A leading veterinary cannabis researcher explains what experts do not know about giving CBD to animals.
When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, it was not something that veterinarian Stephanie McGrath thought much about on a day-to-day basis. But then the phone calls started coming in. Pet owners and family veterinarians wanted to know what she thought about medical marijuana in relation to animals, and whether she was doing research.
This story discusses substances that are legal in some places but not in others and is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should not do things that are illegal: this story does not endorse or encourage the use of illegal drugs.
At the time, McGrath had no interest in cannabis and did not even know what cannabidiol (CBD) was, so he ignored the issue. But the combination of receiving phone calls and seeing CBD products already lined up on pet store shelves made him realize he needed to catch up.
“Around 2013 or 2014, I started researching what research already existed and realized that there was essentially good, real scientific literature in the human world, much less in the veterinary research world,” says McGrath, assistant professor of neurology at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “And then I started researching whether it would even be possible for me to do any research at all.
McGrath became one of the pioneering researchers in the field of veterinary cannabis, but even with his early efforts, research (and regulation) has had difficulty keeping up with demand, as people increasingly turn to CBD products to treat their pets’ pain and anxiety. and seizure disorders.
Thanks in large part to Farm Bill 2018, which legalized hemp-based CBD, analysts now predict that the CBD pet care market will reach $125 million by 2022, making it one of the fastest growing segments of the CBD market.
For such a fast growing industry, there are still many unknowns. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering CBD for your furry friend
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol is part of the cannabinoid family, a class of chemical compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system of the human body, which helps the body maintain homeostasis.
Unlike its cousin delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD does not produce a “high” but is psychoactive. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, an oral solution of CBD, to treat Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two rare and severe pediatric seizure disorders. CBD is also being investigated for possible treatment of pain, anxiety and symptoms of schizophrenia in humans.
How is CBD administered to animals?
CBD pet care products come in many of the same forms that you are probably used to seeing for humans, including food (think: chewable treats and capsules), oils that can be added to food or placed under the tongue, and topical creams or balms that are rubbed directly on the skin.
Like CBD products intended for humans, each of these types of CBD pet care products appears to have a different effect on the body, however, in dogs.
When McGrath began studying CBD in 2016, one of his first studies looked at how three different delivery methods — a capsule, an oil and a cream — affected the way CBD moved through healthy dogs’ bodies.
“We measured pharmacokinetics, which basically means you give dogs a single dose of all three delivery methods and then measure a lot of different blood levels over a 12-hour period,” McGrath said. “So how quickly the CBD is absorbed, how high the blood concentration is in that single dose, and then how quickly the CBD is eliminated.
McGrath found that of the three specific formulations they tested, the oil had the best pharmacokinetic profile, meaning it reached the highest concentration in the blood, stayed in the bloodstream the longest, and performed most consistently in the different dogs.
The capsule also worked well, but the cream did not. It worked too inconsistently for McGrath and his team to draw any conclusions.
These results line up with what we know so far about CBD absorption in humans, but the research is too preliminary to be used to make medical decisions.
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