’s comfort when using cannabis. When a person consumes cannabis, they can report how they feel and titrate the dose independently. Our animal companions don’t have this ability. THC can cause paranoia, hallucinations and anxiety in people. This most likely occurs in dogs as well.

While most focus lies on THC and CBD, cannabis contains other medicinal constituents like terpenes and flavanoids. Terpenes are the aromatic oils in the plant. These enhance the medicinal effects of both CBD and THC. Flavenoids are chemical compounds found in plants. These compounds also have medicinal effects such as anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-anxiety. 

 

Conditions Benefited from CBD

The list of conditions that are improved by cannabis grows daily in my practice. Often I recommend cannabis to treat one ailment, only to find it has improved other symptoms. These are the best side effects! These are the conditions I have seen improved with cannabis:

  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis/Pain
  • Aggression
  • Seizures
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Increased Immune Function
  • Appetite Stimulation

I also use cannabis for patients with cancer. Depending on the type of cancer, CBD may slow the progression and offer the pet an increased sense of well being. Each type of cancer has different properties and behavior and will respond differently to CBD.

Dosing

Good news! Colorado State University is currently conducting clinical trials for the use of CBD in seizures and arthritis. As more research gets funded, we may begin to have a more information for the best dosing regimen. As it stands currently I use a wide dosing range of 0.1-3 mg/kg twice daily. My recommendations depend on the animal and the disease being treated.

Product Selection

As products flood the market, it is important that consumers make an educated purchases for themselves and their pet. My inbox is full of people asking about products they have purchased or considering purchasing. When I vet these products, I am looking for the following criteria.

  1. Farming practices.Has the plant been grown with the use of pesticides?
  2. Extraction method. Watch out for methods that use chemicals as these residues will be present in the final product.
  3. Some products contain too little CBD to be effective.
  4. Guaranteed analysis. Does the company test their product for the constituents beyond THC and CBD? Does it look at the terpenes and flavonoids? Check out the HempRx guaranteed analysis here.
  5. Other ingredients. Make sure you know what other ingredients are present. I prefer HempRx because it only contains hemp. For my very sensitive patients introducing one ingredient at a time is beneficial.
  6. Terpene/Flavanoid. As discussed earlier, CBD and THC are not the only medicinal components of cannabis. I only use products that have the terpene and flavanoid profile analyzed as well.

My absolute favorite product line is HempRx by Rx Vitamins for Pets. This line is specifically made for cats and dogs. It comes in an oil and chewable form. The oil comes in two concentrations so that dosing large dogs can become more affordable. The HempRx Soft Chewz (Cats/Small Dogs & Larger Dogs) are very palatable for picky pets.

For cats I recommend getting the regular strength HempRx and starting with 1-2 drops twice daily. This bottle will last approximately 2-3 months.

For dogs greater than 20 lbs I recommend the HempRx Forte as it will be the most economical.

Sending love to you and your furry friends!

28 thoughts on “Cannabis for Pets: Beyond the Basics”

    1. Dr. Angie Krause, DVM

      Hi Maurine,

      The first step in dealing with itchy dogs is to determine what they may be allergic to. Is it food or environmental? I usually start with diet and if I see no improvement, I move on to environmental allergies.

      Warmly,
      Dr. Angie

  1. My cat is about two years old and in the past 30 days has started pulling out the hair on it’s tail with his teeth. But he has now started pulling out the hair on other parts of his body. I’ve raised cats all my life and I’ve never seen this. Would CBD oil help out?

    1. Our siamese was overgrooming all the fur from his belly, legs & tail. Relief came to him when his dermatologist guessed that it may be due to a food allergy & put him on Royal Canin Rabbit & Pea prescription cat food. Truely a miracle for him!

  2. My elderly Border Collie has a slipped disc. I have her on Prednisone, tramadol, muscle relaxer, and an other pain med. I have also made a chiropractor appointment for her. Would Cannabis be beneficial to her. I am at a point that I am beginning to wonder about her quality of life.

    Sue

    1. Dr. Angie Krause, DVM

      Hi Sue!
      I am so sorry to hear about the pain your Border Collie has been experiencing. I have great results using acupuncture and HempRx in my own practice treating disc disease. Sending you both tons of love.

      Dr. Angie

  3. HI
    I have a 20 yr kitty w fairly severe arthritis in her hips. She is a tabby and pretty slight build currently maintaining her weight at about 5 lbs. She is also a thyroid kitty on methmiziole (spelling) I’d like to start her on some CBD oil for some better pain relief but her vet isn’t real enthusiastic. Are there any concerns with her thyroid issues. I’m interested in her quality of life.

    1. Hi Lori,

      Thank you for reaching out!

      We have seen CBD be massively helpful for arthritic kitties! It’s been amazing, especially since there aren’t a lot of great options for arthritic cats. For kitties, we usually recommend HempRx and our dosing chart is here.

      We have not seen any negative interactions when using CBD and thyroid medications together.

      I hope this helps!

      Warmly,
      Claire

  4. Hey there,
    Has there been any studies looking into CBD and treating cats with Hyperesthesia yet?
    Since anxiety, pain, inflammation and seizures are all linked to Hyperesthesia, I was hoping to find a more holistic helper for my cat.

    thanks for your time

  5. Risa Giuliani

    Hi Dr Angie,
    My kitty has just been diagnosed with small cell lymphoma, he is about 9 years old and is really having a ruff time right now. He was started on prednisone today, he cries for food but doesn’t eat much and does that only after I offer him a zillion choices. I’m thinking about CBD but my vet will not give me any direction, I have read your thoughts and recommendations and I know that you use it on your cancer patients, can you help me? I’d much appreciate and advice and help that you can give me!
    Thanks!
    Risa

    1. Dr. Angie Krause, DVM

      Hi Risa,

      I am so sorry to hear about your sweet kitty’s recent diagnosis. I know this is an overwhelming time, and I am sending you a giant hug.

      CBD certainly has the ability to help with some of the symptoms associated with the lymphoma. It can be a great appetite stimulant, can help decrease nausea, decrease discomfort and increase an overall sense of wellbeing.

      For kitties, we usually recommend starting with HempRx and our dosing chart is here. For cancer patients, Dr. Angie usually starts with 0.50mg/kg twice daily, working up to 1mg/kg twice daily by day 3.

      I hope this information is helpful. Sending you all my love!

      Warmly,
      Claire

  6. Katie Locklear

    My dog was just diagnosed with osteosarcoma. He’s in the very early stages of it. I asked my vet about cbd oil and she recommended hemprx forte. I just bought it because it looked very promising. Does anyone know how it does with osteosarcoma?

    1. Dr. Angie Krause, DVM

      Hi Katie,

      I hope that you received your order this week, and were able to start your sweet pup on the CBD. Will you keep us posted on how it helps?

      There is some research emerging, showing that CBD does have cancer fighting properties. That said, we often CBD used to help with symptoms associated with cancer (such as pain, anxiety, nauseousness and inappetance.

      Sending you a big hug. Please let us know how we can continue to help. <3

      Warmly,
      Claire

  7. MICHELLE WALUDA

    Hi. I have been using the Hemp Rx by Rx Vitamins for a few years for seizures and arthritic pain in my 16 year old cat. It is wonderful! I recently ordered a new bottle and the oil is green where it has always been clear in the past. I am worried there may be something wrong and was wondering if you know if the formulation for this recently changed causing that color change?

    Many thanks!
    Michelle

    1. Dr. Angie Krause, DVM

      Hi Michelle,

      I am so glad to hear that your sweet kitty has been responding so well to the use of HempRx! Woo hoo!!

      The previous couple of batches of the HempRx are a bit more greenish than before, and this is due to the increased amount of chlorophyll in the batch. Potency and taste are the same!

      I hope your recent bottle of HempRx has arrived. Thank you for being such a loyal customer.

      Big hugs,
      Claire

  8. Gibbs is our 50 lb. hound mix with anxiety issues when we travel . I purchased the HempRX Soft Chewz from your site.
    On our next road trip should I give him 2 chewz per the directions for his weight? Or start off with one and see how he handles them?
    When should I give him the Chewz? Right before we leave or 30-60 mins prior to departure?
    Thank you!

    1. Dr. Angie Krause, DVM

      Hi Dawn,

      Excellent questions, and I know we also chatted via email!

      You can certainly start with 1 chew twice daily and work up from there, and as needed.

      We usually recommend giving CBD 30 minutes prior to the stressful event (in Gibbs case, when traveling!).

      I hope this helps – definitely let us know how it goes!

      Warmly,
      Claire

  9. Hi Dr. Angie;

    My elderly dog white pitbull has arthritis and some days is hard for her to walk and she started limps on her right front leg. Then she rests and slows down for a couple of days and gets normal again. Also a few years ago she had surgery on both her back legs (TPLO) and she is on Meloxidyl mg/ml, 1.5 mg/ ml, 200 ml.
    After I have read about the benefits and reviews of the CBD I want to give it a try. But I want to know if I can give the CBD with the actual Meloxidyl or not and dosage, she weighs around 80lbs.
    I’d much appreciate any advice and help that you can give me!

    Thanks,
    Romina

    1. Dr. Angie Krause, DVM

      Hi Romina,

      Thank you for reaching out!

      We see CBD be hugely helpful for so many arthritic pups.

      The good news is that we have not seen any issues when giving CBD and Meloxidyl together.

      Our design chart is here. For large pups, we usually recommend the HempRx Forte since it is the most economical option!

      I hope this helps! If you try CBD, please keep us posted!

      Warmly,
      Claire

    1. Hi Heather,

      I’m so sorry to hear that your kitty isn’t eating well. 🙁 How long as he not been eating well? If he’s been on a few strike, it would also be worth touching base with his veterinarian as there are other ways to help encourage him to eat!

      That said, we do see CBD help as an appetite stimulant!

      For cats, we recommend HempRx and our dosing chart is here.

      Please keep us posted! 🙂

      Warmly,
      Claire

  10. Hi Doctor
    Our Oscar (canine) has just been diagnosed with TCell lymphoma. We are at a loss. Thinking of doing aggressive chemo, is cbd safe to use in conjunction?
    He’s only 6 and we can’t accept that we’ll still loose him in 10-12 months even with treatment. Can you kindly advise?

    1. Hi Maura,

      I am so, so sorry to hear about Oscar’s diagnosis. How incredibly overwhelming.

      Yes, you can absolutely use CBD in conjunction with chemotherapy. That said, it would not be a bad idea to consult with Oscar’s oncologist as well.

      For small dogs, we usually recommend HempRx. For medium/large sized dogs, we recommend HempRx Forte. Here is our dosing chart.

      Big, giant hugs to you and your sweet boy.

      Warmly,
      Claire

  11. We were giving our 14 yr. old, 33 lb., Goldendoodle CBD treats (2mg twice a day) to help with her arthritis. It seemed to help for a while, and then she got much worse–severe balance issues, weakness in her legs, unable to stay upright while peeing and pooping, and now a slight head tilt. The vet ruled out vestibular disease and thinks there may be some neurological things going on now, but financially an MRI is out of the question. He prescribed prednisone (15 mg a day). There has been marginal improvement. On other websites I read that we shouldn’t mix prednisone with CBD so we haven’t. I saw elsewhere on your website where it says you haven’t seen any issues with using both. Do you think we could safely add CBD or would we need to reduce the amount of prednisone she now gets. We’ve known she had some arthritis for a couple of years now, but these current symptoms showed up within a couple of months after she turned 14 last Sept.

    1. Hi Gail,

      While admittedly there is more information on CBD for pets coming out every year, we have not seen issues with giving Prednisone and CBD together. Is there an integrative veterinarian in your area who is more well versed in the use of CBD? I know sometimes that is (unfortunately) difficult to find!

      The dosing that we usually suggest starting with is 0.25mg-0.50mg of CBD twice daily. For your pup’s weight, that would be around 4-8mg of CBD twice daily. So, it’s possible that tweaking her dosing a bit may help too!

      Will you keep us posted?

      Hugs,
      Claire

  12. We just recently got a great dane who at 6 months old were told his skull was crushed by his siblings. They said he had no issues and such but last night we saw him have his first seizure. My fiance just lost his job due to a death in the family and has joined the marines but he does not ship out to boot camp for two months. We decided to try to use cbd oil for the seizures but i am a little confused on the dosing. He weights approx 120 pounds and the cbd oil we can afford is 50mg per mil. How many mil should he receive to help stop the seizures? He has them it seems when hes sleeping.

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