Dog in window

CBD for Anxiety in Cats & Dogs

You leave the house to go to work and come home to a scratched up sofa. You nix the party because your dog cowers and hides whenever he hears fireworks. These scenarios are the reality for many people who have pets with anxiety, but it doesn't have to be this way. We already know CBD can be a good anti-anxiety therapy for humans, but can we use CBD for cats with anxiety? And what about dogs?

Anxiety in Dogs and Cats 

The most common type of pet anxiety is separation anxiety. But dogs and cats can also experience anxiety around loud noises, new routines, or new environments 1 Overall, K. L., Dunham, A. E., & Frank, D. (2001). Frequency of nonspecific clinical signs in dogs with separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia, and noise phobia, alone or in combination. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 219(4). . Sometimes, an animal can acclimate to whatever is happening and calm down on their own. However, a combination of factors, such as improper socialization, training, and introductions, might lead to escalating anxiety. When this happens, you may come home to ripped up trash bags, complaints from the neighbors, and even an injured cat or dog. Symptoms and behaviors caused by pet anxiety can get so bad that some people are forced to rehome their pets.

Social Animals Get Separation Anxiety

Dogs are social creatures. They are the descendants of wolves who lived, and still live, in a strict social hierarchy. Human social groups and wolf social groups have a lot in common, which is probably why we were able to domesticate the dog. In a wolf pack, the animals work together and fulfill their roles for the group to survive. Alphas are the leaders; omegas are at the bottom. But what really holds a wolf family together is the emotional bond they have with each other. When we bring a dog into our home, we become its pack. It’s not normal for pack members to go to work and leave the others behind. Remember, wolves hunt together! This cooperation is why dogs abandoned at shelters, left in kennels at the vet’s office, or left alone at home develop separation anxiety 2 Flannigan, G., & Dodman, N. H. (2001). Risk factors and behaviors associated with separation anxiety in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 219(4). .

 

Being social and learning who is in your pack starts at a very young age. Puppies are open to socialization and new pack members from 6 – 13 weeks old; kittens experience this from 2-7 weeks. Both baby animals will call out to their moms if they’re left alone. And they often experience mild separation anxiety when they go home with new human owners. It takes time for them to create new social attachments to a person.

 

Cats aren’t as social as dogs, but they are sociable animals. They tend to have a broader range of individual preferences too. Some cats are almost like dogs and follow their owners around. Some cats are okay to be left alone for most of the day but still want to get in those few minutes of petting or cuddling. Even if your cat is relatively self-sufficient, you may be considering CBD for cats with anxiety related to going to the vet or groomer.

Emotional Connection and Anxiety

An emotional connection is a two-way street. People are also emotionally attached to their new pets and unwilling to leave a puppy or kitten behind. At the beginning of the animal-human relationships, this reluctance sets the stage for separation anxiety later on in the animal’s life. Most dogs figure out that there are certain things their humans do before leaving. These include packing a bag, putting on shoes, or even turning off the lights. Therefore, the anxiety starts while you’re at home and just keeps getting worse after you leave 3 Schwartz, S. (2003). Separation anxiety syndrome in dogs and cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 222(11). .

 

You may notice that your dog or cat paces or whines while you get ready to leave the house. Our natural reaction is to give the animal attention and say things like, “Baby, it’s okay, I’ll be home soon.” Unfortunately, our pets don’t understand English, and our reaction only makes the pacing or whining worse. So, even before you’re gone, the anxiety starts to build in your pet.


Since an animal’s first instinct is to call out to pack members when they’re left alone, barking and loud meowing are among the most common signs of separation anxiety. Vets call this vocalization, and it includes everything from whining to barking to howling. Yes, cats can howl, quite loudly at times.


Other common signs and symptoms of separation anxiety include:

  • Defecating in inappropriate places
  • Destroying personal items or furniture
  • Self-mutilation via excessive licking or grooming
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Aggression, such as biting or nipping

What Causes Anxiety, and Can CBD Help?

Anxiety is a complex process that happens in the brains of many animals, from mice to humans. The hippocampus, thalamus, and amygdala all play a role in processing information from the outside world. When something unexpected, new, or possibly life-threatening happens, animals’ brains slam on the brakes.


This “braking” translates to animals freezing or hiding when they’re anxious. As the anxiety escalates and stress hormones increase their heart rate and blood pressure, the behavior changes to panting, respiratory distress (whining), and losing control of their bowels and defecating 4 Steimer T. (2002). The biology of fear- and anxiety-related behaviors. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 4(3), 231–249. .


Since anxiety is mostly neurological, it makes sense that cannabidiol or CBD may help calm an animal down. Scientists have found cannabis receptors on the nerve and brain cells of animals. Dogs have more receptors than humans, and they have a much more robust response to cannabis products. Cats have fewer receptors than dogs, so this changes the CBD oil for cats anxiety dosage.


The goal of CBD on nerve cells is the same no matter what animal we’re talking about. This cannabis chemical is an inhibitor. When nerves sense anxiety signals, CBD can help soften or turn down the volume. If you’re trying to train or recondition your dog or cat, adding CBD might be helpful. For example, dog trainers and vets often suggest crate training a dog. But to do this correctly, your dog needs to be in a calm state before he goes in. CBD can help by relaxing the animal sooner than it would typically take. Using CBD dog treats for anxiety, you may be able to practice this exercise several times throughout the day instead of spending most of the time waiting for your pup to calm down.

What CBD Products Can I Give My Pet? 

There are currently two veterinarian-approved ways to treat anxiety in dogs and cats – retrain the animal or give them a prescription for antidepressants or sedatives 5 Gruen, M. E., & Sherman, B. L. (2008). Use of trazodone as an adjunctive agent in the treatment of canine anxiety disorders: 56 cases (1995–2007). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 233(12). . The former takes time and patience. The latter leaves your pet dopey, groggy, and lethargic. Using CBD for dogs with anxiety helps make the retraining process less stressful for you and them. Using CBD for cats with anxiety might translate to a cat that isn’t drooling in her crate every time for hours or disoriented during a flight.

Treats and Chews

Using treats with specific dosages is the easiest way to turn a scary situation into a fun one accompanied by a yummy snack. If you’re just entertaining the idea of using CBD for your pet, it’s easier to start with a company that sells different types pet products for you to compare. Companies like Treatibles make an assortment of products, from treats to tinctures to oils. American Shaman also sells a variety of pet products, like their Kitty Nugs with CBD for cats with anxiety and their Doggy Snacks or Doggy Nugs. Finally, Populum is another company that makes CBD dog treats for anxiety, but their dosages are lower than the other two companies, so their products are ideal for small dogs. Remember, just like humans, start low and go slow when you first start giving your pet CBD products.


Tinctures and Oils

If your pet turns his nose up at treats, then you can try tinctures or oils that mix easily into their food. You’ll have to coordinate feedings with the times you leave the house, but these CBD products are absorbed more readily into the animal’s body. Tinctures, especially, contain water-soluble CBD, increasing absorption efficiency. Green Gorilla and NuLeaf are two companies that make pet CBD oil. Measurements are written on the bottles so that you can adjust the dosage based on your pet’s size and weight.

CBD Oil for Pet Anxiety FAQs

Is CBD oil good for cats with anxiety?

There aren’t many studies specifically on cats and CBD use; however, the ones that exist do seem to show that cannabidiol is safe and has calming effects on the animals. Scientists did note in one study that cats metabolize CBD differently than dogs and humans. So if you’re using CBD oil for your cat’s anxiety, dosage changes might be required 6 Deabold, K. A., Schwark, W. S., Wolf, L., & Wakshlag, J. J. (2019). Single-Dose Pharmacokinetics and Preliminary Safety Assessment with Use of CBD-Rich Hemp Nutraceutical in Healthy Dogs and Cats. Animals : an open access journal from MDPI, 9(10), 832. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100832 .

Is CBD safe for dogs with anxiety? 
How much CBD oil should I give my dog for anxiety?

Dosages for CBD oil should be printed on the packaging of the product. You can calculate dosages using the table or chart that comes with the product.

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