If you ask a holistic veterinarian, you’d most likely get two thumbs up! Ask a scientist, and you’d receive cautionary advice. So what really is the verdict on hemp for dogs?
Science-based evidence that establishes the safety and efficacy of hemp as a botanical product used for veterinary purposes is still lacking. But the active ingredients present in hemp have known medicinal properties, and there is abundant anecdotal evidence of the many health advantages of hemp for dogs.
There is still a general uncertainty among veterinarians when it comes to recommending hemp products to treat certain ailments in animals, although some do recommend its use but with a lot of caution. The regulatory laws and scientific opinion about hemp are continuously and rapidly changing, so it’s always best to consult your vet about this alternative medicine option. Here’s everything we know about using medicinal hemp for dogs - so far.
How is medicinal hemp different from medicinal marijuana?
Both hemp and marijuana are classified as Cannabis sativa - so they are technically the same plant. But they are different varieties of cannabis, with different morphologies (physical characteristics) and chemical compositions.
In terms of medicinal properties, both hemp and marijuana contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol - which are the cannabinoids that are responsible for the health effects of these cannabis plants. The major difference between these plants is the amounts of these active ingredients present in each.
Marijuana contains high levels of THC, from 7% to 20% or more depending on the strain, and low levels of CBD, or an average of less than 0.15%; THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of weed and, as a cannabinoid, its health benefits.
Hemp on the other hand contains high levels of CBD, an average of 12% to 18%, and low levels of THC, less than 0.3%. This concentration of THC is not enough to produce intoxication, so the health effects delivered by the cannabinoid CBD in hemp does not come with a high.
For medicinal purposes, the hemp plant and hemp-derived CBD are identified by its THC content of no more than 0.3% in the United States, 0.2% in EU countries, and zero in Great Britain. Cannabis sativa and cannabis products with higher concentrations of THC are classified as marijuana.
Can you legally use medicinal hemp for your dog?
The growth, marketing, and use of medicinal hemp for dogs and other companion animals are legal in some states; other states have more vague policies but do not classify industrial hemp as a controlled substance.
In states that do allow the use of hemp for medicinal purposes, there is still no regulatory oversight from the FDA or the cannabis industry itself, which means that there are no established guidelines on the production, marketing, use, and safety of hemp products. Reputable manufacturers get third-party lab testing of their medicinal hemp to ensure low levels of THC and purity of CBD.
Why are scientific studies on the health benefits of hemp lacking?
Until recently, clinical investigations involving animals and that looked at the medical applications of hemp (and marijuana) have been severely restricted by the government. The studies that are now underway are still in their early stages and remain far and few in between.
Even with the “allowances” given to make scientific studies possible, only a small number of states have passed statutes that allow academic research under certain conditions and restrictions.
Are veterinarians allowed to prescribe medicinal hemp?
Veterinarians still have to comply with federal, state, and local laws and regulations, but the American Veterinary Association (AMA) urges vets to use sound clinical judgment and the latest scientific information when making treatment decisions and recommendations involving medicinal hemp.
Hemp products can be purchased at health outlets and online; in fact, many pet food companies have started offering hemp-derived CBD products. As a pet parent, however, you must practice caution when deciding to take a holistic approach for your pet’s health. Very little information based on species-specific scientific studies on the safety and effectiveness of medicinal hemp is available, although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence.
Because regulatory control over the manufacture, sale, use, and safety of medicinal hemp products is still lacking, you should also be extremely careful when choosing a hemp product for your dog.
How can hemp benefit your dog?
Almost all parts of the hemp plant are used to make a variety of products. Medicinal hemp products come in the form of CBD oil, raw hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, hemp seed milk, and hemp seed flour.
CBD oil comes from the leaves and flowers of hemp and is widely used to support overall wellness and to treat a variety of conditions. CBD oil can be used as it is, and it’s also used as an ingredient in commercial pet food products, such as dog treats and topical applications, as well as in homemade dog food recipes.
Hemp seeds can be consumed raw, ground up to make flour or mixed with water to make milk, or pressed to extract oil. Hemp seeds are a great source of dietary fiber, protein, various vitamins and minerals, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
The benefits of CBD oil and CBD oil products include:
- Providing relief from anxiety, depression, and pain.
- Promoting calmness and relaxation.
- Improving sleep, appetite, and mood.
- Assisting with inflammation, glaucoma, skin conditions, digestive upsets, and even cancer
- Easing stress which may help reduce the occurrence of seizures, particularly in dogs with epilepsy.
The benefits of hemp seed oil and hemp seed oil products include:
- Helping fight inflammation, diabetes, skin conditions, and cancer.
- Boosting the immune system.
- Easing joint pain associated with arthritis and other joint conditions.
- Promoting healthy skin and coat.
When giving a hemp product to your dog, follow the dosage or serving size recommendations provided by the manufacturer. Start with the lowest recommended amount and adjust as necessary after observing your dogs for a few weeks. It’s always best to consult your vet about the appropriate dosage or serving size, especially if you’re unsure.
Hemp for Dogs - Final Thoughts
Numerous anecdotal evidence and early scientific research reveal the great health potential of using hemp for dogs. Just remember to choose the product carefully.
Make sure the manufacturer is a reputable one. Do your research and read as many customer reviews as you can - both positive and negative. As much as possible, choose a manufacturer that provides certificates from third-party labs that show the quality of the product.
Choose organic, too, whenever possible. Check the ingredients and only use products that contain the raw ingredients derived from hemp, e.g. CBD oil, hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, and no artificial additives.
If you want to use medicinal hemp to treat a specific ailment, talk to your veterinarian first, especially if your dog is also taking other medications.