Experts caution pet owners to be wary of cannabis-derived products

Published Apr 1, 2021 11:00 a.m. ET
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Cannabis and its derived products hold immeasurable healing potential, even for our furry friends, but we lack a true understanding of both the risks and the benefits of THC or CBD for pets and animals in general. According to Nancy De Briyne, who co-authored a new review on the subject, there are just too few, well-controlled studies to know for certain, which means that pet owners should proceed with caution when administering these therapeutic treatments.

The study

The authors of the published writing, which was released in the Journal Animals, say that veterinarians are coming across far more cases of cannabis toxicosis in household pets than ever before, a trend that appears to fall in line with legalization and increased access to these types of products for humans. The team looked at different types of cannabis and its derived products while addressing some of the most common questions surrounding their use for pets.


  • Pet owners are growing increasingly more interested in using cannabis-derived elements to treat or benefit their pets

  • Owners are unclear about the legalities, risks, and benefits surrounding cannabis and pets

  • Most research on cannabis-derived elements and pets focuses on CBD, but it is only 1 of more than 100 different cannabinoids that have been identified in various strains of cannabis

  • Humans have used cannabis-based products to treat horses for many generations. In fact, many prescribed treatments by veterinarians intended for horses with colic in the 1800s included significant doses of cannabinoids

  • The main psychoactive element in cannabis is THC, and it is known to be toxic to animals, especially in large doses

  • In the European Union, cannabis-derived products are widely available for many household pets, including dogs, horses, and cats

  • Most cannabis-derived pet products are advertised as therapeutic in nature, claiming to help with things like itching, anxiety, pain, inflammation, and more

  • The majority of veterinarians agree that they do not have enough evidence that cannabis works or that it is safe to recommend or prescribe these products to clients

  • Pet owners request and use CBD products most in pets to treat pain

  • It is difficult if not impossible to measure the effectiveness of cannabis products for pets

  • Interest in CBD products for horses has risen over the last few years

  • In the United States alone, dozens of cannabinoid pet products are sold that do not conform to regulations

  • Inaccurate dosing in pets can be devastating; a problem made rapid with current labelling regulations

  • Several studies on the subject have revealed issues with safety surrounding cannabis products and pets, in particular, those that are mislabeled or mismarketed

  • Very few studies have been done to prove the tolerability of cannabinoids or any other cannabis-derived elements for animals

  • Most cases of toxicosis witnessed by veterinarians were caused by
    edibles that were designed for humans

  • We do not know how much of any one cannabinoid it takes to cause toxicosis in animals

  • Data does suggest that CBD is relatively safe for pets, at least in small doses

  • Up to half of all pets that ingest CBD or hemp-based products experienced side effects severe enough to seek medical attention, likely due to mislabeling

  • Several pet deaths have been attributed to cannabis toxicosis

  • Toxicosis is not often fatal

  • There are no medical CBD, hemp or cannabis-derived products made legally for pets anywhere in the EU or the US

  • Clinical trials must be encouraged to answer the multitude of questions we still have about cannabis and pets

So, can your pet have cannabinoids?

We do know that some cannabis elements such as terpenes and CBD can be beneficial and even effective in treating a wide variety of both physical and mental health issues. However, it’s the risks and side effects that can become problematic, and until we have thorough research to show us how safe these cannabis elements really are, it’s best for owners and their pets if the utmost care is taken along the way.

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