CBD Products: Can They Help My Pet?

October 7, 2020

a black kitten being held by a woman in a light blue shirt

With medical marijuana now legal in over half the states, and an increasing number of states legalizing recreational marijuana, there’s been a rise in CBD (cannabidiol) products (like oils and treats) in mainstream shops and retail chains. The popularity of these products continues to rise after many anecdotal reports of potential health benefits for humans. And the trend has carried over to our four-legged-friends.

The big question from pet parents is: If marijuana or CBD is helpful for some people, can it help my pet? The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) weighs in on this trending topic.


One of the first things to understand is a breakdown of the properties associated with marijuana and CBD. Marijuana, also known as Cannabis Sativa, is a plant. In the cannabis plant, both THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD can be found to varying degrees. THC is considered a psychoactive substance, which means it’s a chemical that changes how the brain functions, and thus can cause alterations in perception, mood, consciousness or behavior. THC is toxic to cats, dogs and horses.

However, CBD has been getting more and more attention for its potential therapeutic and pain management effects.

What Do We Know?

There are many unanswered questions about the effects of marijuana and CBD in pets. But research into these effects is underway. Studies are slowly being done to look at the potential benefits of CBD for controlling pain from conditions such as osteoarthritis, calming anxious pets and as a possible treatment for epilepsy in dogs. 

Like with any product, you should consult with your veterinarian to determine if CBD products are right for your pet and to discuss the risks and potential benefits. The internet has a lot of information that can be misleading, and consulting with a professional should always be your first step. That’s especially important if your pet is on other medications. Just like with any medication or pet product, you want to be careful of overdosing your pet and be sure to keep any CBD products safely up and out of paws’ reach.

The Legal Lowdown

The laws around use of cannabis in people and pets have been slow in keeping up with public opinion. The DEA still considers marijuana a Schedule I drug, meaning it is not considered to have any medical use.  

Even in states where medical marijuana is legal for people, it is not legal for pets. CBD is regulated by the FDA and currently there are no FDA approved CBD products for pets. Under current federal and state law, veterinarians may not administer, dispense, prescribe or recommend cannabis or its products for animals.

In 2018, hemp, a cannabis plant that naturally has less than 0.3% THC, was taken off the federal controlled substances list. Many companies are marketing products to pets as hemp-based products to skirt the current legal status of marijuana and CBD for pets. However, since these products are not FDA approved, they do not undergo the same quality control measures as medications do.

What’s Next

With public opinion largely being positive for marijuana and CBD, states looking more closely at the laws and starting to reconsider them. Furthermore, with the added attention, more studies are looking at the potential effects and benefits CBD and marijuana may hold for pets. At this time, veterinarians are legally unable to prescribe or recommend CBD products, but they can discuss the potential risks and benefits and help pet owners get a better understanding of what to expect if they choose to give their pets CBD. The popularity of this growing trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

APCC continues to stay on top of new studies and research as they develop, and keep you informed to help keep your pets happy and healthy.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any poisonous substances or ingested something dangerous, contact your veterinarian or call Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at (888) 426-4435 immediately.