Cannabis compound CBD for pets -- a growing trend that's not without risks

Marcia Sipe-Dan says the non-intoxicating cannabis compound CBD helps her dog Echo keep on weight as he battles lung cancer KOMO photo

When the family dog or cat has anxiety, seizures or pain- a growing number of pet owners turn to a cannabis compound called CBD.

CBD is widely used as an alternative to prescription medication for pain, anxiety and other human conditions- but pet parent beware. The lack of regulation could put your cat or dog at risk.

Marcia Sipe-Dan gives her dog Echo the one thing she says helps his appetite. Echo has lung cancer. The chewable supplement contains a cannabis compound called cannabidiol - commonly known as CBO.

"I decided to use CBDs because we just could not keep weight on him. We tried everything" , said Sipe-Dan.

CBD starts with hemp, sometimes marijuana plants. Through a multi-step process, producers extract the CBD and leave out the THC compound that makes you high.

At pet stores across the country, the demand for pet CBD products is skyrocketing.

Mike Peterson says he learned about CBD at a trade show 5 years ago. He buys CBD capsules for his aging dog Loki.

"As German Shepards get older, their hips get a little bit achy and it helps just day to day, running around and being a dog," Peterson explained.

"Anxiety is the number one reason people come in for it," said Heather Levesque, manager at popular Bridges Pets in Snohomish.

But since CBD is not approved by the federal government, there are no regulations to control quality. While state-regulated cannabis stores are heavily regulated- everywhere else, CBD products are much like supplements: You're trusting the manufacturer to stand behind its label.

Levesque says she only purchases inventory from manufacturers who pay for independent quality tests and share the test results.

"You want to make sure that things are third-party tested," stressed Levesque. "Because the person that's third-party testing doesn't have a stake in the company. So getting that third-party verification is showing it really does have what they're stating it has."

Sipe-Dan, a Bridges Pets customer, says she'll only buy CBD from Bridges. Other consumers stick with state-regulated cannabis stores or buy directly from manufactures they've checked out.

"People have told me you can save money if you order online but I don't, because I wouldn't know what I was getting," Sipe-Dan said.

She's wise to be cautious. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found 58 of the 84 online CBD products tested had inaccurate ingredient labels. 18 contained high levels of undisclosed THC the marijuana chemical that makes you high and dogs sick.

Earlier this year, THC left Hannah Puzas' French Bulldog, Jacques, in a shaky stupor after he ate discarded marijuana at a dog park. THC is extremely bad for dogs.

"I thought he had a stroke," said Puzas.

After a trip to the veterinary hospital and a $1,600 vet bill, Jacques is okay. But Puzas feels the potential for undisclosed ingredients makes giving her dog CBD too much of a gamble.

"It's kind of the wild, wild West," Puzas said.

Bottom line: CBD for pets is a huge trend and the right product might help your pet deal with pain or anxiety, but with no industry standards the burden's on you to do your homework, verify the source, and make sure you know what you're giving your four-legged friend.

And while CBD experts say veterinarians cannot legally prescribe CBD for animals, at least make sure your vet knows you're considering it for your dog or cat.

Even if the CBD is third-party tested and from a reputable source, animal experts say there's the potential for other ingredients in the products to cause a bad reaction or interact negatively with vet medications your pet is taking.

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