CBD Regulations for Pets: What You Need to Know

CBD Regulations for Pets: What You Need to Know

Laws around medical and recreational marijuana, cannabis, and CBD regulations have changed dramatically and rapidly over the past several years. In fact, for many of us, it’s some of the most significant legal and regulatory changes we’ve seen in our lifetime. No wonder it’s hard to keep up!

These regulations, in particular, are difficult to follow because of the vague categorization of CBD as a substance. It is not a drug, not a supplement, not a medication, and not a food. There is variation by state, and even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) places CBD in a gray area.

Furthermore, CBD for humans and CBD for pets are regulated differently. To understand exactly how CBD regulations work right now, you need to understand how CBD is categorized, what agencies are tackling this topic, and how your veterinarian is limited in their ability to discuss CBD with you.

How Is CBD Categorized for Regulation?

When it comes to setting regulations for pet CBD, part of the problem is finding the appropriate category for these products. The way a product is categorized – as a supplement, food, medicine, or device – influences which agency is responsible for it.

Safe pet CBD is derived from hemp, a specific type of cannabis plant with less than 0.3 percent THC; therefore, CBD usually identifies in the broader category of cannabis. But to understand how regulatory agencies approach CBD, you need to understand three important legal moves: the Controlled Substances Act; the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act; and the 2018 Farm Bill.

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA)

The cannabis plant is regulated under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. For more than 40 years, cannabis was categorized under the drug class “marihuana” (marijuana). Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, a classification intended for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no medical value. While many in the medical field and beyond take issue with this classification, it stands.

A grey pomeranian sits up on a counter where a marijuana leaf and cbd oil also sit

The Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic (FD&C) Act

The FD&C Act gives regulatory control over all cannabis and cannabis products to the FDA.

The FDA regulates how cannabis products are labeled and marketed. The agency has approved one drug, which is cannabis-derived, and three other cannabis-related drugs. Other than these four instances, the FDA hasn’t “approved a marketing application for cannabis for the treatment of any disease or condition and thus has not determined that cannabis is safe and effective for any particular disease or condition,” says their website.

The 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the CSA, meaning hemp and hemp products are no longer considered Schedule I drugs. However, the Farm Bill upheld the regulatory authority of the FDA for all cannabis and cannabis products. So, all cannabis and cannabis-derived products, even those derived from hemp, are subject to regulation by the FDA.

Despite the differentiation of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill, many pet care oversight agencies still lump in hemp-derived CBD with all “cannabis-derived products,” despite the fact that hemp-derived CBD is very different from the more famous THC. This generalization generates confusion around CBD’s benefits and risks for both pets and people.

Pet CBD Regulations

While humans and other animals like cats and dogs process CBD through the same system – the endocannabinoid system or ECS – the regulations for human and pet use are different. So it’s important to remember that the rules around human CBD use might be – and often are – different from the regulations for pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association says on their website in no uncertain terms, “State laws legalizing use in people do not apply to cannabis use in animals.”

Pet CBD still sits in a gray area, but two primary agencies are exploring how to regulate it: the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and the National Animal Supplement Council.

A diagram of a dog and cat show the internal organ system of both animals

The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine

The FDA has a branch called the Center for Veterinary Medicine which “is responsible for assuring that animal drugs and medicated feeds are safe and effective and that food from treated animals is safe to eat,” according to the website. While it might seem like pet CBD would fall under the purview of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, it’s not so simple.

The Center for Veterinary Medicine regulates animal food, animal drugs, and animal devices. CBD doesn’t fall under any of these categories. And it’s also important to note that the Center for Veterinary Medicine isn’t the only regulating body in animal care. For example, vaccines for animal diseases are actually regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and veterinarians are licensed by a state board.

But this doesn’t mean that CBD isn’t on the radar of the FDA. On the contrary, the FDA actively tries to answer questions and come up with clearer regulations about CBD, all while working with limited data.

One of the most powerful outcomes of the 2018 Farm Bill, which descheduled hemp and hemp-derived products, is the reduction of barriers to medical research about hemp and hemp-derived products. We can expect to see more studies and concrete scientific information about CBD coming out in the near future, which will allow the FDA to make more clear rules and regulations about CBD.

National Animal Supplement Council

The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) is a unified trade organization that works to simplify communication between the pet supplement industry and the FDA.

NASC takes the position that animal supplements can include hemp but not CBD isolates, concentrates, or synthetics. They will allow a supplement brand to state that a product contains naturally occurring CBD; however, they are trying to place strict limitations about claims around immune support or pain alleviation until such claims have been scientifically proven.

Discussing CBD with Your Veterinarian

One problematic result of the gray legal and regulatory area around CBD and pets is that veterinarians aren’t legally allowed to administer cannabis (and therefore CBD) to their pet patients – in fact, they aren’t even supposed to discuss it with pet parents!

Your veterinarian might be reluctant or even refuse to discuss the use of CBD in your pet’s daily health regimen. This decision is understandable, considering the potential ramifications. Even if a veterinarian fully supports CBD use in pets and is aware of the benefits of hemp-derived CBD, discussing it with you could put their medical license at risk in most states.

While it’s always important to discuss your pet’s health plan with your veterinarian, be prepared for some wariness around the topic of CBD for pets. Just remember that this is a protective legal measure for veterinarians, and you should do your own independent research while considering their advice.

Your veterinarian will also be able to give you detailed information about how CBD oil for pets might interact with other medications your pet is taking and information that will be critical to your pet’s overall wellness.

A brown and black tabby licks his paw near a bottle of cbd cat treats from paw cbd

Good CBD Companies Follow the Rules

A trustworthy CBD company will not refer to their products as treatments, supplements, or medication, because CBD has not been regulated as such. But your pet can still experience the benefits of CBD in their daily regimen if you do your research.

While the regulations get sorted out, you can still ensure your pet CBD comes from a reputable brand. The best CBD for pets will be made from domestic hemp, veterinarian-formulated, specific to pets, and THC-free*.

Made from Domestic Hemp

Look for CBD pet products that are derived from hemp grown in the USA, where there is a regulatory culture around the farming of the hemp plant.


While veterinarians might not be able to discuss the use of pet CBD with you, companies can use the expertise of veterinarians while making their pet CBD products.

Specific to Pets

Don’t ever give your human CBD to your pet. While humans and other animals process CBD through the same system, there are other important differences in our physiology that need to be addressed in a CBD formula.


The best CBD for pets will be certified THC-free, which ensures your pet won’t experience the psychoactive effects of THC and only the wellness benefits of CBD.

Stay Current with News About CBD Regulations

When it comes to CBD regulations for your pet, the most important thing is to be sure your pet CBD is coming from a reputable company. While these products are not currently FDA-approved, there are ongoing studies that will provide more information about the benefits of CBD for pets in the coming years – which will lead to clearer regulations. Stay on top of news about CBD for pets to ensure your pet is getting only the highest-quality wellness support.

*THC-free is defined as undetectable at the lowest level which can be consistently detected using valid scientific analytical tools.


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