CBD for Dogs: 3 Essential Things You Must Know

The ever-expanding CBD market includes many options aimed at the pet population. And while no form of cannabis is FDA-approved for animals, there are plenty of veterinarians who don’t hesitate to recommend CBD treats for dogs that suffer from a range of various diseases and chronic ailments.

Unfortunately, more than a handful of companies have been reprimanded by the FDA for lying about the amount of CBD in their products. Therefore, dog owners must exercise caution when considering cannabidiol products for their canine friends.

This guide outlines everything you need to know about CBD for dogs. This includes how it works, what science says, whether CBD is safe for dogs, and guidance on dosing.

How Does CBD for Dogs Work?

For the uninitiated, CBD (cannabidiol) is the non-intoxicating ingredient in cannabis. Unlike THC, it doesn’t produce the euphoric effects consistent with marijuana use. CBD still plays an active role in the body. It also influences a huge array of physiological processes and modulates endogenous cannabinoid receptors.

Numerous studies have shown that CBD works via the manipulation of receptors in the CNS. According to research, CBD plays a role in reducing inflammation, easing chronic pain, and reducing the viability of tumor cells. It also appears to minimize symptoms of anxiety, reduce the severity of seizures, and more.

What Medical Conditions Does CBD for Dogs Address?

A common use of CBD for dogs is to help manage the pain associated with arthritis. Indeed, CBD oil for dogs could be used for a host of conditions. Yet, many veterinary communities remain skeptical about its effectiveness due to a lack of published research studies.

Darlene Arden is a certified animal behavior consultant and proponent for medicinal marijuana use in pets. She said that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) would not approve the use of cannabis in pets until an acceptable amount of research and data was put forth on the subject.

Arden expressed the need for medication and drug functioning to be quantitatively backed up by science. She also lamented that animals suffer unnecessarily through pain, nausea, stress, and anxiety when CBD may benefit them.

Additional Veterinarian Thoughts About CBD

However, some veterinarians recommend CBD for its potential therapeutic quality. Dr. Tim Shu, founder and CEO of VETCBD is one of these vets. He says the interaction of cannabidiol with the endocannabinoid system in dogs can provide relief from a wide variety of physiological and neurological conditions. This, he believes, is via modulation of the chemical components responsible for nausea, stress, anxiety, pain, and more.

Dr. Shu also says CBD is unlike other traditional prescription medications that veterinary clinics suggest. It also has no significant or life-threatening side effects if administered in the proper dose. He also states that CBD does not damage internal organs, nor does it get the dog high. Unlike sedative medications that alleviate symptoms by simply masking the underlying condition, cannabidiol actively works to reverse abnormal functioning.

In addition to alleviating pain and nausea, CBD oil for dogs is also increasingly being used to calm overly aggressive dogs. It could potentially help easily frightened or skittish dogs sent into panic mode by loud noises or mail carriers.

And lastly, another area that scientists are currently investigating is how CBD can help calm seizures in dogs. While there is no definitive research yet, many dog owners give cannabidiol a try when other seizure medications have failed.

CBD and Dogs Research: What Does Science Say?

CBD stores only recently started offering pet-specific products. However, research on CBD for pets is older than many people realize. The main issue is the lack of clinical studies over the last few decades.

In 1988, a study by Mechoulam, Bialer, and Samara, published in the Drug Metabolism and Disposition journal, looked into the pharmacokinetics of CBD in dogs (pharmacokinetics refers to the movement of drugs within the body).

A group of canines received an oral CBD dose of 180mg and two IV doses of 45 mg and 90 mg, respectively. The cannabinoid was quickly distributed after IV administration, followed by a lengthy elimination. Interestingly, researchers didn’t detect CBD in the dogs’ plasma after oral administration in three of the six dogs studied.

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In the other three, the maximum bioavailability was just 19%. The conclusion was that CBD is barely absorbed after oral administration. The ‘first pass’ effect was likely responsible for the low absorption rate.

Another clinical study, published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science in July 2018, looked at the effects of hemp-based CBD on dogs with arthritis. Dogs received one of two treatments every 12 hours in the study: either 2mg of CBD per kilogram of body weight or placebo oil. Each treatment lasted four weeks with a further ‘washout’ period of two weeks.

None of the dogs experienced any significant side effects. There was a noticeable decrease in pain, and an increase in activity, in 80% of the canines that consumed the CBD. The study concluded that 2mg per kilogram of CBD twice a day could help dogs with osteoarthritis. Interestingly, this dose is far higher than what is recommended by Dr. Wagner.

Ongoing Clinical Studies on CBD in Dogs

Dr. Stephanie McGrath works at Colorado State University. She has completed a pair of clinical studies on CBD’s effects in dogs with epilepsy and osteoarthritis (OA). McGrath had no interest in marijuana as a therapeutic drug until 2012.

In that year, cannabis became legal recreationally in Colorado. McGrath received many calls from people asking if CSU was conducting any research into marijuana’s medical effects. Eventually, she began studying the effects of cannabidiol on dogs with epilepsy and OA. The Applied Basic Science Corporation provided the CBD used in the research.

In her initial study, McGrath looked at 30 healthy dogs and found that they tolerated CBD in certain amounts. The results from the preliminary epilepsy study were promising. So much so that the American Kennel Club provided $350,000 worth of funding. This allowed McGrath to begin a three-year crossover study into how cannabidiol affects dogs with the condition.

A different study into how CBD affects dogs with OA was published in Pain in September 2020. This was a four-week study on 20 large dogs with OA. The canines received either a placebo or one of three CBD formulations.

Canines that used liposomal CBD or a high dose of the cannabinoid benefited from significant improvements.

At the end of the study, dogs that used a placebo or a low CBD oil dose showed minimal improvements. However, canines that used liposomal CBD or a high dose of the cannabinoid benefited from significant improvements in quality of life and mobility. Matthew Halpert, one of the study’s authors, admitted being surprised by how quickly the dogs’ health improved.

The canines continued showing improvements up to two weeks after their CBD intake ceased. Halpert believes this shows that the CBD was improving underlying inflammatory issues.

Is CBD Safe for Dogs?

The available research suggests that it is. The vast majority of companies that sell CBD products for dogs derive the compound from hemp rather than marijuana. Hemp oil is legal across the United States because it contains little to no THC.

As long as consumers purchase organic CBD oil with no THC, pesticides, or fungicides, it should have minimal side effects. It is also wise to begin with the smallest possible dose before increasing it until it shows positive effects for your dog.

Responsible pet owners still have to ensure that the effects of CBD don’t cause any issues. Therefore, it is essential to monitor the dog carefully and discontinue cannabidiol usage if they display any of the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Tremors
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure

Hemp-derived CBD that contains no more than 0.3% THC is legal according to federal law. Nonetheless, a vet is highly unlikely to prescribe it because they can be held liable for prescribing any form of medical cannabis or CBD for pets. Therefore, you’ll have to purchase it from a reputable online brand instead.

We also recommend sticking with companies that provide third-party lab reports. Also, the best extraction method involves the use of CO2 rather than solvents.

Types of CBD for Dogs

Understanding CBD oil for dogs’ benefits and health advantages is one thing, but getting them to take it is another thing altogether. Fortunately, there are some products designed for convenient pet consumption.

Tinctures that come in a dropper bottle are great for measuring out exact doses. When one places CBD under the tongue, it absorbs rapidly into the bloodstream, allowing it to work quicker than topicals or edibles. If you’re wondering how to give CBD oil to a dog, a simple technique is to place a dropper in a spoonful of peanut butter.

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For dogs suffering from rashes, skin allergies, arthritis, or other general forms of muscle aches or joint pains, CBD topicals (salves and creams) are a popular and convenient method. They’re reliable, convenient, efficient for acute pain, and for the most part, are easy to administer.

However, dog biscuits infused with CBD are arguably the best way to give the cannabinoid to your canine. They tend to come in a massive array of sizes and CBD doses. Reputable brands such as PureKana and Premium Jane have begun selling CBD products such as dog biscuits in flavors your dog will love.

How Much CBD Oil Should I Give My Dog?

Generally speaking, a rough “jumping off” point in terms of CBD for smaller dogs is 1 mg. Remember, in humans, the starter point is typically only 1-3 mg. In general, even large dogs will ultimately only use about one-third of what a human would consume.

Let’s go ahead and break down the dosage of CBD for dogs, based on relative weight:

Extra Small (2 – 8 lbs)

Tiny dogs require the least amount of CBD. However, they have very fast metabolisms, so you may have to administer up to 3 doses per day, depending on results. An initial CBD dose of 1 mg is a decent starting point. Yet please remember – these are all suggestions and do NOT constitute definitive advice or veterinary recommendations.

For anxiety or other behavioral/psychological conditions, you can even try and measure out ½ mg of the tincture and go from there. All doses are based upon twice daily (morning and evening) administration. If the initial dose does not seem to provide results, increase in 2 mg increments until improvement is noticed. It is advised not to exceed 15 mg CBD doses in extra small dogs.

Small (8 – 15 lbs)

You can use the same initial doses for small dogs as extra small dogs, except administering a 1 mg dose for behavioral issues instead of a ½ mg dose.

Medium (15 – 30 lbs)

Some people have had success by starting with a 2 mg initial dose for medium-sized dogs. Then they increase by 3 mg increments until results are achieved. This is particularly relevant when attempting to manage pain and arthritis. For anxiety/behavioral conditions and lack of appetite, a general 1 mg initial dose is recommended. Successive doses should increase by no more than 2 mg with a maximum of 2 doses per day.

Large (30 – 60 lbs)

To help large dogs with general pain, arthritis, etc., a 1-3 mg dose of CBD is generally recognized as an appropriate starting off point, depending on the severity of the pain. If you notice no results with the initial dose, try increasing each successive dose by no more than 3 mg. Once again, make sure you provide no more than two doses in any 24 hours.

For anxiety, lack of appetite, behavioral conditions, and other psychological conditions, an initial dose of 1 mg is suggested, with additional doses increasing by no more than 2 mg. Keep a close eye on your dog’s behavior, as it can be difficult to gauge exactly when the effect of the CBD is kicking in.

Extra Large (60+ lbs)

You can use the same general recommendations for very large dogs as for large dogs.

Final Thoughts on CBD for Dogs

We have heard some remarkable reports about how CBD has changed the lives of pets for the better. Furthermore, we know that the list of potential benefits for CBD in humans is extensive and involves the possible relief of the following:

  • Anxiety disorders, depression, and PTSD.
  • Seizures suffered by those with epilepsy.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Chronic inflammation.
  • The impact of neurodegenerative diseases while protecting the nervous system.
  • Nausea and improving appetite.
  • The harm caused by damaged blood vessels, along with a decrease in heart rate & blood pressure.

Preliminary research on CBD and dogs is promising. You may find it is worth giving your dog a small amount of CBD if it has a condition such as epilepsy, arthritis, or anxiety. However, we would urge caution and recommend stopping CBD use if your pet shows any negative side effects. Hopefully, ongoing research will shed more light on the puzzle. Until then, don’t take chances with your pet’s health!


Can CBD Reduce Seizures in Dogs?

There is promising research to suggest it is a possibility. Dr. Stephanie McGrath led a pilot study at CSU to see if CBD could help with epilepsy. In the study, dogs with epilepsy who used CBD showed a significantly greater reduction in seizure frequency than the placebo group.

How Long Does CBD Stay in a Dog’s System?

Typically, CBD stays in a dog’s system for up to 24 hours. However, it depends on factors such as the size of the dog, the dosage, and its physiology.

Do Vets Recommend CBD Oil for Dogs?

At present, the answer is no. Even though hemp is legal federally, CBD is not. Californian vets can discuss the use of marijuana for sick animals but not prescribe it. In states like Alabama, a vet can go to jail for prescribing CBD to animals. Even recommending the use of it can get a veterinarian in serious trouble.

Does CBD Work for Dogs with Arthritis?

Research suggests that CBD could help provide pain relief in dogs with arthritis when used twice daily at appropriate doses. An estimated 25% of dogs will receive an arthritis diagnosis in their lifetime, but up to 60% could have some degree of the disease.

Does CBD Work for Dog Allergies?

There is a suggestion that CBD oil could help alleviate allergies in dogs. One study found that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is linked to allergic contact dermatitis or allergic skin reactions. A study from 2012 found that CBD could help with the symptoms of atopic dermatitis in dogs. This is exciting research, but we must wait for further clinical trials to provide further evidence on CBD’s possible efficacy for dogs.

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