CBD for Dogs: Everything You Need to Know
In certain states, medical marijuana is an option for people seeking relief from ailments like seizures, pain, anxiety, and cancer.
Pet parents and veterinarians alike are naturally wondering whether cbd for dogs, in the form of products such as cbd oil for dogs or cbd dog treats, can provide the same benefits.
Here’s everything you need to know about CBD for dogs.
THC vs. CBD for Dogs
CBD is one of over 80 different chemical compounds called “cannabinoids” that have been derived from the cannabis (marijuana) plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), perhaps the most famous cannabinoid, CBD is not psychoactive.
Instead, CBD shares important metabolic pathways with a class of drugs called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and Rimadyl. These pathways control many processes in the body, from inflammatory responses to blood clotting.
Do not give dogs straight marijuana or any product containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. There is simply not enough research to justify the use.
CBD-based products, however, may help improve your dog’s quality of life when used in conjunction with other therapies.
Why Use CBD for Dogs?
CBD is often mentioned as a useful therapy for a variety of conditions, including pain management, arthritis, anxiety, seizures, and even cancer. Although the use of CBD in treating each of these conditions is under-researched, there are varying levels of scientific evidence for each scenario.
Because CBD shares metabolic pathways with anti-inflammatory drugs, it makes sense that it would help with certain inflammatory conditions (anything that ends with -itis is an inflammatory condition).
Osteoarthritis, often abbreviated as arthritis, is one of the most common inflammatory conditions in dogs.
One in four dogs will be diagnosed with arthritis in their lifetime, and by some estimates, as many as 60% of dogs exhibit some degree of the disease.
Research has shown that CBD can provide substantial pain relief in dogs with arthritis when given twice daily at appropriate doses.
In theory, the anti-inflammatory benefit seen in arthritic dogs could also be seen in dogs with other types of inflammatory pain, especially back pain from intervertebral disc disease (IVDD).
Preliminary studies in people have shown that combo products containing both CBD and THC are more beneficial for pain relief than when either drug is given alone. But no such research has been done on dogs, so THC should not be given to them.
Seizures are probably the most-studied application of CBD in people, but limited research exists for pets. In dogs, seizures can be caused by a vast number of underlying conditions.
With regards to idiopathic epilepsy specifically, there is some research that suggests that CBD could be useful in reducing seizure frequency in these dogs. However, these benefits are only seen with dogs that are given traditional anti-seizure medications at the same time.
Like seizures, the term “cancer” is an umbrella term that refers to an extremely diverse set of specific diseases, each with their own set of beneficial treatments.
In people, CBD has been studied for possible use in cancer patients, both to treat the tumor(s) directly, as well as to treat the secondary symptoms of cancer and chemotherapy. Very limited research has been done on the use of CBD for dogs with cancer.
However, the anti-nausea effects of CBD seen in people who undergo chemotherapy have also been documented in rats and ferrets, suggesting that dogs receiving chemotherapy may benefit from CBD treatment.
Perhaps the biggest misconception is that CBD is useful in managing a dog’s anxiety. In theory, it is possible that CBD, by reducing pain and inflammation, could indirectly reduce anxiety caused by pain or inflammation.
But because CBD is not psychoactive, it is unlikely that CBD has the ability to directly treat canine anxiety in the way that Prozac and other medications do. The use of CBD for anxiety in dogs, as with most conditions, requires substantially more research.
Potential Risks of CBD for Dogs
Overall, CBD itself seems to be incredibly safe in dogs and cats. However, numerous scientific papers have found that when given at the recommended doses, CBD does cause an elevation in an important liver value on bloodwork called alkaline phosphatase (ALP).
We are not yet sure whether the elevation of this liver value has any medical significance. It could signify that CBD causes irritation or damage to the liver. Alternatively, it could be an artificial finding in which the drug interferes with the way the lab measures the liver value.
Anecdotal reports do exist of dogs becoming somewhat sleepy or sedate if they receive extremely large doses of CBD, but those effects appear to resolve on their own with time.
CBD doesn’t appear to have any drug interactions when it’s given to a dog that’s on an anti-inflammatory drug like Rimadyl.
Because there is a theoretical risk of drug interaction, as with any medication, you should consult your veterinarian first before treating your dog with CBD.
THC Dangers for Dogs
Unlike CBD, THC ingestion can cause serious problems for your pet.
“The most significant [issue] is THC toxicity, meaning, essentially, they are high,” says Dr. Gary Richter, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California. “Depending on how significantly a pet has been overdosed, the effects of that can be quite long-lasting, even days.”
During these episodes, a pet may not be able to stand or eat. If you suspect THC toxicity, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately. Secondary effects of THC, especially respiratory depression, should be monitored closely to avoid complications.
Overall, life-threatening risks for dogs from cannabis are “exceedingly rare,” Dr. Richter says. There is no documented lethal dose for THC in dogs. In fact, a dose of THC 1,000 times greater than the dose needed for a dog to feel “high” is still not lethal.
THC toxicity more often occurs when a pet has eaten a product that also contains chocolate, coffee, or raisins. “Even if the THC toxicity is not excessive, they can sometimes have problems due to these other ingredients,” says Dr. Richter.
How Much CBD Can You Give Dogs?
Though there are some topical treatments, CBD oil is typically administered orally to dogs, and giving the correct dosage is imperative. “As is the case with any medication, success has everything to do with dosing,” Dr. Richter says.
Studies on using CBD for dogs with arthritis or seizures generally use a dose between 2-8 mg/kg, with most papers erring on the lower side of that estimate (roughly 1-2 milligrams per pound of body weight), twice daily.
This dosage has been found to be both safe and somewhat effective for just the conditions studied (arthritis and seizures). Additional research is needed to evaluate the necessary dosages for CBD in treating other conditions.
One complication in attempting to properly dose dogs with CBD is that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that many CBD products actually contain little, if any, CBD.
The only FDA-approved cannabinoid product, Epidiolex, could theoretically be prescribed by a veterinarian for epilepsy in dogs, although this would likely be cost-prohibitive. Because it is FDA-approved, though, the CBD content of this product would be accurate, unlike most other CBD products on the market.
Can Veterinarians Prescribe CBD for Dogs?
U.S. veterinarians are forbidden from prescribing/dispensing CBD, and cannot encourage or instruct clients to purchase CBD products.
However, they are free to talk to you about the potential risks and benefits of a treatment plan you may have devised on your own. If you are considering giving CBD to your dog, speak to your vet, and you may want to also speak with a veterinarian who has experience with CBD.
What CBD can do for your dog or cat
What can CBD do for pets? Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the active constituents of the cannabis plant, can exert profound healing and balancing effects on all mammals. By stimulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD can help the body rebalance to homeostasis.
Pet owners use CBD for a broad range of behavioral and medical issues, including cancer pain, anxieties, obsessions, arthritis, seizures, neurological and digestive disorders, past traumas, social withdrawal, irritable moods, and getting along with other dogs and cats better.
While recovering from illness or surgery, CBD can stimulate appetite and speed healing. At the end of life, CBD can minimize the pain and anxiety your pet may be experiencing.
What is the endocannabinoid system and how does it work?
The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors located throughout the body and it’s named after the plant that led to its discovery. Natural endocannabinoid substances are synthesized by the body to maintain a stable internal environment, which is known as homeostasis. If the body’s endocannabinoid production lags behind what it needs, CBD supplements can help. CBD supplements can also stimulate the body to build more receptors, which makes natural cannabinoids work more effectively.
CBD interacts with the body’s system of receptors. To date, two types of receptors have been identified: CB1 receptors, which are mainly present in the brain, nervous system, glands, and organs; and CB2 receptors, which exist predominantly in the regulatory cells of the immune system.
One of the main roles of the endocannabinoid system is to control inflammation by regulating the immune response. An overactive immune response can trigger allergies and auto-immune problems; an underactive response can make the body vulnerable to infections or make it a more favorable host for the growth of cancer cells.
Is CBD safe for dogs and cats?
Hemp and marijuana are both classified as cannabis, but they are very different varieties. Marijuana is high in THC (which is responsible for the feeling of being high). Conversely, hemp plants contain almost no THC but are rich in the beneficial CBD compound. CBD extracted from hemp is will not make your pet high and it has no negative side effects. Because of this, hemp crops are not a controlled substance, and hemp products containing less than 0.3% THC are legal in all 50 states.
What is the best kind of CBD for my dog or cat?
CBD for dogs and cats comes in many convenient forms. The most common types are extracts, also known as CBD oil, which can be given from a dropper bottle directly into the mouth, added to food or a treat, rubbed into bare skin inside the ears, or dropped on an animal’s paw to be licked off. You may also want to give your dog or cat CBD biscuits, CBD capsules, and topical CBD balms that absorb quickly into the skin. Read How to Give Your Dog CBD to learn more.
How much CBD should I give my dog or cat?
The right CBD dose will vary from animal to animal and depends on the situation, so it may be necessary to experiment to find the right amount and frequency of dosing.
The typical suggested CBD dose for dogs and cats is 1 mg – 5 mg of CBD per 10 pounds of body weight. Make sure you’re looking at the actual amount of CBD in a dose, because potencies vary quite a bit, so the actual amount of liquid oil or biscuits you give may vary.
Typical suggested starting dose: 1 mg – 5 mg per 10 lbs. of bodyweight
Cats: 1 – 5mg
|Dogs:||10 lbs||20 lbs||30 lbs||40 lbs||50 lbs||60 lbs||70 lbs||80 lbs|
|1 – 5mg||2 – 10mg||3 – 15mg||4 – 20mg||5 – 25mg||6 – 30mg||7 – 35mg||8 – 40mg|
It’s often best to start with a dose in the middle of the range. Visible results usually occur within 30 minutes. If there is no change after an hour, offer a bit more CBD to get to the high end of the recommended range. For severe pain or anxiety, offer CBD approximately every 8 hours. For other uses, dose your pet with CBD once or twice a day.
Which is the best CBD for my dog or cat – isolate, broad spectrum, or full spectrum?
When choosing the best CBD for your pet, keep in mind that each type of CBD has its benefits. If you want maximum effectiveness and your pet isn’t picky, consider full-spectrum CBD products. They are the least refined and contain the greatest amount terpenes and cannabinoids – beneficial plant compounds that can work together with the CBD to create an entourage effect to increase effectiveness. Keep in mind that it does have a grassy flavor that may be off-putting to some pets.
On the opposite end of the scale, CBD isolate for dogs and cats is pure CBD, making it the most refined option. Because it contains no plant matter, it has no flavor. Even the pickiest pets will take it.
The middle ground is broad-spectrum CBD. This option retains enough plant material and terpenes to support the entourage effect, but it has a very mild taste.