There’s a lot of talk about CBD (cannabidiol) care for pets and horses these days. And there’s also a lot of information swirling around about how this naturally occurring, non-intoxicating compound derived from the cannabis plant may help dogs, cats, horses and other animals. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of misinformation and half-truths circulating online, and it can be tough to sort through old resources and research to help inform good choices. As veterinary professionals, we get questions all the time from pet parents about what they’ve read online or heard from friends and family about how CBD might help their pet or horse. So we decided to start answering the most common questions and providing important information about CBD care for pets and horses, here in our blog.
Let’s dive in.
This is a natural first question. Healthy skepticism is always a good starting point. After all, nobody wants to waste their money on snake oilor get their hopes up about another product that just doesn’t seem to work as advertised.
So, does CBD work for animals?
The short answer:
Yes. CBD can definitely work for animals.
The long (and more accurate) answer:
Yes. CBD can definitely work for animals. There is a tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence and a growing body of scientific evidence supporting the use of CBD for numerous ailments in pets and horses. But whether or not it will work for your animal depends on several factors, including what type of CBD product you’re using, why you’re giving it to your animal, and what results you are hoping to see.
The reason why CBD demonstrates therapeutic effects in pets and horses (and humans, too) comes down to the endocannabinoid system (ECS)—a dense network of cellular receptors located throughout the brains and bodies of all animals on Earth. This biological transmitter system, stimulated by chemical signals, plays a key role in regulating critical bodily functions. Research on the ECS shows it affects metabolism and the nervous system in varied ways, impacting everything from sleep to inflammation, hunger to emotional processing, and pain control to temperature control.
It’s called the endocannabinoid system because the chemical signals largely come from within: The molecules that bodies naturally produce to stimulate these receptors are called endocannabinoids. They happen to closely resemble molecules found in the cannabis plant called phytocannabinoids. Plant-derived cannabinoids like CBD (as well as THC, CBG, CBNand others) exert effects on mammals by interacting with ECS receptors in ways similar to the internally produced endocannabinoids.
If you’re ready to try CBD care for your pet or horse, it’s important to remember that CBD pet products are not currently regulated by the FDA. So you’ll want to familiarize yourself with some key terms (like extracts and oils) and pay close attention to what’s in any given product and who made it when shopping for CBD for animals.
Up first in terminology: the difference between cannabis and hemp. It comes down to semantics, because cannabis and hemp are the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa L. Hemp products are commonly defined as containing 0.3% THC or less by weight.
They both are derived from the cannabis plant, but hemp oil (also known as hempseed oil) and CBD oil are quite different.
Hemp oil is made by cold-pressing hemp seeds, similar to how olive oil is made, and it contains only trace amounts of cannabinoids. Hemp oil is typically used for nutritional benefits in culinary settings.
CBD oil, on the other hand, is made with the leaves, flowers and stalks of the hemp plant. CBD oil is typically used for its therapeutic benefits.
These CBD terms refer to different types of cannabis extracts, each produced in different ways.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains the full array of beneficial compounds found naturally in cannabis, including terpenes, cannabinoids (including up to 0.3% THC as allowed by federal law) and flavonoids. True full-spectrum CBD oil products are always made with whole-plant hemp extract.
Broad-spectrum CBD contains many of the same compounds as full-spectrum CBD, but is further refined to remove THC.
CBD isolates are a highly refined cannabis extract that contains only CBD—all of the other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids have been removed.
There are pros and cons to each type of extract, depending on your pet or horse’s individual health needs and your desired outcomes.
Terpenes are naturally occurring chemical compounds that are found in all plants, and they are responsible for the aromas and flavors you experience when smelling or eating something grown from a plant, from lavender to oranges. In terms of cannabis, the unique composition of terpenes in any given varietal, or strain, is what causes them to taste and smell different from one another.
Terpenes also come into play with the “entourage effect,” which theorizes that the various compounds in cannabis work synergistically to produce unique benefits that can’t be experienced through any one compound on its own. This effect is often why many people prefer whole-plant hemp or full-spectrum CBD for their pet or horse (or themselves), as these types of extracts contain the full array of compounds found in cannabis.
CBD and THC are considered major cannabinoids because cannabis produces them at high levels. But there are more than 100 other minor cannabinoids also found in cannabis, albeit at lower levels. As research in this area gains momentum, scientists have uncovered some promising therapeutic applications for minor cannabinoids such as CBG (cannabigerol), CBN (cannabinol) and CBC (cannabichromene), among others.
As mentioned previously, CBD pet products are not yet federally regulated, which puts more on us pet parents to research safe and effective products. The first thing you’ll want to do is find a brand that you can trust.
Whether you end up purchasing products from VetCS or another company, we want to make sure you know what to look for in a reputable brand. Here are a few signs that a CBD product manufacturer is legit and trustworthy:
As part of your due diligence, you’ll want to pay attention to three key differentiators when looking at CBD pet product labels, including:
The appropriate CBD dose for your dog, cat or horse will be determined by their age, weight and specific needs. Our veterinary professionals are always happy to work with you to determine the best CBD care regimen for your animal—contact us anytime.
In a word, yes. Water-soluble CBD oil typically has higher bioavailability than fat-soluble CBD, meaning the body more easily absorbs the CBD, thus getting more of its therapeutic benefits. Water-soluble CBD oil is produced using nanotechnology to make the particles extremely small and more readily absorbed.
Of course, as with all CBD products, you’ll want to make sure any company you’re purchasing “water soluble CBD oil” from is transparent about their manufacturing process and actually uses nanoemulsion.
Your veterinarian may seem like the logical person to ask first about CBD care for your pet, but unfortunately, in most states veterinarians are not legally allowed to prescribe CBD pet care without risking their medical license. That means that even veterinarians who support CBD care and believe it is effective will often decline to answer clients’ questions or provide further information or guidance on the topic.
This is a primary reason why VetCS is dedicated to making our veterinary professionals available to answer any and all of your questions about CBD care for your dog, cat or horse. Our products are not only formulated by licensed veterinarians but our company is also operated by veterinariansand veterinary professionals with years of experience in traditional veterinary care as well as CBD care for pets and horses. The VetCS team is actively involved in CBD in veterinary clinics and are available to consult with your veterinarian.
One of the most common lines of questions we get from dog parents centers around the various conditions and symptoms CBD products can help with. Early research and a large body of anecdotal evidence show CBD may provide symptom relief for dogs with conditions such as anxiety, seizures, chronic pain and arthritis, among others.
One of the most popular uses for CBD therapy in dogs is for anxiety and stress relief. CBD can be used on an as-needed basis for situational anxiety arising from events such as fireworks, thunderstorms or car rides, or it can be used on an ongoing basis to address chronic anxiety.
Another area where CBD can be very helpful is for dogs experiencing seizures. There is substantial data supporting the application of CBD for seizures in humans, and now preliminary research shows that CBD appears to have similar effects in dogs. It is believed that CBD helps to reduce seizures by targeting specific receptors in the brain to prevent excessive activity in the central nervous system associated with seizures.
CBD can also be useful for addressing pain associated with arthritis, which is quite common in senior dogs. In addition to establishing appropriate exercise, diet and lifestyle habits for dogs with arthritis, introducing CBD care may help keep your senior dog more comfortable. Research has identified CBD as having anti-inflammatory properties that may help temporarily ease discomfort associated with arthritic joints.
There are many different types of CBD products to consider for your dog, but the most popular options are CBD-infused treats like chewables, biscuits and peanut butter, as well as CBD oil that’s mixed with food or administered directly.
Chewable treats like VetCS water soluble CBD Canine Joint Chewables are an easy way to give your dog daily joint support, and even the pickiest dogs like these tasty soft-texture treats. CBD-infused dog biscuits like our Peanut Butter Hemp Wellness Treats are a good option for dogs with anxiety or joint pain who enjoy crunchy treats. And CBD-infused pastes, like our CBD Calming Peanut Butter paste, are ideal for putting into a toy designed for foods, keeping dogs occupied while they’re home alone.
Some people prefer concentrated CBD oil for their dogs because it enables precision dosing with a dropper, making it easy to adjust dosage as needed. CBD oil can be administered directly into your dog’s mouth (if they’ll let you) or added to your dogs food or a treat.
CBD can be an effective natural method for addressing the symptoms of various conditions in cats.
Senior cats and those experiencing arthritis or other inflammation-related issues such as inflammatory bowel diseases, certain urinary conditions or chronic gastrointestinal problems can potentially benefit from CBD due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
We frequently recommend CBD care for cats experiencing anxiety, as well. There is a lot of solid anecdotal evidence linking CBD with the ability to reduce the symptoms of anxiety in cats, and that’s supported by research strongly indicating that CBD reduces acute anxiety in people.
Chronic kidney disease in cats is another condition that can benefit from CBD care. It is believed that CBD stimulates receptors in the brain that control pain and reduce the activity of pain-causing chemicals. CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects also contribute to the positive effects cats with chronic kidney disease can experience with CBD care. CBD oil may help with abnormal urination in cats, as well, by interacting with the feline endocannabinoid system, thus helping to regulate digestive and nervous systems and potentially reduce inappropriate urination.
CBD may also be used as an appetite stimulant of sorts for cats. Due to its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, CBD care may help ease general pain or discomfort your cat is experiencing, making them more likely to eat. Research also shows that CBD interacts with gastrointestinal receptors to ease symptoms of acid reflux and indigestion, which may also help promote appetite.
It’s a bit trickier to get cats to readily eat CBD treats than it is with dogs because they tend to be more avoidant of foods that taste primarily of hemp extract. That’s why we formulate our VetCS CBD oil products for cats with low-odor, salmon-flavored CBD oil that’s easy to mix with cat food.
CBD products are beginning to get more buzz in the equine community, and for good reason. As one of the only CBD companies taking part in university-level research in equines, we can confidently say that CBD is often a great option for relieving pain, anxiety and other issues in non-racing horses.
Many horse owners prefer natural options over pharmaceutical interventions for addressing anxiety in their horses. This makes CBD a logical choice, as early research indicates that CBD can safely and effectively lower equine nervousness and anxiety.
Arthritis in horses is another area where CBD can be an excellent option. As demonstrated by a VetCS-sponsored study conducted at Colorado State University, CBD care is a very safe option for addressing arthritis-related discomfort in horses. The study also found CBD in the synovial fluid in horses, shedding light on some of the mechanisms at play and why CBD potentially reduces pain associated with equine arthritis.
CBD can help reduce discomfort associated with several other painful, inflammatory-related conditions in horses, such as laminitis, and also serves as an effective aid for horses rehabilitating from certain injuries.
CBD pastes, pellets and powders are among the most effective and popular options for horses. These products are easy to administer, and at VetCS, they are made with the highest quality ingredients.
Our whole-hemp plant extract CBD Horse Paste can be used for acute anxiety relief, as well as for aiding lameness, inappetence and long-term mobility support. We recommend administering the paste (which comes in syringes) below the tongue and before hay or grain.
Our CBD Hemp Powder Extract is a good choice for convenient, daily dosing. Horses enjoy the flavor, and you can easily add it to their grain. This product is also an excellent source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids.
We also offer VetPro Hemp 2X+ Joint2X Horse Pellets, which combine high levels of joint tissue and soft-tissue support ingredients with whole-plant CBD extract in convenient daily Fresh Packs™. This product can produce calming and anti-inflammatory effects in horses while helping support general health of joints, tendons and ligaments.
It’s not uncommon for veterinarians to be unfamiliar with CBD efficacy or its therapeutic indications, and that’s not surprising—CBD education is not something that most veterinary schools include in their curriculum thus far. But most veterinarians can attest that an increasing number of pet parents want to know about CBD care for their dogs and cats, so veterinarians do need accurate, factual and up-to-date information on this topic.
So where can veterinarians find reliable information about CBD safety and efficacy? In addition to the information we publish on our blog, veterinarians can find trusted information on the Veterinary Cannabinoid Academy website and in “Cannabis Therapy in Veterinary Medicine: A Complete Guide,” published in 2021 by Springer, which includes a full chapter on equine CBD care written by our founders Dr. Chelsea Luedke and Trish Wilhelm RVT, VCC.
Although hemp CBD products for pets and horses are legal to manufacture and sell in the United States, current federal and (most) state laws prohibit veterinarians from administering, dispensing, prescribing or recommending CBD for animals. This is not because CBD is unsafe or ineffective, but rather, because CBD pet products are not subject to FDA regulatory scrutiny. Unfortunately, veterinarians who prescribe CBD for pets can potentially jeopardize their medical licenses in most states. California and Nevada are notable outliers, being the only states to have passed laws allowing veterinarians to discuss CBD with clients.
Laws are rapidly changing, especially at the state level, so it’s important for veterinarians to stay up to date on rule changes that affect their licensure. In the meantime, we encourage veterinarians to send their CBD-curious clients to learn more from us at VetCS. We are veterinary professionals and can provide all the information pet parents need to make informed decisions about CBD care for pets and horses.