A Guide to CBD for Dogs
Updated: Aug 7
This guide is intended to inform, inspire, and answer some of the most common questions people have about CBD for dogs.
If your dog is suffering from any type of medical condition or health concern, you have likely considered trying CBD oil, but as most concerned dog owners would be, you probably have questions about this latest trend. You want your pet to feel better, but there seems to be a lot of conflicting information about what CBD can and cannot do for your canine companion.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol—a naturally-occurring cannabinoid sourced from the cannabis sativa plant. It is one of over 100 such compounds found in the cannabis plant and is one of the most widely studied in terms of its therapeutic benefits.
Often, when people think of cannabis, their mind turns to THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). This well-known cannabinoid is best known for its psychoactive effects and is responsible for the high that users experience when they smoke or ingest it. It is found in high concentrations in the marijuana plant, a variety of flowering cannabis known for its intoxicating buds.
While cannabidiol (CBD) can also be obtained from marijuana, it is primarily sourced from the hemp variety of cannabis and more specifically, from industrial hemp plants that have been carefully bred to have high concentrations of cannabidiol. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause any mind-altering effects and will not make your pet (or you) stoned. Moreover, there is a lot of research to indicate that it may help with many common conditions in dogs.
How Does CBD Work for Dogs?
CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). If you never learned about this system in high school biology, you are not alone. It was only discovered in the early 1990's. However, its discovery has been no small matter.
The ECS is a complex system of chemicals and corresponding receptors that can be found in all mammals. This vast signaling network is responsible for some of the most vital functions of the body including temperature, appetite, memory, inflammation, pain, mood, reproduction, immunity, and more.
It consists of two primary cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2 receptors, found throughout the brain and body. CBD interacts with these receptors both directly and indirectly to maintain homeostasis within the body.
The canine endocannabinoid system is nearly identical to the human ECS except that dogs have more CB1 receptors in the cerebellum. THC is an agonist of CB1 receptors, which accounts for a dog’s extra sensitivity to the compound. In fact, you should never give your pets THC as it is by no means a pleasant experience either physically or emotionally for them.
CBD does not interact directly with CB1 receptors, making it a safe option for your pet. Instead, it influences them to do their job of maintaining balance to restore optimum health, an interaction that accounts for CBD’s seeming ability to work wonders for so many different conditions.
What Conditions Can CBD Help With in Dogs?
Before giving an overview of some of the conditions which CBD may help with in your four-legged friend, it is essential to point out that research on cannabinoids is still in the early stages. Cannabis is a complex and fascinating plant, and the ECS is just beginning to be fully understood.
While there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence regarding dogs that have experienced remarkable outcomes after being given CBD, this guide will cover only a few of the many common conditions that CBD might potentially treat in canines.
Inflammation and Pain
Inflammation and chronic pain are common conditions in dogs, particularly as they get older. Arthritis, dysplasia, and other ailments can cause significant discomfort to your dog and be distressing to you as well.
One of the most promising recent studies in this area was conducted by Cornell University last year. CBD was administered to 16 dogs with osteoarthritis in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study. The results were remarkable. 80% of the subjects showed signs of decreased pain and increased mobility
CBD has also shown great promise as a potential treatment for neuropathic pain in both animals and humans.
It is not hard to find compelling video footage of pet owners administering a dose of CBD to their seizing dogs with what appears to be miraculous results. However, there is scientific evidence to back this up as well.
CBD has shown to have remarkable results for children with intractable seizure disorders, and the first FDA approved cannabinoid-based drugs was approved in 2018 for this purpose.
At Colorado State University, a team of researchers led by Dr. Stephanie McGrath has been looking into the effectiveness and safety of treating epileptic dogs with CBD. The findings were presented in July 2018 to the American Veterinary Medical Association. 89 percent of the subjects who received CBD had fewer seizures than 20 percent of the subjects who were given a placebo. These promising results highlight the importance of continuing research in this area for both animals and humans. A second study by the same team is underway.
Any discussion about CBD and cancer should be approached with caution. Giving people false hope about any life-threatening condition in their pet is not only unkind but hurts the overall reputability of veterinary science.
Early research does seem to suggest that CBD shows promise in the treatment of several types of cancers, but it may be many years before there is enough research for anyone to definitively claim CBD as a cure for cancer.
Like people, some dogs are simply more prone to anxiety. A dog’s sensitivity to noise can become a problem during thunderstorms or fireworks, as many pet owners can attest. Some pets suffer from abandonment issues that can cause behavioral problems and even aggression. The underlying mechanism involved in these issues is the mammalian fight or flight response.
There is good reason to be hopeful that your dog’s anxiety may be helped with the use of CBD.
A study in 2016 illustrated that mice who had been treated with CBD displayed a reduction in fear responses related to memory formation and another study conducted on rats backed this up, showing that CBD helped to block the threat response.
Moreover, CBD’s anti-anxiety effect on humans has been widely documented, and a 2015 review concluded that it has tremendous potential in treating anxiety disorders of all types, including PTSD.
The Legalities and Safety of CBD For Dogs
Currently, CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC are legal at the federal level with some exceptions at the state level, so it is always best to check the laws in your state before purchasing CBD products. However, as was stated earlier, dogs are more sensitive to THC than humans, so even this trace amount might not be good for your pet. Opt instead for a CBD oil for dogs that is THC free like an isolate or broad-spectrum CBD tincture.
Cannabidiol has been recognized by the
World Health Organization as being safe and well tolerated in humans and animals, and there have been no reports of public health issues regarding CBD.
Self-reported side effects have included dry mouth, drowsiness, upset stomach, and lowered blood pressure.
CBD may react with certain drugs, so if your pet is taking medication, you should consult with your veterinarian before administration to avoid potential side effects.
Specific CBD Dosing Instructions for Dogs
The amount of CBD animals need is much lower than what humans use. We have created a detailed dosing guide here to help you determine the right serving size for your dog.
CBD may very well prove to be one of the most important discoveries to date in the holistic health sector. As more people turn to this all-natural compound to support their own health and that of their pets, doctors and veterinarians are also becoming more informed about its benefits.
Although more research is needed, there is enough evidence to say that CBD could be a valuable addition to your dog’s daily health regimen.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.