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Medical Cannabis Products for Dogs: What You Should Know

Veterinarians often prescribe the same medications for dogs that a human would take. But in my 20 plus years of clinical veterinary practice, I can’t recall a time when clients and vets have had the same interest (and so many unanswered questions) about the same topic – medical cannabis products, especially cannabidiol (CBD).

It’s been predominately CBD which has been explored for its medical benefits (THC, while having many potential therapeutic benefits, can produce severe adverse effects in pets and is generally avoided due to the higher risks associated with its use), and it’s understandable you might wonder if a cannabis-based product could help your dog,

Before we go further, however, let’s take a look at some common terminology to ensure that we are all ‘speaking the same language’.

Common Cannabis Related Terminology

If you’re doing any research into medical cannabis, you might be confused by the many different terms and descriptions associated with this trend. Here’s a quick reference guide for the most common ones:

  • Cannabis is the broad term used to describe a group (or genus) of plants that have many variations. It includes the cannabis plants grown for recreational and medical use, as well as hemp plants grown for both industrial and medical purposes.
  • Hemp, by legal definition, is a cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC and has traditionally been grown for fiber and seed, but new novel uses are also being explored, and the cultivation of hemp primarily for its medicinal properties is also growing.
  • THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the component responsible for the ‘high’ experienced when consuming cannabis.
  • CBD (cannabidiol). CBD does not produce any intoxicating effects. It has been shown however, to have several potential medicinal properties many patients find beneficial in treating a range of conditions.
  • Entourage effect. While both THC and CBD are extracted from the plant as isolated compounds, they can also occur in combination – including include other cannabinoids, terpenes (think essential oils), flavonoids, etc. There is a growing body of research showing these compounds working together can produce a greater therapeutic effect and reduced adverse effects.

There are also many products available using the above products. Let’s take a look.

Common Cannabis Related Products

Two of the most common areas of confusion are hemp oil and CBD oil. Here’s what you need to know about both.

Hemp oil refers to any oil made from the hemp plant. HOWEVER, depending on which part of the plant is used, the product can have absolutely no cannabinoids (as with hemp-seed oil), or contain a range of cannabinoids and other compounds derived from the hemp plant.

Hemp-seed oil does not contain cannabinoids and is sold legally as a nutritional product. It can be used as a carrier oil in cannabis tincture products.

CBD oil (or CBD product) are commonly used terms but can be rather ambiguous. CBD can refer to a product that contains only the CBD isolate (a complex product with large amounts of CBD), or a product containing only a small amount of CBD. Neither term gives any indication as to any other components that may or may not be included.

How Does CBD Work?

CBD (and other cannabinoids) work through a series of receptors in the body, collectively known as part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex system of neurotransmitters, receptors, and enzymes that are found within the bodies of all mammals.

CBD acts on a number of receptors, that have a range of different functions, found throughout the body. This partially explains the efficacy of CBD, and how and why it has such a vast array of effects on the body.

BIO: Sarah Silcox, DVM is a Canadian veterinarian focused on Cannabinoid, Integrative, Hospice, and Emergency Medicine, and serves as the President and Director at Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine.

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