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Is CBD safe for dogs? I’ve already covered the health benefits of CBD oil for humans, and I’m excited that it looks promising for dogs with arthritis, seizures, anxiety, and more.
We adore our two dogs, Hemingway and Lollipop. They are so good with our kids. As they get older, I’m glad to know that I have a natural remedy for them if they develop any age-related or other health issues.
Let’s take a look at how cannabinoids work and the best CBD oil for dogs.
Around the world, especially in the US, cannabis and hemp have exploded as states have approved it for recreational and medicinal use since Colorado and Washington led the way.
Most of the CBD you see in your favorite stores come from hemp sources which contain very little, if any, THC (delta-9-trans tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis.
The FDA set the standard for CBD products as 0.3% THC or less.
The primary breed we make hemp out of is Cannabis Sativa. On the other hand, marijuana comes from the flowers, leaves, and stems of the cannabis plant (typically Cannabis Indica) that are dried, cut, and ground up for use. Marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC.
There isn’t one single cannabinoid. In fact, there are over 100 different cannabinoid compounds that can plug into the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies.
Many systems in the body have endocannabinoid receptors, especially the brain and nervous system. The vast presence of the endocannabinoid system might be why both CBD and THC are so helpful for pain, cognition, memory, appetite, emotions, perception, and movement. With CBD, you get these benefits without the euphoria or side effects.
CBD vs. THC
Cannabinoids can be either psychoactive or non-psychoactive, depending on the amount of THC.
When the THC is higher, that makes it euphoric and psychoactive.
While marijuana uses the dried plant parts, CBD specifically comes from the lipid part of the plant, which isn’t psychoactive.
Most CBD products on the market come from the hemp plant or hemp extract because it has far less THC content.
Is CBD Safe for Dogs?
In 1843, Irish physician William O’Shaughnessy noted the widespread use of Indian hemp plants in dogs while in India. Other reports say it has been used for centuries in dogs, going back to Greco-Roman times.
We know that dogs have a higher number of endocannabinoid receptors in their brain and cerebellum compared to other species. They even have more of these receptors than humans.
A study in 2020 reported that “a CBD-predominant oil formulation was safer and more tolerated in dogs than oil formulations containing higher concentrations of THC.”
In general, dogs have significantly more reported side effects from THC compared to CBD. Do not give your dog marijuana or products containing higher than 0.3% THC.
There haven’t been mass studies on CBD for dogs that calculate dosages based on weight, breed, or other factors. For this reason, it’s essential to start slow with small doses of CBD.
Side Effects of CBD to Watch For
If you decide to try CBD oil for your dog, be sure to work with your veterinarian. You’ll want to ask them to do bloodwork to check for elevated liver enzymes and ensure that the supplement isn’t causing high blood pressure.
One of the most common side effects is vomiting, but there are even reports of a loss of control of bodily movements.
As always, contact your vet if there’s any odd behavior. Some specific ones to look out for are:
- Wobbling or trouble walking
- Pacing and agitation
- Strange vocalization like whining or barking
- Dilated pupils
- Bloodshot eyes
- Excessive thirst or dry mouth
- Extra drool
- Sound or light sensitivity
- Inappropriate urination
- Fast or slow heart rates
- Low body temperature
So how does CBD help dogs?
Benefits of CBD for Dogs
Just like for humans, our furry friends may benefit from CBD oil for multiple conditions. It may also be cheaper than some prescription medications for dogs which is an added plus.
Based on a 2021 study, the most significant benefit may be the “anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulating properties of CBD directly in dogs’ immune cells,” in addition to filling the endocannabinoid receptors.
CBD for Dogs with Arthritis
Doesn’t it just break your heart when you see your dog limping or in pain? Thankfully, the most documented use for CBD oil for dogs is arthritis and joint issues.
It’s safe to combine CBD with other anti-inflammatories and dog-safe essential oils, like lavender.
If you use it topically, be sure to dilute it and don’t let them lick it. Learn more about essential oil dog and pet safety here.
Likewise, some anecdotal evidence reports increased mobility and activity in dogs after using CBD oil so we assume it offers some pain relief.
We hate to leave our dogs by themselves, but it’s just not realistic to take them everywhere. Many pet owners report that using CBD helps mitigate symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs.
Similarly, if your dog struggles with general anxiety or loud noises like fireworks and thunderstorms, CBD might be able to help too.
CBD pet products show promise for reducing epilepsy symptoms like seizures. This may be due to how many endocannabinoid receptors there are in the brain. We need more research to learn exactly how it helps though.
Areas for More Study
Since it’s even harder to get double-blind studies on supplements for dogs than for humans, we don’t have large-scale studies on the efficacy of CBD for other conditions. However, some products claim to help with the following:
- Improved skin health
- Reduced itching
- Digestive issues
- Immune dysfunction
However, these come from anecdotal evidence and single case studies, so work with your vet for your dog’s particular issues.
Best CBD Oil for Dogs
Just as with supplements for humans, there are some less than desirable CBD products for dogs. In order to find the best CBD oil for your dog, there are multiple considerations.
You’ll want to make sure the brand you buy is transparent with its practices. Some factors to consider when looking for a high-quality product are:
- Organic – Look for the USDA-certified label and non-GMO label. Animal products can claim to be organic without the certification. The last thing your dog needs is to ingest more pesticides and GMOs.
- Lab results – Do they share third-party lab testing? You don’t want your beloved pet ingesting toxins like heavy metals.
- Price – You get what you pay for, so don’t go for the cheapest one.
- Ingredients – Make sure there aren’t unnecessary ingredients like fillers or chemicals. Make sure the carrier oil is an ingredient you trust. Some brands add other vitamins and minerals, so it’s up to you if you’d like to have that or not.
- Extraction method – Look for CO2 extraction (and not butane, alcohol, or other questionable solvents.)
You’ll want to read the label carefully to ensure there’s the right amount of CBD milligrams for potency for your dog and their condition.
There are three main types of CBD oil for dogs:
- Isolates – This is the most processed kind of CBD, but it has the least amount of THC. Most CBD isolates claim to have 0.0%.
- Broad-spectrum hemp – This means it’s minimally processed and has other plant parts like terpenes. Some think this entourage effect increases the CBD’s benefits.
- Full-spectrum hemp – This is the least processed and has the most plant parts. Just like the broad-spectrum hemp, it also has the entourage effect.
I prefer the broad or full-spectrum CBD oils since they are processed less and have other plant parts.
Ways to Administer
There are different ways to administer it for your furry friend. You may see marketing for pet CBD patches, nose spray, balms, treats, and chews.
It may be more cost-effective to buy it as a liquid so you can easily adjust the dose with the dropper. The dosage may also be more accurate.
Ways to Administer Liquid CBD
You can administer liquid tinctures:
- Under the dog’s tongue
- On the dog’s food
- On a treat
- Directly on the skin
Tips for Success
All of our dogs are excited to have anything they think is human food. One trick a friend shared with me is to pretend to take any pill I want my dog to take. In this case, I might pretend to put a drop of CBD oil in my mouth.
If your dog is picky and refuses to take the drops, some high-quality brands offer treats and soft chews in multiple flavors.
Because of the lack of consensus on dosage, it’s important to start slowly with CBD. You’ll want to start at the minimum dosage and increase from there, even if you have a larger dog.
Many recommend starting with 1 milligram per 10 pounds of body weight and going up to 5 milligrams per 10 pounds of body weight as needed. A higher dose may be necessary for some ailments. A low dose 3-4 times a day is usually more therapeutic than one large dose.
Where to Buy the Best CBD for Dogs
These are the best CBD oils for dogs that have third-party lab certifications and meet the standards I mentioned above. I’d trust them with our beloved dogs.
USDA Organic CBD for Dogs
- USDA organic
- Three different extract formulas for joints, anxiety, and general wellness
- Poultry flavored soft chews
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Liquid extract doesn’t have any flavor, so if you have a picky pooch, he may refuse it
High-Quality CBD for Dogs
Even though these aren’t USDA organic, they still have organically grown ingredients.
They offer soft chews for your dog. I interviewed veterinarian Dr. Rob Franklin from their team in this podcast episode.
- The chews have the highest quality of additional ingredients for joint health
- Money-back guarantee
- You can bundle it for a discount
- Their formula is primarily targeted for joint health although it may still help with anxiety
Plant Therapy Pup & Pony Canine CBD Treats
They have both solid treats and liquid drops for large and small dogs. The liquid uses hemp seed oil.
- The treats are grain-free with only garbanzo bean flour, apple juice, ground peanuts, peanut butter, coconut oil, mixed tocopherols, and hemp distillate
- They share test reports by lot
- The ingredients aren’t organic
- The treats contain peanuts which could be an issue if your family has allergies
They have both solid treats and a liquid extract. The extract uses MCT as a carrier oil.
- Bacon flavored liquid formula
- They have solid treats targeted at mobility and anxiety
- You can bundle the liquid and treats for a discount
- Claims to be organically grown, but it’s not USDA organic, but I’ve included it in case you have a picky dog who might go for a bacon flavor
Be sure to check the ingredients, especially for the chews and treats, in case your dog has any allergies.
Make sure to read the label for whether or not the one you buy needs to be stored in the fridge.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Amanda Bradbery, Ph.D. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your pet’s vetrinarian.
Have you tried CBD oil for your dogs? How did it work for you? Share your experience in the comments below.
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- McGrath, S., Bartner, L. R., Rao, S., Packer, R. A., & Gustafson, D. L. (2019). Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of oral cannabidiol administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 254(11), 1301–1308.