By Dr Andrew McKay
ZamiPet Head Veterinarian & General Manager of Animal Health
One of the most common questions I’m asked now as a vet is whether Hemp products are safe and suitable for dogs, and do they actually deliver any discernible health benefits. There are many commercially available human and animal supplements in Australia now using Hemp products. There is also considerable confusion regarding this now-ubiquitous ingredient, especially in relation to the numerous products associated with the Hemp plant.
Hemp products – what’s the difference?
You’ve probably heard of the following Hemp products: Hemp Seed Oil, Hemp Seed Protein, CBD Oil and THC Oil. All of these products are extracted from components of the Hemp plant – Cannabis sativa – for a variety of different uses. The availability of each product in Australia is dependent upon its current legal and/or regulatory status:
Hemp Seed Oil for dogs
Hemp Seed Oil comes from the seed of the Hemp plant, which produces a protein-rich plant oil containing approximately 30% oil.
Legal to purchase in Australia and widely used in many health supplements for humans and animals, Hemp Seed Oil contains vitamins and minerals plus Omega fatty acids Omega-6 and Omega-3. The body doesn’t produce essential Omega fatty acids so they need to be consumed in the diet. There are many different types of Omega fats which provide different health benefits and it’s important to get the right balance between them.
The right balance of Omegas in your dog’s diet
Domestic animals should have an Omega ratio of around 3:1 as part of a balanced diet i.e. 3-parts Omega-6 to one-part Omega-3. The majority of commercial dog foods contain significantly more Omega-6 than Omega-3 so the diet of most dogs contains well above the ideal 3:1 ratio. Hemp Seed Oil is likewise rich with Omega-6 (approx. 60%) and a smaller ratio of Omega-3 (approx. 30%). Adding a supplement to your dog’s diet containing Hemp Seed Oil can further exacerbate this imbalance for your pet.
Different Omegas provide different health benefits
Not all Omega fatty acids are created equal, nor do they all offer equal benefits. There are a number of different types of Omega-3 and Omega-6. The ones found in Hemp Seed Oil and Hemp Seed Protein are explained in the table below:
Notably, Hemp Seed Oil and Hemp Seed Protein do not contain the important Omega-3 fatty acids Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that support heart, eye and brain health in dogs. Omega-3 EPA & DHA also have strong anti-inflammatory properties which can provide relief from arthritis at the right dose and assist in improving skin and coat condition. DHA & EPA may also help alleviate symptoms associated with age-related decline.
Hemp Seed Protein for dogs
Also extracted from Hemp seeds minus the oil component, Hemp Seed Protein contains a variety of fats including Omegas (same as Hemp Seed Oil), dietary fibre, essential Amino Acids and a small amount of carbohydrate.
The Amino Acid content in Hemp Seed Protein contains very small amounts of tryptophan. L-tryptophan has been known to help reduce the signs of stress and anxiety in dogs however the inclusion rate in Hemp Seed Protein commercial supplements is generally not enough to provide a beneficial health effect.
ZamiPet supplements contain the right combination of ingredients at optimal levels to deliver the desired health benefit
Unlike current supplements using Hemp Seed Oil and Hemp Seed Protein, products in the ZamiPet range contain the more beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids with DHA & EPA for their numerous health benefits including:
- Osteoarthritis symptom relief
Support for brain, joint, heart and kidney health
- Helping alleviate symptoms associated with age-related decline
ZamiPet Relax & Calm is specially formulated L-Tryptophan, Valerian Root, Chamomile and L-Theanine to support a healthy nervous system and help assist with symptoms of stress and anxiety. ZamiPet Joint Protect contains Chondroitin and Glucosamine, plus Hyaluronic Acid and MSM, to support and maintain joint function in dogs.
CBD Oil for dogs
CBD Oil or Cannabidiol (or CBD) is one of the many naturally occurring cannabinoids also found in the Hemp plant. CBD Oil is mainly extracted from the flowers, leaves and stems of the Hemp plant.
Whilst currently illegal to buy over the counter in pet retail stores in Australia, CBD Oil can be prescribed by Australian veterinarians as long as it contains no, or very little, THC (see below for more information on THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol).
Some human studies indicate CBD Oil may be beneficial for humans to treat a wide range of ailments including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, arthritis, insomnia and epilepsy. Limited research has been undertaken for dogs specifically, however studies have demonstrated CBD Oil can help alleviate osteoarthritis pain and may be useful in reducing seizure frequency in epileptic dogs and possibly anxiety. Anecdotal evidence suggests dogs suffering from anxiety or pain (from arthritis or other chronic pain) have shown improvement on CBD.
Currently there are no products containing CBD Oil that are registered or permitted by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) for use in animals in Australia.
CBD Oil should not be confused with products containing THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) or THC Oil. THC Oil, another cannabinoid found in the Hemp plant, is the compound that causes the ‘high’ (psychoactive effect) from cannabis. THC products are illegal in Australia and should never be given to dogs.
Dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains than humans and other animals, therefore the effects of THC Oil are more severe and potentially more toxic. Clinical signs can develop within minutes to hours and can last for days. The effects focus on the depression of the central nervous system so signs include incoordination with animals often not being able to walk, low heart rate, respiratory difficulty and in extreme cases, seizures.
Hemp supplements for dogs – yes or no?
Supplements for dogs containing Hemp Seed Oil or Hemp Seed Protein:
Animal health supplements currently available in Australia do not generally contain the right type of Omegas or the right inclusion levels of Hemp Seed to deliver the purported health benefits for dogs. Importantly, the APVMA states that safe and non-therapeutic levels in pets have not been established.
Over the counter products are not currently legal in Australia. CBD Oil should only be used under strict supervision of a veterinarian.
THC products are illegal in Australia and should never be given to dogs.