There are many questions educated pet owners should ask themselves before giving their pet medicinal marijuana. First off, it may be hard to find a veterinarian open to the idea. Because marijuana is technically a schedule I controlled substance, despite many states legalizing medical use of the drug or even recreational use, veterinarians can face prosecution at the federal level and at the very least put their DEA license in jeopardy by prescribing or recommending products derived from marijuana. That being said, industrial hemp, which contains little to no THC, is, in the minds of some, excluded from the “scheduling conflict.” However, in the eyes of the DEA that may not be so. Even though industrial hemp has been cultivated for other non-medicinal uses legally, the DEA ruled on classifying any extract of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance in 2016, a decision that is somewhat disputed by medical hemp farmers. Regardless of your stance, you can see why some veterinarians are hesitant to make suggestions until the waters become less murky. Hemp products safest for pets Still others overlook this danger, and many holistic veterinarians are incorporating at least hemp-based products into their practice. A few have been for years. CBD sourced from hemp contains little to no THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, and is therefore the safest for pets to consume. Dogs in particular have a higher concentration of endocannabinoid receptors in their brains and this is one reason why we see more marijuana toxicity in our canine companions, compared to humans or even cats. Another reason dogs may be more susceptible to toxicity is that especially in states where recreational use of marijuana is legal, a large number of edible products are available for human consumption. Many of these products contain ingredients toxic to dogs, including but not limited to chocolate. When consumed together THC and chocolate seem to have an additive toxic effect, and can product severe sedation, gastrointestinal and neurological effects, even death. So many choices… There are endless numbers of CBD products commercially available for humans and animals alike. CBD oil is by far the most common product and is basically is an infusion of CBD, in varying amounts, in oil. CBD oil is typically the most heavily concentrated and usually requires the smallest volume of liquid to be administered —a definite plus when medicating a pet. A tincture is similar, but the liquid the CBD is mixed with may be an oil, glycerine, or alcohol and may contain other ingredients to impart a flavor or taste. There are also topical preparations including salves and ointments, which potentially can be used for skin conditions or to help alleviate pain and inflammation associated with arthritis or injury. The CBD concentration in these products is obviously less than CBD oil itself. Finally there are edibles. These should be products made exclusively for animals for reasons stated above. Edibles are basically CBD oil mixed with pet-safe ingredients to make tablets, chews, and other treats that might make administration of product easier for both the animal and pet owner. It is important to note that when using edible products there is the greatest potential for toxicity—especially with THC-containing products, mainly for two reasons. First edibles need to be digested and take longer to be absorbed into the bloodstream, tempting owners to give more before they see the full effects of the original dose given, and second because some of our ever-so-food- motivated pets may accidentally ingest multiple treats if left in an unsafe place. Source and integrity of the product There are severe restrictions in terms of growing both marijuana and hemp legally in this country. As a result a lot of CBD oil is imported from foreign countries. If the plants that your CBD oil is derived were grown on contaminated soil, your dog or cat (or especially you!) could be at risk for toxicities not related to the THC content of product, including mercury or lead. With little government regulation in place, it is also possible for companies to deceive consumers with inaccurate labeling in terms of the concentration of the products themselves. Some companies will also list a dose on the label without providing a concentration at all. When buying CBD oil or other forms of CBD, it is best to always request third party lab results, which test for potency, contaminants, and mycotoxins. It is also extremely important to have the actual concentration listed on the container. This is usually written in mg/mL or mg/oz, and is different from the actual dosage, and it is the only way to know the true potency of the CBD oil you are using.