Whether you're a new dog owner or have shared many years with your beloved pet, you've probably heard about CBD oil. Maybe an acquaintance on your daily walking route has tried it for their dog - or for themselves!
It can be hard to separate facts about CBD from marketing ploys in the overwhelming amount of information available online. Can dogs have CBD oil in the first place? What can CBD do for your dog, and what are the risks? You'll find answers to these questions and more in the comprehensive guide below.
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 80 natural compounds in the "cannabinoid" family. Plants in the family Cannabis, including cannabis and hemp, produce CBD in varying amounts.
Unlike its chemical cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is not psychoactive. In other words, it does not produce a "high." CBD oil and other products are generally derived from hemp plants. They include little to no THC as a result. In fact, hemp grown in the United States must contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight by law (1,2).
In the body, CBD interacts with a complex signaling network called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Cannabinoids from plants interact with the ECS because they are chemically similar to the system's natural messengers, called endocannabinoids.
People, dogs, and other pets all have an endocannabinoid system. The ECS handles many chemical balancing acts that keep the body stable and healthy, a state called "homeostasis." Sleep, mood, hunger, and inflammation are body processes managed in part by the ECS (3).
Is CBD Legal?
It is legal to purchase and sell CBD in the United States, thanks to the 2018 "Farm Bill" (2).
However, CBD is not a prescription medication. It has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat any disease in pets.
Is CBD Harmful to Dogs?
CBD Safety for Dogs
Because CBD is not an FDA-approved medication, it has not undergone the same rigorous safety testing as prescription drugs have. Still, researchers are increasingly interested in CBD's applications for both humans and pets.
So far, studies indicate that CBD is generally safe in healthy dogs (4). Observed potential side effects included diarrhea and changes in liver enzymes measured in the blood. There were no signs of damage to the liver, however. Another potential side effect of CBD in dogs is excessive sleepiness (sedation), especially if the dose is too high.
If your dog acts sluggish or lethargic after receiving CBD, move to a reduced or less frequent dosage, such as once per day instead of twice daily.
In general, it's best to discuss CBD with your veterinarian. Your vet can help you determine if CBD is right for your dog and develop an appropriate dosage plan based on your pup's age, weight, and health status.
THC: Unsafe for Pets
CBD's safety starkly contrasts the story of THC in dogs. You can read more about CBD vs. THC for dogs here.
Unfortunately, animals are more sensitive to THC's effects than people are. Because of this difference, THC can be dangerous for dogs. Most pets get exposed to THC by eating cannabis plant matter or THC-containing foods (edibles). After consuming THC, dogs can exhibit agitation, strange or difficult walking (ataxia), drooling, uncontrolled urination, and other symptoms.
THC-containing foods are especially hazardous for dogs.
First, the concentration of THC in edible products is usually high, making the effects worse and longer-lasting. Second, THC edibles are often made with other ingredients toxic to dogs, such as chocolate or the artificial sweetener, xylitol.
Fortunately, in CBD "overdoses," dogs tend to be asymptomatic. In other words, not much happens. However, some low-quality CBD oils contain THC concentrations above the legal limit. Because of this issue, a dog that consumed too much poor-quality CBD could suffer from symptoms similar to THC poisoning.
Benefits of CBD
You may hear word-of-mouth reports about CBD's benefits for pets from friends or people online. Still, comprehensive research studies are required to understand CBD's effects fully.
Unfortunately, those exhaustive studies are far from complete at this time. The scientific process is slow, so research will take a bit of time to catch up. But what do we know about CBD's benefits so far?
Much of the available data relates to osteoarthritis, a common source of joint pain in older pets. One placebo-controlled study from Cornell University and Colorado State University reported that twice daily CBD oil improved activity and comfort in dogs with arthritis (5). Other studies appear to agree with this result (6).
CBD for Dogs Taking Other Medications
While high-quality CBD is generally safe for dogs, there's an important reason to speak with your veterinarian before getting started. Remember how CBD led to mildly elevated liver enzymes in research studies?
The changes were detectable on a blood panel but didn't point to liver damage or other problems. However, researchers have found that CBD changes how specific liver enzymes perform their jobs (5). These enzymes control how quickly your dog's body metabolizes medications, among other things.
CBD Could Affect Your Dog's Ability to Metabolize Prescription Medicines
Depending on the drug, this difference in metabolism can lessen a medication's effectiveness. Or, CBD might make it stay in your dog's system for too long.
It's crucial to review your dog's medications and health history with your vet before making any changes to their wellness plan. These factors are the most important when deciding whether your dog can have CBD oil.
CBD Dosage for Dogs
Finding CBD oil dosage information can be a challenge for dog owners.
Part of the difficulty is that CBD is not a prescription medication; research studies have also lagged behind the demand for CBD pet products. As a result, there are no official dosing guidelines available. Instead, it's best to find a high-quality CBD oil manufacturer.
A good company will list dosage guidelines for each of their products. Recommendations will vary based on the concentration (strength) of the CBD oil, as well as your dog's body weight.
It's best to start on the low end of the manufacturer's CBD dosage recommendations for your dog's size and increase the dose slowly if desired. This way, you and your veterinarian can monitor more easily for side effects.
There's also a chance your dog may dislike the taste of CBD oil. In that case, there are different ways to give CBD to dogs, such as CBD treats.
Remember: Discuss CBD with your veterinarian first. Getting your vet's approval will ensure that the dose is appropriate for your pet's age, weight, and health status. CBD is not a replacement for prescription medications or medical care for your pet.
Finding a High-Quality CBD Oil
Buyer beware: not all CBD products are the same when it comes to quality!
Low-quality oils can contain more or less CBD than what's listed on the label. They may also be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, or THC. When buying CBD for your pet, look for independent third-party testing results with specific batch numbers on the company's website. This information confirms a product's quality, allowing you to make informed dosing choices for your pup.
In general, we also recommend purchasing CBD oil made for pets, not people.
First, human CBD oil can contain other ingredients that are dangerous for dogs, like artificial sweeteners. Second, the amount of CBD per drop in pet products is designed with the dog's body weight in mind.
It may be harder to troubleshoot your dog's CBD dose with CBD oil made for humans.
So, Can Dogs Have CBD?
Many dog owners are interested in CBD oil's potential health benefits. Of course, you may also be concerned about risks, side effects, and dosage guidelines.
We've discussed how CBD studies suggest that it is safe for most dogs. On the other hand, CBD's psychoactive relative, THC, is not safe for pets.
In the end, the answer to "should you give your dog CBD oil?" is best decided by you in collaboration with your dog's veterinarian. How CBD fits into your dog's wellness plan will depend on their unique needs.
2. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/congressional-testimony/hemp-production- and-2018-farm-bill-07252019