CBD (Cannabidiol) oil is found in many products marketed for dogs, and for many different issues. But what is it? What does it do? And is CBD Oil for dogs safe and effective?
What is CBD Oil?
CBD is one of many molecules found in Cannabis (both hemp and marijuana) plants. It affects numerous body systems and can reduce seizures, anxiety, pain and inflammation, and nausea and vomiting. It can be safe and effective for some conditions when carefully sourced and properly used.
CBD stands for Cannabidiol. It is one of over 100 different molecules found in Cannabis plants. Both hemp and marijuana are types of Cannabis plants.
Although it can be found in marijuana, CBD itself has no “psychoactive” properties, which means it doesn’t make dogs “high”. THC is the molecule in marijuana which causes the “high” and it can also cause nausea and anxiety. Because of these side effects of THC it’s very important that supplements for dogs contain no more than trace amounts (less than 0.3%) of THC.
CBD Supplements for Dogs
There are currently hundreds of versions of CBD supplements available for dogs, with more being created all the time. There are many different terms used and many forms available. They are not all the same, so it’s important to understand what they all mean so you can choose the best product for your pet.
Hemp Seed Oil
This is available at the grocery store and while it has lots of good Omega-3’s and antioxidants it has only trace amounts of CBD which isn’t enough to provide any of the beneficial effects from CBD.
Hemp Oil/Hemp Extract
Hemp extract is made from the flowers and leaves of the hemp Cannabis plant. It will contain high amounts of CBD and trace (less than 0.3%) THC. Sometimes the extract is mixed into a carrier oil like coconut, sesame, or olive oil and called hemp oil.
Hemp oil/extract is “full spectrum” which means that it has all of those other molecules naturally found in the hemp plant as well as CBD.
This is when just the CBD molecule is isolated from a Cannabis plant and then added to a carrier oil. This will be the most concentrated form of CBD, thus, the most effective.
Which is better for dogs, Hemp Oil or CBD Oil?
It depends. Hemp oil products may be more affordable. And, with hemp being “full spectrum,” there might might be additional beneficial molecules besides just CBD. However those products tend to have a stronger taste and smell and can require giving larger amounts to get the same CBD effects as the more concentrated CBD oil.
Conversely, CBD oil’s benefits can be seen with lower dosages. Also, results seem to be noted more quickly with CBD oil vs. hemp oil.
How Does CBD Oil Benefit Dogs?
Research is still ongoing to learn more about the many different ways in which CBD affects the body and causes the therapeutic effects we see.
One way CBD works is through something called Cannabinoid receptors in the body. Dogs naturally produce molecules called endocannabinoids which are very similar to CBD and bind to these. These receptors have been found in nerves, the brain, the spleen, and the skin.
CBD can also bind with many other receptors in the body too and it can affect what cells are doing and how they’re functioning.
What is CBD used for?
CBD has effects on many systems in the body and can help in the management of many different conditions that affect dogs.
However CBD is not a cure-all and you should always check with your dog’s vet before starting any supplements or changing any treatment protocols for your dog.
But, both clinical research, as well as real-world reports have shown that CBD can help in the management of conditions like seizures, anxiety, arthritis and chronic pain, skin issues, and nausea and vomiting.
Common Health Conditions in Dogs and how CBD Oil Supplementation Might Help
Seizures are a relatively common issue in dogs and several studies have shown reduced seizure activity in people and animals taking CBD1. There is actually an FDA approved CBD medication that treats seizures in people. The CBD doses used in these studies are typically higher than those for other conditions.
Anxiety is also very common in dogs. Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety, storm/noise phobias, reactivity, or just generalized anxiety. There have also been studies looking at the benefits of CBD in helping to manage different kinds of anxiety in animals and people and it does appear to have beneficial effects2.
Arthritis is extremely common in dogs; most dogs will develop arthritis at some point in their lives. CBD has demonstrated benefit in managing arthritis and other types of chronic pain in other animals and in dogs3. CBD does have anti-inflammatory effects and addresses nerve pain as well.
Many dogs suffer from allergies and other skin problems. Topical CBD ointments have been shown to be effective for some types of allergic skin issues and rashes in people4 and there’s some evidence they may help dogs as well.
Lots of dogs have “sensitive stomachs” or are “picky eaters” and may be suffering from nausea even if they aren’t actually vomiting. CBD helps to reduce inflammation which can contribute to nausea and works directly to reduce nausea and vomiting.
Cancer in Dogs
There have been many studies looking at how CBD affects different types of cancer cells with some promising results. However, these studies have mainly been in petri dishes and have focused on the kinds of cancers that people get, so it’s difficult to know how effective CBD might be for treating different kinds of cancers in dogs. More research is currently being conducted to get a better grasp on how CBD Oil might benefit dogs afflicted with cancer.
There seems to be a promising role for CBD as part of management of inflammation, pain, and nausea that can be associated with cancer and cancer treatment. While further research may demonstrate a more direct effect of CBD on some cancers found in dogs, CBD does not “cure” cancer and should always be used as part of a comprehensive approach to managing cancer.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Dogs?
CBD can be a tool to help manage many conditions in dogs, but before you pick some up from the pet store, there’s more to think about to be sure you’re getting a CBD product that will be safe and effective for your dog.
CBD oil can have side effects. It can affect the liver and cause elevated liver enzymes. It can also change how other medications and supplements are processed. It can cause drowsiness and sedation. CBD oil can also cause GI upset.
It’s important to check with your dog’s vet before starting CBD or any other supplements to get blood work checked and to find out how it might interact with other medications and supplements.
CBD Oil and Dogs: A Word of Caution
In the United States and some other countries there’s no regulation of over the counter supplements, including CBD Oil for dogs. So, unfortunately, a product could contain little or no actual CBD and still be marketed as having therapeutic strength ingredients. To illustrate this point, a recent study looked at 84 CBD oil products and only 26 of them (30%) actually contained the amounts of CBD claimed on the label5.
Finding High Quality CBD Oil for Dogs
Reputable companies submit to independent testing to verify that their product contains the amount of CBD they say it does, and nothing that shouldn’t be in there (contaminants). There are independent groups that certify pet supplements like NASC (National Animal Supplement Council) and Consumer Labs. Some companies provide independent testing results (sometimes called COA or Certificates of Authenticity) on their websites. You can also discuss with your vet what brands they trust and recommend.
Notes on Dosage of CBD Oil for Dogs
As with all supplements and medications, the dose of CBD is important. Dosing too low can mean that it won’t have the desired effects, dosing too high can result in side effects. There are also different doses for different conditions. Most suggested doses on the bottle or bag CBD supplements are significantly lower than the doses which were shown to be effective in different studies for different health issues. Your dog’s vet can help you figure out what dose is going to be safe and effective for your dog.
Wrapping Up: CBD Oil for Dogs
CBD is a molecule found in Cannabis plants and can have many different effects on the body. There are lots of CBD supplements available but they may differ in ingredients, dose, and purity. CBD can be a safe and effective option to help manage many diseases and issues common in dogs including seizures, anxiety, arthritis and chronic pain, skin issues, and nausea and vomiting.
1. Patra, P. H., et al. Cannabidiol reduces seizures and associated co-morbidities in a range of animal epileptic models. Epilepsia, 60 (2) (2019), pp. 303-314.
2. Skelley, J., et al. Use of cannabidiol in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. JAPA, 60 (1) (2020), pp. 253-261.
3. Gamble, L. J., et al. Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Front. Vet. Sci. 5 (2018), p. 165
4. Palmieri, B., et al. A therapeutic effect of CBD-enriched oil in inflammatory skin conditions and cutaneous scars. Clin. Ter. 170 (2) (2019), pp. 93-99
5. Bonn-Miller, M.O., et al. Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. JAMA, 318 (17) (2017), pp. 1708-1709