Cannabis for our furry friends: CBD treatment in pets


Collegian | Chloe Leline

Grayson Acri, Staff Reporter

Pets are our buddies that seem to always be happy, hungry and just a bit confused. For readers of this section, the same could likely be said of many of us on some evenings. 

Dogs and cats, unlike us, are not high — nor should they be. Please keep any cannabis products out of the reach of your pets; it’s dangerous. 


That being said, there are certain conditions and situations wherein medicinal cannabis is warranted as an option. Much like in humans, certain conditions like seizures, chronic pain, epilepsy and various others can be aided by cannabidiol. 

“What’s interesting about (CBD treatment) I think is that it does appear to be very well tolerated. … A lot of the drugs we give dogs for these conditions have a lot of bad side effects.” –Stephanie McGrath, associate professor at Colorado State University

For both dogs and cats, CBD treatments are designed to treat similar conditions to humans, such as pain, anxiety, nausea or low appetite. 

Stephanie McGrath, associate professor in neurology and neurosurgery at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is looking into CBD treatments for dogs with chronic pain: arthritis in older dogs, anxiety and separation anxiety, epilepsy, dementia and brain cancer. 

“Some of the studies I’m doing are based on the studies that they’re doing in human medicine,” McGrath said. “Some of it is also just what pet owners are most interested in using it for.”

Products you can now buy as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill intended for animals are not regulated and are everywhere.

“They need better regulations,” McGrath said. “People can literally put whatever they want out there, claim whatever they want, … and nobody’s checking.”

A 2020 study analyzed 29 products and found only 18 products were accurately labeled, with two not containing any CBD whatsoever.

“Interestingly, with this drug, it’s almost the reverse of what happens with drugs,” McGrath said. “Usually, we do a bunch of trials; we really investigate the drug, then it goes to market. Whereas in this case, it’s everywhere, but we don’t have the science to say yes or no for certain diseases and what doses to use.” 

That’s where McGrath’s research comes in. 

In a 2019 CSU study, CBD treatment was shown to reduce seizure frequency in 89% of dogs given CBD. 

Similarly, a 2018 study showed CBD treatment administered twice daily can help dogs with osteoarthritis both in comfort and activity. 

“What’s interesting about (CBD treatment) I think is that it does appear to be very well tolerated,” McGrath said. “A lot of the drugs we give dogs for these conditions have a lot of bad side effects.”

While some studies have found adverse effects of high CBD dosages in dogs, current evidence suggests this treatment has promise.

“We’ve done a couple of studies already to show that it has some anticonvulsant qualities,” McGrath said in regard to epilepsy treatments. “What we’re doing right now is trying to figure out the best dose to use so that veterinarians and pet owners have a little bit better understanding of what doses to use.” 

While these studies continue, so too will dog treats, treatments and supplements containing hemp and CBD.

“I’d like to see more science,” McGrath said. “I would love to see the science catch up to the usage.”

This doesn’t mean you should just give your elderly pet some bud, though.

All animals with a cannabinoid system have receptors in different amounts. Dogs and cats both have more CB1 receptors in their brains compared to humans, making them more sensitive to THC than us. 

Combined with a lack of preparation, since your dog can’t interpret the THC warning sticker, cannabis consumption can make things dangerous for pets to get into your stash. 

Accidentally dosing your pet can create many of the symptoms found in too-high doses of cannabis in humans, such as paranoia, confusion, hallucinations and more — but with added confusion since they’d have no idea this was coming. 

In dogs, symptoms of cannabis exposure can include ataxia (drunken, uncoordinated walking), hypersensitivity to touch and sound and lower heart rate and temperature. Cats experience similar symptoms and paranoia, additionally. If you believe your pet has eaten some of your cannabis, take them to the vet immediately.

If you think CBD could help your pet, though, McGrath recommends a veterinary consultation.

“The other thing is investigating the company,” McGrath said. Products should show, according to McGrath, “how much CBD is actually in the product that you’re claiming is in this product, how much THC is in it (and) what other cannabinoids are in it at what percentages.”

Reach Grayson Acri at or on Twitter @Guy1376.