As more states across the country legalize cannabis, the benefits are becoming better understood. We know that different strains of the plant can help treat chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, nausea, neuropathy, and more. We know the benefits and effects on humans, but what about our animal companions? Pet owners everywhere are beginning to wonder if cannabinoids can help their four-legged companions. Here’s what you need to know about the effects of cannabis use in cats and dogs.

Do Cats and Dogs Have an Endocannabinoid System?

Like humans, cats and dogs have an endocannabinoid system, as do horses, rabbits, birds, and other vertebrates. And, like humans, our animal companions produce natural endocannabinoids that interact with this system to maintain balance and regulate the following:

  • Appetite
  • Balance and coordination
  • Mood
  • Pain
  • Sleep

Can Cannabis Benefit Animals?

In humans, cannabinoids interact with the cannabinoid system to produce a variety of results. CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids can ease anxiety, reduce your perception of pain, promote relaxation and sleep, and more. Cannabis-derived CBD can help cats and dogs in many different ways. It may help to:

  • Ease pain
  • Treat seizures
  • Reduce symptoms of arthritis
  • Aid with behavioral issues
  • Help with separation anxiety or anxiety caused by fear (such as thunderstorms or fireworks)

While preliminary studies show that CBD provides benefits for pets, many veterinarians are still hesitant to discuss its use. In 2017, the California Veterinary Medical Board stated that vets couldn’t discuss or recommend cannabis as a treatment, even if pet parents asked, or else they could risk losing their license. The board amended the statement in 2018, saying that vets could discuss it, but it wasn’t clear on what “discuss” meant.

cannabis and pets

What Types of Products Should You Use?

While the effects of CBD for pets is beginning to become better understood, the effects of THC are still a little fuzzy. Some suggest that THC in any amount is toxic, but the issue is far from settled. We do know that, like humans, THC can cause animals to become high. While there are therapeutic benefits of THC for humans, the exact benefits for animals are still, for the most part, unknown.

So, what types of products should you give your pets? CBD products are known to offer an array of benefits. One of the best ways for your pets to get the benefits of cannabis is with a high CBD, very low (or no) THC content. Any products that you give your pets should be from a licensed dispensary.

Liquid products often work best, but you may also come across CBD dog and cat treats. As you would do for yourself, start with a low dose, and work your way up until you see improvements in your pet. No matter what product you select, be sure to monitor them for side effects.

What If Your Pet Ingests Too Much THC?

Too much THC can cause adverse side effects in pets. If you notice any of the following, contact your vet right away:

  • Instability
  • Depressed respiration
  • Changes in behavior

Effects of Cannabis Use May Interact With Existing Meds

You should also be careful if your pet takes other medications, as mixing cannabis with their current prescription medication may cause a reaction.

Cannabis use for pets is still new, and vets are hesitant to discuss it as a potential treatment. There are very few studies available. With more research, we might better understand the effects of cannabis use in animals and how we can use it to help our pets.