Is CBD Safe for Pets?

August 15, 2020

Do you have a dog with arthritis? Anxiety? We look to CBD and Cannabis as treatments to ease those conditions in ourselves, so it’s a natural question to ask: Is CBD Safe for Pets? What about Cannabis?


The explosion of cannabis and the massive increase in accessibility means that there are now not only CBD products for dogs, cats and horses – but that the risk of a pet getting and eating an entire cake with cannabis is higher than ever before. We know that in humans cannabis is very safe. Indeed, Judge Francis Young in 1988 having reviewed the evidence about cannabis overdoses calculated that a cannabis user would need to use as much as 1,500 lbs of weed in 15 minutes to “induce a lethal response.”


But exposure does happen sometimes by accident. Actually trying to get your pet high on purpose is a different story as it is not only potentially dangerous but it is a frightening and anxiety provoking experience to which the pet cannot consent.


But is cannabis safe in pets?

While the FDA is aware of some marijuana and CBD items being marketed as animal health and wellness products they disapprove of both THC and CBD containing products for any type of usage in animals.


But that doesn’t answer the question of safety. Though there is more toxicity in animals the good news is that especially under medical supervision marijuana toxicity is unlikely to cause death in a pet animal.


That said however per the website of Pet Poison Helpline  they have experienced a 448% increase in marijuana cases over the past 6 years due to increased accessibility of THC containing products like brownies and gummies. One can assume much of this can be attributed to small pets consuming a large amount of potent edibles.


Firstly we must separate THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) which are the two most abundant and commonly used and studied cannabinoids from the over 100 cannabinoids in marijuana plants.  The primary observable difference between the two is that THC is psychoactive and has a low/moderate level of toxicity whereas CBD is not psychoactive and has very low potential for toxicity in humans and animals.


Pets are often exposed to cannabis in various ways with the most common being second hand smoke. More serious ways include  ingestion of  pot edibles such as brownies or pot butter or ingestion of  the owner’s supply dried flower.

Common symptoms of THC toxicity in pets:

Symptoms of THC toxicity in pets include some of the same features as we see in humans such as (in increasing severity):

  • sedation/lethargy,
  • depression
  • agitation
  • dilated pupils
  • glassed over eyes,
  • dazed expression,
  • tremors,
  • difficulty walking
  • vomiting
  • increase/decrease heart rate
  • increase/decrease body temperature
  • seizures
  • coma
  • death

What to do with pets with THC/cannabis toxicity?

While unfortunately there is no antidote to THC there is much vets can do to help the animal.


This breaks down into several distinct areas and depends on the clinical presentations and signs:

  1. Supportive care –  such as thermoregulation, fluids/hydration and ensuring physical safety.
  2. Treatment of symptoms – such as medications for nausea
  3. Binding the toxin – vets can administer a liquid activated charcoal that prevents absorption of the THC from the intestinal tracks.


NOTE: It is very important to be honest with the vet about potential ingestion of weed by your pet so that time is not lost in treating your pet incorrectly and not subjecting them to getting unnecessary treatments. As vets are not required to call the police for accidental exposure unless abuse or neglect are suspected it is imperative to be truthful to keep your pet safe.


It is also important to prevent such possible exposure by pets by in particular keeping edibles (Brownies, cookies, muffins, chocolate etc.) well out of reach of pets. As cats and dogs may also eat the dried leaves, or “buds” of the cannabis plant they too should be kept out of reach.

Medical Marijuana for Pets

Especially with the legalization of medical marijuana across ever more states there is also a lot of news and stories going around all the time about the medical benefits of cannabis in medical conditions in humans. The thinking is that if your pet has a physical issue which is treatable by medical cannabis then it is very tempting to give medical marijuana for those same symptoms to your pet. This is a BAD IDEA. While humans and are pets do share many biological similarities there needs to be significantly more research to be done not only in animals but in humans also.


Simply said – you could be hurting your pet more than helping them by giving them medical marijuana without the consent and approval of a veterinarian at the very least.

Is CBD Safe for pets?

According to the WHO CBD is generally considered to be safe in pets. Additionally they said “No studies of the physical dependence potential of CBD in animals were identified” and given the same can be said for humans then I think it’s fair to say that CBD is generally safe for pets and that there is no known risk of developing an addiction or dependency to CBD in pets.


In 2014, veterinarian Stephanie McGrath, an assistant professor of neurology at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences noted that the was little to no research in CBD even in humans – never mind animals. Through her pioneering research she was able to do some studies starting in 2106 – however with the explosion of the usage and availability of CBD since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill – demand for CBD for pets has grown out of proportion to our knowledge as consumers flock to CBD products for their dogs, cats and horses be it for anxiety, chronic pain or even seizures.


As noted above – unlike THC CBD is not considered psychoactive in the sense that it does not cause a high or get you ‘stoned’. It is also a very safe drug with very low levels of toxicity.


Indeed McGrath through her studies found the following – though more research is necessary:

  1. CBD administered to healthy dogs was found to have better bioavailability when administered by way of a dog CBD oil/tincture. This was true for both individual dogs as well as across different dogs when compared with CBD cream or CBD capsules for pets. Creams were the least bioavailable.
  2. Like in humans, CBD appears to be metabolized by the liver and as such she suggests caution in dogs who have liver problems or are taking another medication that is potentially toxic to the liver.
  3. There is evidence that CBD can relieve discomfort in dogs with osteoarthritis and may also reduce seizures in epileptic dogs.
  4. Dogs experiences few side-effects from CBD administration.


“We haven’t found anything that’s super alarming about CBD,” says McGrath. “But on the flip side, we still know very little about it and it’s really important for owners to know that and use it with caution until we have more information.” 

Is your pet CBD brand safe?

Due to the lack of adequate regulation in the market and the huge growth of the business in the past few years there are some things to watch out for when purchasing CBD for pets.


Make sure the product is free of THC if at all possible. As mentioned above THC can be toxic to pets and they symptoms they can feel can be disturbing to them. The law states that legal BD products should contain no greater than 0.3% THC – which is quite low – but again it’s better if its zero.


Only buy products with a COA – certificate of analysis – from 3rd party independent labs and making sure that the batch numbers from the certificate and the product label match (meaning that the batch that was tested is what is in the package).


  • THC is to be avoided in pets
  • CBD is generally considered to be safe for pets but quality and lack of THC are paramount. Liver issues if any should be taken into consideration.
  • CBD is more bioavailable in dogs when administered via an oil.