But the scientific research into the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on canines is only just taking off. While the results do look promising, keep in mind that researchers still need to conduct large scale studies. There are so many questions that still need to be answered. What are the effects of CBD in dogs, and are there any risks? What does science say about CBD-use compared to traditional medicine? Do vets recommend it, and what is the correct CBD dosage for dogs? What should you look for if you decide to give CBD a try?
Is CBD Oil for Dogs Safe?
Pet owners just want to know that CBD is safe for their dogs. Regardless of how effective it may be in treating canine conditions, we want to make sure our fur babies won’t be harmed. Since the research in this field is quite new, there are only a handful of studies out there to rely on. Most of these studies looked at the different side effects of CBD, CBD/THC, and THC oil. As you may already know, THC is the chemical that gives people the feeling of being “high.” It can have serious side effects on dogs and can even lead to death 2, 3 1. Meola, S.D., Tearney, C.C., Haas, S.A., Hackett, T.B. and Mazzaferro, E.M. (2012), Evaluation of trends in marijuana toxicosis in dogs living in a state with legalized medical marijuana: 125 dogs (2005–2010). Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 22: 690-696. doi:10.1111/j.1476-4431.2012.00818.x . Luckily, the studies on CBD are much more promising.
The side effects of CBD, while mild, do still exist. They include soft stool, tiredness, vomiting, hiccups, slow movement or reaction time, itchy skin, and sometimes even a runny nose or slower breathing rate 4, 5 1. Vaughn, D., Kulpa, J., & Paulionis, L. (2020). Preliminary Investigation of the Safety of Escalating Cannabinoid Doses in Healthy Dogs. Frontiers in veterinary science, 7, 51. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.00051 . There are concerns that CBD, like any drug, might be hard on the liver, kidneys, and other important organs. However, blood results showed that CBD-dosed dogs had organs that were able to process the drug without any issues 5, 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 .
The hope is that CBD could eventually replace traditional medication. For example, dogs with band joints or bone cancer live in constant pain. They’re given medication that is hard on the kidneys, and oftentimes, these drugs don’t even work that well. Using CBD for dogs with cancer or dogs in chronic pain may give them a better quality of life without the harmful side effects.
What Are the Benefits of CBD Oil for Dogs?
In many countries, where legalized marijuana is widely used, scientists have started to look into the effects of CBD on dogs 3, 4, 7, 8 1. Fitzgerald, K. T., Bronstein, A. C., & Newquist, K. L. (2013). Marijuana Poisoning. Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, 28(1), 8–12. doi: 10.1053/j.tcam.2013.03.004 . The focus of these studies has been on diseases that humans also suffer from, such as joint pain, seizures, and anxiety 9 1. Crippa, J. A., Guimarães, F. S., Campos, A. C., & Zuardi, A. W. (2018). Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. Frontiers in immunology, 9, 2009. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009 . Because dogs are mammals, just like humans, their body systems are similar to ours. It’s not too far-fetched to think that CBD oil might benefit them also.
Possible Benefits of CBD Oil for Dogs
- Reduced Joint Pain & Stiffness 6 1. Gamble, L. J., Boesch, J. M., Frye, C. W., Schwark, W. S., Mann, S., Wolfe, L., Brown, H., Berthelsen, E. S., & Wakshlag, J. J. (2018). Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Frontiers in veterinary science, 5, 165. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2018.00165
- Reduction in Seizure Frequency 8 1. Mcgrath, S., Bartner, L. R., Rao, S., Packer, R. A., & Gustafson, D. L. (2019). Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of oral cannabidiol administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 254(11), 1301–1308. doi: 10.2460/javma.254.11.1301
- Decreased Anxiety
CBD Oil for Dogs with Joint Pain
In 2018, a group of vets at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine decided to investigate the effectiveness of CBD for chronic joint pain in dogs 6 1. Gamble, L. J., Boesch, J. M., Frye, C. W., Schwark, W. S., Mann, S., Wolfe, L., Brown, H., Berthelsen, E. S., & Wakshlag, J. J. (2018). Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Frontiers in veterinary science, 5, 165. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2018.00165 . Like humans, dogs have a specific system, the endocannabinoid system, that works with the nervous system and interacts with cannabis chemicals such as CBD. “In 10 1. Di Marzo, V., & Piscitelli, F. (2015). The Endocannabinoid System and its Modulation by Phytocannabinoids. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 692–698. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0374-6 . The Cornell study results showed that CBD did help relieve joint pain, and the dogs were more active after just 2 weeks of daily use. In this case, CBD oil for dogs was provided at a dose of 2 mg/kg, every 12 hours.
CBD Oil for Treating Dogs with Seizures
Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences published a study in 2019 on the effects of CBD for 12 dogs with seizures 8 1. Mcgrath, S., Bartner, L. R., Rao, S., Packer, R. A., & Gustafson, D. L. (2019). Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of oral cannabidiol administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 254(11), 1301–1308. doi: 10.2460/javma.254.11.1301 . Since the brain is full of endocannabinoid receptors, it makes sense that CBD may have an anti-seizure effect. We already know this is true in humans because there is an FDA-approved synthetic CBD drug (Epidiolex) that is used to treat certain types of epilepsy in children 11 1. Cannabidiol (Epidiolex) for epilepsy. Med Lett Drugs Ther. 2018;60(1559):182‐184. . The researchers at Colorado State University found that CBD significantly reduced seizures in dogs; however, there was a catch. This treatment works better when there is more CBD in the dogs’ bloodstream, but not all the dogs had the same amount of CBD. Whether this was due to a dosage or absorption issue, scientists still aren’t sure. In this study, the CBD dosage for dogs was 2.5 mg/kg, twice daily over 12 weeks.
CBD for Dogs with Anxiety
Though it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes anxiety, we know that this condition has to do with the brain. Once again, an organ that is full of endocannabinoid receptors should respond to CBD. One of the biggest hurdles with anxiety in dogs is that they can’t talk to us about how they are feeling, so vets have to look for other signs. Three prominent vet schools in the US sent out a collaborative survey asking 2100 vets to report observations of CBD-dosed dogs 12 1. Kogan, L., Schoenfeld-Tacher, R., Hellyer, P., & Rishniw, M. (2019). US Veterinarians’ Knowledge, Experience, and Perception Regarding the Use of Cannabidiol for Canine Medical Conditions. Frontiers in veterinary science, 5, 338. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2018.00338 . Only a small percentage actually said they saw changes in the animals’ behaviors. Ten percent of the vets said 1 out of 10 dogs experienced polyphagia, that’s a fancy term for “getting the munchies”. And almost a third of the vets said that 1 out of 10 dogs seemed sedated.
In many of the studies, scientists gave the dogs a placebo as a way to compare the effects of CBD oil for dogs versus regular oil. An interesting pattern emerged. Giving dogs regular oil caused many of the same side effects as CBD oil. Things like soft stool or diarrhea, and vomiting, appeared in both groups. This makes it difficult to tell what exactly is causing the negative side effects, the CBD or the oil.
Best CBD Dosage for Dogs
You’ve probably heard the advice “start low and go low” when using cannabis for the first time. You can say the same thing about CBD oil and dogs. The best study to look at is the one from Cornell University that was mentioned above for pain relief for dogs with osteoarthritis or joint problems. The dogs in these trials were clients of the vet hospital and they took 2 mg of CBD per kg, twice a day, or every 12 hours. Of course, if you feel like this is too much, you can always try a lower dose than you’re comfortable with.
Most commercial products are at a much, much lower dosage than the 2 mg/kg used by these studies. This isn’t a bad thing! This is a chance for you to do some experimenting of your own. CBD pet brands like Holistapet recommend a CBD dosage for dogs of about 0.5-1 mg/kg. This brand has a handy dosage calculator on their website, where you can enter which of their pet products you’re using and your pet’s information to help determine the right CBD dosage.
Before you start introducing CBD oil to your dog, take note of the number of times your dog displays a behavior that shows that he/she is in pain or anxious; that is your baseline now. After giving your dog the CBD treat or oil, continue to observe and record those same behaviors. Do they happen more often? At the same frequency? Or have they decreased? Based on this information, you’ll know whether to increase or decrease the dosage.
How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Dogs
Many people refer to the CBD industry as the Wild West when it comes to regulations. Therefore, it’s important to look for 2 things to make sure that you’re getting the best CBD for your dog: a third-party Certificate of Analysis (COA) and a product that has been properly labeled according to FDA non-medication, non-dietary supplement, and non-food guidelines. A product review that looked at 29 CBD pet products showed that only twenty-two out of 29 of the products had a certificate of analysis by a third-party lab 13 1. Wakshlag, J. J., Cital, S., Eaton, S. J., Prussin, R., & Hudalla, C. (2020). Cannabinoid, Terpene, and Heavy Metal Analysis of 29 Over-the-Counter Commercial Veterinary Hemp Supplements. Veterinary medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 11, 45–55. https://doi.org/10.2147/VMRR.S248712 . This means that someone, not on the company’s payroll, analyzed their product to make sure that it doesn’t contain more than 0.3% THC (the legal limit). The certification can also determine if the product is pure and does not contain toxic contaminants such as heavy metals and pesticides. Other things to look for include the origins of the cannabis plant itself and the growing process. The safest bet is always going to be with USDA organic hemp. These farmers must follow strict guidelines when it comes to pesticide, insecticide, and herbicide use for growing hemp. Fewer synthetic chemicals in the growing process, means they are less likely to show up in the processed oils.
Brands We Recommend: Best CBD for Dogs
Transparency is key to finding the best CBD oil for dogs. Look for companies that use locally grown, organic hemp, and that makes it easy for customers to review their COA lab reports. Treatibles is an example of a company that not only sells a variety of CBD products, from oils to treats to capsules, but their COA reports are easy to find and review. Their hemp is 100% USDA organic and a third-party lab checks all their products for heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, and other harmful substances. Highland Pharms is another great company that offers CBD treats for dogs (small and large sizes available), as well as Hemp Oil Drops of varying strengths for pets. Remember, always check with a licensed veterinarian before providing CBD to your furry friend, and keep any medicated treats locked away safely from pets that might like to over-indulge given the chance.