Cannabis Product Use in Cats & Dogs in the United States

Trina Hazzah, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), CVCH*, Green Nile, Los Angeles, California

ArticleLast Updated October 20233 min read
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In the Literature

Corsato Alvarenga I, MacQuiddy B, Duerr F, Elam LH, McGrath S. Assessment of cannabidiol use in pets according to a national survey in the USA. J Small Anim Pract. 2023;64(8):513-521. doi:10.1111/jsap.13619

The Research …

In this study, an online survey was used to ask pet owners (n = 1,238) living primarily in the United States about their motivations for and perceptions of cannabis-derived product use in their pets.

Approximately 30% of respondents had given cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD) to their pets (dogs, 75.8%; cats, 22.2%), most commonly in treat/chew and oil-based tincture forms, for anxiety (67.4%), joint pain/inflammation/aging (23%), cancer/nausea/vomiting (2.5%), seizures (2.5%), skin/allergy (1.7%), general health, and other conditions.

A majority of owners (64.9%) perceived some improvement in their pet’s condition; 11.5% did not notice any improvement; and 23.6% were unsure. Frequency and duration of cannabis or CBD administration were significantly related to perceived efficacy. Most owners (45.3%) reported no adverse effects, while 24.2% reported sleepiness and/or lethargy.

The authors noted that owner caregiver placebo effect is likely when owners believe a product will work and know it is being administered (ie, lack of placebo control); thus, improvement noted by owners in this study should not be interpreted as evidence for clinical efficacy.

… The Takeaways

Key pearls to put into practice:

  • Use of correct terminology is essential. CBD is not synonymous with cannabis; CBD is one of the 150 cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa L plant.1 The cannabis plant, which contains both CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabinoids, is legally categorized as hemp or marijuana based on THC content: hemp contains ≤0.3% THC based on dry weight at the time of harvest, while marijuana  contains >0.3% THC.

  • The relatively equal use of treats/chews and oil-based tinctures in this study differs from a recent survey in which 53% of owners reported giving their pet CBD-infused treats and only 15% reported giving an oil-based tincture.2 Because of treat size limitations and need for palatability, treats/chews provide a limited amount and diversity of cannabinoids and other compounds. This may be effective for mild conditions; however, a broad-spectrum (ie, 0% THC + various cannabinoids/terpenes) or full-spectrum (ie, trace amount of THC + various cannabinoids/terpenes), higher-potency cannabis product is likely to have increased efficacy for chronic or moderate to severe conditions. Conditions with increased complexity likely require increasingly complex solutions/products. Oil-based tinctures can enable accurate dose titration, which is essential for finding the therapeutic window (ie, range that elicits benefit without adverse effects).

  • In this study, >50% of owners who had never given cannabis or CBD to their pet reported willingness to try it, and only 21% of owners who had given cannabis to their pet were advised to do so by a clinician. Clinician education about cannabis and legal permission to discuss it with owners are crucial and may help increase effective communication and facilitate safety and efficacy when administering cannabis in companion animals.

*Dr. Hazzah is the owner of Green Nile, a cannabis consulting company, and a consultant for multiple hemp companies.