Are THC and CBD safe for Pets? Everything You Need to Know!

How Cats and Dogs React Differently to THC, and How CBD can Improve their Lives!
Whether you’re a cat person, or a dog person, we all want to take care of our non-human children the best way we can. After all, we love them and want to provide a happy, pain free life.

With the recent cannabis and CBD revolution, a lot of cat and dog parents are wondering if it’s a good idea to give their little ones cannabis, CBD oil, or hemp to help them with painful conditions like osteoarthritis, or cancer. And CBD is even being studied for its promise as a treatment for the same conditions it is used for in humans, such as epilepsy, which is very common in dogs, and usually doesn’t respond well to current epilepsy medication.

But when it comes to THC, the story is completely different… Keep reading to find out what you need to take into account before giving it to a pet!

What is THC?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the many cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. And it is, by far, the better known one due to its psychoactive effects, which have granted cannabis its recreational label.

However, THC has its fair share of medicinal benefits, such as its ability to stop abnormal cell growth in cancer, or provide pain relief. However, it sometimes has unpleasant psychological side effects that make it a delicate component that should be very carefully administered to both humans and pets, particularly dogs…

What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is also a naturally occurring component that can be found in all cannabis plants, including hemp. It has amazing medicinal properties that are currently being explored and studied both for human and veterinary use.

Among its many uses, seizure reduction is probably one of the most common. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from epilepsy fairly often, but their seizures don’t respond well to anti seizure medication, so CBD is very promising, since it has proven to reduce them significantly, as it does in humans, without causing negative side effects.

Which conditions in dogs and cats are generally treated with Cannabis or cannabis derivatives?
Cannabis, CBD and THC are often used to treat cats and dogs in different ways, though it is very important to be extremely careful with dosage and, preferably, avoid giving THC to a dog unless an experienced vet is supervising dosage and finds THC necessary (for example when it comes to cancer treatment); in all other cases, it’s better to stick to high CBD oils and extracts for canines.

Cannabis and cannabis derivatives are most commonly used in veterinary care for the treatment of:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Seizures
  • Digestive Issues

Most of these issues can be treated with CBD-predominant oils or extracts. However, cancer responds more to THC, which makes it an important, yet risky, additive for dogs, since it’s toxic to them at certain dosages, while cats respond to it more or less in the same way humans do.
Is THC safe for pets? …It depends! Cats and Dogs react differently to it
Cannabis has been used in traditional veterinary care for as long as it has been used in humans. However, the practice was lost along the way as cannabis became a synonym for drug use and illegality. For example, the ancient Greeks used cannabis to treat their horses after battle, or when they suffered from colic and inflammation.

…So it’s nothing new. Nowadays, cats and dogs are a more common companion than horses are, but the medicinal principles still apply. However, interestingly enough, there is a huge difference between the effects THC produces in canines, and the effects it produces in felines.

Though the few studies and anecdotal evidence that currently exist mostly apply only to cats and dogs, hopefully, as research moves forward, we’ll be able to find out how THC and CBD treatments can benefit other species, and how they can aid medicinally. And a lot of veterinarians, such as myself, are currently very well informed about using CBD or hemp oil to treat our furry patients.

Cats and THC
Believe it or not, cats are more like humans when it comes to the way THC affects them. Their cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 (which I will mention again in a bit), are more or less similarly distributed in their brain and body. So THC has pretty much the same effect it does in humans. The difference is mostly related to dosage.

Remember: cats are significantly smaller than humans, and they are more sensitive to different components, so it takes a lot less THC for them to overdose than it does for humans. So, if you have high THC cannabis plants around the house, be careful, since cats tend to chew on them and if they ingest too much THC, an accidental overdose could occur.

If you want to purposefully leave a cannabis plant for your cats to chew on or rub against, it’s better to keep a low THC, high CBD one, which will make it less likely to affect them too much.

A THC overdose in cats is pretty much the same as in humans. It’ll pass, but it’s important to keep the cat hydrated while they’re still affected, and supervision is necessary, since they are pretty much high, so falling from furniture or windows is more likely because they lose their quick reflexes and agility.
Dogs and THC
Dogs are another story… Their CB1 receptors, which respond to THC, are extremely concentrated in their brain-stem and cerebellum, which control basic functions like heart rate, breathing and coordination. This si why, compared to other species, dogs are highly affected by THC in negative, life threatening ways if there is an overdose.

Dogs can actually very easily overdose on THC, and it’s a scary situation.

In dogs, a THC overdose can cause their autonomic functions to fail, not allowing them to walk, eat, drink or do much of anything; they can even lose bowel and bladder control. They will just lay there, looking paralyzed and some have been known to die due to dehydration. Depending on the dosage, the effects can last hours, or even days.

However, when it comes to cancer, THC is very useful, so a carefully measured dosage (depending on the size of the dog) of cannabis oil with 70%CBD and 30%THC would be helpful in the treatment of cancer to the point of delaying its growth, or even aiding in the process of eliminating it completely.

Topically, dogs can usually tolerate THC pretty well and it can be very helpful for allergies, sore muscles and skin inflammation.

The Endocannabinoid System in Cats and Dogs
Though the endocannabinoid system is present in all higher forms of animals, it is not the same in every species, so reactions to cannabinoids are different depending on the animal, since their cannabinoid receptors can be distributed in different ways throughout the body and brain.

Dogs are extremely unique when it comes to the way their endocannabinoid system is arranged, which makes their reaction to endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids different to that of other animals.

While CB1 and CB2 receptors in cats are more or less distributed in the body similarly to humans, in dogs, receptors are distributed in the following way:

CB1: Brain, lungs, vascular system, muscles, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive organs

CB2: Spleen, bones, skin, and parts of the brain

CB1 and CB2: Immune system, liver, Bone marrow, pancreas, brain-stem

As a tip, the fact that only CB2 are located in the skin, means that skin issues respond extremely well to topical CBD. So when your dog has irritation, allergies or dryness, using CBD topicals is a good idea!
What should I do if I want to give CBD Oil or Hemp Oil to my pet? Is THC safe for Pets?
I would recommend that, if you decide to try this treatment for your pet, it’s best to ensure the oil is THC free, particularly if you’re planning on giving it to a dog. This way, the likelihood of overdosing is much lower.

However, if you’re using it for cancer treatment, a little THC should be ideal, but it’s important to consult dosage with an experienced veterinarian or dog health expert. And observe the effects carefully. If no negative side effects are observed, you haven’t overdosed! And THC will likely aid in the process of stopping cancer growth.

It’s important to also remember that cats and dogs are not only smaller, but a lot more sensitive to cannabinoids than humans are, which is why the dosage is not equivalent, it is much lower. And starting low is the ideal, even if the dosage needs to be increased gradually.

5 Safety rules to always follow:

Always consult your vet before starting a cannabis treatment.
Avoid giving THC to a dog, unless the treatment is necessary and supervised by an expert.
If you’ve given THC to your dog and are worried about a possible overdose, observe their behavior for the next couple of hours and watch out for a rigid posture, or difficulty standing and walking. If these symptoms are present, it is better to take your dog to the vet in order to maintain hydration and physical safety.
Topical and oral administration should be the only delivery methods used on cats and dogs.
DON’T give your pets cannabis or cannabis derivatives by blowing smoke or vapor on their faces! Their noses and respiratory systems are a lot more sensitive than ours, so cannabis smoke or vapor could damage them. Not to mention, dosage is very unreliable this way.
I hope this information was helpful for those of you out there who are caring for a cat or dog! And if you have any questions or experiences you’d like to share, feel free to comment, and I’ll do my best to reply shortly after.

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