CBD for Dogs: Everything You Need to Know
In certain states, medical marijuana is an option for people seeking relief from ailments like seizures, pain, anxiety, and cancer.
Pet parents and veterinarians alike are naturally wondering whether cbd for dogs, in the form of products such as cbd oil for dogs or cbd dog treats, can provide the same benefits.
Here’s everything you need to know about CBD for dogs.
THC vs. CBD for Dogs
CBD is one of over 80 different chemical compounds called “cannabinoids” that have been derived from the cannabis (marijuana) plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), perhaps the most famous cannabinoid, CBD is not psychoactive.
Instead, CBD shares important metabolic pathways with a class of drugs called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and Rimadyl. These pathways control many processes in the body, from inflammatory responses to blood clotting.
Do not give dogs straight marijuana or any product containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. There is simply not enough research to justify the use.
CBD-based products, however, may help improve your dog’s quality of life when used in conjunction with other therapies.
Why Use CBD for Dogs?
CBD is often mentioned as a useful therapy for a variety of conditions, including pain management, arthritis, anxiety, seizures, and even cancer. Although the use of CBD in treating each of these conditions is under-researched, there are varying levels of scientific evidence for each scenario.
Because CBD shares metabolic pathways with anti-inflammatory drugs, it makes sense that it would help with certain inflammatory conditions (anything that ends with -itis is an inflammatory condition).
Osteoarthritis, often abbreviated as arthritis, is one of the most common inflammatory conditions in dogs.
One in four dogs will be diagnosed with arthritis in their lifetime, and by some estimates, as many as 60% of dogs exhibit some degree of the disease.
Research has shown that CBD can provide substantial pain relief in dogs with arthritis when given twice daily at appropriate doses.
In theory, the anti-inflammatory benefit seen in arthritic dogs could also be seen in dogs with other types of inflammatory pain, especially back pain from intervertebral disc disease (IVDD).
Preliminary studies in people have shown that combo products containing both CBD and THC are more beneficial for pain relief than when either drug is given alone. But no such research has been done on dogs, so THC should not be given to them.
Seizures are probably the most-studied application of CBD in people, but limited research exists for pets. In dogs, seizures can be caused by a vast number of underlying conditions.
With regards to idiopathic epilepsy specifically, there is some research that suggests that CBD could be useful in reducing seizure frequency in these dogs. However, these benefits are only seen with dogs that are given traditional anti-seizure medications at the same time.
Like seizures, the term “cancer” is an umbrella term that refers to an extremely diverse set of specific diseases, each with their own set of beneficial treatments.
In people, CBD has been studied for possible use in cancer patients, both to treat the tumor(s) directly, as well as to treat the secondary symptoms of cancer and chemotherapy. Very limited research has been done on the use of CBD for dogs with cancer.
However, the anti-nausea effects of CBD seen in people who undergo chemotherapy have also been documented in rats and ferrets, suggesting that dogs receiving chemotherapy may benefit from CBD treatment.
Perhaps the biggest misconception is that CBD is useful in managing a dog’s anxiety. In theory, it is possible that CBD, by reducing pain and inflammation, could indirectly reduce anxiety caused by pain or inflammation.
But because CBD is not psychoactive, it is unlikely that CBD has the ability to directly treat canine anxiety in the way that Prozac and other medications do. The use of CBD for anxiety in dogs, as with most conditions, requires substantially more research.
Potential Risks of CBD for Dogs
Overall, CBD itself seems to be incredibly safe in dogs and cats. However, numerous scientific papers have found that when given at the recommended doses, CBD does cause an elevation in an important liver value on bloodwork called alkaline phosphatase (ALP).
We are not yet sure whether the elevation of this liver value has any medical significance. It could signify that CBD causes irritation or damage to the liver. Alternatively, it could be an artificial finding in which the drug interferes with the way the lab measures the liver value.
Anecdotal reports do exist of dogs becoming somewhat sleepy or sedate if they receive extremely large doses of CBD, but those effects appear to resolve on their own with time.
CBD doesn’t appear to have any drug interactions when it’s given to a dog that’s on an anti-inflammatory drug like Rimadyl.
Because there is a theoretical risk of drug interaction, as with any medication, you should consult your veterinarian first before treating your dog with CBD.
THC Dangers for Dogs
Unlike CBD, THC ingestion can cause serious problems for your pet.
“The most significant [issue] is THC toxicity, meaning, essentially, they are high,” says Dr. Gary Richter, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California. “Depending on how significantly a pet has been overdosed, the effects of that can be quite long-lasting, even days.”
During these episodes, a pet may not be able to stand or eat. If you suspect THC toxicity, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately. Secondary effects of THC, especially respiratory depression, should be monitored closely to avoid complications.
Overall, life-threatening risks for dogs from cannabis are “exceedingly rare,” Dr. Richter says. There is no documented lethal dose for THC in dogs. In fact, a dose of THC 1,000 times greater than the dose needed for a dog to feel “high” is still not lethal.
THC toxicity more often occurs when a pet has eaten a product that also contains chocolate, coffee, or raisins. “Even if the THC toxicity is not excessive, they can sometimes have problems due to these other ingredients,” says Dr. Richter.
How Much CBD Can You Give Dogs?
Though there are some topical treatments, CBD oil is typically administered orally to dogs, and giving the correct dosage is imperative. “As is the case with any medication, success has everything to do with dosing,” Dr. Richter says.
Studies on using CBD for dogs with arthritis or seizures generally use a dose between 2-8 mg/kg, with most papers erring on the lower side of that estimate (roughly 1-2 milligrams per pound of body weight), twice daily.
This dosage has been found to be both safe and somewhat effective for just the conditions studied (arthritis and seizures). Additional research is needed to evaluate the necessary dosages for CBD in treating other conditions.
One complication in attempting to properly dose dogs with CBD is that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that many CBD products actually contain little, if any, CBD.
The only FDA-approved cannabinoid product, Epidiolex, could theoretically be prescribed by a veterinarian for epilepsy in dogs, although this would likely be cost-prohibitive. Because it is FDA-approved, though, the CBD content of this product would be accurate, unlike most other CBD products on the market.
Can Veterinarians Prescribe CBD for Dogs?
U.S. veterinarians are forbidden from prescribing/dispensing CBD, and cannot encourage or instruct clients to purchase CBD products.
However, they are free to talk to you about the potential risks and benefits of a treatment plan you may have devised on your own. If you are considering giving CBD to your dog, speak to your vet, and you may want to also speak with a veterinarian who has experience with CBD.
CBD Oil for Dogs: What You Need to Know
As with any pet wellness trend, when it comes to CBD oil for dogs, there’s a lot of information floating around the internet, and it’s difficult to know what’s accurate and what’s exaggeration. Of course, you want to do what’s best for your pup, which leads to the question: What do I need to know about CBD oil for dogs?
The AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Jerry Klein, explains what CBD oil is, what it does for dogs, and its safety concerns and potential side effects.
What Is CBD Oil?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in cannabis and hemp. Dr. Klein says it is essential to note that in most cases, CBD oil does not contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. In fact, most CBD products are derived from hemp and not from marijuana.
How Does CBD Affect Dogs?
Currently, there has been no formal study on how CBD affects dogs. What scientists do know is that cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid receptors located in the central and peripheral nervous systems, which help maintain balance in the body and keep it in a normal healthy state.
What Dog Health Problems Can CBD Oil Treat?
While there’s no definitive scientific data on using CBD to treat dogs, there’s anecdotal evidence from dog owners suggesting it can treat pain, especially neuropathic pain, as well as helping to control seizures.
According to Dr. Klein, CBD is also used because of its anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety impact, and for possible anti-cancer benefits, although there’s no conclusive data on this use.
The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) is sponsoring a study through the Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to evaluate the use of CBD in treatment-resistant epileptic dogs. The CHF hopes that this will be the first study to gain scientific data on the use of CBD in dogs with this condition.
Possible Side Effects of CBD in Dogs
While there’s no scientific data on the side effects of CBD usage for dogs, there are potential side effects based on how CBD affects humans. To minimize any potential side effects, make sure you are following the proper dosage.
- Dry mouth: Research has shown that CBD can decrease the production of saliva. For dogs, this would manifest as an increased thirst.
- Lowered blood pressure: High doses of CBD have been known to cause a temporary drop in blood pressure. Even though the drop is small, it might create a brief feeling of light-headedness.
- Drowsiness: Dog owners have used CBD to treat anxiety. The calming effect of CBD can also cause slight drowsiness, especially when using higher doses.
Risks of Using CBD Oil for Dogs
The safety and risks of using CBD for dogs have not yet been researched. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD and has not issued a dosing chart. Therefore, we do not know what size dosage would be toxic. Any medication or supplement carries the risk of a reaction. It is always advisable, when giving your dog something new, to start out with small amounts and then closely monitor the effects. And always check with your veterinarian first.
CBD Products on the Market
If you and your veterinarian decide that you should try CBD as a treatment for your dog, there are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing CBD oil. Not all oils are the same; you’ll want high-quality CBD oil to have a better chance of it working.
- Look for organic. If the CBD oil is not organic, it at least should not contain pesticides, fungicides, or solvents.
- Don’t only shop based on price. Higher quality and purity are usually associated with a higher cost. A cheaper option could contain toxic substances such as pesticides, herbicides, or heavy metals. Make sure your CBD oil is free of additives.
- Get the analysis. The manufacturer should provide a certificate that certifies the amount of CBD that is in the product. Many CBD products contain only small amounts of CBD. You’ll also want to make sure there is little or no THC in the product.
- Buy CBD as a liquid. You can buy dog treats containing CBD, but the best form to administer is an oil or tincture. This way, you can adjust your dog’s dose drop by drop.
The CBD Wellness Trend
Why are we hearing so much about CBD oil now? Dr. Klein points to the legalization of marijuana in many places, which has triggered interest in potential health benefits of marijuana-related products. “We are likely to see continued interest in CBD and an increase in research about its uses and efficacy in the coming years,” he says.
Learn more about the CBD study funded by the Canine Health Foundation.
Innovet created a product line of full-spectrum, pure hemp oils void of dangerous compounds. Their USDA-certified organic oil is formulated especially for animals, and is also third-party tested to ensure consistency and purity. Innovet offers more than 50 affordable products to help pets manage anxiety, pain, and other conditions. Get more information about Innovet’s CBD products.
CBD Oil & Dogs: Everything You Need to Know
For both people and animals, medicine tends to trend high-tech. One of the most promising new veterinary drug therapies, however, incorporates ingredients derived from cannabis, a plant that’s been in use by humans for thousands of years. This primer covers the basics of veterinary cannabidiol (CBD) and reflects what’s currently known.
New findings are released every day, it seems, so if you’re interested, we advise staying on top of developments by bookmarking a few reliable websites. If your vet is open to discussing it—for legal and licensing reasons, not all are—we strongly advise starting there.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of at least 60 known plant-based cannabinoids, naturally occurring active chemical compounds that act on the brain and body. It’s derived from cannabis, a complex plant in the Cannabaceae family, and has no psychoactive effects —it provides “the benefits without the buzz,” as one writer put it.
CBD is the plant’s second most abundant cannabinoid; first place goes to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which generates marijuana’s distinctive high. It’s extracted and processed as either an isolate (on its own) or as a full-spectrum oil, one of a group of related cannabinoids that often includes cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidivarin (CBDV), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), terpenes and flavonoids.
GET THE BARK NEWSLETTER IN YOUR INBOX!
Sign up and get the answers to your questions.
Over millennia, humans have domesticated, developed and cultivated multiple strains of cannabis and used them for a variety of purposes. Today, generally speaking, the two you’ll hear the most about are hemp, which is legally defined as cannabis plants that contain less than 0.3% of the psychoactive THC, and marijuana (strictly speaking, a product rather than a plant type), which has more than 0.3% THC. Many CBD products for dogs are sourced from hemp.
The Science Behind CBD
Every animal with a spinal column has an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which scientists estimate evolved more than 600 million years ago and has been carried forward across the millennia. This ancient system—discovered through the work of several researchers between roughly 1965 and 1995—is named for Cannabis sativa L., the plant species that most dramatically affects it. Its basic functions have been summarized as to “relax, eat, sleep, forget and protect.”
To do this, the ECS maintains the body’s internal balance through a network of activators and receptors that most notably affect the central nervous system and the immune system. Cannabinoids are the ECS’s messengers, and their effects depend on the receptors to which they bind.
This is a very specific process; a receptor will only accept the particular compound for which it exists, and is unaffected by others. Research shows that cannabinoid receptors are similar across species, functioning much the same way in dogs as they do in people, although dogs have far more receptors in their brains than any other animal tested (including humans).
Robert J. Silver, DVM and veterinary herbalist of Boulder, Colo., suggested another way to understand this system: “Receptors are like locks, and cannabinoids are like keys. They fit together perfectly. Once the cannabinoid connects to the receptor and turns that lock, a series of actions occur in the cell membrane; these actions are responsible for some of the cannabinoid’s effects.”
Full-Spectrum CBD Extracts
Whole-plant or full-spectrum extracts are considered to be the most therapeutically effective. In this form, CBD works in conjunction with other cannabinoids to produce what’s called the entourage effect: the result of numerous types of cannabinoids, each with a specific function, working together. You’ll sometimes see THC in the mix as well; aside from its recreational aspects, it has its own set of medicinal properties and can be particularly effective against severe pain.
Is CBD safe for Dogs? Does it work? How does it work?
These are just a few of the questions that can only be reliably answered by evidence-based scientific research, which is now taking place in the U.S. and around the world, and is the best way to separate fact from fiction.
More work has been done to discover CBD’s effects on people than on animals—for example, at least 132 original studies have focused on CBD’s human-safety profile—but that tide seems to be turning. Take, for example, the following:
• In 2016, Dr. Stephanie McGrath, neurologist and assistant professor at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, completed a preliminary pharmacokinetic (what happens to a drug in the body) and safety study on CBD. Following this study, Dr. McGrath began two pilot studies involving owner-enrolled dogs with poorly controlled epilepsy and painful osteoarthritis. These have now ended and results on the epilepsy study are scheduled for publication in the Canadian Veterinary Journal later this year. One of its big-picture findings: 89 percent of dogs who received CBD had a reduction in the frequency of seizures. (McGrath and her team are now starting work on a larger epilepsy-focused project.)
• The results of a study led by Dr. Joe Wakshlag, associate professor and section chief of nutrition at Cornell, currently under review for publication, also contribute to the knowledge bank. According to the abstract, its objectives were to “determine the basic oral pharmacokinetics, determine safety and assess efficacy of CBD oil in managing pain in dogs with osteoarthritis.” The Canine Brief Pain Inventory and Hudson activity scores reportedly showed a clinically significant reduction in pain and an increase in activity with CBD treatment.
• Dr. Dawn Boothe, director of clinical pharmacology at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, is studying CBD as a treatment for epilepsy in dogs and is also developing an assay to measure cannabinoid toxicity and efficacy.
• Dr. Jamie Peyton, chief of small animal integrative medicine at University of California, Davis, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, led a late 2017/early 2018 study on the current use of cannabis with companion animals. By anonymously filling out an online questionnaire, participants provided the study with data that can be used to inform future research (the study is now closed).
A Research Roadblock
CBD could prove to be a life-improving medication for dogs, but without the backing of clinical research to establish its effectiveness and dosing, it’s hard to know for sure. That research is hindered by cannabis’s federal Schedule 1 drug classification, which puts traditional academic research institutions in a legally ambiguous position. It also makes funding harder to come by; much of the work currently underway is sponsored by companies who produce CBD products.
In the future, we’ll look into questions of CBD and the law, delve into the role veterinarians can play in your decisions and provide a glossary of terms to help guide you through this evolving landscape. For now, check out The Bark’s informative CBD & Dogs section.
A Eureka Moment
As described in an article on Labroots, “Scientists discovered the brain’s opiate receptor in 1973, but it was not until 1988 in a government-funded study at the St. Louis University School of Medicine that Allyn Howlett and William Devane determined that the mammalian brain has receptor sites that respond to compounds found in cannabis. These receptors … turned out to be the most abundant type of neurotransmitter receptor in the brain.”