There are a thousand ways to take your medicine these days, and along with that comes the risk for misuse of one’s prescription or over-the-counter meds. With cannabis supplements becoming more widely available, it can be difficult to know which products offer consumers the best quality medication.

The “is hemp and cbd the same” is a question that people ask. Hemp and CBD are both cannabis, but they are not the same. The two plants have different properties.

A DVM’s Guide To Cannabinoid Supplements



There are no limits on veterinarians discussing the matter with customers. However, therapeutic claims should be avoided.

The increased interest in cannabinoids among veterinarians and pet owners stems from thousands of years of cannabis production and medicinal usage. Cannabinoids have shown to have significant promise for improving the health and well-being of pets and humans, but they must be used properly and correctly. To do so, a veterinarian must research the endocannabinoid system, the many cannabinoids, the current and upcoming products, the consequences of their usage, possible adverse effects, regulatory concerns, and scientific literature. The purpose of this article is to serve as a primer for veterinarians.

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is an endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a mechanism in humans and animals that helps the body maintain homeostasis. Neurotransmitters and receptors are the two main components of the ECS. Cells produce neurotransmitters, which are chemical molecules that allow them to send messages. The CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are the second important aspect of the ECS, bind to these messenger molecules. Endogenous chemicals present in the body, as well as phytocannabinoids or cannabinoids found in hemp plants, may bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors to control the ECS. To resist external and internal stresses, the ECS needs control, and cannabinoids play a critical role in this. Sleep, emotion and mood, hunger, memory, digestion, immunological function, reproduction, and fertility are all affected by the ECS.


Cannabinoids are naturally occurring, physiologically active chemical elements of cannabis plants’ flowers, leaves, and stalks. Phytocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids present in plants, act on the ECS via mimicking endogenous neurotransmitters. While CBD is the most well-known, it is only one of 120 cannabinoids that have been identified, each with its own set of properties and effects on the ECS. This revelation opens the door to a slew of new cannabis uses for both animals and humans. Because of the amount and activities of distinct cannabinoids, it’s critical to know which cannabis product to use and for what reason. Not all hemp/cannabis products are created equal. Based on the breeding and selection of cannabis varieties, growth conditions, harvesting practices, and extraction processes, the plants yield different concentrations of the various cannabinoids. The cannabinoid content of most broad- and full-spectrum CBD products is determined by processing hemp to extract whatever cannabinoids were present in the harvested plants. One reason for the variable reactions among animals is the consequent varying concentration of cannabinoids. Bioactivity is influenced by other bioactive substances found in cannabis plants, and the mode of delivery has an impact on the body’s reaction. To separate specific cannabinoids, one business (Chou2 Pharma), which the authors recommend, uses a patented method known as the cannulation purification system. The method allows for the deliberate manufacture of known amounts of chosen cannabinoids for a variety of specific applications, with increased bioavailability and the possibility of surviving the upper gastrointestinal system. Here are some examples of cannabinoids and what they do:

  • CBD (cannabidiol) has a wide range of pharmacological benefits, including enhancing sleep and lowering stress, anxiety, and inflammation. Additionally, it functions as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiemetic, anticonvulsant, and cardioprotective agent.
  • CBG (cannabigerol) contains analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and muscle-relaxing properties, and it may help with IBD and Crohn’s disease.
  • Cannabichromene (CBC) improves brain health by assisting neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
  • Cannabinol (CBN) has been used as an appetite stimulant and painkiller, as well as an immune system booster and a sleep aid.
  • CBE (cannabielsoin) has not been thoroughly investigated. CBE appears to improve capillary strength and lower blood pressure. It has the potential to help people with neuropathies.
  • CBL (cannabicyclol) is a derivative of CBC that has not been thoroughly researched.

Cannabinoids have a wide range of uses in improving the health and well-being of dogs and people due to their multiple favorable physiological qualities. Cannabinoids provide an appealing option in controlling pain and inflammation in the context of the opioid epidemic in veterinary and human health care. Cannabinoids may also be utilized for their anxiolytic qualities, such as to treat separation anxiety in dogs without oversedating or tranquilizing them. In addition, hospice care is a very enticing option.

Issues of Law and Regulation

Hemp extracts, including CBD, were made lawful in the 2018 Farm Bill in the United States. California became the first state to provide legal protection to veterinarians who discuss the use of medical cannabis for their animal patients in September 2018. Cannabis plants that naturally generate more than 0.3 percent THC are classified as marijuana under federal law and are considered illicit narcotics. Hemp is defined as plants that produce less than 0.3 percent THC and are regarded as lawful under the Farm Bill. Food and medication items containing cannabis and cannabis-derived substances, such as cannabinoids, are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Only one cannabis-derived medicine has been authorized by the FDA so far: Greenwich Biosciences Inc.’s Epidiolex, which is used to treat certain epileptic diseases. Chou2 Pharma is starting a multi-year effort to get FDA clearance for marijuana medications for pets. The selling of hemp and CBD pet food for intrastate trade has been approved in Oregon, Florida, and California. Oregon allows hemp-CBD pet food to be manufactured, distributed, and sold as long as it contains less than 0.3 percent THC. Dogs and cats are the only pets that can eat this kind of pet food. Pet food and treats using hemp extract with less than 0.3 percent THC are allowed in Florida. California is the most recent state to allow hemp-derived components in pet food to be sold. The FDA acknowledges cannabis’s potential benefits and encourages thorough scientific study of cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals. Companies whose goods are manufactured according to good manufacturing practice (GMP) and include pharmacokinetic data, safety and effectiveness studies, complete traceability, and a certificate of analysis are viewed more favorably by the FDA.

California has legalized marijuana.

In terms of legislative, regulatory, and industry involvement with cannabis for humans and pets, California is the most active state. Let’s take a look at the past.

  • California was the first state to approve medicinal marijuana in 1996.
  • Conant v. McCaffrey, a case from 2000, successfully challenged the federal government’s power to enforce federal law in areas where medicinal cannabis is authorized. It also supported doctors’ rights to suggest cannabis but not to prescribe it.
  • California voters adopted the Adult Consumption of Marijuana Act in 2016, making cannabis legal for recreational use. (In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize cannabis for recreational use.)
  • 2021: The governor approved Assembly Bill 45 in October, allowing the sale of hemp-derived compounds, including CBD, in food, drinks, nutritional supplements, pet goods, and cosmetics.

Other California Statutes

Assembly Bill 2215, passed in 2018, allows veterinarians to discuss cannabis products but not to recommend, distribute, or administer them. Industrial hemp is exempt from the legislation. California became the first state to acknowledge cannabis in veterinary treatment, providing legal protection to veterinarians who discuss its usage with pet owners. The California Veterinary Medical Board issued marijuana recommendations for veterinarians in 2019. (For additional information, go to AB2215 would have been enhanced by Senate Bill 627, which would have allowed veterinarians to suggest cannabis products. The bill’s original text would have limited sales to medicinal marijuana businesses and required pet owners to visit a veterinarian before purchasing. The law was repealed in 2020. Another effort to enable veterinarians to prescribe cannabis was Assembly Bill 384, which failed in 2021 due to procedural issues. Outside of California, a few states have passed laws allowing for the use of cannabis in veterinary medicine. A recent Nevada legislation, for example, allows veterinarians to discuss, suggest, and administer hemp or CBD-based products.

What Should Veterinarians Do?

In the United States, forty jurisdictions allow adults to use cannabis medicinally, while another twenty allow adults to use cannabis recreationally. Veterinarians are frequently unsure if they are protected in advising cannabis usage in places where it is legal but not specifically authorized for veterinary use. The question is whether or whether cannabis have therapeutic benefit in dogs and, if so, at what doses. Because the cannabis market is so new, there are few solutions. Because the First Amendment protects commercial speech, veterinarians may normally discuss cannabis or cannabinoids with their customers unless state laws or regulations prohibit it. The question is whether a veterinarian may be punished for claiming therapeutic efficacy for a supplement that has not been authorized by the FDA or proven in clinical studies.

What Should Pet Owners Do?

Owners want their dogs to be free of arthritis, anxiety, and seizures. Veterinarians strive to provide their clients accurate information about products that are both safe and effective. Before recommending a cannabis product, the patient must be assessed for a cannabis-responsive ailment. Are there any contraindications or comorbidities that might prevent you from beginning on cannabis? Are there any possible medication interactions? The product and its certificate of analysis are next evaluated (COA). A certificate of analysis (COA) is a report issued by a certified third-party laboratory that outlines a product’s chemical analysis and certifies that it is free of contaminants. Finally, clear expectations must be established, since cannabis is not a miracle medicine.

For Now

To veterinarians, we recommend getting to know the benefits and drawbacks of cannabis, as well as the changing rules and scientific literature.

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