Some pet owners are giving their dogs CBD in an effort to manage the anxiety and stress of explosive booms on and around the Fourth of July.
According to a recent report by NPR, pet owners hoping to help their dogs manage the stress and anxiety of loud explosions around Independence Day are trying a non-psychoactive cannabis compound, cannabidiol (CBD).
Professional and private fireworks displays are common among America’s Fourth of July celebrations. While typically fun for most humans, the loud booms can cause pets, including dogs, to experience high levels of stress. Pet shelters the day after the annual celebrations are commonly “inundated with pets that panicked at the noise of firecrackers and fled into the night, winding up lost, injured or killed.”
This past year, according to NPR, some dog owners have turned to CBD, a natural cannabinoid derived from the stalks and seeds of cannabis plants. Unlike the most widely recognized compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD isn’t psychoactive, so it won’t induce a high in humans or animals.
Studies over recent years have discovered that CBD may be beneficial for reducing anxiety. More than half of cannabis users in the U.S. reportedly use cannabis for relaxation and anxiety relief. One study involving humans with social phobia found that CBD significantly reduced anxiety prior to public speaking. These anti-anxiety effects have also been shown in animal trials.
“Converging lines of evidence have established that acute CBD treatment is anxiolytic in both animals and humans,” behavioral neurologist Dr. Carl Stevenson said in a review conducted earlier this year on CBD’s effects on fear and anxiety.
Dogs, like all mammals, have an endocannabinoid system, which is a signaling system responsible for maintaining balance within the body. CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system’s receptors, affecting the body’s functions to promote homeostasis.
The idea of treating any animal with cannabinoids like CBD, however, is still not considered an option by many veterinarians. Cannabis products cannot be legally prescribed to pets, partly due to a lack of endorsement from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Studies into CBD treatments for pets are lacking. Current restrictive federal cannabis laws have hindered research, so scientists have yet to establish safe dosing guidelines. Most reports of benefits of CBD treatments in dogs are primarily anecdotal as of now. Some veterinarians, however, including Dr. Steven Ellis of Sunderland Animal Hospital in Sunderland, Massachusetts, acknowledge that cannabis and CBD has been used to treat canines. California veteran Dr. Douglas Kramer interviewed pet owners and discovered reports of CBD being used for a wide variety of reasons, including to reduce anxiety.
Research suggests that CBD has low toxicity and high tolerability in animals and humans. A recent research review found controlled CBD to be safe in both humans and animals. Los Altos-based veterinarian Brennan McKenzie told NPR that the limited laboratory that has been done in dogs has so far not reported any severe side effects from short-term CBD use.
Veterinarians urge owners to always refrain from giving pets products containing high levels of the psychoactive cannabis compound, THC. According to Leafly, mild toxicity can result in sluggishness, lethargy, wobbling, and excessive saliva production. Extreme causes may result in urinary incontinence, low blood pressure and loss of bodily control.
Read the full report from NPR here.