Thinking About Giving Your Dog CBD? Here's Everything You Need To Know
Let's face it. With their licks and cuddles and happy-go-lucky faces, our pups kind of take care of us, don't they? So naturally, when our four-legged friends are having a health issue, we want to find the right solutions to make them feel better.
You may have considered using cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, for your pooch. We've got the details on what you need to know about how, when, and why to give dogs CBD.
Does CBD oil work for dogs?
"CBD has many uses," says Sara Ochoa, DVM, a small animal and exotic veterinarian in Texas and a veterinary consultant for DogLab, a pet product review company. "It is used to decrease inflammation and help with joint pain. It also helps with anxiety, seizures, and skin issues."
She adds that CBD is generally safe for dogs but pet parents should be careful to choose the right brands and dosage, and monitor their pups for any side effects. They should also consult their dog's veterinarian before starting them on CBD.
Some people opt to administer CBD to dogs in place of traditional anti-anxiety treatments during storms, fireworks, or other situations that cause their furry best friends stress. Others use CBD to help pets cope with soreness, seizures, and other illnesses.
"Benefits commonly reported include a reduction in anxiety as well as destructive chewing, a calmer demeanor without being sedating, reduction in joint discomfort and other aches and pains, and an overall anti-inflammatory effect," says Brian Larsen, co-founder and CEO of RestoraPet pet supplements. “Combined, there is a noticeable improvement in quality of life for many pets that use CBD."
How does CBD affect dogs?
Through the production of molecules called endocannabinoids, the ECS helps keep other bodily systems (like the immune and nervous systems) in balance, explains an article published in PNAS.
"There are cannabinoid receptors in the liver, spleen, intestinal tract, brain, heart, muscles, bone, reproductive system, circulatory systems, and more—basically the whole body," says Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ, with Pumpkin Pet Insurance. "When the system becomes deficient in endocannabinoids, that is where supplementation with CBD (cannabidiol) oil comes in."
CBD is a phytocannabinoid found in the cannabis plant that can help human and animal endocannabinoid systems run more smoothly.
Benefits of giving your dog CBD oil.
While research on CBD oil and its effectiveness and uses in humans and pets is still evolving, a growing body of evidence suggests CBD can be helpful to dogs facing various ailments.
But it bears repeating: You should always check with your veterinarian before adding CBD to your pet's regimen. This is especially important if your pup has a medical condition or takes medications.
It can ease pain.
In a randomized placebo-controlled study with 22 dogs with osteoarthritis, the dogs were administered either 2 mg/kg of CBD oil or placebo every 12 hours for four weeks. In their study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, the researchers concluded that CBD can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with wear-and-tear arthritis.
It may reduce the frequency of seizures.
Wooten points to a study out of Colorado State University that looked at whether CBD could help with seizures. The study included 16 dogs, nine that were given CBD and seven that were given a placebo. The researchers found that 89% of dogs that received CBD had a reduction in seizure frequency.
But Wooten says to absolutely check with your vet before changing your dog's seizure meds.
It may kill cancer cells.
Wooten points to a 2020 study in the journal Veterinary and Comparative Oncology that suggests that CBD might help stop the spread of cancer in dogs, but more research is needed.
"The main concern with using CBD products for cancer treatment is the cancer developing tolerance and resistance to CBD," Wooten explains. "So always talk with your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist before administering CBD products to a dog that is undergoing cancer treatment."
Can dogs take human CBD?
No, you should look for a formula specific to pets. Wooten says CBD products given to dogs should also be hemp-derived, which means they'll contain 0.3% THC or less. "Dogs are more sensitive to THC than humans," she cautions. "THC can cause temporary incoordination, incontinence, and coma in severe cases."
How should I give my dog CBD?
CBD comes in many forms. For dogs, an oral option is best, Wooten says. But you can opt for treats, tinctures, capsules, etc.
When should I give my dog CBD?
For a therapeutic regimen, you should stick to a twice-daily schedule, with doses administered about 12 hours apart.
Side effects and dosage.
When using a reputable product, CBD is generally considered safe for dogs, but Wooten has this caveat. "CBD is processed through the liver," she says, "which means that if your dog is on other medications, CBD could affect the way your dog processes those medications, so check with your veterinarian before giving CBD."
Long-term use can lead to elevated liver enzymes, a common side effect when dogs are on traditional medications, as well, Ochoa adds. Short-term side effects of CBD use in dogs include diarrhea, vomiting, dry mouth, a drop in blood pressure, and drowsiness.
The standard therapeutic dose for CBD in dogs is 0.1 to 2 mg/kg given twice daily, Wooten says. But some dogs may benefit from a slightly higher dose.
"Not all dogs will respond to CBD the same way," she explains. "So this dosage needs to be adjusted on a case-by-case basis, and the best way to do that is with a veterinary professional that is well versed in CBD products."
Wooten recommends looking for the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) Quality Seal on a product label. "Choose products that are certified by independent third-party laboratories to be pure and free of contaminants," Wooten adds. These five brands meet the mark.
Ochoa recommends ElleVet since the brand is backed by clinical trials at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and an advisory board. The brand offers soft gels, chews, and oils, so you can pick the product that's right for your pooch. For example, the Calm and Comfort Situational Chews are great for pups who just need the occasional dose of calm during a thunderstorm or nail-trim trip rather than an everyday dose.
ElleVet Calm and Comfort Chews ($14.95)
2. Charlotte's Web
A pioneer of the hemp-derived CBD industry, Charlotte's Web also has pup products. If you've got a buddy with aches and pains, the Hip and Joint Chews, infused with glucosamine, may help your bestie out. These bites are quality tested, free of harsh chemicals and pesticides, and non-GMO.
Charlotte's Web Hip and Joint Chews For Dogs ($19.99)
3. Canna Companion
This brand is veterinarian-developed and made with CBD derived from pesticide-free hemp. Canna Companion is also recognized by the Veterinary Cannabis Society. All capsules and oils are free of corn, wheat, sugar, and soy for your sensitive soulmate.
Canna Companion Regular Strength CBD Capsules ($75.77)
4. Pet Releaf
You'll appreciate that this brand's products are free of herbicides and pesticides and sourced from hemp farmed using regenerative practices. Best of all, your finicky fur babe will love the flavors of Pet Releaf's Edibites CBD chews. Think peanut butter and banana or sweet potato pie.
Pet Releaf Calming Chews ($27.99)
5. Dr. Fossum's Pet Care
Two cool things about Dr. Fossum's vet-endorsed line are the clear dosing chart on products and the included medicine syringe for exact dosing of extracts rather than the usual dropper.
Dr. Fossum also just launched a manuka honey/CBD skin salve for cuts and burns, developed to help animals coming out of the Northern California wildfires last year. So it might be a good first-aid item to have on hand.
Dr. Fossum's Manuka Honey Wound TheraBee ($24.99)
The bottom line.
We could gush all day about how much we love our furball besties and always want to do the best job taking care of them—whether that means reworking our houseplant game to ensure safety or finding the best enzyme cleaner for the occasional oopsie.
If your pup's got aches and pains holding them back or occasional anxiety, CBD might be able to help bring relief. But, once again, if your pooch is being treated for a medical condition or takes medications, be sure to consult your veterinarian before adding CBD to the mix as a solution. Then, get back to those ear scratches and belly rubs, stat!
And if taking cbd yourself is of interest, check out our roundup of cbd capsules for humans.
Jennifer Chesak is a freelance medical journalist with bylines in several national publications, including Washington Post, Healthline, Prevention, Greatist, Runner’s World, and more. Her coverage focuses on chronic health issues, fitness, nutrition, women’s medical rights, and the scientific evidence around health and wellness trends. She earned her Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill School. In addition to reporting, she also serves as a freelance manuscript editor and medical fact-checker. She teaches copyediting and media studies at Belmont University and several writing courses through the Porch Writers’ Collective in Nashville, and she is the managing editor for the literary magazine Shift.