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.
CBD Oil for Dogs with Arthritis and Other Mobility Issues
The fastest growing health trend for both humans and pets in 2021 is CBD oil. Perhaps you have seen it on the shelves of your local pet boutique or even at your vet’s office.
If you have a mobility impaired or senior dog struggling with conditions such as arthritis or hip dysplasia, you may be wondering if this is just another passing fad, or if there is any science to support its use. Of course, you want to do all you can for your pet. But you also don’t want to waste your money or risk your beloved pet’s health.
It turns out that CBD oil, also known as cannabidiol or hemp oil, has been extensively researched. This article will give you a basic primer on what CBD oil is, how it works, and what sorts of health benefits it may offer your dog with joint pain, arthritis, chronic inflammation, and other mobility issues.
Our hope is that if your dog has arthritis, hip dysplasia, or another condition that includes chronic pain and inflammation, that you will learn more about how CBD may be a good choice for your canine companion.
All CBD products are not the same. For example, full spectrum CBD oil may offer your dog more relief. If you decide to work with your vet to give it a try, we hope this article will also help you find the best CBD oil for dogs with arthritis and mobility issues.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is derived from a special strain of cannabis known as hemp. You may be thinking: “Wait. I thought marijuana was toxic to dogs.” You are right to have this concern. Strains of cannabis grown for recreational and medical use in humans usually contain high amounts of THC, a psychoactive compound that is toxic to dogs in large doses.
However, hemp is special. This strain of cannabis is regulated by law to contain less than 0.3% of THC, far too small an amount to harm your pet when hemp oil is properly dosed.
Hemp is high in another cannabinoid found in hemp: Cannabidiol. This compound is not psychoactive and it won’t get your dog high. But it does have several scientifically researched health benefits. This article will explore those most relevant for our senior and disabled canine companions, including those struggling with osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, and other conditions that can reduce mobility. Wondering if dog CBD is right for your pooch? Read on.
The Endocannabinoid System
The use of cannabis for its medicinal qualities goes back centuries. However, the scientific exploration of the healing qualities is much more recent. The last few decades in particular have been marked by a surge in laboratory studies on tissues, animals, and humans.
One of the biggest breakthroughs was the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in the early 1990’s. It turns out that this system acts with a series of receptors, transmitters, and specialized enzymes to regulate several bodily functions including: metabolism, immunity, digestion, skin health, allergic reaction, anxiety, and more.
Many people think that it sounds like a scam when they see that CBD oil may have so many health benefits, however, it is precisely because the Endocannabinoid System regulates so many other functions in the body that it can have a broad stabilizing effect on these same systems.
Your dog, like all mammals, has her own endocannabinoid system (ECS). In addition to producing her own endocannabinoids, her ECS responds to the introduction of cannabinoids such those found in hemp oil. These can be introduced via food, supplements, and applied topically.
Benefits of CBD Oil for Dogs
High quality CBD oil may play an important role in a vet approved plan for your dog’s health. CBD may be especially useful in canines who suffer from mobility issues, persistent pain and inflammation, or chronic conditions that often come with age such as arthritis or hip dysplasia.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the science:
For many disabled and senior dogs, pain management is a key component of treatment to maintain quality of life. Pain can be caused from injury, surgery, and chronic and progressive disease such as IVDD, hip dysplasia, and arthritis. Reducing pain is important for your special needs dog’s quality of life.
Generally, pain management will include prescription medications such as opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Although these medications are very effective, they also come with serious side effects. Side effects include chemical dependence, long term liver damage, and the potential for a lethal overdose. On the other hand, the natural supplement cannabidiol has demonstrated in multiple studies to be effective in reducing pain with minimal side effects.
Inflammation is a significant source of pain for many of our handicapped and older dogs suffering from chronic conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia. Typically, these conditions are treated aggressively with NSAIDs.
Unfortunately, this class of drugs has come under recent controversy concerning the safety of their use, particularly for aging dogs and those experiencing organ dysfunction. This is particularly a concern for long term pain management. Long term NSAID use can have serious side effects on the gastrointestinal tract, liver, and kidneys. In fact, renal failure and death are possible risks of the long term use of this class of drugs. When choosing a treatment regimen for your pet, you and your veterinarian must always balance the risks and benefits of any medication to determine the best course of action for your pet.
Adding CBD to your pet’s treatment plan may be beneficial with minimal risk to your pet. Several studies have shown that cannabidiol has powerful anti-inflammatory effects, both when taken orally or when applied to the skin. One study showed CBD to be effective against inflammation caused by osteoarthritis, that it slowed the progression of this degenerative disease by preventing the nerve damage caused by inflammation! And, with fewer and less severe known side effects than many approved NSAID drugs commonly prescribed to senior pets.
Reduce the Use of Pain Medications with CBD Oil
CBD oil is thought to enhance the activity of opioids and NSAIDS, making it possible to reduce the dose of these drugs without compromising on pain control.
This is great news for dog owners looking to avoid complications from long term use of these drug classes. It certainly warrants a conversation with your veterinarian!
As our dogs age, they begin to show less interest in activities they once enjoyed. Daily walks, a swim in the pond – may become too much for a dog in pain to handle. It is heartbreaking to watch the process unfold and we all want to prolong our pet’s mobility as long as we can.
Because it can address both pain and inflammation, CBD oil may help to improve your aging dog’s mobility. One study on dogs showed that 2 mg of CBD administered twice daily improved mobility for dogs affected with osteoarthritis.
CBD Oil for Dogs with Arthritis
Arthritis is a common condition in dogs, especially seniors and large breeds. Symptoms of arthritis in dogs can include:
- Joint pain
- Decreased mobility
- Difficulty jumping or using stairs
- Reluctance to engage in activities
- Irritability or aggression
Arthritis pain can sadly have a significant impact on the quality of life of many senior dogs. CBD oil for arthritis is a relatively new treatment that has shown some benefit for dogs with arthritis pain.
Is there any veterinary research on CBD oil for dogs with arthritis? Great question!
Veterinary medicine tends to follow trends in human medicine, often lagging by years from testing to approval of veterinary drugs. The FDA has not approved a veterinary drug to treat arthritis based on CBD or hemp based compounds.
However, that is not to say that there is no research to support the use of CBD for arthritis. There are several promising studies that demonstrate that cannabidiol is effective at reducing inflammation in rat models of arthritis. One study showed that CBD was effective at reducing inflammation and slowed the progression of degeneration in rats.
Medical researchers are investigating how some cannabinoid receptors, such as the GPR55 receptor, may be directly implicated in the progression of joint problems in arthritis. One study showed that CBD interacts with this receptor in a way that seems to slow down the progression.
Although there is less research to be found specifically on CBD and dogs with arthritis, one study conducted by Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2018 showed that 2 mg of CBD administered twice daily to dogs with arthritis resulted in decreased pain and increased activity levels. The dogs in the study also had no reported side effects from the treatment.
The Arthritis Foundation released a report giving some guidelines on the safe use of CBD for people suffering from arthritis. They note that: “Animal studies have suggested that CBD has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, but these effects have not been validated in quality studies in humans.
Although large clinical trials have not yet taken place, it is also fair to say that early research on the use of natural CBD for dogs with arthritis is promising. For dogs with arthritis, CBD may be another treatment option in addition to traditional arthritis medications and supplements.
CBD Oil for Dogs with Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is another common joint issue that begins during puppyhood. And, like arthritis, hip dysplasia is a condition that involves joint pain and inflammation.
Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that occurs due to uneven growth of the hip joints. This results in arthritis of the hips, often at a young age. Just like dogs with arthritis, dogs with hip dysplasia experience joint pain, loss of mobility, and chronic inflammation. Other symptoms of hip dysplasia are also similar to those in dogs with arthritis, including:
- Reluctance to rise from sitting or laying down
- Difficulty with jumping or using stairs
- Lameness in the hind legs
- Decreased range of motion in the hips
- Loss of muscle mass in the rear limbs
We know that CBD products can help with pain and inflammation. Many vets and pet owners are using CBD oil for dogs to help alleviate symptoms of hip dysplasia. This is giving our pets a better quality of life with less discomfort and more mobility.
Talk to Your Veterinarian About CBD Oil
Canine CBD oil is available ‘over the counter’, but always talk to your vet before adding a medication or supplement. This is especially important since CBD oil can interfere with the metabolism of other drugs your canine may need for proper treatment.
You may have been told, or heard not to eat grapefruit at the same time you take medications. The chemicals in grapefruit can temporarily inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes in the liver which are critical for metabolizing these medications. Cannabidiol can have a similar inhibiting mechanism so timing your dosing may be very important.
Some dogs experience mild side effects from the use of CBD oil products. These may include symptoms such as mild sedation, seeming drowsy or “out of it”, vomiting, or diarrhea when first starting the product. If these side effects occur, or if you have any other questions or concerns about CBD oil for dogs, stop giving the product and contact your veterinarian for further advice.
If you do decide to give your dog CBD oil for arthritis or mobility issues, make sure you show the product you’ve chosen to your veterinarian first. Your vet will want to make sure the product is third-party lab tested, contains an appropriate dose of CBD, and is THC-free. Some CBD pet products do not meet these safety and clinical efficacy standards. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations to help you choose the best CBD products, or check out our guidelines below.
Best CBD for Dogs with Arthritis
If you want the best CBD oil for dogs for arthritis, be sure that you know what to look for.
Unfortunately, thanks to all the recent science on this supplement, demand is high and supply is still trying to catch up. This makes the market ripe for fake and low-quality products, a situation the FDA has warned pet owners about.
To choose the best CBD oil for dogs with arthritis, be sure to buy a safe product from a trusted company that makes high-quality CBD oil for dogs specifically, such as LolaHemp. If you decide to do your own research on a brand to try, be sure it checks off all of these important quality considerations:
Quality Considerations when selecting a CBD Oil
Made just for dogs: Avoid CBD oil products made for people which can include flavorings and other ingredients that can be harmful to canines. Dog owners should also be aware that many CBD oils made for people can also contain high levels of THC, which can be fatal to pets. The best CBD oil will be one made specifically for dogs.
Organic sourcing: Refined hemp oil can contain harmful pesticides and herbicides routinely used in industrial hemp farming. Pet owners should look for full-spectrum CBD oil products made from organically sourced hemp, such as LolaHemp products.
Third-Party Lab Tested: You should verify the quality and concentration of any hemp oil before you buy. Look for a product that has recently been third-party lab tested to be sure you are getting a high-quality CBD product tested for purity and concentration. The label should specify the mg of CBD and the product should be THC-free.
Full Spectrum: Full-spectrum CBD oil is the best CBD oil for dogs with arthritis, and it is considered superior to CBD isolate. Full-spectrum CBD oil – sometimes referred to as broad-spectrum CBD oil – contains all of the vital compounds found in the whole hemp plant. Even in trace amounts, these compounds improve the overall healing qualities of hemp, known as the “Entourage Effect.”
MCT Coconut Oil: Widely believed to boost the ability to metabolize CBD oils, an MCT coconut oil carrier oil is a sign of high quality. Look for a broad-spectrum CBD or full-spectrum CBD oil with an MCT carrier made specifically for dogs to ensure you’re getting a quality product.
Commitment to Animal Welfare
Put your money where your heart is. Support companies that make animal welfare a priority through service and donations to rescue pets in need. The best CBD oil for dogs with arthritis also helps other pets, too!
Dr. Elizabeth Racine, DVM
Elizabeth Racine, DVM is a small animal veterinarian with a passion for improving the lives of pets. She has worked in the veterinary field in various roles for more than a decade. Dr. Racine’s professional interests in behavior, nutrition, and palliative care. As a writer, her work has been featured by several world-renowned pet health and wellness brands. Dr. Racine shares her home with her dog Dasher – a beagle with his own storied career training new veterinary students – and her trouble-making orange cat named Julius.
Joey DiFrancesco is an animal lover, rescue advocate and entrepreneur. He is the founder of natural pet products brand Lolahemp, as well as online pet novelty shop, Lolawawa’s. Both brands are heavily active within the rescue community and contribute a portion of proceeds to animal rescue efforts.