The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine sounded the alarm on Thursday—pleading with pet owners to avoid using unregulated cannabidiol (CBD) products for dogs dealing with anxiety due to scary fireworks noises.
Fireworks have long been recognized as an anxiety trigger for dogs, especially those that already have an anxiety-related condition. Dogs are typically known for their olfactory prowess, however according to Smithsonian Magazine, dogs hear more than twice as many frequencies in sound as humans—providing an explanation for their behavior on the Fourth of July. They can also hear sounds four times farther away than humans. To a dog, a crashing boom could sound like an explosion or some other type of calamity.
“Fourth of July can be a noisy and stressful time for dogs, The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine tweeted Thursday. “Ask your vet about the right way to help relieve your dog’s stress through behavior modification or an FDA-approved drug for sedation or to treat noise aversion.”
But the FDA felt the need to call out one popular anxiety remedy by name—CBD—which is commonly used to treat anxiety in dogs and cats, often marketed as pet treats.
“There’s a lot of talk about CBD for treating [dogs] who react to loud noises. You should be aware that FDA has NOT evaluated these products and can’t say whether they are safe or effective, how they are manufactured, or whether they contain CBD.”
Keep in mind that this is the third time the FDA has issued a similar warning ahead of July 4 celebrations—meaning that the organization just admitted that it still hasn’t done its job to evaluate CBD products for their safety, even after three years of warnings.
One real reason to listen to the FDA is that many pet products that claim to be infused with CBD contain no CBD at all, according to the Associated Press. Online grifters will sell bottles of “CBD oil” for well over $50 to people who fall prey to their schemes.
While research is young, early data suggests that CBD could be effective for certain pet-related conditions, perhaps more in dogs than in cats. “CBD-rich hemp nutraceuticals appear to be safe in healthy adult dogs,” researchers wrote in an examination of CBD’s safety profile for use against anxiety, seizures, cancer and pain.
In July 2018, the first clinical study to measure the efficacy of hemp-derived CBD on dogs was published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, in this case, for dogs living with arthritis. Several more studies have explored different potential benefits.
The FDA is Standing in the Way of Progress
CBD-infused pet treats are widely available, especially after the 2018 Farm Bill was put into place. But that’s not to say that the FDA tolerates them to the fullest degree. For instance, the FDA is notoriously strict about medical claims—both for humans and pets. Benefits from CBD pet treats are not yet proven in dogs nor cats.
Less than a month after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published draft final rules to allow for the production and interstate shipment of hemp-derived CBD products throughout the country, the FDA issued warning letters to no fewer than 13 companies in nine states for selling pet treats or foods infused with CBD. “The FDA is also indicating today that it cannot conclude that CBD is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) among qualified experts for its use in human or animal food,” the organization wrote.
For the time being, hemp-derived CBD treats marketed to both dogs and cats can be found freely across the internet, in convenience stores and in dispensaries in multiple states.
Pet owners are encouraged to designate a safe haven to help keep your dogs calm during the onslaught of fireworks this holiday. Dogs can also be slowly desensitized to firework noises, once they get used to hearing them repeatedly.