CBD Oil For Dogs & Cats: Is It Safe Or Legal?

If your pet suffers from chronic pain, neuropathic issues or seizures, you may have been told or advised to treat them with CBD oil

CBD is a product of the cannabis plant. But although incredibly popular with humans for the treatment of pain, anxiety and diseases like Epilepsy and Parkinson’s, vets are now warning animal owners in the UK to be careful when applying the same counter-bought products to their pets.

The issue of CBD oil and pets was brought into the public eye after Katie Price received backlash for administering CBD oil to a new puppy, which later died after falling asleep in a chair and suffocating.

Angry pet owners have suggested that by giving her dog Rollo the substance, the puppy likely became overly drowsy and tragically sought out a quiet, but dangerous spot – which ended up being fatal.

cbd oil and pets

While it might seem easy to blame Price for Rollo’s death (and many have), the fact is that CBD oil is still a very confusing and misunderstood topic when it comes to treating pets.

With so many stories, recommendations for CBD products online and in real life, as well as the incredibly easy access to such products in treats, drops and chew form, it’s completely understandable that someone might assume it’s perfectly safe for their pet.

So what is the truth?

Is CBD oil safe for our pets? Can it ever be beneficial? Is it even legal?

What is CBD oil?

When you first hear of CBD Oil and its derivation from the cannabis plant, it’s only natural for you to assume it creates some kind of psychoactive high for the user.

However, cannabidiol (to give it it’s real name) does not contain THC, the psychoactive agent found in cannabis products such as marijuana.

what is cbd oil

CBD instead comes from the hemp of the plant and is said to relieve feelings of anxiety and pain, essentially making it medicinal cannabis, without the drug-like effects.

Currently incredibly popular amongst humans, it of course didn’t take long for us to start administering it to our own pets to treat their own similar issues.

Is CBD legal for pets? What UK veterinary law says

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) are regulators of the manufacture and sale of veterinary medicines in the UK.

As of 2020, their official stance on CBD and animals is that it should only be used in certified veterinary medicine.

This means CBD companies in the UK are now prohibited from designing or selling CBD pet products without veterinary marketing authorisation.

For CBD supporters, this might seem like a cause for celebration, as VMD’s stance is one of the first-ever official recognitions of CBD as medicine. However, it unfortunately does pose some immediate issues too.

Although VMD’s statement allows veterinary medicines to use CBD and be considered safe, it also means any current CBD product marketed at pets now needs to be taken off the shelves, reviewed, regulated and then authorised by VMD before it can go on sale again.

is cbd oil legal?

And due to the freshness of this ruling, it means there are currently no CBD products that are authorised by the VMD or the Food Standard agency for use in animals.

So although you may have seen many CBD products online marketed at pets, it’s probably not wise to buy them, as at the moment, they are technically not legal in the UK.

So what? “I’ll just use normal CBD oil instead”.

In truth, most pet owners do, as there aren’t many pet-specific products out there anyway. Sadly though, the VMD’s ruling puts pet owners who already use CBD oil in a sticky situation.

Because by recognising it as veterinary medicine, the VMD has technically now made buying standard ‘human’ CBD oil for your pet without vet consultation illegal.

VMD’s position on human CBD products and animals is that “a veterinary surgeon may prescribe a legally obtained human CBD product under the provisions of the prescribing cascade”.

In short, this means you’ll need to get permission and a veterinary prescription to legally administer CBD products to your pet.

Is CBD oil safe for animals? What vets say

Due to all of the debate about CBD and pets, you may be wondering why on earth so many people are advocating its use on their precious pooches and cats!

cat on cbd

The reason is that for owners who are suspicious of normal drugs and medicines, it’s often seen as a go-to natural medicine that has numerous benefits for sick animals.

Although these benefits are not scientifically proven, anecdotal evidence and the rare studies have shown it may help with:

  • Relief of Cancer & Tumor Symptoms
  • Relief of Cancer Treatment Side Effects
  • Preventing Nausea
  • Stress & Anxiety Relief
  • Preventing Seizures
  • Chronic Pain & Skin Conditions
  • Insomnia
  • Arthritis

There is also no evidence that CBD is toxic to dogs and cats, so pet owners understandably feel safe administering it.

By the same token though, there is also nowhere near enough evidence to prove whether any of these benefits are actually true.

For example, anecdotal evidence for a long time purported that CBD oil could help dogs with epilepsy, but it’s since been found that CBD actually has no effect on the condition. 

And there hasn’t even been a single scientific study analysing CBD’s effects on cats!

It’s this lack of knowledge about what we are giving our pets and the actual benefits or side effects it may have that is bothering many vets.

Speaking in response to the death of Katie Price’s dog and her use of CBD oil, vet Sean McCormack told The Sun:

“Do not give it (CBD) to your animals.

“It isn’t licensed in pets and it is illegal for a reason.

“Some pet owners want to go down the holistic route and don’t want to visit a vet, but we don’t know how safe some of these things are.

“How do you know what dose to give of CBD when it isn’t licensed? You could cause serious harm.”

The dosing issue Sean refers to is a particularly big one, especially when we know that CBD can sometimes have side effects on our pets.

These include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Interference with drug metabolism
  • Increased Parkinson Tremors
  • Stomach Issues & Diarrhea

If we know CBD can cause our pets these issues, there’s potential that an incorrect dose could cause these side effects to become more serious.

dog on cbd

For example, if Katie Price’s puppy could become so drowsy it accidentally suffocated itself, is there nothing to suggest a large dose could cause a dog dry mouth to the point where it develops polydipsia?

The point here is we still don’t know and can’t possibly know until more has been done.

The best thing to do is not take the risk of self-administering CBD to your pet.

If you already do so or are planning on introducing your animal to CBD, please speak to a vet first as only they can prescribe a legal CBD product to your pet and will be able to give you a far more educated dosage.

The future of CBD and pets

Admittedly, the recognition of CBD as veterinary medicine is a short-term annoyance for owners who advocate CBD use on their pets.

But in the long-term, it’s likely this change will be much more beneficial for CBD when it comes to proving (or disproving) the oil’s purported effects, even if it sadly makes access to it more difficult for those who swear by it.

Now it’s recognised as a medicinal product, it means it’s going to be more regulated, safer and much more extensively studied in relation to animals.

This will help highlight any risks or dangerous side effects with CBD and hopefully, also prove some of its benefits, helping support those whose pet’s can’t live without it.

We’ll also have a much higher understanding of the substance overall and if pet products become authorised and evolve, you’ll be able to better understand how CBD can actually benefit your animal and perhaps even buy a dog or cat-specific CBD product which caters to their specific needs.

Or, it might never see the light of day in veterinary medicine…

Until more is done, I guess all we can do is just watch this space…