October 1, 2019

Stephen M. Katz, VMD, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, College of Veterinary Medicine. He is the founder and director of the Bronx Veterinary Hospitals. A pioneer in the use of CBD in veterinary medicine, he is also the inventor and founder of Therabis, LLC, a leading company using full spectrum hemp in its product lines.

Welcome to the wild world of CBD. This remarkable cannabinoid is the 21st century version of slippery elm bark. In the late 1800s, slippery elm bark was discovered to contain a remarkable compound, salicylic acid, which became aspirin. We are in the very early stage of discovering all of the medicinal attributes CBD can contribute to benefit both humans and their pets.

CBD is currently used for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. We use it in our hospital for its ability to improve joint mobility under a number of conditions. Old dogs that could barely get up are now running up the stairs, according to owners’ firsthand accounts.

Another known medicinal benefit of CBD is its ability to stop seizures. The first FDA-approved CBD pharmaceutical, Epidiolux, is used to treat juvenile seizure disorders. Again, in our hospital, we no longer use the standard anti-seizure meds and are using CBD to treat seizure disorders. It also has a calming effect on dogs and cats, and seems to improve their overall well-being and demeanor.

CBD is being studied for myriad conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis to its anti-metastatic capabilities. We are still a long way from maximizing its therapeutic potential.

In the past three years, the CBD industry has exploded on the scene in terms of usage for dozens of conditions, availability and price. This has been a grassroots movement as opposed to “Big Pharma” imposing a new drug on both the veterinarians and consumers.

It is common to be in a veterinarian’s office and hear someone say, “Doctor, I saw this bottle of CBD selling at my pet store, or my gas station. Is it good for my pet’s condition, and if so, how much should I give Fido?”

It’s good to remember that CBD is not a panacea and will not help or improve many conditions. It is incumbent on the health care providers to learn as much as possible about the do’s and don’ts of CBD.

The same can be said for retailers and distributors. The most important elements for purchasing CBD is having a reliable source, checking for purity, concentration, consistency and price. The extraction company should guarantee the percentage concentration and guarantee its purity. It should be tested for pesticides, fungicides and heavy metals from an independent laboratory. The production company should also guarantee consistent delivery of the product.

Some advice for retailers and distributors: Make sure you know and understand the type of extraction the manufacturer is using to obtain the CBD from the hemp plant. There are two principle means of extracting the CBD from the plant. The cheaper method uses ethylene as the solvent to extract the CBD from the cannabis plant. Ethylene in and of itself is poisonous to humans, and the CBD must be “stripped” of the ethylene before it can be sold. Nevertheless, there are always traces of the ethylene in the CBD extracted by this method. It is cheaper to produce and sell, but I do not recommend it. The safer, cleaner organic method of CBD extraction from the plant is called supercritical CO2 extraction and utilizes very cold, liquid carbon dioxide as the solvent. Once the CBD is removed from the plant by the carbon dioxide solvent, it is exposed to room temperature whereby the CO2 simply evaporates, leaving the pure CBD in the collecting tube. It costs a bit more but it is worth it.

It is also important when selling CBD-infused products like chewable treats that the mixture is not heated above 120 degrees as it will cause the CBD to lose its effectiveness and potency. So look for treats that have been “cold processed.” Shelf life varies, but the retailer should be looking for products that have a minimum of one year in the store.

The amount of CBD given varies with the weight of your pet and the condition you are focusing on. Joint mobility, for example, would use a smaller amount than seizure disorders. Check with your veterinarian for proper dosing depending on your pet’s overall health and the issue you want to see improved or resolved.

We are at stage one of our discovery of the benefits of CBD and the many other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. The next 20 years will be amazing in the world of naturopathic medicine in the 21st century. Stay tuned.

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