CBD (Cannabidiol) Oil for Pets – Its Benefits and the Confusion Around Its Legality in Canada
There is a new wave of pet products hitting the market in Canada. Treats, supplements, and oils, all containing hemp CBD (cannabidiol) oil, are flooding the marketplace. Some made in Canada, and others made in the USA.
What is CBD oil?
Cannabidiol (a cannabinoid) is found in Cannabis sativa, the botanical Latin name for both marijuana and hemp. Hemp is higher in CBD oil and contains negligible amounts of THC (approx. 0.5%), which is known for its psychoactive properties producing the “high”. Marijuana contains high (10-30% approx.) THC content and only small amounts of CBD. Despite both plants being Cannabis sativa, marijuana and hemp are different cultivars and are grown in different conditions. The products we are seeing on the market containing CBD oil are hemp products containing CBD oil or CBD extracted from hemp.
What health benefits does CBD oil have for dogs and cats?
Studies on CBD (both for animals and humans) and anecdotal information about its benefits are beginning to show how helpful these products may be! Here a few of the main uses for CBD oil:
Anxiety – CBD has been shown to help with generalized social anxiety disorder as well as reduced learned fears [i] and is used for separation anxiety, stress and phobias such as thunder.
Cancer – Studies on cannabidiol indicate that it may stop cancer cells from growing[ii], increase tumour cell death and improve immune system function.
Seizures – For the approx. 3% of dogs that suffer from seizures, CBD can be an effective alternative to anti-seizure drugs that are harmful to the liver and may cause other unpleasant side effects. CBD may also be a valid alternative for drug resistant epilepsy.
IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease) – Studies show that cannabinoids (of which CBD is one) may benefit intestinal inflammations and IBD.[iii]
Inflammation – Promising research shows that by activating cannabinoid receptors, inflammation can be reduced.[iv] Its anti-inflammatory properties have the potential of helping a wide variety of ailments.
Pain – CBD oil has been used for chronic or difficult to treat pain and pain associated with mobility issues.
Vomiting and Nausea – Research suggests that cannabidiol has an anti-nausea effect in animals.[v]
Other uses may include arthritis and mobility issues, sleep issues, allergies and to increase appetite. In addition to its benefits, CBD oil is safe for use in our companion animals.
Sounds like CBD oil could help a lot of pets and we are so excited this product is becoming available to help our pets…BUT WAIT, there is one big catch in Canada. And that is, technically it is NOT legal. There is swirling debate and confusion over these new pet products – hemp oil containing CBD oil or CBD oil extracted from hemp. It depends who you talk to, a few companies state that it is legal because it is from hemp. A few companies state it is not legal, but they sell it anyhow. And yet another stating that treats containing it are ok, but yet have discreet ordering on their website. And a few companies state it is not legal so they will wait until it is to sell it. Talk about disorienting!
In the quest to find out which indeed is true, here are some responses received from various branches of government on the status of CBD products:
From Industrial Hemp Section:
“Cannabidiol is a scheduled substance under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act and is not legal to obtain without a license or exemption…To sell for therapeutic or medical use for livestock or companion animals, you can contact the Veterinary Drug Directorate for more information….”
Ok, so we contacted the Veterinary Drug Directorate, who said the following:
“Health Canada’s Veterinary Drugs Directorate (VDD) evaluates and monitors the safety, quality and effectiveness, sets standards, and promotes the prudent use, of veterinary drugs administered to food-producing and companion animals.
The VDD’s assessment of the status of a product is guided by the requirements of the Canadian Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. The status of a product is based on numerous factors such as the indications or intent of the product, dosage form, route of administration, formulation, conditions of use, etc.
As per the Food and Drugs Act, a drug includes any substance or mixture of substances manufactured, sold or represented for use in:
a) the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of a disease, disorder, abnormal physical state, or its symptoms, in human beings or animals,
b) restoring, correcting or modifying organic functions in human beings or animals, or
c) disinfection in premises in which food is manufactured, prepared or kept.
Currently cannabis and its derivatives such as cannabidiol (CBD) are considered veterinary drugs. For a veterinary drug product to be imported for sale, sold or advertised in Canada, it must have a valid DIN, according to section C.01.014 of the Food and Drug Regulations. All veterinary drug products that are imported and/or sold in Canada must be manufactured in accordance with the conditions of the Good Manufacturing Practices and hold an establishment license as per Division 2 of the Food and Drug Regulations.
There are currently no CBD oil products approved by Health Canada and therefore there is no legal pathway for veterinarians to obtain (purchase, import), dispense or use these products.”
So where is the grey area?
From our perspective, it lies within the Schedule listing of CBD in Controlled Drug and Substances Act.
It clearly lists cannabidiol as being a controlled substance (see point 3 in Schedule II below) under Cannabis. Cannabis sativa is the Latin name for both marijuana and hemp, despite them being different cultivars. However, CBD the molecule is the same regardless of source. So without the distinguishing information on which source, it could be interpreted that cannabidiol is restricted regardless of where it comes from. To add to the confusion, because CBD is in hemp (which is of course legal), there is no regulation for the amount of CBD in any given hemp product (unlike THC for example, which in hemp must stay below a specified percentage).
Schedule II of Controlled Drug and Substances Act from: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/C-38.8.pdf
Unfortunately, the legality of CBD is a confusing subject on many levels. In short, lack of DIN numbers and responses from various Canadian government branches indicate it is a restricted product. Because most evidence pointing towards it being restricted at this time, we here at Tail Blazers, are patiently waiting for laws to change (and/or clarified) in Canada so we can legally provide your pet with safe, legal and effective CBD oil!
This article is not intended to provide health or legal advice. Please consult with your pet’s health practitioner or your lawyer about CBD oil.
[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27932983 – Cannabidiol Regulation of Learned Fear: Implications for Treating Anxiety-Related Disorders.
[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5009497/ Cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa extracts inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells
[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19442536 – Cannabinoids in intestinal inflammation and cancer
[iv] https://www.nature.com/articles/npjamd201612 Amyloid proteotoxicity initiates an inflammatory response blocked by cannabinoids
[v] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21827451 – Cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic component of cannabis, attenuates vomiting and nausea-like behaviour via indirect agonism of 5-HT(1A) somatodendritic autoreceptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus.