Cannabis and CBD Oil for Animals
The College receives questions about veterinarians prescribing cannabis, specifically CBD (cannabidiol) oil, for animals. Health Canada oversees the federal legislation related to cannabis which outlines the legal framework for the production and sale of cannabis products. Currently, there are no approved cannabis or CBD prescription drugs for animals, which is the safest pathway for veterinarians to prescribe cannabis to animals. The legal pathway for access to veterinary products under the new Cannabis Act is approved veterinary drugs with cannabis and veterinary health products.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a few of the questions, and answers, that the College frequently receives about cannabis and CBD oil for animals through its Practice Advisory Service.
What can veterinarians discuss with their clients about cannabis and animals?
Veterinarians are an important resource for public education about animal health. They can educate clients about the risks of cannabis to animals and stay informed about cannabis products that Health Canada has approved for use in animals. Currently, there are no approved drugs with cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD) for animals. There are veterinary health products (VHP) with hemp that are approved for sale in Canada; these are low risk substances used to maintain or promote the health and welfare of animals and do not make health claims. VHPs can contain ingredients such as hemp seed derivatives containing no more than 10 ppm THC, which will be exempt from the Cannabis Act. These products can be identified by a notification number on the label.
Pet owners should be aware of unapproved products being marketed to consumers. If a cannabis product does not have a drug identification number (DIN) or a notification number (VHP) then its safety and efficacy cannot be verified. The public should also be cautioned to keep any cannabis for human use away from pets due to the risk of poisoning if their pet accidentally ingests it.
Can veterinarians prescribe cannabis for medical purposes?
If a client legally accesses cannabis for their own use, and asks their veterinarian if they can use it for their animal, can a veterinarian provide a dose for the client to give to their pet?
The Cannabis Act will allow adults to possess and access regulated, quality-controlled legal cannabis. There are two pathways for access: cannabis for medical purposes and cannabis for non-medical purposes (recreational use). It is important to recognize that the cannabis products for medical and recreational purposes include dried and fresh marijuana and cannabis oil, which are not intended for animal use. The safety and efficacy of these products in animals is unknown. There is also limited research on the use of these types of products in animals. Pet owners who have cannabis for medical or recreational purposes should prevent their pets from accidentally ingesting these products due to the risk of poisoning.
If a client buys a CBD product for their animal and asks a veterinarian to provide a dose for their pet, can a veterinarian do so?
The pathway for access to CBD products for animals under the Cannabis Act will be Health Canada approved veterinary drugs and these will have a drug identification number (DIN). Currently, there are no approved veterinary drugs with CBD. If it is determined that the product the client has is not approved, the veterinarian may inform the client of this and indicate that the product’s safety and efficacy are unknown. The product has not gone through the proper legal pathways to be approved by Health Canada. The current evidence on safe dosages for CBD for animals is limited. There are ongoing studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of CBD and cannabis-based products for animals.
What cannabis products can a veterinarian legally advise on?
Under the Cannabis Act, veterinarians are permitted to prescribe and dispense drugs with cannabinoids; however, there are currently no veterinary drugs available on the market. Veterinarians may recommend and sell veterinary health products with hemp that are approved through Health Canada’s Notification Program. Veterinarians may advise clients on the use of legally available recreational cannabis for their pets based on sound professional judgment.
Before advising on the use of a legal recreational cannabis product, what does a veterinarian need to know?
It is important that veterinarians recognize that these products are not indicated for animal use; they are not drugs and do not make health claims. There is little scientific evidence to support the use of cannabis in animals, including safety and efficacy. THC in cannabis has known toxic effects in pets and symptoms of toxicity can be severe. Veterinarians are accountable for any professional advice they provide to a client about their pet.
If a veterinarian chooses to advise on the use of recreational cannabis that their client has obtained legally through the provincial sales outlets, what are their obligations?
If a veterinarian chooses to advise on a legal recreational cannabis product for their client’s pet, they must:
- Practice within the scope of their clinical competency;
- Weigh the evidence on cannabis against other available treatment options;
- Consider the known or suspected risks associated with its use in animals;
- Obtain informed client consent;
- Monitor patients and be available in the event of an adverse reaction or failure of treatment; and
- Be aware of the potential for abuse, diversion and misuse of cannabis.
How can a veterinarian determine if a cannabis product is legal or not?
Veterinarians should not advise on the use of any illegal substance, including cannabis sold on the black market or unapproved cannabinoid products.
The only approved cannabis products for animals available in Canada at this time are veterinary health products made from hemp. These products:
- Are distinguished from illegal cannabis products for animals by a notification number assigned by Health Canada;
- Have no concentrated cannabinoids, including CBD;
- Do not make health claims;
- Are listed on Health Canada’s website;
- Are regulated by the Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR); and
- Are sold at retail.
Legally purchased recreational cannabis from authorized provincial retail sales outlets can be distinguished from black market cannabis by its packaging. Legal products:
- Are packaged and labelled according to strict rules set by Health Canada;
- Have packaging with a CRA excise stamp on it;
- Do not make health claims;
- Do not have an indication for animal use; and
- Undergo quality control to ensure, among other things, that concentrations of CBD and THC that are indicated on the label are accurate, and free of specified contaminants (e.g. certain pesticides).