The Difference Between CBD and THC for Pets

The Difference Between CBD and THC for Pets

Learn the difference between CBD and THC, how it relates to your pets and why its important for pet parents to understands how these compounds affect their pets.

With the newfound popularity of CBD for both humans and pets, you might find yourself asking, what is the difference between CBD and THC?

To understand this topic, you need to know exactly what THC is, how CBD is different, what people mean when they talk about full spectrum CBD and broad spectrum CBD, and how CBD can benefit your animal.

CBD and THC are not the same at all, and it’s important to understand exactly how each will affect your pet. Pet owners have a desire and responsibility to be well-informed about their pets’ health and wellness – a routine that can benefit from the additional support of CBD.

How CBD and THC Are Different

Many conversations about CBD these days begin with this question: “Isn’t that pot?”

Pot, weed, marijuana – all these words refer to a cannabis product with a considerable THC amount. CBD products are inherently different from this category.

The recreational and medicinal marijuana industry is growing, but it is a separate beast from the CBD industry. It’s especially significant to pet parents because, while THC isn’t recommended for pets, CBD can benefit your furry family members.

To understand how these two compounds differ and why they tend to get discussed together, we need to know what they are.

Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are fatty molecular compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant, in other plants, and even in our bodies – and the bodies of our pets!

THC and CBD are shown in diagram against cannabis plants

What is the Cannabis Plant?

Cannabis refers to a group of three plants: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Hemp and marijuana both come from the Cannabis sativa family. More than 100 cannabinoids are in this genus of plant, including CBD and THC.

As cannabinoids, both THC and CBD impact the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in our bodies and the bodies of our pets. While they are both received by the same system, how they affect the ECS is very different.

What is THC?

THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. It is the cannabinoid in cannabis that is known for its psychoactive effects. It impacts the mind and makes the consumer feel stoned. This sensation can be disorienting, unpleasant, and even dangerous for pets, so THC is not recommended (or safe) for animal consumption.

THC is prevalent in marijuana cannabis, but there is a legal limit to how much THC can be in an industrial hemp plant. True hemp is defined as a cannabis plant with 0.3 percent THC or less, which is far too little to create those mind-altering effects.

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. CBD appears in different concentrations in different types of cannabis plants. Specifically, marijuana cannabis has varying THC ratios than CBD – often more THC than CBD – while the industrial hemp plant has a much higher concentration of CBD and barely any THC at all.

That said, THC and CBD together both appear in marijuana. This is part of the reason why it is important – especially in states where recreational or medical marijuana is legalized – to find a hemp-derived CBD product formulated specifically for dogs or cats. With a hemp-derived product, you can rest assured it is extremely low in THC, while a marijuana product is likely to contain amounts of THC that aren’t safe for your pet.

A large brown dog lifts his head with a cannabis leaf in front of it

THC, CBD, and Pet Safety

The primary difference between THC and CBD related to pets is that THC-infused products are not recommended for pets. Pets who consume THC can suffer from a lack of balance, slow heart rate, incontinence, dilated eyes, and low body temperature. If they consume higher THC concentrations, the signs can be more serious, such as seizures and aspiration. The harsh effects of THC happen to pets because THC is a psychoactive compound, while CBD is not.

Unlike THC, CBD has been widely accepted by the pet community as a useful wellness support tool. CBD products that are veterinarian-formulated and specifically designed for pets should not create any of the common negative experiences of THC when administered in the right amounts. Instead, CBD pet products can help your pet continue an active lifestyle, keep to a steady sleep schedule, and remain comfortable.

How CBD Oil Is Made

Understanding how CBD oil is made can help in understanding the difference between these compounds.

The process of extracting CBD oil from the industrial hemp plant usually involves ethanol or CO2. The way CBD is extracted can influence the final product.

When talking about CBD types, people often use the phrase broad spectrum CBD or full spectrum CBD. They’re really referring to the hemp extracts – these are what can be broad spectrum or full spectrum. After all, CBD is only one compound among many extracted from hemp. But for this article, we'll use the terms interchangeably.

Several types of CBD oil that can be extracted from the hemp plant and then put into CBD pet products:

  • CBD isolate. This type is exactly what it sounds like – CBD molecules in isolation, with nothing else included.
  • Full spectrum. It’s a grab-bag extraction, so the oil includes the same profile of compounds found in the plant from which it was extracted, meaning any THC in the original plant will be present in the extract.
  • Broad spectrum. This type is a full-spectrum extract that has undergone refinement to remove THC.
  • Superior Broad Spectrum. It’s a special formula created by Paw CBD parent company cbdMD; CBD isolates combined with a selection of the most helpful other cannabinoids and terpenes for a complete and consistent tool for maintaining pet wellness.
  • As you can see, some of these types of products’ defining characteristics are how much THC is present in them. CBD and THC are closely related, but their differences are very important when considering what is healthy and appropriate for your pet.
A kitty cat sits and waits for a a treat

Safety Labels to Look For

The difference between these cannabinoids is so substantial that product labeling will often address it. Many pet products will provide specific labels or certificates to help pet parents feel safe about the CBD products they’re purchasing and ensure they are appropriate for pet consumption and THC-free.

Some products can be a little misleading, so it’s important to know what to look for on the packaging so you can be sure your pet is consuming CBD wellness support and not THC.


Hemp-derived CBD products are made from a plant that cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC. While a hemp-derived product won’t necessarily qualify as “THC-free,” you can still rest assured that any CBD oil for pets that have been extracted from an industrial hemp plant won’t contain enough THC to be a risk for your pet.


When doing your research and shopping for CBD pet products, you will likely see the label “THC-free” on some CBD products. Since we know hemp-derived CBD legally must be less than 0.3 percent THC, what does this THC-free label mean, exactly?

THC-free is defined as undetectable at the lowest level which can be consistently detected using valid scientific analytical tools. This definition means every effort has been made to remove as many THC molecules from the product as possible.

Veterinarian Formulated

While this label doesn’t guarantee a THC-free product (only the THC-free label can do that), it can provide peace of mind. An animal expert wouldn’t design a product for pets with dangerous amounts of THC.

Certificate of Analysis

A certificate of analysis is a report from a third-party, independent laboratory that says, “The ingredients listed on this product are actually the ingredients in this product.” It’s a guarantee that there are no surprises in your pet CBD product, and the company is being honest and transparent about its formulas.

A white and brown dog sits beside a bag of cbd treats

CBD Products for Pets

When people think of THC and pot, they often think of smoking the dried flower of the cannabis plant. As the recreational and medicinal marijuana industries have grown, delivery methods have expanded to include many other products, including snacks, gummies, topicals, and tinctures.

It’s true of the CBD industry as well. Your pet can’t (and shouldn’t!) smoke, so there are lots of other ways to deliver the wellness benefits of CBD to Shadow and Sparky.


Your pet can eat their daily serving of CBD in a lot of ways – this might include CBD treats for dogs or CBD chews for cats. You can also consider specialized edible formulas for your pet’s wellness routine, like CBD hip+joint chews for dogs and CBD kidney support chews for cats. Ingesting CBD every day can be a great way to maintain your pet’s healthy lifestyle. There’s even CBD peanut butter!


Topical CBD balm is a great way to apply CBD to specific parts of your pet’s skin, like noses, elbows, and paws.


CBD oil tinctures for cats and CBD oil tinctures for dogs are an easy way to administer CBD to your pet. A little plastic dropper means you can put the CBD oil right into your pet’s mouth or apply their serving to their food at meal times or even to a treat you have in your pantry. CBD tinctures give pet parents many choices and make it easy to adapt their methods if something isn’t working or their pet’s diet changes.

CBD vs THC for Your Pet’s Health

The difference between CBD and THC is very clear, and it’s an important consideration for your pet’s health. Now that you know what these compounds are and how they affect your pet, you have the power to select the best CBD products to keep your pets happy and healthy for years to come.