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Giving cbd oil for dogs

The Benefits Of CBD Oil For Dogs

The good news is that it can help with many of your dog’s health issues from allergies to cancer. The bad news is that the CBD industry for pets is still unregulated. That means the majority of pet owners might be getting ripped off.

So today I want to talk about all the good things CBD oil can do for your dogs. Then I’ll show you how to find the best product for your dog and talk about how to give it.

What Does CBD Oil Do For Dogs?

There’s a messenger system in your dog’s body called the endocannabinoid system. It helps regulate sleep, appetite, pain, the immune system and more. CBD impacts the activity of the messengers in this system and stimulates the nervous, digestive and immune systems, as well as the brain. And it can do this because the endocannabinoids in CBD are very similar to the ones found in your dog’s body.

That’s why the benefits of CBD can be deep and significant. And why CBD oil is the fastest-growing healthy plant in the world!

6 Ways CBD Oil Can Help Your Dog

Let’s take a look at common conditions where CBD can help dogs. And after I’ll talk about which CBD oil you should buy and general dosing information.

1. Dogs With Joint Problems

If your dog has joint pain, your vet might prescribe NSAIDs or other pain meds like Gabapentin. But NSAIDs can cause deterioration in joints and soft tissues … and they can damage your dog’s liver. Gabapentin can also cause kidney damage. Plus, it’s not all that effective.

CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory that doesn’t carry the same risk of side effects as drugs. It works by binding to CB1 receptors in the brain. These receptors stimulate the immune system to reduce inflammation. CB1 receptors also change the way the brain responds to pain.

CBD also binds to CB2 receptors found in the nervous and immune systems. When this happens, the body may produce more cannabinoids naturally. This helps reduce inflammation even more and reduce the pain associated with it.

In fact, researchers at Cornell University found that dogs taking CBD for arthritis were more active and showed a decrease in pain.

Some of the common people buy CBD Oil for dogs as an anti-inflammatory for joint problems include:

  • Arthritis
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Sprains and strains
  • Torn ligaments (CCL)

2. Dogs With Cancer

Sadly, 50% of adult dogs will get cancer. Cancer is a massive health challenge for dogs, especially if they undergo chemotherapy or radiation.

Cancer researchers are always looking for new ways to treat cancer and release the pain and nausea that can go with it. And CBD has been extensively researched as a cancer-fighting substance.

A study in mice showed that CBD slowed the growth of mammary cancer cells. And in 2018, researchers found that CBD increased survival time in mice with pancreatic cancer. Other animal studies show CBD oil has cancer-fighting abilities and can slow the growth of tumors.

In another study, cancer cells became more sensitive to treatment with CBD. That means CBD can increase the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments.

CBD also kills cancer cells by blocking their ability to produce energy. And it can stimulate the immune system to produce killer cells that cause death in cancer cells.

Researchers also found that CBD blocks a cannabinoid receptor called GPR55. This is important because GPR55 increased the growth rate of cancer cells in mice.

CBD oil can also help with nausea associated with many cancer treatments. And studies have shown CBD can significantly reduce cancer-related pain.

3. Dogs With Seizures And Epilepsy

It’s estimated that about 5% of dogs suffer from seizures. They can be terrifying for both dogs and their humans … and they can cause anxiety.

Most vets treat epilepsy and seizures with antiepileptic drugs. Common options are phenobarbital or potassium bromide. But these drugs are extremely harmful to your dog’s liver and other organs. And even if the drugs don’t cause unmanageable side effects, they don’t always work …

So researchers at Colorado State University got excited when they studied CBD as a treatment for epilspsy in dogs. A whopping 89% of dogs that received the CBD had a reduction in seizures.

In human trials, CBD even worked in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. In one study, 7 out of 8 patients saw a marked improvement within 4 to 5 months.

CBD reduces the frequency and severity of seizures because of how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system. It’s believed that abnormal electric charges of the neurons in the nervous system cause seizures. But CBD can bind to receptors in the brain … researchers speculate this can improve the functioning of the nervous system.

4. Dogs With Anxiety

Anxiety is a common reason dog owners turn to CBD. Anxiety can appear in different forms, including:

  • Noise phobia
  • Separation anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Fear

Of course, there are anti-anxiety drugs available … but CBD is being studied for anxiety because it doesn’t carry dangerous side effects.

Most human users of CBD take it for pain, anxiety and depression. Over a third of these users report that CBD worked “very well by itself.” CBD has even helped manage anxiety and insomnia in children with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And animal studies show its antidepressant effects aren’t just for people.

CBD can work quickly given directly by mouth when your dog gets stressed. It usually only takes 5 to 20 minutes to work. But CBD appears to be most beneficial for anxiety when given over a period of time. So if your dog is prone to stress, a daily dose might work best.

A 2012 study looked at stress in rats exposed to cats. The rats given repeated doses of CBD had less anxiety than those given a single dose.

Researchers aren’t certain how CBD relieves stress and anxiety, but it’s thought that it can help regulate serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood, social behavior, digestion, sleep and appetite.=

5. Dogs In Pain

Probably the most promising research on CBD is that done on pain. From nerve pain to arthritis, it works well … without the harmful side effects of pain medications.

CBD binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and nervous system and this helps change the way your dog’s brain perceives pain. Plus, CBD can help manage the other symptoms that accompany pain, such as sleeplessness and nausea.

CBD can also help manage acute pain from injuries.

6. Dogs With Allergies

Allergies are on the rise in dogs. And they’re difficult to treat … so, sadly, allergies are a common reason dogs are euthanized. Skin conditions in general are one of the most frequent reasons for vet visits.

The endocannabinoid system is also found in the skin … and that’s good news for dogs with allergies. It means CBD can help relieve dry and itchy skin. And it can promote the growth of new healthy skin cells.

You can give CBD internally for allergies, or use it externally for hot spots or interdigital cysts.

Now that you know a bit more about WHY you would give your dog CBD oil to your dog, let’s about HOW to choose a good quality product.

How To Choose The Best CBD Oil For Your Dog

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a naturally found substance in cannabis and hemp. Both deliver amazing health benefits … but there are differences.

Cannabis (marijuana) contains a relatively large amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is what causes the psychoactive activities of cannabis. It’s why marijuana can give a “high” or “buzz.”

CBD oil made from hemp contains much lower amounts of THC. To sell hemp legally, it must contain less than 0.3% THC. So while your dog can still enjoy the calmness and reduction in anxiety that CBD provides, he won’t get high. And that’s important … because you might enjoy the high, but your dog definitely doesn’t!

Your dog will also get the same pain-relieving and immune-supporting benefits from hemp CBD.

But not all hemp CBD products are the same …

1. Look For A Full Or Broad Spectrum Hemp

Check the label of your CBD product to make sure it’s full spectrum or broad spectrum.

This means your dog’s CBD oil contains not just CBD, but other important cannabinoids that occur naturally in full-spectrum hemp. This includes CBC (Cannabichromene) and CBG (Cannabigerol).

Researchers have looked at CBC for its …

  • Cancer-fighting activities
  • Ability to block pain and inflammation
  • Positive effect on brain cells

CBG is also studied for its medicinal use. It can decrease inflammation in the digestive tract and it can protect nerve cells and the eyes. It also supports healthy bladder function and fights cancer cells.

A full-spectrum CBD oil will also contain terpenes such as limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene. These are also naturally occurring medicinal substances found in all hemp.

Together, cannabinoids and terpenes create the entourage effect. This happens when compounds in hemp oil work synergistically to boost the medicinal properties of hemp oil.

CBD extracted with CO2 (I’ll talk about this in a moment) pulverizes the terpenes. This will make them hard to detect in testing and they won’t show up on the Certificate Of Analysis …

… but they’ll still be there and will contribute to the CBD oil’s medicinal effects.

CBD extracted with solvents will better preserve the terpenes. So you will find them noted on the Certificate Of Analysis.

But I don’t recommend solvent extracted products, which leads me to my next point …

2. Make Sure Your Dog’s CBD Uses CO2 Extraction

There are two common ways to extract the CBD oil from the hemp plant:

CO2 Extraction

As you’ve probably guessed, CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide to extract oil from the plant. Using a high-pressure chamber, CO2 puts pressure on the hemp. This breaks down the hemp and releases the oil.

This method of extraction creates oils with a higher concentration of CBD. That means your dog will get more from his supplement. Of course, that also makes the product more expensive … but it’s better than the alternative.

Solvent Extraction

The cheapest way to extract oil from the hemp plant is with solvents, such as …

  • Propane
  • Butane
  • Petroleum products

But residue from these solvents will be in the product and they can be toxic to your dog.

Some CBD extraction uses natural solvents, such as ethanol or olive oil. This is much safer for your dog but these oils can destroy the hemp plant’s waxes and the resulting oil isn’t as beneficial.

3. Look For A Certificate Of Analysis

If your dog’s CBD oil doesn’t have a certificate of analysis (COA), run away!

A certificate of analysis is a document that shows the amount and type of cannabinoids in the CBD product. And it usually comes from a third-party laboratory,

COAs protect your dog from poor quality products and the manufacturer should have one for each batch of hemp. If there isn’t a COA on the company’s website, you’ll want to ask for one before you buy any CBD oil.

When looking at the COA, there are 5 important things to look for.

CBD Is The Same As Advertised

This is more common than you would think … in fact, we were once tricked by this!

What you might see is something like “500 mg CBD” on the product label. But don’t take the label at face value! Make sure the COA says the same amount as the label does.

Some lab tests express the CBD content in mg/g. So to calculate the amount of CBD, you need to know how many grams are in the bottle of CBD.

For example, let’s say the COA shows 16.9 mg/g CBD. To calculate how much CBD is in the product, multiply the number of mg/g by the number of grams the bottle weighs. (A typical 1-ounce dropper bottle of CBD will weigh 30 grams.) This will give you the total mg of CBD in the bottle. In this example, it’s 507 mg (16.9 mg/g x 30 gram bottle).

CBD Is Really Full Spectrum

Again, never take the label at face value! Some CBD is from isolate, which means it won’t have other important cannabinoids and terpenes.

Remember the entourage effect? You won’t get this extra boost with CBD isolate. So how do you find out if your dog’s CBD is from isolate? The COA will show that the product only contains CBD and no other cannabinoids. Stay away from these products.

There’s Not Too Much (Or Too Little) THC

If your dog’s CBD contains more than 0.03% THC, it’s probably marijuana and not hemp. It’s not legal and your dog won’t enjoy the psychoactive effects.

You also want to avoid products with zero THC. If there’s none, then your dog’s CBD is from isolate … and the health benefits will be fewer.

A Third-Party Did The Tests

Once again, never take the manufacturer’s word that the product is high quality. Make sure the product was properly tested by a third party lab. Unfortunately, the CBD industry isn’t regulated, which leaves you vulnerable to poor products.

There’s No Contaminants

You need to know where and how the hemp that’s used to make the CBD oil is grown. This plays a huge role in those test results you see in the COA.

Always look for an organic product to reduce any environmental toxin risks. You want to know that the soil and water it’s grown in is as clean as possible. That’s because hemp plants are really good sponges and can absorb contaminants as they grow. And it’s why heavy metal toxicity can be a concern when looking at CBD oils.

So be sure that you check the COA for any contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals and solvent residues.

Cost Shouldn’t Be A Priority

It can be hard to compare products and some people give up and look at costs only …

… but this is not the best approach!

You want a high-quality and safe product for your dog. Extracting CBD from hemp requires a lot of plant material as well as careful monitoring.

If the product you’re considering has a price that’s significantly lower than the competition, there’s probably a reason for that …

But the most expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best CBD oil for dogs …

Instead, consider what we’ve reviewed …

  • How was the CBD oil extracted? (CO2 is best.)
  • Is the CBD concentration different than advertised? (CBD on COA should match the bottle.)
  • Is it full-spectrum? (The product should have other cannabinoids, not just CBD.)
  • Is the THC content worrisome? (THC should be less than 0.3% but higher than 0%.)
  • Is it organic? (Hemp is a sponge for contaminants.)
  • Was it third party tested? (If you can’t find a COA online, ask the manufacturer for one.)

These variables are what you need to look for when determining the quality of a product. The cost is never a sure sign of a product’s quality.

Side Effects Of CBD Oil For Dogs

The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association surveyed dog owners. They wanted to see what, if any, side effects they noticed. And the great news is that there weren’t any major effects reported.

The most consistent side effects noticed were:

  • Sedation 19%
  • Overactive appetite 5%
  • Lack of energy 4%
  • Panic reactions 2.7%
  • Dry mouth/excessive drinking 2.3%
  • Nausea 1.7%
  • Vomiting 1.7%
  • Increased seizures 0.69%
  • Impaired mental functioning 0.68%

This means the most likely side effect you may see is that your dog gets sleepy. And that isn’t a bad thing. Especially if your dog suffers from seizures, anxiety, or has any pain, and you’d like to give CBD oil a try …

… but some CBD oils will have other additives and may not be safe.

Caution With CBD Oil Additives

You want to be sure there are no chemical additives or preservatives in the product you buy. These will cancel out the health benefits, even if the hemp is grown organically.

Also be aware of companies who have added essential oils (EOs) to their CBD oil. Even though they’re “natural,” EOs can affect animals profoundly.

If your holistic vet has recommended using a CBD oil with an EO, then follow her dosing recommendations. She’ll know what’s best for your dog’s unique health needs.

Some will recommend using CBD with frankincense as it’s good for tumor reduction in cancer patients. But always check with your holistic vet or herbalist first.

Dogs Taking Other Medications Or Supplements

If your dog is taking any other medications or supplements you will want to check with your holistic vet as well. CBD oil has many health benefits but it can change how your dog metabolizes some medications or supplements.

Researchers have looked at how CBD oil changes metabolism in humans. It can be similar to grapefruit, which causes significant reactions. So if your dog is taking any of the following medications you’ll need to ask your vet about dose changes:

  • Steroids
  • Allergy medications
  • Liver or kidney medications
  • NSAIDs
  • Heart medications
  • Anxiety medications

Hopefully, your holistic vet has helped you find alternatives to the medications above. But even then … CBD can affect herbs and natural supplements.

This doesn’t mean you can’t give your CBD oil if he uses other supplements or medications. You may just need to make adjustments. CBD changes the metabolism of other things but sometimes for the better! Meaning you can use less of another product or skip on the medications altogether.

And less is often more.

CBD Oil Dosage For Dogs

Each bottle of CBD has a specific concentration expressed in milligrams (mg). Most dogs are okay with the taste, so you can just put it on your dog’s food.

Dr Robert Silver recommends giving your dog 0.05 to 0.25 mg/pound of body weight, twice daily. He also suggests starting with a lower dose and working your way up. If 0.05 mg/pound is enough, stay at that dose. There’s no need to increase unless the lower dose stops working. If that happens, increase the dose to 0.125 mg/pound, twice daily and only continue to increase if your dog needs it.

For anxiety or health prevention, you’ll usually find that the lower doses work well. But if your dog is dealing with pain or immune issues, you’ll probably need a larger amount.

DNM RECOMMENDS: Four Leaf Rover’s Full Spectrum CBD Oil is 100% USDA organic, with a wide range of healthy cannabinoids. Buy CBD oil for dogs now >>

CBD oil for dogs is a natural, safe remedy that can help your dogs with pain, anxiety, caner, seizures and more.

McAllister SD, Christian RT, Horowitz MP, Garcia A, Desprez PY. Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of Id-1 gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells. Mol Cancer Ther. 2007 Nov;6(11):2921-7.

Corroon J, Phillips JA. A cross-sectional study of cannabidiol users. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 2018;3(1).

Aviello G, Romano B, Borrelli F, Capasso R, Gallo L, Piscitelli F, Di Marzo V, Izzo AA. Chemopreventive effect of the non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid cannabidiol on experimental colon cancer. J Mol Med (Berl). 2012 Aug;90(8):925-34.

What to Know If You Want to Give Your Dog CBD

Our mission is to help save dogs’ and cats’ lives through our educational content. To support our efforts, this page may contain affiliate links. We earn a commission for qualifying purchases – at no cost to you.

Is CBD a cure-all, snake oil, or something in between?

If you have spent any time researching cannabis for dogs, and specifically cannabidiol (CBD), you have probably found yourself wondering whether these products are safe, and even if they will offer any real benefits for your pained, anxious, or elderly dog.

The simple story about CBD is that there is no simple story about CBD. Though CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical derived from cannabis or hemp that won’t get people or animals high like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it still falls into both a medical and bureaucratic black hole where it can be nearly impossible to extract definitive information.

But we have done our best to stare into the CBD abyss and pull out as much as possible to help you decide whether it might be good for your dog. As you’ll soon see, vets are placed in a difficult position when talking about these products, but you will hopefully walk away from this article with enough information to help you make a more informed decision.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol for Dogs — Quick References

CBD is derived from either hemp (the rope and fabric stuff) or cannabis (usually the recreational stuff). It can be easy to get, is purported to offer many health benefits for pets (and people), and comes in anything from pills and oils to specialty chews and treats. Often, you will find CBD in the form of an oil or soft chew that can be given orally, although there are other products like biscuits and capsules easily found online. Most importantly, unlike THC (CBD’s psychoactive cousin), it won’t get your dog high.

Great! Case closed, right? Well … not quite.

There is still a lot we don’t know about CBD. More accurately, we know pretty much nothing definitive about CBD because of the bureaucratic minefield that is the U.S. drug classification system. Under federal law, marijuana is a schedule 1 drug — putting it on the same level as LSD, ecstasy, and heroin. So it’s amazingly difficult to even study marijuana, and the THC and CBD it contains, for medical use. Cannabis-derived CBD is still technically illegal under federal law.

“But can’t someone just buy CBD products?” you might wonder to yourself.

That’s because the CBD in those products comes from industrial hemp, which is sort of legal. Hemp-derived CBD became “more legal,” and less murky, in the 2018 Farm Bill. Many states allow people to grow (cultivate) industrial hemp, which includes little to no THC. Other states don’t let people grow hemp, but it can still be imported after being grown and/or processed in other states where it is legal to grow, or even from overseas. As you can see, while the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp and hemp-derived CBD “more” legal, it didn’t completely remove all restrictions.

To add another wrinkle, there is some debate about the effectiveness of hemp CBD versus CBD that comes from a THC-rich cannabis plant. How accurate that debate is is itself a matter of debate, as studying cannabis-derived CBD is extremely difficult to do because of the legal classification of marijuana (see above). Not to mention that the CBD supplement market, or any supplement market for that matter, isn’t exactly standardized and well regulated. So it can be extremely difficult to know exactly what is in a particular product (exactly how much CBD, or even if it contains any traces of THC), how it was made (ensuring that there aren’t any impurities or potentially-dangerous solvents left over from the extraction process), or whether it actually even does what it claims. So the whole “CBD for dogs (and cats)” question and market is quite a cloudy one . but thankfully it is getting better! (See further below for the responsible companies who are leading the charge, doing great clinical research, and ensuring the safety, efficacy, and proper dosing of their products.)

Is It Safe to Give a Dog CBD?

Most vets will agree that you should not give your dog an intoxicating amount of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. There are plenty of reasons why, which you can learn about in “Marijuana, Cannabidiol & Dogs: Everything You Want (And Need) to Know.” The quick and dirty version is that dogs will not enjoy THC the same way you might (or do), and it can actually be dangerous.So is CBD better? Maybe. And that’s about the best information you’ll get out of most vets. (See why the proverbial cat will likely have your vet’s tongue when it comes to talking about CBD for your pets.)

Because of its cloudy classification and constantly shifting political winds, CBD creates a legal quagmire for anybody who wants to study or recommend its effectiveness as a medicine for animals. Luckily, there are a few ongoing studies being done at a few different veterinary colleges. The results of some of the clinical studies have now been published, and the results are looking quite encouraging. See the links added below, but note that the studies were done using very specific formulations of CBD and since not all CBD oils/chews/etc. are created the same, it doesn’t mean you should just run out and get any old (or even the cheapest) CBD product for your pets. Below the new links, we’re also including links to the companies whose CBD products were used in the university clinical trials. This is not an endorsement or recommendation for these products, but just to help point you in the right direction to start your research, should you decide to try CBD with your pets.

Links to Study Results:

What Conditions Does CBD Treat in Dogs?

In humans, THC and/or CBD have been reported to treat things such as:

It’s not hard to find stories of pet owners who report similar effects after giving their dogs CBD oil or treats. However, the lack of published double-blind study for animals makes it hard to pull out real facts from the purely anecdotal evidence.

Can CBD Treat Pain in Dogs?

As with other anecdotal evidence about CBD, you don’t have to look hard to find stories of dogs in extreme pain who purportedly found relief through CBD.

Many pet owners who praise the benefits of CBD will say that it helped reduce their dog’s pain and corresponding anxiety or immobility. These claims should not be discounted — nor believed blindly — on face value, but it’s one of the main reasons vets are so eager to study the possible medicinal uses of CBD (and marijuana in general) in pets.

Thanks to the Cornell University study mentioned above, we now have legitimate and valid scientific data to show that, at least the ElleVet Sciences CBD formula tested, does in fact provide significant pain relief to dogs with osteoarthritis.

What Vets Think About CBD for Dogs

First the unsatisfying answer: Vets don’t have anything definitive to say about marijuana or CBD products for dogs because, as mentioned above, they have limited means to study the potential benefits and, more importantly, the potential for harm. Add to that the fact that a vet could face disciplinary action (even loss of license to practice) for discussing, recommending, or prescribing cannabis for their patients, and you can see why vets’ lips are collectively sealed on this touchy topic. At best, you might find a vet who will say that CBD probably won’t be harmful to dogs, and it may or may not offer any actual benefit.

In September of 2018 California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2215 into law, making it legal now for California veterinarians to DISCUSS cannabis for pets with their clients. They still can’t explicitly recommend or prescribe it, but they can at least discuss its use. Read more about why veterinarians can’t talk about CBD and what you can do to change that.

‘I Don’t Care What Anyone Says, I’m Giving My Dog CBD’

It’s understandable that many people are frustrated by the ambiguity surrounding CBD and dogs. It often results in pet owners who go with their gut, especially when they think A) an existing medication isn’t working, or B) there are better, “more natural” alternatives. And this is equally frustrating for vets who can’t definitively say anything about it.

That being said, here are things to keep in mind when you give any unregulated, unstudied supplement to your dog.

Do Your Research:

This is especially true if you are buying something online. Avoid falling prey to the marketing hype and unsubstantiated claims. Seek out impartial reviews to see what others are saying (it’s often helpful to read the most negative reviews first).

Conduct a little background research on the company: Have they been sued and, if so, why? Have they been penalized by the FDA for allegedly making false claims? Do they have a veterinarian on staff, or do they work with a veterinary school?

As mentioned above, both ElleVet Sciences and Applied Basic Sciences Corporation have at least had their products undergo double-blinded, placebo-controlled, university-run scientific study to prove efficacy and safety. These two companies would be a good place to start with your CBD for pets research.

Natural Doesn’t Mean Better:

First of all, no marijuana or CBD product you might give your dog is natural. Apart from raw, unprocessed marijuana (which you should absolutely NOT give to your dog), anything you get has been processed or altered in some fashion. Second, natural things can be dangerous, too. For example, xylitol is a “natural” sugar-free sweetener, derived from sources like birch bark, but it is highly toxic to dogs.

Medications (either natural or synthetic) prescribed by your vet are prescribed for a reason: they have been studied, vetted, regulated, and well-documented. Your vet can also answer your questions about proper dosages, side effects, and when it might be time to go off a medication or try another.

If It Sounds Too Good to Be True …

Ah, the online CBD dog products. Sounds too good to be true, right? The CBD you get online comes from industrial (or “agricultural”) hemp that might have originated in your home state, or it might have come from overseas or another processing facility where the CBD was extracted through less-than-ideal processes. There are several ways to extract CBD from hemp, but one of the quickest and cheapest involves using solvents such as butane and hexane, which can leave a toxic residue if not properly handled. That’s not to say all online products should be distrusted, but definitely do your research on the company, how they make their product, their claims, and what unbiased reviewers are saying.

Document It:

Keep a journal of your dog before and for several days if you decide to use a CBD product. This will help you decide whether it’s having a positive effect. Better still, record video of your dog to document their progress, or lack thereof (this will help you overcome the flaws of human memory). Or ask your friends/family whether they’ve noticed any difference in your dog without telling them that you’ve been giving your dog CBD (the closest you’ll get to a blinded study).

Know the Warning Signs:

    Dry Mouth: Your dog can’t tell you if they have dry mouth, but it’s safe to say they might increase their water intake. And increased thirst could also be a sign of other serious problems, such as antifreeze or rodenticide poisoning, or conditions like diabetes.

Let your veterinarian know about anything you give your dog. This goes for both legal and illegal substances. Veterinarians aren’t obligated to report illegal drugs unless they suspect animal abuse.

Alternatives to CBD for Dogs

If you’re thinking about giving your dog CBD because you’re worried about the side effects of a prescribed medication, you might try a few of these alternative remedies — or just discuss your concerns with your vet.

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!