Many pet parents will be familiar with the increasing number of CBD dog products available claiming to offer health benefits for pets. Many will have given them a go — possibly with positive results.
However, if you’re a newcomer to the field or you just want to learn a little more about the potential therapeutic uses of CBD for dogs, we’ve created a quick FAQs to get you quickly up to speed.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for Cannabidiol, an active chemical compound found in cannabis and hemp plants.
Is CBD cannabis/marijuana?
Strictly speaking no, CBD is not the same as cannabis — especially if you’re thinking of the recreational stuff many humans use.
However, CBD is one of the chemical compounds, or cannabinoids, found in the cannabis plant — along with more than 120 others. These include Tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), which is the psychoactive substance that delivers ‘the high’ commonly associated with recreational cannabis usage.
CBD dog products may contain a minuscule and harmless amount of THC or, as is preferable, none at all (especially if the compound is derived from hemp rather than cannabis).
Is CBD safe for dogs?
This largely depends on the way in which it’s consumed. Recreational cannabis can be toxic for dogs, whether ingested through edible products such as brownies or inhaled via second-hand smoke.
Possible symptoms of cannabis toxicosis include incoordination, lethargy and vomiting, although thankfully, it’s very rarely fatal.
However, if CBD is consumed as a medical product, there’s growing evidence to suggest it’s not only safe for pets, but beneficial.
“Trials with CBD for dogs have shown that it’s safe, and no adverse side effects have been found,” says Laura Ward, DFA’s in-house nutritionist.
However, there are some notes of caution. While positive so far, the scientific evidence surrounding the efficacy and potential side effects of CBD usage is currently relatively small, albeit rapidly growing.
It’s also important to know that CBD products in the USA are currently unregulated, so it’s vital to carry out research about products — be sure to look for products with low levels or no THC, as well as being free from additives or toxic substances.
It’s worth consulting with your vet before giving your dog any CBD products, as they’ll have a fuller picture of your pet’s overall health and be able to give a professional opinion on the product in question.
Is CBD safe for puppies?
Many manufacturers of CBD products state their goods are safe to be given to puppies, albeit often with a reduced dosage.
That being said, most trials involving CBD have focused on adult dogs.
“CBD hasn’t yet been scientifically tested on puppies, so we can’t say for certain if it’s safe for them,” says Ward. “CBD should only be used for puppies under veterinary direction.”
Many parents may understandably decide to hold fire for the moment, especially when their pet is at such a formative stage of life.
What are the benefits of CBD for dogs?
There are an increasing number of CBD dog products on the market with many purported health benefits. At this time, these perks are being reported by parents and vets, rather than backed up by researchers. That’s not to say they’re not true, only that scientists have yet to fully validate the claims.
What is known, however, is that dogs, like all other mammals, have an endocannabinoid system (ECS).
“The ECS plays an important role in homeostasis, which means keeping the body balanced for optimal function,” explains Dr. Eleanor Green, Professor and Dean Emerita at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “The cannabinoids found in plants [like CBD] mimic endogenous neurotransmitters to exert their effects on the ECS.”
Here are some potential real-life applications.
Whether it’s brought about by a peal of thunder, fireworks going off in the sky or being left alone when their parent goes out to work, some dogs are no strangers to anxiety. It has been noted that CBD has a calming influence on dogs and some products are specifically designed for this purpose.
It’s interesting to note that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has currently only approved one cannabis-derived drug product for humans and that’s Epidiolex, a purified form of CBD proven to treat seizures.1
Veterinary scientists are currently looking into whether CBD products can have a similar effect on epileptic dogs, although it’s generally agreed more trials are needed before reaching a conclusion.2
That being said, some parents of epileptic dogs have long turned to CBD products, especially if traditional medications have proven ineffective.
This is a very common condition in aging dogs and one that can bring about a lot of pain. Sadly, there’s no known cure, but there are a number of treatments and supplements on the market created to reduce pain and inflammation.
A recent paper found that CBD could be used to help with osteoarthritis without any reported side-effects.3 It should be noted that the sample size was small and more studies are needed, but many parents have been using the compound for this very purpose for years and have witnessed similar results.
What kinds of dog CBD products are there?
It’s frequently sold as an oil, which many parents prefer as the exact dosage can be measured out at home. However, it’s possible to find CBD in capsules, gummies or treats as well.
Which CBD product is best for my dog?
This depends on several factors. Number one, the malady you’re seeking to alleviate — some CBD products are designed for specific purposes, whether that’s pain relief or calming effects.
Additionally, parents will want to consider how their dog prefers to take medicine — some pets struggle with pills, while there are others who wouldn’t take well to having oil dropped into their mouth or rubbed into their skin.
Are there side effects with CBD dog products?
An absence of serious side-effects is one of the most oft-quoted benefits of using CBD as a treatment according to some of its proponents.
However, many manufacturers of CBD products warn of the possibility of minor side effects, which include dry mouth, drowsiness and lowered blood pressure, a cause of light-headedness.
The scientific literature on the subject displays a couple of common trends, too.
“In studies in which CBD is provided at a moderate level, an elevation in liver enzymes has been reported,” says Ward. “When a THC-inclusive CBD product is chosen, there’s also the potential for THC to be stored in the body, even in small quantities.”
Can you use a combination of CBD dog products?
Providing each is purely comprised of CBD and you monitor the combined dosages carefully, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t combine different CBD dog products.
There’s a potential risk for harm when you combine products mixed with other cannabinoids or poorly manufactured CBD products containing more than stated on the packaging — the lack of regulation means that parents should conduct extensive research to avoid these situations.
Will giving CBD to a dog make them more hungry?
One of the associations of recreational cannabis usage is an increased appetite, but it’s not thought that CBD is the cannabinoid responsible for this effect. So far, there’s no scientific evidence asserting that CBD stimulates appetite in dogs or humans.
Can my dog become addicted to CBD?
In 2017, the World Health Organization ruled that CBD ‘does not appear to have abuse potential or cause harm’, although stopped short of recommending it for medical use.4
Although this ruling was made in referral to humans, there’s equally no evidence to suggest it’s possible for dogs to get addicted to CBD, either.
Can my dog overdose on CBD?
A recent scientific trial found that healthy dogs were capable of tolerating escalating doses of CBD oil, especially compared to those taking oils containing THC.5
That being said, it’s understood to be possible to give your dog too much CBD and inadvertently cause more serious harm than the more commonly observed side effects listed above. Symptoms of a CBD overdose can include vomiting and diarrhea, although this is unlikely to require further veterinary attention.
It’s important to remember that the CBD industry isn’t regulated by the FDA and there’s no scientific consensus on what constitutes a correct dose, so parents should be conservative when first using treatments. There’s also the risk that products could include other cannabinoids, including THC, or other toxic substances to which dogs are less tolerant.
Can CBD be used for dogs in the long term?
“CBD hasn’t been independently scientifically tested over the long-term in dogs, so further research is needed here,” says Ward. “Studies of up to three months have found CBD to be safe and the lack of side effects means that CBD is a promising option for long-term regular use.”
For more detail and information on CBD for dogs, you can read our in-depth interview with the veterinarian and academic Dr. Eleanor Green.
- Cannabidiol in canine epilepsy – PubMed (nih.gov) ↩
- FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD) | FDA ↩
- Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs – PubMed (nih.gov) ↩
- Drugs (psychoactive): Cannabidiol (compound of cannabis) (who.int) ↩
- Preliminary Investigation of the Safety of Escalating Cannabinoid Doses in Healthy Dogs – PMC (nih.gov) ↩