By Dr. Judith Herman

Q. Growing old is tough on my old dog, Buddy. My friends have suggested I give him CBD oil. How safe is it and will it help? 

A.There is a lot of confusion about cannabis as a product and its legality in the veterinary community. Cannabis sativa is the plant, which most folks think of as marijuana. What don’t know is that there is another Cannabis sativa that isn’t marijuana but hemp. Hemp has been grown for centuries and used to make rope, fabric, medicines, and many other products. The  U.S. government just legalized the growing of hemp creating new markets. The marijuana plant has the psychoactive part, tetrahydrocannabinoid (THC), while the hemp plant has very low THC and high amounts of cannabinoids (CBD), the active part of the hemp plant. 

There are many health benefits attributed to CBD oil, but many have not been substantiated yet. As the research grows, more medical uses for CBD will be confirmed. Currently, the research that is being published is related to seizures and pain. Much of the research being done at veterinary schools around the country is looking at what works, how it works, dosages, and formulation in products. 

Dogs and people have an endocannabioid system, which includes CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are located all over the body, and their job is to keep the homeostasis or balance to the rest of the dog’s physiological systems. CBD and CBDA, another cannabinoid with different properties, work with these receptors.  

CBD products also need terpenes in the formula. Terpenes are the natural resins in plant flowers that help protect plants from predators. CBD and terpenes work together on the receptors in the body. This causes a synergis􏰁c effect. 

Since everyone is making and selling CBD oil, the consumer needs to be educated in what to look for in a product. The regulations are minimal at best. The FDA did a study on several popular products you can buy on Amazon. What they found was 17 of the products had zero CBD in them. 

When you are going to buy a product locally or online, ask to see a copy of the Certificate of Analysis (COA). This is an independent analysis of a particular batch of product. A reputable company will make this available to you. A good company will have a COA for each batch of product they make. 

Here is what you look for on the certificate: amount of THC, concentrations and types of CBD, amount, if any, of terpenes, contamination by herbicides and pesticides, and the levels of heavy metal contamination in the product. 

Many products say they are veterinary approved, organic, research tested. Ask to see the research, the COA, and any documentation of these claims. These products are expensive, so you want to make sure you are getting what you are buying and that the dosage on the bottle is correct.  

CBD products are effective to relieve suffering. The research is ongoing and more effective uses will be found. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian for recommendations. There is also a website that is excellent with up-to-date information and resources. It is www. veterinarycannabis.org. 

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