Your vet probably won’t recommend CBD oil for your dog, but that doesn’t mean they don’t believe in CBD’s anti-inflammatory and anxiety-busting benefits. Here’s why their professional recommendations may not square with their personal views.

The law

For most of its history, American cannabis law has been pretty confusing. Either the plant will sit in a grey area and between legality and illegality, or it will be classified as a highly prohibited substance, with hefty punishments for possession or sale.

The same is true today. In eleven states, THC-containing cannabis is legal for recreational use by adults, while 33 states allow the same for medical users. Despite this, the same products are also illegal from a federal perspective.

The picture gets more cloudy when high-causing, THC-rich marijuana is (rightly) separated from hemp. Hemp and marijuana are both types of cannabis, but whereas the latter is associated with stoner culture, the former is a historic industrial material, as well as a food, cosmetic, and wellness supplement.

True hemp is non-toxic and cannot cause a high—which is what makes it suitable for consumption by dogs. In 2018, the Federal Farm Bill legalized the growth, production, sale, possession, and transfer of industrial hemp and hemp-derived products across state lines. Industrial hemp is defined as hemp plants with a THC concentration of less than 0.3%.

So, while it’s definitely complicated, CBD produced from industrial hemp is legal to sell, buy, and consume in the US.

The fineprint

…For the sake of complete clarity, there are a couple of small, state-restricted caveats concerning CBD and hemp. (Sorry!)

  • Idaho. In 2015, the Idaho Attorney General stipulated “CBD must both contain zero THC and be derived from one of the five identified parts of the cannabis plant.” That may mean that some CBD products legal under the Farm Bill (with more than zero but less than 0.3% THC) are not legal under Idaho state law.

  • Nebraska. CBD and hemp laws in Nebraska are in flux, with hemp cultivation soon to begin in the state. On the other hand, many jurisdictions make no legal distinction between THC and CBD, so caution and personal research are advised.

  • South Dakota. CBD and hemp were only legalized in this state in March 2020. While there should be no issue with you or your dog using CBD in South Dakota, the recentness of the ruling may mean you want to exercise caution.

  • American Samoa. In 2019, The High Court confirmed in a ruling that possession CBD is illegal in American Samoa under the territory’s drug laws.

What does all this mean for vets, dogs and pet owners?

Today’s laws mean that pet owners should feel safe in purchasing and using CBD oil and other CBD products, both for themselves and their dogs. When shopping, always look for products designed specifically for pets, which are made from organic hemp.

Despite its widespread legality, however, no CBD products have yet been approved by the FDA for use in animals. So in terms of veterinary medicine, the situation hasn’t really changed. Under federal law (at least), vets are not at liberty to legally administer, recommend, or prescribe CBD for your dog.

The fineprint

For vets, CBD regulations can change according to the state they operate in, or even their clinic. As of September 2018, the state of California passed legislation to allow licensed vets to discuss cannabis products with their patients—though this doesn’t include the power to prescribe.

While California is currently the only state with such a bill, veterinary boards in Colorado and Oregon also allow vets to discuss cannabis with patients.

The limited state of current research specifically on CBD and dogs is a large factor in the continuing lack of veterinary support. Until the FDA officially approves CBD for use in dogs, don’t expect to see widespread recommendation of CBD products by veterinary professionals.

The culture

Partly informed by decades of vague laws and misinformation, and partly thanks to its association with marijuana and stoner culture, CBD still has an image problem in many areas and demographics across the country.

Especially in healthcare settings, supplementing with natural products such as CBD, other plant oil infusions, and holistic or homeopathic treatments, can looked down upon as a needless (or even dangerous) diversion from mainstream clinical medicine.

But, opinions are shifting

Such views are fast becoming outdated, with many hesitant vets converted by the sheer number of positive experiences with CBD reported by their patients and pet communities.

A 2018 anonymous survey published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science reached out to 2,130 veterinarians to find out how much contact with CBD they had in their practice. The results were surprising: 63 percent of respondents reported being asked about CBD oil by pet owners at least once per month.

If you do want to discuss the benefits of CBD with your vet, you’ll likely have to be proactive about bringing it up. According to the same survey, 85 percent of vets reported rarely or never initiating conversations about CBD with pet owners.

The reality is that many vets across the country are already using CBD oil on their own pets; they just may not choose to reveal that information to patients in a professional capacity for the legal reasons outlined above.

With all this ambiguity going on, we decided to take a deeper look into how vets across the country feel about CBD for dogs. Here’s an article on what we found out: Why Don’t Vets Administer CBD Oil?

The bottom line

In summary, many vets out there would probably like to recommend CBD oil for your dogs anxiety, inflammation, seizures, skin condition, or post-surgery recovery plan.

Unfortunately, a lack of FDA approval of CBD products prevents them from doing so. If you live in California, Colorado, or Oregon, your vet may suggest looking into CBD, but they can’t prescribe it as a treatment.

Despite widespread changes at the state level, marijuana remains federally illegal, and the prohibition on hemp was only officially lifted in 2018. Right now, we’re only at the beginning of the cannabis revolution. So expect the veterinary profession as a whole to take a little more time to fully embrace CBD as an effective treatment and supplement.

As momentum gathers, and clinical studies are undertaken on CBD’s effect on dogs and other pets, expect FDA approval for CBD products, and veterinary prescriptions, to follow!