I-TEAM: 'If I could go back': Woman who fed CBD treats to dogs has regrets after one of them dies

Phoebe passed away after eating a dog treat with CBD. (Source: WRDW)
Phoebe passed away after eating a dog treat with CBD. (Source: WRDW)(WRDW)
Published: Feb. 24, 2020 at 3:15 PM EST
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Monday, Feb. 24, 2020

News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- From bath bombs and gummies to creams and oils, the list of CBD and hemp products seems never ending.

There's even hemp and CBD products for dogs marketed as "calming" for anxious pets.

Some pet owners swear it really helps to calm their furry friends, but some local vets are questioning its safety.

Dorinda Phillips rescued her pups. Like many rescues, her's suffered from anxiety. She thought giving them a "calming treat" would help. Instead, she says it sickened one and killed the other.

"It's been rough. It's been lonely,” Phillips said.

Phillips feels as empty as the bed on her floor.

"I rescued her to take care of her and now I got to live with it,” Phillips said. “I was responsible for giving her something that killed her."

Phillips rescued Phoebe and her sister, Hannah. Phoebe was the tinier of the two.

“She was a spitfire,” Phillips said. “She was 2.5 pounds and nobody could touch her but me."

Phoebe was tiny but mighty and fiercely protective.

"I have lupus,” Phillips said. “There are days I can barely get out of bed. My little Phoebe was always there."

Phillips uses CBD to help with her condition. She didn't think twice when a CBD sales representative handed her a complimentary bag of Happy Tails "Calming Treats" by Charleston Hemp Company. The package reads 5 milligrams of full spectrum hemp is in each treat.

She gave one to Hannah in hopes it would help her anxiety.

“I gave one to her one night and I saw immediately she was calmer,” Phillips said. “The next night I gave her one and I saw she was a little too calm."

The next morning, Phillips said she found both her girls dazed and violently ill.

"Neither one of them could get out of their cage,” Phillips said. “They were stumbling, walking in circles -- one of them collapsed."

There was nothing the vet could do to save Phoebe.

"When Phoebe came to looking at me fearful because she knew something was wrong,” Phillips said.

Her vet wrote, "Phoebe who had cardiac problems did not respond and euthanized. Hannah is still been very sick. These dogs have been adversely effected by ingestion of CBD products."

"She said it is definitely a CBD overdose, and I did go get a second opinion from a second vet in Columbia County and he said he had over four in Columbia County overdose -- dogs from CBD -- and my little Phoebe would have been five,” Phillips said.

The second vet documented Hannah "OD on CBD cookies", writing "she is throwing up water" and "seems very weak." There is not a toxicology report.

"It horrifies me that someone's animal died,” said Dr. Chip Mathis and David Bulick of the Charleston Hemp Company said. “I don't necessarily think it's because of our product."

Regardless, both pulled the treats from their website after the FDA released this warning: "Pet owners: CBD is not generally recognized as safe for pet food."

"I disagree with that,” Mathis said. “Cornell has done multiple studies. CBD and Hemp extract in dogs for anxiety and arthritis with only positive results."

It's actively working to learn more about the safety of CBD and CBD products, including the risks in certain species and breeds.

"I wish there would be some FDA regulations,” Phillips said. “People need to know just because it's in the bag and says, ‘good for your pet’ -- they need to be aware they need to check dosages think about the age of the dog."

Hannah is still recovering from both her illness and losing her sister.

"She misses Phoebe a lot,” Phillips said. “They had their own little room. They had a bed they shared together."

Phoebe was Phillips’ favorite hello and her hardest goodbye.

“If I could go back,” Phillips said.

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