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Is CBD Oil Good For Dogs?

Over a third of Americans own a dog in the United States. If you’re one of those “dog people,” your dog probably feels like part of the family. In fact, many of today’s dog owners care so deeply about their furry loved ones, that they plan to spend more on their dog over the course of its lifetime than they will on their own health care costs.

As a dog owner, you likely have your ears to the ground for the latest and greatest ways to treat your dog, from actual treats and food to enrichment toys and doggie daycare. If your dog’s health suffers at all, however, you may be looking for more serious options to improve their quality of life and wellbeing.

One such option is CBD. Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a cannabis compound that provides health benefits without the high of marijuana. Many dog owners are increasingly turning to CBD to treat a variety of canine conditions, from anxiety to arthritis.

CBD is legal in all 50 states, but the research around its effects on dogs is still developing. However, a growing number of veterinarians are recommending it to their clients. While the research is not yet definitive, many believe CBD offers several therapeutic benefits to dogs.

In this guide we’ll explore what those benefits might be, how to ensure you find CBD products that will be safe for your dog, and everything else you need to know about CBD for dogs.

CBD and the canine brain: How CBD affects dogs

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive extract of Cannabis. It is distinct from THC, which produces the “high” effect of marijuana. Both THC and CBD have been shown to be beneficial to humans, such as with medical marijuana. However, due to differences between the human and canine brains, THC can have adverse effects in dogs.

Cannabis affects the endocannabinoid system, which both dogs and humans have. Because dogs have more CB1 and THC receptors in their brain than humans do, cannabis affects us differently. Specifically, dogs are more sensitive to THC. If dogs ingest cannabis with THC, it can cause other unpleasant side effects, such as increased anxiety.

Due to this sensitivity, it is recommended that dogs only ingest products with CBD. Fortunately, since CBD is an extract of cannabis without THC, dogs can enjoy the benefits of CBD without the risk of THC.

And those benefits are numerous. The cannabinoid receptors in the dog’s brain help regulate its response to anxiety, physical pain, nausea, and more. According to research from The American Animal Hospital Association, when a dog ingests CBD, it can affect how they perceive pain and stress, and boost their dopamine levels, lifting their mood. On a physical level, CBD’s interaction with the canine endocannabinoid system can reduce inflammation and block GPR signaling, thereby lowering cancer cell reproduction.

Thanks to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, CBD can help dogs with a variety of physical and emotional ailments, including:
  • Relieving arthritis and joint pain
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Relieving anxiety and related barking or whining from separation anxiety, stressful vet or grooming appointments, scary thunderstorms or fireworks
  • Reducing nausea and vomiting from other medications or car rides
  • Reducing seizures or epilepsy
  • Suppressing muscle spasms
  • Improving sleep
  • Improving digestive and nervous system health
  • Improving appetite
Does CBD really work for dogs?

According to a 2016 report published in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (JAHVMA), 58.8% of dog owners are currently using CBD products on their dog. Over three-quarters of those products were prescribed by a veterinarian.

Most commonly, dog owners tend to use CBD to provide their dogs relief from the following conditions.

Anxiety

49% of dog owners in the JAHVMA survey reported that CBD relieved their dogs’ anxiety by “a great deal” or “moderate amount.” The calming effect of CBD can relax dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. Dog owners can give their dog a daily dose to calm their nerves when they leave the house for work.

CBD can also calm dogs on a more irregular basis, such as when they get fearful during a thunderstorm or fireworks.

Seizures

Canine epilepsy affects 4% of dogs. Many of the medications used to treat canine seizures have intense side effects, such as phenobarbital, which is associated with increased thirst and appetite (and subsequent weight gain), increased urination, ataxia in the hind legs, lethargy, and even depression. Anti-seizure medication can also be expensive.

CBD products, on the other hand, are less expensive and less physically taxing on a dog, leading many dog owners to use them to treat seizures.

The American Kennel for Canine Health Foundation recently funded a clinical study to gather hard data on the treatment potential of CBD for canine epilepsy. The preliminary data from the study, released this July, appears promising. Of the sixteen dogs in the clinical trial, nine were treated with CBD and seven were treated with a placebo. 89% of the dogs who received CBD experienced a reduced frequency of seizures.

Arthritis

As an anti-inflammatory, CBD relieves the chronic pain many older dogs with arthritis live with on a daily basis. Providing your older dog with a daily dose of CBD can make their daily life more comfortable and make it easier for them to move around, enabling them to be more active and live a fuller life.

A 2018 study of dogs with osteoarthritis provided dogs with either a 2mg/ml/kg CBD or placebo oil twice a day for four weeks. At the end of the study, the dogs who received the CBD oil demonstrated a significant improvement. They expressed less pain and were more active than the dogs who took the placebo.

Cancer

Nausea is an unfortunate side effect of many canine cancer treatments and medications. Although no studies have been conducted with dogs specifically, multiple studies of humans have found that cannabis can reduce or prevent nausea.

There are also not any studies of the effects of CBD on canine cancer, but anecdotes abound where CBD therapy has improved symptoms and quality of life for canine cancer patients. In some cases, CBD even appears to slow cancer growth.

Appetite stimulation

While it may seem shocking to some dog owners, there are dogs who have trouble with appetite. This can be a common problem in older dogs or dogs with cancer. CBD stimulates appetite by binding to receptors in their brain that trigger hunger, helping dogs keep up a healthy appetite.

How much CBD oil is safe for dogs?

To date, there are no official dosing guidelines for CBD and dogs. However, the general recommendation is 0.2 mg/ml of CBD per pound of your dog’s body weight per day. To be safe, start lower than this amount and slowly increase the dosage until you notice a positive response from your dog. At that point, stop increasing the dosage.  

Unless your dog’s body weight drastically changes, you will not need to increase the dose amount, since they will not develop a tolerance to it the way some people do with THC.

To determine the ideal dose for your dog, you can use this formula:

0.2 x [your dog’s body weight, in pounds] = mg/ml of CBD per day

To save you the math, we’ve calculated this formula for various dog weights, which you can view in the chart below.

CBD for Dogs: Common FAQ

There are a few more common questions people have about giving CBD to their dogs. We answer them below.

Is CBD safe for dogs?

When administered safely in the proper dosage amounts, CBD is generally considered safe for dogs. Typically, problems only occur when the dog overdoses on CBD or if the CBD product also includes THC. In the event of an overdose, the dog may experience drowsiness or an upset stomach. To avoid this outcome for your dog, ensure that you supply him or her with the proper dosage amount of a CBD product extracted from hemp only.

As we mentioned above, THC can increase anxiety in dogs. Additionally, dogs may experience an extreme adverse reaction if they ingest too much THC. Specifically, high THC concentration can result in static ataxia, causing them to sway or wobble, drool excessively, and experience body tremors or low blood pressure. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day for them to recover.

To date, most issues of toxicity reported to the AVMA have occurred among young puppies, and often involve other substances that are dangerous for dogs, such as chocolate, product wrappers, or xylitol (a common sugar substitute in human food products).

What are the side effects of CBD for dogs?

According to the American Kennel Club, high doses of CBD may cause the following side effects in dogs:

Drowsiness: When CBD is used to treat anxiety, the dog may appear drowsy as a result of the calming effect. Consider reducing the dosage to reduce the drowsiness.
Dry mouth: If a dog experiences dry mouth from CBD, they’ll produce less saliva and will drink more water as a result. If you notice your dog drinking more water than usual after a dose of CBD, consider reducing the dose.
Decrease in blood pressure: CBD can cause a temporary drop in blood pressure. If your dog appears light-headed, consider reducing the dose.
Is hemp oil the same as CBD oil for dogs?

No, hemp oil (also called hemp seed oil) is not the same as CBD oil. Both CBD and hemp oil come from the hemp plant, buy hemp seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant while CBD is extracted from the trichomes of the plant’s flowers.

While hemp seed oil can improve your dog’s coat and skin health, it will not provide them with the health benefits of CBD. It does not contain any CBD. To enjoy the health benefits of CBD for your dog, the product should contain CBD oil, not hemp oil.

Can you give your dog human CBD oil?

Dogs have smaller brains than humans, and consequently fewer cannabinoid receptors. We also have larger endocannabinoid systems than our dogs. Because of this, dogs should not take CBD oil designed for humans. Human CBD products contain different ingredients and concentrations than CBD products designed for dogs, and what’s safe for humans isn’t necessarily safe for dogs.

Giving a dog CBD products designed for humans can overload your dog’s endocannabinoid system and result in uncomfortable side effects. Further, the product may contain other ingredients that are unsafe for dogs.

To be safe, it’s best to reserve dog CBD products for dog consumption only, and human CBD products for humans only.

How quickly does CBD oil work for dogs?

Typically, dogs begin to experience the effects of CBD within the first one to three hours of receiving their dose. How quickly your dog responds to CBD can depend on a variety of factors, such as the product, the dosage amount, or the age or health of your dog.

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