Does CBD Work for Dogs?
Topper, a 7-year-old Ibizan Hound, could hardly walk after being diagnosed with severe arthritic changes due to Valley fever. “The pain became so debilitating he had to be carried outside to eat, drink, or use the bathroom,” recalls owner Christy Moore. “He was on pain medication but it wasn’t working. A friend recommended pet CBD. Within three days he could walk on all four legs and I was crying tears of joy. It was the miracle we needed.”
Lady Amelthia, a Greyhound, was so petrified of thunderstorms she would destroy a crate to escape. “Holding her only made her claw to get away. A ThunderShirt reduced her from 100 to 90 on the anxiety scale,” recalls owner Jenn Boswell, director of the Alabama Greyhound Adoption Center. “Veterinary-prescribed trazodone took it down to a 50. Tried three drops of CBD oil and it went down to a 5.”
Success stories abound of dogs overcoming anxiety, slowing seizures, and even beating cancer due to cannabidiol (CBD), one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. But how can one substance help so many unrelated problems? Or can it?
Cannabinoids are substances including CBD and THC that mimic the endocannabinoid chemicals naturally produced in all vertebrates. Receptors for endocannabinoids are found throughout the body. The body’s endocannabinoids act as master regulators that signal other systems when to speed up or slow down, working to stabilize the body and return it to homeostasis. Cannabinoids from the cannabis plant affect these same receptors, each in slightly different ways. For example, THC causes a high, while CBD does not.
Is It Harmful?
Unlike THC, which can cause toxicity and even death in dogs when given at prescribed human dosages, the worst CBD has been documented to do is cause diarrhea and changes in some liver enzyme values after several weeks. The main concern with CBD is that it inhibits a chemical in the body called cytochrome P450 that is responsible for metabolizing most drugs. If a drug’s efficacy depends on its metabolized product, CBD could render it less effective. If a drug’s safety depends on it being cleared from the body within a certain time frame, CBD could cause it to build up to toxic levels. Never give your dog CBD without your veterinarian’s knowledge if your dog is taking other drugs.
Does It Work?
Research with dogs is still scarce, but there’s a huge body of research (about 23,000 published papers!) looking at CBD’s effect on laboratory animals and humans, with encouraging results for pain, especially arthritic pain, itchiness, anxiety, and cancer, all of which have at least one canine study as well. The results in dogs? It depends.
Arthritis: Several studies have looked at CBD’s effectiveness against arthritic pain, all with positive results. A Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine study found dogs given CBD at a rate of 4.4 mg per pound twice daily for a month showed significant improvement in pain relief and quality of life. Lead investigator Joe Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., DACVN, said that some dogs were initially so decrepit that their owners considered euthanasia, but that after just days on CBD they were trotting around and even climbing stairs. A Baylor University study found similar improvement, adding that CBD worked better when delivered in a liposomal formulation.
Itchiness: Two recent double-blind, placebo-controlled dog studies report CBD significantly reduces itchiness. An Australian study conducted by the company CannPal found their CBD product reduced itchiness, inflammation, and skin lesions by 51 percent after eight weeks of treatment. An American study conducted by the company ElleVet found their product, which combines CBD with another cannabinoid, CBDA, significantly reduced owners’ reports of itchiness.
Cancer: Cannabinoids are reported to induce cancer-cell death and prevent metastasis. In a Cornell University study of CBD, dogs, and cancer, researchers found CBD along with a standard chemotherapy drug reduced cancer-cell proliferation in vitro more than the chemotherapy drug alone. Anecdotal reports from veterinarians have claimed CBD shrunk cancer cells or put dogs into remission.
Behavior: Anxiety, and especially noise reactivity, is a major reason dog owners seek help using CBD. But despite anecdotal reports of its effectiveness, no controlled study so far has shown it to be particularly effective. A study from the University of Western Australia may show promise for aggressive behavior. Shelter dogs with aggressive tendencies exhibited less aggression toward humans when tested after 15 days of CBD administration. In a study from the University of Kentucky, physiological measurements of anxiety in response to noise were not significantly different for CBD versus placebo, and were worse compared to trazodone (a drug commonly prescribed for anxiety). Note, however, that in this study the CBD was administered four to six hours before testing, which may have been too long a waiting period.
Seizures: Lots of anecdotal reports hail CBD’s success combatting seizures in dogs, but the single controlled study delivered moderate results. In this Colorado State University study, dogs given CBD for 12 weeks had 33 percent fewer seizures than those given a placebo, but it didn’t work for every dog. These researchers are now working on a larger trial using higher CBD doses. Note that THC has been reported to cause seizures, so it should never be included in any CBD product for seizure control. In addition, CBD’s effect on cytochrome P450 could interfere with prescribed anti-seizure drugs, so never use it without your veterinarian’s consent.
Other: There’s also evidence from laboratory animals that CBD is effective in promoting bone healing, fighting infection, treating inflammatory bowel disease, slowing degenerative myelopathy, quelling nausea, and relieving pain, but these have yet to be specifically examined in dogs.
How to Choose CBD For Dogs?
With hundreds of CBD products on the market, and little regulation of them, it’s not easy to know which is best. Look for a product with the National Animal Supplement Counsel (NASC) Seal of Quality Assurance, and one that has a third-party certificate of analysis that includes potency, lists all ingredients, and discloses the possible presence of heavy metals, mycotoxins, or pesticides. Avoid edible products formulated for human consumption, which often contain ingredients such as xylitol that are toxic to pets.
Choose broad-spectrum products, which include other cannabinoids and substances known as terpenes that are also in the cannabis plant. CBD seems to work best when it’s in conjunction with these rather than isolated. But avoid full-spectrum products that include THC.
Aim for about 0.1 to 0.2 mg per kilogram of your dog’s weight, given twice daily by mouth. Work up gradually, but beware that more is not always better with CBD, as sometimes the response is biphasic, meaning that it doesn’t work if you give too little or too much.
Is It Legal?
Many veterinarians are reluctant to suggest CBD, whether because they believe CBD is not yet sufficiently proven helpful or because they fear professional or legal repercussions. CBD products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for dogs, but neither are common supplements such as glucosamine or fish oil; nor the majority of human-approved prescription drugs routinely prescribed in veterinary practice.
While it is legal to sell hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3 percent THC, until recently the American Veterinary Medical Association did not approve of veterinarians suggesting any cannabis products, including CBD, for patients. Even now, the law is unclear enough that many veterinarians fear repercussions if something went wrong due to their suggestion of CBD.
While some veterinarians are hesitant to suggest CBD, almost all are eager to discuss it once you bring it up. Of course, some veterinarians are more versed in its pros and cons than others. The main concern is its possible interaction with prescribed drugs.
Overall, the evidence is compelling that CBD can help at least some conditions. The endocannabinoid system is the largest system in the body, and the least explored. Every year brings new discoveries—and new claims. It’s the beginning of a brave new world of health, but as with any new path, expect some wrong turns, dead ends, and false hopes. CBD is not a miracle drug, but it may be the miracle your dog needs.
This article originally appeared in the award-winning AKC Family Dog magazine. Subscribe today!
CBD for Dogs With Aggression: Why and How It Works
CBD for dogs with aggression might be an unexpected remedy for a behavior problem that has plagued countless dogs (and their owners) over the past decades. Statistics show an increase in bite-related hospitalizations, even fatalities.
Being the owner of an aggressive dog is a very stressful experience because of the ever-present, lingering fear that your dog might seriously hurt another person or another dog. This, of course, does not mean that you love your dog any less. You want to help him become a safer member of society and gain a calmer state of mind.
As CBD oil is rising in popularity and taking the world by storm, the pet industry is welcoming a variety of CBD-based products on the market. Many dog owners are now wondering if this is just another hype or something that could actually help their sick, anxious, and aggressive dog. Can CBD truly be helpful for canine aggression?
Aggression in Dogs
How are fear and aggression connected?
Aggression is a strong violent reaction to a perceived external threat. Just like humans, dogs have three natural fear responses: fight, flight, and freeze. Aggression is a manifestation of the fight response. This is how we know that all aggression is essentially born out of fear.
There are many different threats a dog can perceive, such as other dogs, competitors, intruders, etc. Fearful and aggressive dogs cannot discern between an actual threat and a perceived threat. This is why many aggressive dogs are called unpredictable, as their owners struggle to understand their triggers.
Studies have shown that the majority of dog bites happen at home, where one would expect dogs to feel safe. Over half of all people who get bitten are children. Dogs with aggression are suffering from internal fear and opting for the fight response, ultimately making them very challenging to live with.
The idea of a supplement that could help these dogs feel calmer in their environment, not to mention in the world at large, comes as a saving grace to many dog owners who are struggling with fear in their own homes. Thankfully, more and more connections have been made between CBD oil and the improved moods of anxious dogs, giving hope to many owners that their aggressive dogs can be helped after all.
CBD Oil for Dogs
What is CBD? Can a dog get high?
CBD stands for cannabidiol and it comes from the cannabis plant. It can be used as an ingredient in a variety of products, such as edibles, ointments, tinctures, and oils. The CBD in these products is primarily derived from hemp (not marijuana), meaning it contains little to no THC and therefore does not have any psychoactive consequences. Your dog will not get high from CBD.
How does CBD work?
All mammals have a natural endocannabinoid system, known as the ECS. This is a system that regulates many functions in our body, most notable ones being sleep, inflammation, pain, memory, and moods. The way CBD works is by stimulating the ECS receptors, therefore impacting all functions regulated by this system.
Dogs with anxiety and aggression notably suffer from imbalanced moods, sometimes even as a result of physical pain or sickness. Since CBD oil impacts exactly the receptors that regulate moods and pain, it could ease several of these symptoms at once, resulting in a more balanced system and a calmer dog.
CBD Oil and Canine Aggression
Is there proof that CBD can help dogs with fear aggression?
Most of the feedback on successful CBD help for aggressive dogs has come directly from the owners that have reported seeing changes in their dogs’ state of mind. CBD oil can be used as a regular treatment or as extra help on special occasions, such as the New Year’s Eve fireworks, welcoming a new family member, taking a trip to the vet, etc.
Take Barnaby, for example. A 15-year-old dog who has become reactive and fear aggressive as a result of old age. It only took a week of taking CBD for his owners to already notice a change in his mood, which made it easier to work on his behaviors. Stories like these are an inspiration to struggling owners, but they can also be an encouragement to those who work in rescue and daily encounter anxious and aggressive dogs.
One foster dog mom has noticed how much calmer her PTSD fosters are, after giving them CBD treats. She notes that the visible shift in their mood opened the doors to easier socialization and further behavior modification.
While there is much research still to be done on this topic specifically (the first veterinary studies have mainly been focusing on the physical ailments), there are two notable studies that give us a good insight into the value of CBD for aggression in dogs.
In the first study, researchers studied mice who exhibited territorial aggression and found that CBD reduced their aggressive reactions and behaviors. In the cases where aggressive attacks still happened, they were much shorter in duration.
The second study exposed rats to a snake, their predator, with the intent to observe the panic-induced reactions. When faced with the threat, the rats dosed with CBD had significantly diminished fear responses. In both cases, the researchers concluded that CBD could help prevent or reduce fear-born behaviors, such as panic and aggression.
While the research on this topic is still at the beginning, it is evident that the starting point is already more than promising, indicating that there is massive potential for helping fear aggressive dogs with CBD.
Are there any dangers to using CBD for dogs with aggression?
While CBD is generally considered safe, there are still some things you should keep in mind before giving it to your anxious and aggressive dog. Always consult your holistic vet before making any significant changes in your dog’s diet, which includes adding a supplement such as CBD. It is also important to find a good product of high quality, so please do your research before deciding on a final purchase.
The most important thing with CBD is the dosage, which is why you should always carefully read and follow the instructions of the manufacturer. Some possible side effects may include lower blood pressure, drowsiness, and an increased notion of thirst. If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to check-in with your vet and readjust the dosage.
Finally, it is crucial to understand that CBD can help dogs with anxiety and aggression, but it cannot cure them or take away the cause. It is a very valuable asset for managing aggression in dogs but should not be considered a replacement for consistent training.
Fear is always present in the life of aggressive dogs. It controls their responses, putting their owners in a state of anxiety as well. Many owners are now finding comfort in recognizing the value of CBD oil for dogs with fear and aggression. It can be used alongside their regular training and rehabilitation. CBD oil stimulates the natural system that regulates the dog’s moods, resulting in a calmer dog with a more relaxed state of mind.
While there is still much research to be done, the first studies have been very promising. They indicate that there is an optimistic future ahead for dogs with aggression. This comes as a relief to the owners who are walking this challenging path with them every single day. Since living with an anxious dog often feels like a dead-end street, there is strong hope in knowing the promising effects of CBD for dogs with aggression.
Kriss, Randa. “CBD Oil for Dogs: What You Need to Know.” American Kennel Club, 05/02/2019.
Hartmann, Alice. Lisboa, Sabrina Francesca. Buzolin Sonego, Andreza. Coutinho, Débora. Villela Gomes, Felipe. Silveira Guimarães, Francisco. “Cannabidiol attenuates aggressive behavior induced by social isolation in mice: Involvement of 5-HT1A and CB1 receptors.” Science Direct, 02/05/2019.
De Mello Schier, Alexandre Rafael. Pinho de Oliveira Ribeiro, Natalia. Cardoso de Oliveira e Silva, Adriana. Cecílio Hallak, Jaime Eduardo. S. Crippa, José Alexandre. E. Nardi, Antonio. Waldo Zuardi, Antonio. “Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug.” Brazilian Journal for Psychiatry, June 2012.
Luna’s passion for learning about canine psychology and behavior began when she adopted a severely reactive puppy from a local shelter. She is now a big advocate for positive reinforcement and compassionate training. As a writer, she strives to spotlight the topics that fly under the radar and be the voice for all who cannot speak for themselves.