By Cheryl Miller, RVT
There is a lot of information out there about cannabis products and their supposed benefits for everything from improving allergy symptoms to preventing seizures in pets. With a seemingly endless source of information, it can be difficult to differentiate fact from fiction.
Cheryl Miller is a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) and Certified Veterinary Cannabis Councilor (VCC) who helped us put together this list of cannabis FAQs. Read on for more information about cannabis, tips on how to look for quality products for your pet, and our list of Fuzzy-approved cannabis products and companies you can trust!
What is cannabis?
Cannabis is any plant in the L. Cannabis genus, this includes Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.
What are the chemicals in cannabis called?
Cannabis is made up of chemical compounds called cannabinoids and terpenes.
Cannabinoids: the chemicals that you’ve probably heard of: THC, CBD, and many others.
Terpenes: the chemicals that give plants their scent. Terpenes are present in ALL plants, not just cannabis. Different terpenes can help enhance the effectiveness of the cannabis product you are using for your pet. Terpenes and cannabinoids work together in what is called the “Entourage Effect”.
What is CBD?
CBD is a cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. CBD, which stands for “cannabidiol,” is non-psychotropic, meaning it doesn’t affect the mind, emotions, and behavior. CBD can affect mood, but it does not give you (or your pet) the “high” that THC does.
What is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?
The Endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a molecular system that the body uses to help maintain homeostasis. ECS is made up of something called cannabinoid receptors, which are found in different areas of the body and are involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. These receptors pick up internally-produced cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) and use them to perform many tasks. It’s important to remember that all mammals produce cannabinoids without having to ingest or inhale them from a plant!
An underactive ECS can be the source of a lot of problems. Just like some mammals have less natural Serotonin and need supplementation, the same can be true of endocannabinoids (internally-produced cannabinoids). Unfortunately, right now there is no reliable way to test for an underactive ECS in mammals.
What is the difference between marijuana and hemp?
If we’re being honest, very little. Hemp is any cannabis plant that has less than a 0.3% concentration of THC at harvest. Marijuana is any cannabis plant that has a greater than 0.3% THC concentration at harvest. Products made from “hemp” can have more than 0.3% THC in the final products, and products made from marijuana can have less than 0.3% THC concentration in their final product.
This 0.3% THC number was arbitrarily picked by the federal government and does not scientifically differentiate marijuana from hemp. There are more legalities behind what the difference between marijuana and hemp, but the THC concentration at harvest is the biggest legal differentiation.
How do I know what’s legal in my state? You can search this website for laws in your state. State-by-State Marijuana Policies
Why won’t my vet talk to me about CBD/cannabis?
Many veterinarians have a federal licence to prescribe controlled substances to animals. This is called a DEA Licence. The federal government still considers cannabis to be a Schedule 1 drug, which basically means it has no LEGAL medical value. Regardless of how you or your vet personally feel about cannabis, if a veterinarian is found to have recommended or advised on the use of a cannabis product, they risk potentially losing their licence. Most states that issue medical licences in addition to DEA licences have banned veterinarians from discussing cannabis use with pet parents because of its Schedule 1 status. This leaves many people without a source of good information for the use of these products in pets. This leads to pet parents getting information from unreliable sources like Google, Facebook Groups, pet store employees, or Bud Tenders at cannabis collectives.
That’s why we’ve put together this informational FAQ for you to make the best decisions for your pup!
Can my pet have THC with their CBD?
Sometimes. Most people believe that THC is toxic to dogs and cats. However, in small amounts, THC can actually increase the effectiveness of CBD and other cannabinoids in the product you are using.
Using large doses of THC in dogs and cats can make them display symptoms of toxicity. However, THC is not toxic except at VERY high doses. At lower concentrations, it merely causes some symptoms that seem scary and can be confusing for the pet. Getting the dose right can help avoid those toxicity-like side effects.
Should I follow the directions on the packaging for the product I bought?
There is no simple answer here. A lot will depend on the condition you are hoping to help your pet with, what is in the product you chose, and your pet’s individual reaction to the product. We recommend starting with half of the recommended dose and seeing how your pet reacts.
Where can I get cannabis products for my pet(s)?
Depending on what state you are in, you may be able to buy pet cannabis products at a pet store, online, or in a cannabis dispensary/collective. You’ll want to be careful with the product you choose. Jump to our “What do I look for in a quality product?” section to learn more.
It is important to keep in mind that you will not be able to buy products on Amazon. Amazon does not allow any cannabis products (hemp or marijuana based) to be sold on their website. Any product that claims they have hemp or marijuana in them are fake or being sold illegally on the site. This article explains more: Why You Should Not Buy CBD Oil On Amazon
What do I look for in a quality cannabis product?
Figuring out what quality products look like can be very difficult. Is it the packaging? The “guarantee”? The company name? None of these things make up a quality product. A reputable company will do third party testing on their finished products, preferably on their raw product and throughout the manufacturing process. This test is then reported in a Certificate of Analysis (CoA). The CoA will list all the different tests that were run on the product.
When examining a CoA:
Look for either ND or a number value to be on each line. ND means “Not Determinable,” and that means that there wasn’t enough to collect a result.
If you see the letters NT, this stands for “Not Tested”. In our cannabis counselor's opinion, there should never be NT on any CoA.
Look for the extraction technique. Generally speaking, extraction using solvents is considered “old school” and not as pure as other extraction processes. CO2 is the most popular extraction process right now, is significantly safer, and creates products that are usually more pure than solvent extracts.
All products should be tested for purity and concentration of cannabinoids, heavy metals, solvants, and microbes (bacteria and similar organisms). Companies that don’t test their products are not holding themselves to the highest standards and may only be doing the bare minimum to reduce costs. In addition to purity testing, you also want to be aware of how the product is made, including who grew the source plant. The grower’s name should be listed on the CoA as well as the extraction technique.
What products are safe to use?
There are a lot of products out there, but not all of them are well-made. Every day, we go through new products to make sure they meet not only our own strict standards for purity testing but that they are made in accordance with law. The following companies make high quality products and perform purity testing on their final products:
Do some products work better than others?
Sometimes! If your product passes the quality product test above, then you’re likely using a quality product. Depending on what the cannabinoid and terpene combination is, your product may or may not help your pet’s particular ailment. Some combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes work better for pain, others for anxiety, etc.