As marijuana becomes legal in many states, more and more people are wondering about its health benefits—not only for humans but for our pets.
While we know at this point that CBD oil has its benefits for humans and animals, it’s not approved as a veterinary treatment by the FDA because there is so much we don’t know about its effects. Even in humans, there’s a lot of research yet to be done.
In this article, we’ll talk about the benefits and risks of CBD products for dogs, what to look for if you decide to give your dog CBD, and what types of products are on the market. Remember to always speak to your veterinarian before trying CBD as a treatment.
Table of Contents:
What Is CBD?
CBD is an ingredient in marijuana and hemp. Unlike the plant’s other main ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) doesn’t get people or dogs high.
Research shows that CBD can help reduce symptoms like anxiety, pain, seizures, and inflammation. It’s most commonly used as treatment for anxiety disorders, cancers, and chronic pain.
Partially because marijuana is stigmatized, there isn’t a lot of official guidance on how to use it to benefit the health of our pups. For instance, there are no FDA-approved drugs containing CBD for dogs, and only one for humans.
There are also very few studies on CBD’s effects on dogs, which does make using it riskier than if we had many studies to back up its safety and effectiveness.
CBD is not approved by the FDA for veterinary use due to the many questions science still has to answer about its usage. It’s important to be aware of all of this before giving it to your dog.
It’s also vital to discuss CBD with your veterinarian before use. They can advise whether it’s likely to help your dog’s symptoms, what dosage to try, and when to take your dog off of CBD if something goes wrong.
Benefits of CBD Oil for Dogs
Of course, the reason people ask about CBD for dogs is that it can have many benefits. These include:
- Pain relief
- Anxiety relief
- Seizure control
- Reduced inflammation
Keep in mind that some products will make claims that aren’t based in fact. As we’ll discuss further below, there is also plenty that’s unknown about CBD or that hasn’t been fully studied by science.
We do have some small studies on CBD benefits. They include this study that showed a decrease in pain and an increase in activity in dogs with Osteoathritis who were given CBD oil.
One of the only FDA-approved medications containing CBD for humans is Epidiolex, which is used to treat Epilepsy. Though CBD isn’t approved to treat seizure disorders in dogs, it being approved for people is a good sign since CBD seems to effect humans and dogs similarly.
When considering whether or not CBD oil will, or is, having an impact on your dog’s symptoms, work together with your veterinarian.
You’ll likely notice signs of improvement by observing how your dog behaves. For instance, they might enjoy longer walks if their pain is reduced, or sleep more with reduced anxiety symptoms.
Of course, you’ll also want to ask your vet what kind of side-effects to watch for, and what symptoms will require you to take your pup off of the CBD.
Related article: Tips For Flying With An Anxious Dog
Risks of CBD Oil for Dogs
Here are some of the risks of CBD oil, according to the FDA:
- Liver injury
- Negative interactions with other medications
- Loss of fertility
- Decreased appetite
Interactions with other medications seem especially likely for other drugs meant to calm anxiety, so your dog likely shouldn’t get CBD oil if they’re also on anxiety medications or antidepressants.
Loss of appetite is another huge risk if your dog is dealing with a life-threatening ailment such as cancer that is already affecting how well they eat.
Irritability can lead to aggression, so that’s another thing I would consider before giving your dog CBD oil.
The FDA also notes that we don’t really know how long-term, daily use of CBD affects humans—or dogs! Keep in mind that there’s a greater risk to this the longer your dog has left to live.
CBD oil may be more appropriate for a dog with terminal illness, for instance, than to be used daily on a puppy with anxiety. This is because the terminal patient isn’t likely to live to see long-term effects, so helping them in the short term is most important. Meanwhile, the puppy is more likely to see damage later in life.
However, this is of course not a guarantee—the entire point is that we don’t know how safe CBD oil is when it comes to daily, long-term use. Future studies may find that it’s incredibly safe, or that there are some detrimental side effects.
As always, you should speak to your vet for more information to help you make an informed decision.
Science also doesn’t know what dosage of CBD is safe for dogs. This means that, while you should work with your veterinarian to find the right dose, there aren’t any guarantees.
Your vet won’t have precise answers when it comes to how much CBD oil your dog can have without side effects, not until more studies are done on the subject.
Puppies and CBD
Lastly, the FDA notes that we don’t have enough research on how CBD affects fetal and brain development. They’re speaking about babies and children, but I think the same might be said for puppies.
If your dog is pregnant, you might want to wait until after the puppies are born. If your dog is still a puppy, you might want to hold off until they reach full maturity.
Again, your veterinarian will likely have more information for you on this front!
Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil for Dogs
Hemp oil is made from the seeds of a hemp plant, while CBD oil is made from the stem, leaves, and flowers of the plant. Hemp oil does not contain CBD.
Hemp oil has its benefits, but they aren’t the ones we’ve discussed in this article. Instead, hemp oil is a good supplement that includes protein, fatty acids, and vitamins B and D.
CBD oil has the benefits we discussed above, which include relief from pain, anxiety, seizures, and inflammation.
Sometimes, hemp oil and CBD oil are used interchangeably. Before making a purchase, ensure you know exactly what you’re buying by looking at the ingredients.
Types of CBD Products for Pets
There are many CBD products on the market for pets today. These include:
- CBD oils
- Lotions and creams
CBD Oils can be placed directly into your dog’s mouth with a syringe, as you would a medication. You can also give it with food, if your dog will eat it on their own.
CBD oil made for dogs often has additives for flavor, such as chicken. If the oil tastes bad to your dog, you might choose to pair it with something they love, like peanut butter, to further mask the taste.
Or, you can try a treat or chewable CBD, as your dog might prefer their flavor. These are often the simplest way to give your dog CBD, so long as your dog will eat them. However, it’s not as easy to adjust dosage using treats as it is when giving your dog CBD oil.
Oral forms of CBD are best if you’re looking to control anything except centralized pain, since this way the CBD can impact your dog’s entire body.
There are also products for your dog’s skin, such as lotions, that contain CBD. These are most often used to provide pain relief to a specific area. Topical creams might also provide faster pain relief to the area as opposed to oral CBD, which has to make its way through your dog’s digestive system first.
Some people claim that topical CBD also works for dogs who are on medications that CBD may not interact well with. However, there’s always a chance that your dog consumes the CBD by licking it off of their skin.
I recommend discussing this with your veterinarian and using CBD creams with caution if your dog is on other medications.
Also, be careful about what ingredients are in the topical CBD. Human products, especially, might include ingredients that are toxic if consumed.
What to Look for in CBD Pet Products
When choosing a CBD product for your dog, look for the following:
- Products that don’t contain THC
- Organic ingredients
- Lack of pesticides, fungicides, solvents, and other additives
- The purer, the better—even if it costs more
- A Certificate of Analysis (which we’ll discuss more below)
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Is CBD Safe For Pets?
CBD is typically seen as safe, but we don’t actually have a ton of facts or research to back up this claim. I recommend speaking to your veterinarian if you’re considering giving CBD to your dog or any other pets.
One problem, even if CBD is found to be safe for dogs, is that CBD oil for pets is currently an unregulated market. No drug containing CBD is approved by the FDA, and you aren’t going to get a prescription filled by your veterinarian like most drugs.
Whenever we start to take a company’s word that they’re doing the right thing, we run into some risks. The products might contain more or less CBD than advertised, or come with added ingredients that are detrimental to your dog’s health, like THC or pesticides.
It’s important to choose a brand you trust and to be an informed shopper. One thing you can look for on the company’s website is a Certificate of Analysis to ensure the ingredients are properly listed.
Can My Dog Have CBD Designed for Humans?
Dogs can have some CBD products designed for humans, but you’ll also encounter risks that are less common in pet products.
For instance, some human CBD products contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, so it’s important you do your research. Common toxins include xylitol (a sugar substitute), artificial sweeteners, chocolate, and essential oils.
While not all essential oils are toxic to dogs, many are—so double check before using any product containing them.
Human CBD products might also taste bad to dogs, while products made for dogs use canine-approved flavors like chicken.
Will CBD Get My Dog High?
CBD products for pets should never get your dog high. If they do, this means that they contain (THC). This is the ingredient in marijuana that causes a high.
It’s also why being an informed consumer, as we discussed above, is so important. It’s also, arguably, a reason to wait until products containing CBD are approved by the FDA, as they’ll then be more regulated and less likely to cause adverse effects.
However, this will take time. Some dogs are having symptoms that need treatment now, not years from now. All I can suggest is that you use your best judgment, speak with your veterinarian, and weigh the pros and cons as you would for any other veterinary decision.
Last update on 2022-01-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API