CBD oil for dogs: A veterinarian explains the pros and cons
CBD oil is everywhere, and seemingly in everything. You’ve probably heard someone mention CBD, especially if you live with a chronic condition like pain or anxiety, or if you follow Kim Kardashian, who had a relaxing CBD-themed baby shower to celebrate her fourth child with husband Kanye West.
As some states have begun to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis, the market has enjoyed an influx of readily available CBD, including CBD oil for dogs to treat pain, anxiety, to control seizures and more in the family dog.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the many active compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another active compound and the most well-known, due to its psychoactive properties — it’s the compound that gets you “high.”
But, much like the use of CBD in humans, not a lot is known about how CBD oil for dogs works – and if it actually works. According to the American Kennel Club, there have been no formal studies in how it affects dogs, and our expert backed that up.
“Does it actually help with pain, or does it just make them not care? We don’t know, but they seem to be less reactive to low level pain stimuli, for example arthritis and things like that, when they take the product,” explains Mark Verdino, MD, senior vice president and chief of veterinary staff at North Shore Animal League America. “And certain anxieties, they seem less reactive to certain things.”
Essentially, CBD is non-psychoactive but has a number of the same medical benefits as THC. This means you can take advantage of the therapeutic benefits for your pet without being concerned they will have the “stoned” feeling that goes with THC – which obviously would be very upsetting for a dog.
“The psychotic ingredient in it that makes people high is not present at CBD oil, and they’re not entirely sure how the CBD, the Cannabidiol, actually works to do the things that they’re claiming that it does,” says Verdino. “We don’t know, but they seem to be less reactive to low level pain stimuli, so like arthritis and things like that, when they take the product. And certain anxieties, they seem less reactive to certain things.”
The doctor shared that he uses CBD for his own dog, a senior who gets jumpy in the evenings, and it seems to relax the animal.
“At night time when the lights are dimmed down, it’s dark out, they don’t see it well in the dark, and he gets a little spooked. And when I give him the CBD, he seems to just go to sleep.”
The question is, of course, how is it working. Verdino says, “So is it helping with the anxiety, or is it just making him drowsy? I don’t know, but it seems to help. So we have a symptom, and it helps with that symptom.”
Could there be risks? At the moment, we don’t know. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD for use in dogs (or humans) and has not issued dosing recommendations, and any medication or supplement carries the potential risk of reaction, so it’s important to try a small dose first and monitor how your dog reacts to it.
Verdino had some words of advice if you choose to give your dog CBD, saying, “I recommend people use a pet-specific product just so that they know that the concentration is appropriate, that there’s nothing else in it to. because look, this is a fairly unregulated industry.” Products include tinctures with a dropper that are easy to use to fill a pill pouch, such as Elevate for dogs. There are also treats available like MediPets CBD Treats, Hemp My Pet biscuits and King Kalm Crunch CBD treats.
And with good reason, as many human friendly CBD products are in gummy form. “There’s really nothing to prevent a CBD company from making it flavored with an artificial sweetener like Xylitol, which is toxic for animals. So I would definitely choose a veterinary-specific product, and I would choose one that seems to be from a more reputable manufacturer,” according to the doctor.
Bottom line? CBD products for dogs – whether oil or in a treat – have been shown to anecdotally help with some issues like pain and anxiety, but too few studies are available to conclusively say they will help. It’s best to talk with your vet about your dog’s specific issues and heed the doctor’s recommendations.
The Benefits Of CBD Oil For Dogs
The good news is that it can help with many of your dog’s health issues from allergies to cancer. The bad news is that the CBD industry for pets is still unregulated. That means the majority of pet owners might be getting ripped off.
So today I want to talk about all the good things CBD oil can do for your dogs. Then I’ll show you how to find the best product for your dog and talk about how to give it.
What Does CBD Oil Do For Dogs?
There’s a messenger system in your dog’s body called the endocannabinoid system. It helps regulate sleep, appetite, pain, the immune system and more. CBD impacts the activity of the messengers in this system and stimulates the nervous, digestive and immune systems, as well as the brain. And it can do this because the endocannabinoids in CBD are very similar to the ones found in your dog’s body.
That’s why the benefits of CBD can be deep and significant. And why CBD oil is the fastest-growing healthy plant in the world!
6 Ways CBD Oil Can Help Your Dog
Let’s take a look at common conditions where CBD can help dogs. And after I’ll talk about which CBD oil you should buy and general dosing information.
1. Dogs With Joint Problems
If your dog has joint pain, your vet might prescribe NSAIDs or other pain meds like Gabapentin. But NSAIDs can cause deterioration in joints and soft tissues … and they can damage your dog’s liver. Gabapentin can also cause kidney damage. Plus, it’s not all that effective.
CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory that doesn’t carry the same risk of side effects as drugs. It works by binding to CB1 receptors in the brain. These receptors stimulate the immune system to reduce inflammation. CB1 receptors also change the way the brain responds to pain.
CBD also binds to CB2 receptors found in the nervous and immune systems. When this happens, the body may produce more cannabinoids naturally. This helps reduce inflammation even more and reduce the pain associated with it.
In fact, researchers at Cornell University found that dogs taking CBD for arthritis were more active and showed a decrease in pain.
Some of the common people buy CBD Oil for dogs as an anti-inflammatory for joint problems include:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Sprains and strains
- Torn ligaments (CCL)
2. Dogs With Cancer
Sadly, 50% of adult dogs will get cancer. Cancer is a massive health challenge for dogs, especially if they undergo chemotherapy or radiation.
Cancer researchers are always looking for new ways to treat cancer and release the pain and nausea that can go with it. And CBD has been extensively researched as a cancer-fighting substance.
A study in mice showed that CBD slowed the growth of mammary cancer cells. And in 2018, researchers found that CBD increased survival time in mice with pancreatic cancer. Other animal studies show CBD oil has cancer-fighting abilities and can slow the growth of tumors.
In another study, cancer cells became more sensitive to treatment with CBD. That means CBD can increase the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments.
CBD also kills cancer cells by blocking their ability to produce energy. And it can stimulate the immune system to produce killer cells that cause death in cancer cells.
Researchers also found that CBD blocks a cannabinoid receptor called GPR55. This is important because GPR55 increased the growth rate of cancer cells in mice.
CBD oil can also help with nausea associated with many cancer treatments. And studies have shown CBD can significantly reduce cancer-related pain.
3. Dogs With Seizures And Epilepsy
It’s estimated that about 5% of dogs suffer from seizures. They can be terrifying for both dogs and their humans … and they can cause anxiety.
Most vets treat epilepsy and seizures with antiepileptic drugs. Common options are phenobarbital or potassium bromide. But these drugs are extremely harmful to your dog’s liver and other organs. And even if the drugs don’t cause unmanageable side effects, they don’t always work …
So researchers at Colorado State University got excited when they studied CBD as a treatment for epilspsy in dogs. A whopping 89% of dogs that received the CBD had a reduction in seizures.
In human trials, CBD even worked in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. In one study, 7 out of 8 patients saw a marked improvement within 4 to 5 months.
CBD reduces the frequency and severity of seizures because of how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system. It’s believed that abnormal electric charges of the neurons in the nervous system cause seizures. But CBD can bind to receptors in the brain … researchers speculate this can improve the functioning of the nervous system.
4. Dogs With Anxiety
Anxiety is a common reason dog owners turn to CBD. Anxiety can appear in different forms, including:
- Noise phobia
- Separation anxiety
Of course, there are anti-anxiety drugs available … but CBD is being studied for anxiety because it doesn’t carry dangerous side effects.
Most human users of CBD take it for pain, anxiety and depression. Over a third of these users report that CBD worked “very well by itself.” CBD has even helped manage anxiety and insomnia in children with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And animal studies show its antidepressant effects aren’t just for people.
CBD can work quickly given directly by mouth when your dog gets stressed. It usually only takes 5 to 20 minutes to work. But CBD appears to be most beneficial for anxiety when given over a period of time. So if your dog is prone to stress, a daily dose might work best.
A 2012 study looked at stress in rats exposed to cats. The rats given repeated doses of CBD had less anxiety than those given a single dose.
Researchers aren’t certain how CBD relieves stress and anxiety, but it’s thought that it can help regulate serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood, social behavior, digestion, sleep and appetite.=
5. Dogs In Pain
Probably the most promising research on CBD is that done on pain. From nerve pain to arthritis, it works well … without the harmful side effects of pain medications.
CBD binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and nervous system and this helps change the way your dog’s brain perceives pain. Plus, CBD can help manage the other symptoms that accompany pain, such as sleeplessness and nausea.
CBD can also help manage acute pain from injuries.
6. Dogs With Allergies
Allergies are on the rise in dogs. And they’re difficult to treat … so, sadly, allergies are a common reason dogs are euthanized. Skin conditions in general are one of the most frequent reasons for vet visits.
The endocannabinoid system is also found in the skin … and that’s good news for dogs with allergies. It means CBD can help relieve dry and itchy skin. And it can promote the growth of new healthy skin cells.
You can give CBD internally for allergies, or use it externally for hot spots or interdigital cysts.
Now that you know a bit more about WHY you would give your dog CBD oil to your dog, let’s about HOW to choose a good quality product.
How To Choose The Best CBD Oil For Your Dog
CBD (Cannabidiol) is a naturally found substance in cannabis and hemp. Both deliver amazing health benefits … but there are differences.
Cannabis (marijuana) contains a relatively large amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is what causes the psychoactive activities of cannabis. It’s why marijuana can give a “high” or “buzz.”
CBD oil made from hemp contains much lower amounts of THC. To sell hemp legally, it must contain less than 0.3% THC. So while your dog can still enjoy the calmness and reduction in anxiety that CBD provides, he won’t get high. And that’s important … because you might enjoy the high, but your dog definitely doesn’t!
Your dog will also get the same pain-relieving and immune-supporting benefits from hemp CBD.
But not all hemp CBD products are the same …
1. Look For A Full Or Broad Spectrum Hemp
Check the label of your CBD product to make sure it’s full spectrum or broad spectrum.
This means your dog’s CBD oil contains not just CBD, but other important cannabinoids that occur naturally in full-spectrum hemp. This includes CBC (Cannabichromene) and CBG (Cannabigerol).
Researchers have looked at CBC for its …
- Cancer-fighting activities
- Ability to block pain and inflammation
- Positive effect on brain cells
CBG is also studied for its medicinal use. It can decrease inflammation in the digestive tract and it can protect nerve cells and the eyes. It also supports healthy bladder function and fights cancer cells.
A full-spectrum CBD oil will also contain terpenes such as limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene. These are also naturally occurring medicinal substances found in all hemp.
Together, cannabinoids and terpenes create the entourage effect. This happens when compounds in hemp oil work synergistically to boost the medicinal properties of hemp oil.
CBD extracted with CO2 (I’ll talk about this in a moment) pulverizes the terpenes. This will make them hard to detect in testing and they won’t show up on the Certificate Of Analysis …
… but they’ll still be there and will contribute to the CBD oil’s medicinal effects.
CBD extracted with solvents will better preserve the terpenes. So you will find them noted on the Certificate Of Analysis.
But I don’t recommend solvent extracted products, which leads me to my next point …
2. Make Sure Your Dog’s CBD Uses CO2 Extraction
There are two common ways to extract the CBD oil from the hemp plant:
As you’ve probably guessed, CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide to extract oil from the plant. Using a high-pressure chamber, CO2 puts pressure on the hemp. This breaks down the hemp and releases the oil.
This method of extraction creates oils with a higher concentration of CBD. That means your dog will get more from his supplement. Of course, that also makes the product more expensive … but it’s better than the alternative.
The cheapest way to extract oil from the hemp plant is with solvents, such as …
- Petroleum products
But residue from these solvents will be in the product and they can be toxic to your dog.
Some CBD extraction uses natural solvents, such as ethanol or olive oil. This is much safer for your dog but these oils can destroy the hemp plant’s waxes and the resulting oil isn’t as beneficial.
3. Look For A Certificate Of Analysis
If your dog’s CBD oil doesn’t have a certificate of analysis (COA), run away!
A certificate of analysis is a document that shows the amount and type of cannabinoids in the CBD product. And it usually comes from a third-party laboratory,
COAs protect your dog from poor quality products and the manufacturer should have one for each batch of hemp. If there isn’t a COA on the company’s website, you’ll want to ask for one before you buy any CBD oil.
When looking at the COA, there are 5 important things to look for.
CBD Is The Same As Advertised
This is more common than you would think … in fact, we were once tricked by this!
What you might see is something like “500 mg CBD” on the product label. But don’t take the label at face value! Make sure the COA says the same amount as the label does.
Some lab tests express the CBD content in mg/g. So to calculate the amount of CBD, you need to know how many grams are in the bottle of CBD.
For example, let’s say the COA shows 16.9 mg/g CBD. To calculate how much CBD is in the product, multiply the number of mg/g by the number of grams the bottle weighs. (A typical 1-ounce dropper bottle of CBD will weigh 30 grams.) This will give you the total mg of CBD in the bottle. In this example, it’s 507 mg (16.9 mg/g x 30 gram bottle).
CBD Is Really Full Spectrum
Again, never take the label at face value! Some CBD is from isolate, which means it won’t have other important cannabinoids and terpenes.
Remember the entourage effect? You won’t get this extra boost with CBD isolate. So how do you find out if your dog’s CBD is from isolate? The COA will show that the product only contains CBD and no other cannabinoids. Stay away from these products.
There’s Not Too Much (Or Too Little) THC
If your dog’s CBD contains more than 0.03% THC, it’s probably marijuana and not hemp. It’s not legal and your dog won’t enjoy the psychoactive effects.
You also want to avoid products with zero THC. If there’s none, then your dog’s CBD is from isolate … and the health benefits will be fewer.
A Third-Party Did The Tests
Once again, never take the manufacturer’s word that the product is high quality. Make sure the product was properly tested by a third party lab. Unfortunately, the CBD industry isn’t regulated, which leaves you vulnerable to poor products.
There’s No Contaminants
You need to know where and how the hemp that’s used to make the CBD oil is grown. This plays a huge role in those test results you see in the COA.
Always look for an organic product to reduce any environmental toxin risks. You want to know that the soil and water it’s grown in is as clean as possible. That’s because hemp plants are really good sponges and can absorb contaminants as they grow. And it’s why heavy metal toxicity can be a concern when looking at CBD oils.
So be sure that you check the COA for any contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals and solvent residues.
Cost Shouldn’t Be A Priority
It can be hard to compare products and some people give up and look at costs only …
… but this is not the best approach!
You want a high-quality and safe product for your dog. Extracting CBD from hemp requires a lot of plant material as well as careful monitoring.
If the product you’re considering has a price that’s significantly lower than the competition, there’s probably a reason for that …
But the most expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best CBD oil for dogs …
Instead, consider what we’ve reviewed …
- How was the CBD oil extracted? (CO2 is best.)
- Is the CBD concentration different than advertised? (CBD on COA should match the bottle.)
- Is it full-spectrum? (The product should have other cannabinoids, not just CBD.)
- Is the THC content worrisome? (THC should be less than 0.3% but higher than 0%.)
- Is it organic? (Hemp is a sponge for contaminants.)
- Was it third party tested? (If you can’t find a COA online, ask the manufacturer for one.)
These variables are what you need to look for when determining the quality of a product. The cost is never a sure sign of a product’s quality.
Side Effects Of CBD Oil For Dogs
The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association surveyed dog owners. They wanted to see what, if any, side effects they noticed. And the great news is that there weren’t any major effects reported.
The most consistent side effects noticed were:
- Sedation 19%
- Overactive appetite 5%
- Lack of energy 4%
- Panic reactions 2.7%
- Dry mouth/excessive drinking 2.3%
- Nausea 1.7%
- Vomiting 1.7%
- Increased seizures 0.69%
- Impaired mental functioning 0.68%
This means the most likely side effect you may see is that your dog gets sleepy. And that isn’t a bad thing. Especially if your dog suffers from seizures, anxiety, or has any pain, and you’d like to give CBD oil a try …
… but some CBD oils will have other additives and may not be safe.
Caution With CBD Oil Additives
You want to be sure there are no chemical additives or preservatives in the product you buy. These will cancel out the health benefits, even if the hemp is grown organically.
Also be aware of companies who have added essential oils (EOs) to their CBD oil. Even though they’re “natural,” EOs can affect animals profoundly.
If your holistic vet has recommended using a CBD oil with an EO, then follow her dosing recommendations. She’ll know what’s best for your dog’s unique health needs.
Some will recommend using CBD with frankincense as it’s good for tumor reduction in cancer patients. But always check with your holistic vet or herbalist first.
Dogs Taking Other Medications Or Supplements
If your dog is taking any other medications or supplements you will want to check with your holistic vet as well. CBD oil has many health benefits but it can change how your dog metabolizes some medications or supplements.
Researchers have looked at how CBD oil changes metabolism in humans. It can be similar to grapefruit, which causes significant reactions. So if your dog is taking any of the following medications you’ll need to ask your vet about dose changes:
- Allergy medications
- Liver or kidney medications
- Heart medications
- Anxiety medications
Hopefully, your holistic vet has helped you find alternatives to the medications above. But even then … CBD can affect herbs and natural supplements.
This doesn’t mean you can’t give your CBD oil if he uses other supplements or medications. You may just need to make adjustments. CBD changes the metabolism of other things but sometimes for the better! Meaning you can use less of another product or skip on the medications altogether.
And less is often more.
CBD Oil Dosage For Dogs
Each bottle of CBD has a specific concentration expressed in milligrams (mg). Most dogs are okay with the taste, so you can just put it on your dog’s food.
Dr Robert Silver recommends giving your dog 0.05 to 0.25 mg/pound of body weight, twice daily. He also suggests starting with a lower dose and working your way up. If 0.05 mg/pound is enough, stay at that dose. There’s no need to increase unless the lower dose stops working. If that happens, increase the dose to 0.125 mg/pound, twice daily and only continue to increase if your dog needs it.
For anxiety or health prevention, you’ll usually find that the lower doses work well. But if your dog is dealing with pain or immune issues, you’ll probably need a larger amount.
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CBD oil for dogs is a natural, safe remedy that can help your dogs with pain, anxiety, caner, seizures and more.
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