More and more pet stores are carrying CBD as a “calming aid” option for helping our pups with anxiety and stress. CBD is also being used for alleviating arthritis, allergies, appetite, car sickness, seizures, and even cancer. With so many choices ranging from supplements to prescription medication, what sets CBD apart from these products and is it right for your dog? More importantly, is it safe?
Currently, there is little scientific research on CBD in pets but many anecdotal experiences from pet owners who have found success with CBD. A survey of over 2000 veterinarians familiar with CBD showed about 45% were comfortable discussing it with clients, mostly from states that legalized recreational marijuana. Most agreed that more research was needed but were supportive of CBD use in animals.
What is CBD or Cannabidiol?
CBD is a cannabinoid, a naturally-occuring chemical compound in animals and plants (hemp). Cannabinoids are part of the endocannabinoid system found in all mammals. This system is a signaling network that controls mood, memory, pain, appetite, and inflammation. The system is homeostatic which means it wants to keep everything in balance. Although there are few studies on CBD use in animals specifically, there are many studies on our body’s own cannabinoids and the positive effects of CBD on their health, such as preventing the effects of allergic skin diseases in dogs.
How does CBD work?
CBD is similar to one of our body’s own cannabinoids and so it can bind to the same receptors located in our brain and body. These receptors signal chemical processes to keep our dog’s health in check (homeostasis). Areas of the brain involving mood, stress, and fear are full of cannabinoid receptors.
CBD is also non-psychoactive, it doesn’t make our dogs “high.” Therefore, CBD has little to no side effects and overdose risk is low unlike many prescription medications. Pet products containing CBD currently come in the form of oils and treats for consumption or balms to rub into the skin. Most dosing instructions recommend to administer directly in the mouth on an empty stomach, under the tongue or rubbed into the gums for best results. It takes 15-30 minutes for CBD to take effect after consumption and lasts about 4-6 hours. Dosing amount is very flexible but a starting point depends on the concentration of CBD and the weight of the animal.
Is CBD right for my dog?
CBD products can’t make health claims, but many pet owners using these products have seen improvements in:
- Pain relief (joint pain)
- Anti-inflammatory (arthritis)
- Anxiety and stress (separation, travel, fireworks, loud noises, crowds, vet/grooming)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Aging (neuroprotective, antioxidant)
Assess your dog’s situation before considering CBD: Is the dog destroying the home and whining while we are away because of separation anxiety or because they are bored from lack of exercise? CBD may not work for the latter scenario. CBD doesn’t cause sleepiness like melatonin so it’s not a solution for hyperactivity (happy, overexcited energy). If you think your pup is hyperactive, you can likely benefit from activities like nose-work and training.
CBD (Hemp) vs. THC (Marijuana): Will my dog get high?
No, because CBD is non-psychoactive it doesn’t cause a high. You may be more familiar with THC, a cannabinoid found in marijuana that is psychoactive . It causes a euphoric feeling, or a “high”. It has many side effects and is also toxic to dogs. In fact, looking at the side effects of THC can give a better understanding on what the endocannabinoid system does. The side effects are mostly exaggerated effects of an imbalance in the system (paranoia, giddiness, increased appetite). This is why it is crucial to find a high quality CBD product that has no or is extremely low in THC.
CBD Safety: What to look for in a product
The FDA has issued many warnings to some companies because they found their products didn’t accurately report the amount of CBD in them. Look for companies that are in complete control over the entire production process and use third party lab testing to measure the exact level of CBD content. They should be fully transparent and have this information easily viewable for pet owners such as Pet Releaf’s results below, accessible from their website.
Their products should be USDA certified organic and use full spectrum extraction: this type of extraction yields PCR (phytocannabinoid-rich) oil and it contains the full benefits of hemp: cannabinoids, flavonoids for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and terpenoids for flavor and aroma. Ideally, look for products that are CO2 extracted instead of butane/ethanol extracted. CO2 extraction is much more expensive to run but produces a cleaner and higher-quality CBD oil. Most CBD products for humans are extracted by solvents like butane, ethanol, and propane and can contain toxic levels of THC (>0.3%) so do not give human CBD products to your dog.
CBD for Dogs: Anecdotally Positive but Insufficient Research
Due to the low risk (no side effects/overdose) compared to other supplements and medications, CBD may be worth a try for helping your dog with anxiety and stress. For health issues like pain management, arthritis, and epilepsy, consult with your veterinarian to see if CBD could help. Although there are many success stories from pet owners who have tried it, the main concern is that the effectiveness of CBD and potential risks for long term use in animals isn’t well studied yet. It is a relatively new option and more research needs to be done on CBD for dogs.
CBD can be another option for pet owners in managing their pet’s wellbeing. But remember to consider other alternatives such as crate training to help an anxious pup find a sense of safety. Or enlist the help of an animal behaviorist or trainer to manage fear behavior. For managing joint pain, include whole food sources like green-lipped mussels and bone broth for glucosamine and chondroitin and cinnamon for anti-inflammatory properties. Every dog is different and there is no one miracle product that works on all dogs. CBD might even have no noticeable effect on your dog! Finding what works best for your dog’s situation may involve some trial and error and although CBD is newer, it may be the right solution for you!