In recent years there's been a growing trend in the therapeutic use of cannabis for people, but can dogs and cats benefit from it too? The answer is "yes, but..."
There are three species of cannabis but only one, c. indica, that contains high levels of THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid. The other two species, c. sativa and c. ruderalis, have extremely low levels of THC, but are very high in CBD (cannabidiol), the cannabinoid used in therapeutic animal supplements. Cannabinoid refers to a class of over 60 chemicals found in cannabis.
Hemp, like marijuana, is one of the many common names of cannabis, however, hemp is actually a specific class of cannabis. The primary criteria of this classification is that the THC level must be 0.3% or lower — well below the 10-15% needed to induce a psychoactive effect. C. sativa is the species used to make pet supplements.
While hemp has a long history of many uses, it's the cannabinoid CBD along with flavonoids (a group of plant-based compounds that have antioxidant effects) and terpenes (aromatic compounds that help modulate phytocannabinoids) found in hemp that work together to ease pain and inflammation, stimulate appetite, maintain a healthy GI tract, and promote a calm demeanor.
CBD hemp supplements for animals are not the same as the medical marijuana available at dispensaries for people. The products designed for human use are not approved for use in animals because they typically contain high levels of THC.
One final note: CBD hemp medicine is not a cure-all and correct dosing depends on your pet's age, weight, and medical condition. It's usually best to start out with the smallest dose possible. It's even better to use it in conjunction with current medications and therapies, all under the direction of your vet.