canadian cbd oil for pets

What you should know about treating pets with CBD oil

Before giving CBD oil to your ailing dog or cat, you should know something.

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It’s not legal to give your pet CBD oil, a popular treatment for humans looking for help with arthritis and a host of other problems.

What you should know about treating pets with CBD oil Back to video

When the Cannabis Act was passed by the federal government and updated later to include edibles, its use for pets was not included.

“Veterinarians are not permitted to authorize medical cannabis nor are there are any products that contain cannabinoids that are approved for use in animals,” said Sarah Silcox, president of the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine.

“So the most promising step is the government has last year proposed a new class that they have termed cannabis health products, but they would be approved by Health Canada for both human products as well as animal products,” added Silcox, who predicted that change is at least a year away.

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So while CBD oil for pets is widely available through the internet, Silcox cautioned those are “black market” products, adding “they’re not legal but it’s not highly enforced.”

She also said the fact that cannabinoids for pets aren’t federally regulated, vets aren’t always sure about what’s in black market products.

“Sometimes they have contaminants like pesticides or heavy metals, sometimes they have THC in them and they’re not supposed to, sometimes they have more CBD, sometimes they have less CBD than what’s on the label,” said Silcox, who urged those intent on administering their pets CBD to purchase products through government stores.

“So if you’re considering using a cannabis product like CBD for your pets, work with your veterinarian,” she said. “We cannot prescribe it but what we can do is advise you on safer usage. I can direct them to a product sold through the legal market that I think is going to be most appropriate for their pet and I can advise them how to administer that as safely as possible. Those products are intended for human consumption but half of the drugs that we use in veterinary practice are intended for human consumption, so that’s nothing new for us.”

Silcox said dosing depends on factors such as the size of an animal, adding CBD products are “generally very well tolerated and a relatively safe product.”

While no “lethal dose” has been established, CBD oil can have side effects such as sleepiness and diarrhea, she added.

Could CBD oil from the cannabis family be the next big thing for pets?

'Everyone is super-interested in trying CBD for their pets,' says vet, but Health Canada still to OK it

It's a sunny afternoon, and Kristina Reusch is relaxing in her backyard in Kirkland, in Montreal's West Island, with her black Labrador retriever, Sam.

He's just come back from a walk, which takes more effort now that Sam is 12 years old, but Reusch has a product she hopes will help.

"Sam is going to be our newest CBD patient. He has hip dysplasia, and his hips are getting really stiff," she said.

Reusch is one of a growing number of Montreal pet owners treating their pets for conditions like anxiety and pain using the Cannabidiol oil, or CBD, which is derived from the cannabis plant family.

But with no Health Canada-approved CBD medications for pets currently on the market and studies still underway, it's difficult for pet owners to tell if they are buying a product that is safe and in accordance with the law.

What is CBD oil?

According to website of the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC), the provincial agency that sells recreational cannabis, CBD has "few or no psychotropic properties," unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is also extracted from cannabis plants.

The SQDC says CBD does "not cause a feeling of euphoria in users," but is instead "known for its therapeutic properties."

It was those properties that first attracted Reusch to CBD over a year ago, when her 9-year-old cat Hailey began acting out due to anxiety.

"She started ripping her fur out, to the point where I started noticing big bald patches all over her body," said Reusch.

After a prescription medication left Hailey drowsy and "zombie-like," Reusch began reading about CBD oil and ordered some from British Columbia for Hailey.

"Everything remained normal, except for the fact that her behaviour issue, which was caused by anxiety, went away," said Reusch.

Veterinarians wait for Health Canada to weigh in

Dr. Karen Joy Goldenberg, a veterinarian at the Pierrefonds Animal Hospital, says Reusch's story isn't unusual.

"Everyone is super-interested in trying CBD for their pets," said Goldenberg.

Because there are currently no Health Canada-approved CBD pet medications on the market, however, the Quebec Order of Veterinarians says its members can't legally prescribe CBD oil to their patients.

There are 17 Health Canada-approved studies on prescription-only veterinary drugs containing cannabis underway or on the horizon, but until they're published, Goldenberg says, there's a lot we still don't know about how effective CBD is for pets.

"Can it treat chronic pain? Can it treat seizures? The answer is probably 'yes,' to most or all of those, in pets, cats, dogs, in multiple species. The problem is, we don't have studies on it yet," said Goldenberg.

A 'booming' online market with potential dangers

With no Health Canada-approved CBD medications for pets right now, how are pet owners getting their hands on the oil? Goldenberg has a few ideas.

"Online retail is booming as far as those products go, which makes it scarier, because you really don't know what you're getting if you order things online," she said.

Any pet store selling CBD oil online or at brick-and-mortar locations "would be in contravention of the Cannabis Act and its Regulations," said Health Canada in an emailed statement.

As for the products themselves, Health Canada says that "a processing licence under the Cannabis Regulations is needed to manufacture products containing CBD."

But it's not just a matter of respecting the laws. Goldenberg says your pet's health could be at risk if the CBD oil is not as advertised and contains THC, which can be toxic to cats and dogs.

"A minor intoxication would look like a pet being very out of it, sleepy, wobbly on their feet. Often they lose control of their bladder, so they are walking around, looking a little drunk, dribbling a little urine as they walk."

In extreme cases of THC intoxication, pets may go into a coma. Goldenberg says pet owners who observe those symptoms should bring their pet to a veterinarian right away.

As for CBD oil that is for sale at the SQDC, it's designed for human consumption only, according to spokesperson Fabrice Giguère.

A new frontier for pet care

So how long will it be before pets like Reusch's could be going to their veterinarian for a CBD oil prescription, and what would those medications look like?

Health Canada says it has approved 17 Experimental Studies Certificates for veterinary drugs containing cannabis, available on a prescription-only basis.

One of the companies currently doing clinical trials is Canopy Animal Health, a division of the Canopy Growth Corporation's health-focused subsidiary, based in Smith Falls, Ont.

In a statement to CBC, Canopy Animal Health's Dana Vaughn says the company is developing "a range of cannabis-based health care products for companion animals, including dogs, cats and horses," but Vaughn could not offer a timeline on when those trials would be concluded.

And until a Health Canada-approved medication hits the market, Goldenberg will be waiting to use CBD for her pet patients.

"As soon as the studies start coming out, I'm excited to start using CBD," said Goldenberg.

"But I'm also going to be very cautious. I don't want to turn around in five or 10 years from now and say, 'Wow, here are all these pets that suffered side-effects that we could have prevented, if we waited for the science.'"