Cannabidiol (CBD) use for dogs is a snowballing trend that has helped countless canines reduce anxiety, pain, and seizures. A recent research article published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science found that 92 percent of veterinarians have been asked about CBD use for pets. The growing demand has been met by numerous cannabis-infused products catered to small and large dogs. If you’re a dog owner, you have a wide range of pet-friendly products to choose from such as topicals, oils, and treats in flavors that your furry friend can appreciate.
Despite the passionate interest in CBD for dogs, research is lacking on the effects of CBD for dogs and other pets. CBD research on humans is more extensive, but we still don’t know everything about how cannabinoids, terpenes, and other cannabis compounds affect different people. We also don’t have proper dosing guidelines. Before starting a CBD regimen for your dog, it’s important to know as much as possible about the safety of CBD products.
What is CBD?
CBD is just one of over a hundred therapeutic cannabinoid compounds found in marijuana and hemp. CBD does not provide any noticeable psychotropic effects. Most dog-friendly CBD products are made from hemp-derived CBD instead of marijuana-derived CBD, which contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating compound that gets users high. Legally, hemp-derived CBD must have no more than 0.3 percent THC, an amount that won’t cause any significant hallucinogenic effects.
The Endocannabinoid System
Cannabinoids such as CBD and THC interact with a network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the human body that are part of the endocannabinoid system. Animals such as mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish also have an endocannabinoid system that helps maintain homeostasis in the body and regulate a wide range of biological functions and processes such as:
- Reproduction and fertility
- Chronic pain
- Motor control
- Cardiovascular system function
Dogs can take CBD by mouth or through topicals. When consumed, CBD interacts with a dog’s cannabinoid receptors found in the central and peripheral nervous system. Researchers haven’t found out exactly how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, but it doesn’t bind to receptors like THC does. The endocannabinoid system is composed of two types of receptors:
- CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system (brain, hair follicles, salivary glands)
- CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral nervous system (skin, organs, nervous and immune system)
Research on CBD for Dogs
While research on CBD for dogs may be lacking, anecdotal evidence is overwhelming on the positive effects of CBD for dogs. Dog owners have reported that CBD has helped alleviate pain, seizures, nausea, anxiety, and more conditions in their canine companions. CBD research, however, is scant. Only two small studies have tested the effects of CBD on dogs.
Stephanie McGrath, D.V.M., is a veterinary neurologist at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She conducted preliminary research about how CBD is metabolized by dogs and CBD’s safety. She then studied the effects of CBD on 16 dogs with epilepsy and found that 90 percent of them experienced relief. She’s now studying the effects of CBD on dogs with epilepsy and osteoarthritis.
Another study at Cornell University published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science details the effects of proper dosage of CBD for pets with arthritis. Researchers administered ElleVet Sciences’ proprietary hemp-derived CBD chews to dogs with pain and arthritis. Dogs received either 2 or 8 mg of CBD every 12 hours for 4 weeks. By the end of the study, more than 80 percent of dogs experienced decreased pain and improved mobility at 2 mg CBD doses.
CBD Side Effects and Risks for Dogs
Because there is little data on the effects of CBD on dogs, there are almost no data on the possible side effects of CBD on dogs. Current research indicates that some of the most common side effects to cannabis use are dry mouth, lowered blood pressure, and drowsiness. Dogs may experience these side effects at high doses, so it’s important to consult with a veterinarian before giving your dog CBD.
There’s always a risk of complications when taking CBD, especially because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any CBD products for dogs or provided pet owners with dosing instructions. Medication interactions can also occur in some pets. After checking with your veterinarian, start off by giving your dog a very small dose of CBD and build your way up from there to achieve your desired effects.
How to Choose the Right CBD Product for Your Dog
CBD products for pets are a dime a dozen, which makes it difficult for consumers to weed out the bad companies from the good ones. When searching for the right product for your dog, you should research online reviews and determine the quality of the product. Here are a few things you should look out for:
- If possible, go with organically grown CBD products for dogs. If you’re using CBD for medical purposes, you want your pet to avoid ingesting pesticides, fungicides, and heavy metals. You can also ask for a certificate of analysis that looks at these contaminants.
Prices vary. Higher-priced CBD products typically reflect higher quality products, but not always. Cheaper alternatives may be laced with harmful contaminants.
- Ask for the certificate of analysis that shows the cannabinoid content. Sometimes, companies will test for a wide range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. A certificate of analysis also ensures the product has lower than the legal limit of THC.
- Avoid giving your dog human CBD products, which may contain grapeseed oil or xylitol. These ingredients can be toxic to your pet.
- Look for products with a seal from the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC).
- Choose the product that’s best for your pet. CBD liquid is easier to administer in small increments drop by drop.
How to Give Your Dog CBD
Dogs can take CBD orally or topically. A 1988 study on the effects of CBD pills on dogs found that the pills were not properly absorbed on a fasted stomach. Researchers believe that oil is the best way to achieve maximum absorption, especially if you can administer the oil sublingually. CBD oils are blended with a lipid carrier such as coconut, MCT, hemp seed, sunflower, or other type of oil. You can add CBD oil to food or treats to make the experience pleasant for your dog. Oil brands may contain dosing guidelines on the packaging, but your pet’s ideal dose depends on trial-and-error, so you’ll want to start with the smallest dose possible.
As CBD use among humans continues to gain interest, so will CBD use for animals. Pets are a part of the family and they deserve the best care possible. While veterinarians may be hesitant to recommend CBD for dogs, your pet may benefit from hemp-derived CBD products for a range of medical conditions. Further research will likely prove and uncover numerous medical applications of CBD for pets of all sizes.