Few consumer products have exploded in popularity within the past few years like cannabidiol, or CBD.  This active compound is found in both hemp and marijuana (the male and female versions of cannabis, respectively) and has been cleared for commercial use in many states and cities across the nation.  Since CBD does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (the active ingredient in marijuana that causes a person to feel the “high” euphoria) it is legal for most Americans to purchase CBD in stores and online.  CBD is most commonly available as an oil to be eaten directly or added to snacks; some restaurants have even added CBD meals to their menus.

CBD has been shown to have positive results for many health concerns ranging from anxiety to seizures, and what’s good for humans is also good for our pets.  New lines of CBD products for dogs have hit the shelves and many owners are racing to give their pet the same sensation of calm and tranquility that they feel after a dose. Pet-specific CBD products exploded by nearly 1000% in 2019, while Cesar Millan (television’s Dog Whisperer) teamed up with boxer Mike Tyson to launch a CBD dog treat brand.  What dog-friendly CBD products are available, and how should your pets take this substance?

Benefits of CBD Oil for Pets

CBD affects a pooch in the exact same manner as its owner: mammal bodies uptake the chemical in through the specific endocannabinoid receptors in the brain that control mood.  These receptors exist in our dogs and ourselves after hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

The discovery of these receptors in the 1960s, in fact, could not have been possible without cannabis itself, as studies of the drug demonstrated how its compounds affect the brain more drastically than any other chemical – hence the receptor’s name.

Scientists suggest that these receptors’ primary functions can be summarized as “relax, eat, sleep, and forget.”  Thus, a dog who has problems relaxing, eating, or sleeping may benefit from a CBD treatment.

Just a few years ago there were few formal medical or veterinary studies of CBD and pet use, meaning much of the information regarding these treatments remains new and subject to personal experience.

Now, new studies are showing how CBD is pulling its weight in pet medicine, with veterinarians demonstrating that it is healthy for dogs to take as a treatment method.  A 2018 Colorado State University study found that CBD treatments reduced epileptic seizures in nearly 90% of dogs tested.  Another study by that university’s teaching hospital analyzed the effectiveness of CBD on joint pain.

Common Pet Owner Concerns and CBD

In addition to formal studies on CBD, the data from existing pet owners who use these treats to keep their dog healthy reveals the concerns that CBD can alleviate.  A 2018 iHeartDogs survey quizzed nearly 200 dog owners and found that over two-thirds rated CBD treats as “very effective” or “somewhat effective,” with most owners using CBD for their pet’s anxiety, followed closely by arthritis.

That anxiety and arthritis top the list should be no surprise to a dog owner.  Anywhere from one in five to one in ten dogs fear new situations, new people, or new dogs.  Meanwhile, another one in five dogs will experience joint pain and mobility issues during their lives.  CBD treats also have demonstrated effectiveness with symptoms of other chronic issues like epilepsy, cancer, and digestive issues.  CBD can also increase appetite for dogs who are reluctant or plain stubborn eaters.

Internet searches for simple topics like “dogs and CBD” reveal owners searching for solutions for issues regarding a dog’s mobility, diet, barking, separation fears, trips to the vet, muscle spasms, thunderstorms, frequent pacing, and aggression.

What Type of CBD Oil is Good for Dogs?

Dogs and humans have coevolved to be able to eat most of the same food and CBD oil is no exception.  Dogs won’t be picky about the type – they’ll only care what it tastes like – but as an owner you should give a thought to which type of CBD dog tincture you want to give your pet.

There are three types of CBD oil: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.  Their names simply refer to the concentration of other hemp-derived chemicals in the oil solution: full-spectrum contains chemicals besides cannabidiol, while isolate contains none.  Strange as it may seem, isolate is the weakest dose of CBD, because of the effect these chemicals have on each other when processed through our endocannabinoid receptors.  As such, an isolate dose may need to have a higher level of CBD than a full spectrum dose to see the same effects.

None of these variants of CBD contain any quantity of THC, the chemical associated with marijuana’s “high”; the male hemp plants from which CBD is harvested from do not produce it.

CBD oil can be given to a dog in one of two ways: direct as an oil or in tandem with food.  Dogs, like humans, process CBD faster when it is eaten with a meal, which is why many owners simply add it to their dinner bowl or give their pet a CBD-infused treat.

Dogs can take CBD orally through drops, as people may, though most have less patience for it than humans, even though most dog CBD doses are flavored to taste like meat.

Like many other aspects of pet treats, the quality of CBD oil often matches the price.  More expensive treats or oils will be organic, free of pesticides or heavy metals, and contain no additives. 

How Much CBD Oil Should You Give Your Dog?

Like any other medication or treatment, CBD dosage depends upon the size of the dog and its level of health.  A big, young dog like a golden retriever can handle doses as high as 50 mg, while a smaller or more frail corgi might do best with no more than 10 mg.

In general, a sliding scale of 1-5 mg of CBD for 10 pounds of dog works well.  CBD snacks offer no more than 5 to 10 mg per treat.  A CBD tincture can help measure the precise quantity of CBD oil included in a meal so that owners can monitor and adjust the dosage as needed.

How Long Does it Take CBD Oil for Dogs to Work?

Just like humans, a dog’s digestion system won’t process CBD for an hour or two after consumption when it is eaten as a treat.  Plan your dog’s dosage ahead of time to ensure they’ll be feeling the benefits when needed, such as before a long car ride.

An oral dose kicks in far faster, within the span of just a few moments, which is why oral dosage may be appealing to owners even if it is not always appealing to dogs.

What is the Difference between CBD for humans and CBD for dogs?

The primary difference is the size of the dosage.  Humans are several times larger than most dogs and require more CBD to affect our endocannabinoid receptors to the same degree.

Never feed your pets CBD snacks or food meant for humans.  A person can safely eat a dog CBD treat, but they wouldn’t feel as much of an effect, and probably wouldn’t like the taste.

Do Veterinarians Recommend CBD Oil?

Each veterinarian will have their own opinion about CBD oil, especially because the treatment is quite new and many question marks remain in the air about CBD and health.  Early studies have shown success and veterinarians may recommend CBD oil when a dog has not responded to existing treatments.  They may also do so if they believe the side effects of an existing medicine may lead to a lower quality of life overall than a CBD replacement.

The American Veterinary Society does not recommend giving THC-based treats to dogs, but has no information about the use of CBD-based treats.   The American Kennel Club has an FAQ devoted to CBD dog treats and recommends using them whenever suggested by a veterinarian.

Does CBD Help Dogs with Anxiety?

Yes, one of the most practical and in-demand aspects of CBD treats are their ability to regulate mood and keep dogs calm.  CBD has shown to calm and pacify upset dogs, or to prevent them from mood swings.  Furthermore, it can influence positive sleeping and eating habits, which can also help to maintain a steady mood throughout the day.

Are There Side Effects of Giving My Dog CBD?

Yes, like any other sort of medication and treatment there may be side effects of CBD for dogs, none of them major.  Dry mouth, drowsiness, and lower blood pressure have all been confirmed as side effects of CBD in dogs.  All these side effects have been noted to increase in intensity with an increased-sized dose.  A veterinarian’s advice will be beneficial for dogs who are currently on other medications or who have a sensitive health concern.