How Does CBD Help Dogs?
CBD works its purported anti-anxiety(1) and anti-inflammatory properties(2) through the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which exists in all animals except insects(3).
The ECS modulates body organ systems and the immune and nervous systems through a complex receptors system and chemical signaling molecules.
Additionally, the ECS relieves pain and inflammation, regulates metabolism and neurologic function, supports reproductive function and embryologic development, and promotes healthy digestive processes.
A 2019 study focusing on the ECS of animals mentioned that the CB1 receptors’ structure is similar among all mammalian species(5).
CB1 receptors inhibit neurotransmitter release and are primarily located in neurons. These receptors play a role in memory processing, motor regulation, appetite, mood, sleep, and pain sensation(6).
Meanwhile, CB2 receptors are concentrated in the immune cells. CB2 receptors modulate cell migration and the release of cytokines (proteins that the immune system produces).
A 2018 PLOS One publication on the ECS in canine inflammatory central nervous system (CNS) diseases explained the modulation and release process(7). The authors indicated that many medicinal properties of cannabinoid compounds are attributable to CB2 receptors.
The Journal of Neuroinflammation published a study in 2017, showing that CB2 receptors help with chronic inflammatory processes and modulate chronic pain(8).
Meanwhile, data from a research article published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics proposed that CBD may induce apoptosis in cancer cells partially via direct or indirect activation of the CB2 receptor(9). Results indicated that CBD could be a potent inhibitor of cancer cell growth.
Despite the promising effects of CBD, it has yet to be proven as a complete treatment method for any canine disorder or ailment.
The overall safety and potential risks of using CBD for dogs have yet to be researched thoroughly. The American Kennel Club (experts in dog information) advises pet owners to always seek professional veterinary advice before giving their dogs CBD(10).
Benefits of CBD Oil in Dogs
Dog owners may want to consider using CBD products in place of anti-inflammatory medications. This option is viable as anti-inflammatory drugs share the same metabolic pathways as cannabinoids(11).
In 2017, Cornell University conducted a study to demonstrate CBD’s anti-inflammatory benefits in dogs with osteoarthritis(12).
Researchers observed that the dogs were relieved of inflammatory and osteoarthritic pain after receiving a specific CBD dosage twice a day(13).
The Veterinary Science Development had previously published a study highlighting that one in every four dogs in the US suffered from some form of arthritis(14). This statistic makes CBD’s impact on osteoarthritic pain among dogs substantial.
The study attributed the pervasiveness of arthritis in dogs among all domestic animals to several factors, including injury, excessive running or physical activity, and genetic predisposition(15).
Apart from providing arthritic dogs with significant osteoarthritic and inflammatory pain relief, the 2017 Cornell University study noted that hemp CBD dog treats appear to soothe other symptoms, such as gastrointestinal issues and pruritus (itching)(16).
The Neurochemical Research Journal reported that CBD might suppress serotonin’s reuptake in the brain(17). Serotonin is vital in influencing behavior and moods, making individuals associate it with being a “feel good” chemical that reduces anxiety and evokes happiness.
The suppression of serotonin reuptake is the absorption through a presynaptic nerve ending of a neurotransmitter that it has secreted, making serotonin readily available for the body(18).
Meanwhile, the results of a 2019 study in The Journal of Neuroscience observed that the effects of increased anandamide levels in the brain are associated with a reduction of fear, stress, and anxiety(19).
The symptoms of anxiety in dogs may be caused by what the animals perceive as stressful situations and events.
Such occurrences may include being in crowded, noisy, and unfamiliar places, thunderstorms, separation anxiety, or spending long hours on the road when being taken to distant locations.
What CBD Products Are Available for Dogs?
Dog owners must start dosing with a minimum amount mentioned on the label, gradually increasing the dosage until the target dose for their dog is reached(20). This reminder is crucial when administering pet CBD oil tincture to a dog for any health issues.
How to Administer CBD Oil to Dogs
CBD oil tincture products usually come with a marked dropper. This tool is necessary for consistent and accurate dosing. Dog owners must be keen about how much CBD is contained in each drop or milliliter of oil tincture given to pets.
Pet owners may prefer to mix oil tinctures into their dog’s food or incorporate a few drops into their dog’s favorite treat, such as peanut butter.
The amount of CBD that dogs require to achieve maximum purported benefits is dependent on the dog’s breed, age, size, diagnosis, and other existing medical conditions. Large dogs may experience the effects differently compared to smaller species.
Upon CBD administration, dog owners must report to the veterinarian in charge of their pet’s therapy their pet’s progress, behavior, and reactions.
What Dosage Does the Dog Need?
The common consensus among CBD users and dog owners is that the dosage should depend on the animal’s body weight, including the seriousness of the animal’s medical condition.
A study that the Colorado State University conducted in 2017 noted that the administration of 2mg CBD per kilogram of a dog’s body weight may increase the subjects’ comfort and activity(22).
The safest option for dog owners who are unsure about their pets’ appropriate dosage is to follow the dosage instructions that the CBD brand or manufacturer provides.
Most CBD companies indicate that more potent doses are intended for severe medical conditions. Meanwhile, regular doses are for boosting a dog’s overall health and well-being.
How Soon Can CBD’s Effects Be Felt?
Specific research on the effectiveness of CBD among dogs is minimal. However, as observed in human studies, the sublingual administration of CBD oil may take between 30 minutes to an hour before the user feels its effects.
Through sublingual administration, CBD avoids passing through the liver by going through the mucous membranes(24).
Meanwhile, a 2010 study showed that peak blood levels of most substances taken sublingually are achieved between 10 to 15 minutes. Additionally, the sublingual application allows the body to absorb a more significant percentage of a dose than ingesting CBD directly(25).
Still, human patients who take CBD oil sublingually may continue to feel the effects between four and six hours. A study noted that CBD remained in effect for up to four hours after the CBD was administered through a capsule(26).
There is currently a lack of longitudinal research specifically among dogs to support CBD’s purported positive effects.
Risks of Using CBD for Dogs
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve the marketing of CBD products as dietary supplements or medicine(27). The FDA is responsible for ensuring the efficacy, safety, and security of drugs for human and animal patients to protect public health(28).
There is limited evidence to support CBD’s claim as a viable treatment for specific debilitating conditions. CBD only has significant scientific backing to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in children over one year old.
The FDA has only approved Epidiolex as a CBD treatment for children who experience seizures caused by rare and severe forms of epilepsy. Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved drug containing an active ingredient derived from marijuana plants(29).
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) clarifies that veterinarians may similarly prescribe Epidiolex for animals under the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA)(30).
However, the FDA has not approved the use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products in animals. The agency advises owners to consult with their veterinarians before administering cannabis products to address any symptoms of illnesses among animals(31).
As of 2019, only veterinarians based in California have the authority to discuss cannabis use in animals(32).
Precautions When Using CBD Oil Additives in Dogs
Dog owners must consider the legal precautions when using CBD oil products for their dogs.
However, there is lacking scientific research done in most states, limiting most veterinarians from exploring various naturally derived alternatives for animal treatment and overall wellness.
Also, CBD documentation notes that the compound potentially causes side effects in dogs, including dry mouth, nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and drowsiness(33). These side effects most likely occur when CBD products are of low quality.
As such, Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting published the following guidelines to help dog owners select and ensure that owners purchase the highest quality products made with natural ingredients for their dogs(34):
- Acquire important information on cannabis laws that apply in the location where you intend to make the purchase. Pure CBD products from hemp plants are available in physical and online pet stores.
- Selecting CBD products that utilize over 600 compounds of the whole cannabis plant is advisable. These products are reportedly safer and more effective than products that only contain fewer compounds(35).
- Actively seek products that have passed rigorous third-party lab tests. Reputable brands, such as Honest Paws and NuLeaf Naturals, carry clean CBD products without harmful contaminants, such as pesticides, bacteria, mold, solvents, and heavy metals.
Lab results are available in a product’s certificate of analysis (COA), which reputable brands provide on their website. CBD contents on a product label that match its COA proves that the company has undergone appropriate lab testing for its products.
Test results in COAs may also confirm whether a product is GMO-free or gluten-free. Non-GMO hemp products contain no additives and have no genetically modified ingredients, ensuring that pet owners purchase the best CBD oils for dogs and best organic CBD products.
- For utmost safety, pet owners must purchase CBD products that undergo either alcohol extraction or CO2 extraction instead of other extraction methods that leave behind toxic residues.
- Verify if the CBD company formulates the products it offers in a high-quality oil base rather than the potentially harmful alcohol base. Carrier oils typically come in MCT oil, coconut oil, hemp seed oil, and olive oil.
- Avoid CBD products that include additives, such as artificial coloring and preservatives.
- Select CBD products containing the federally legal amount of THC (less than 0.3%) to avoid giving dogs the euphoric properties of cannabis.
THC levels of full-spectrum CBD oil products typically are within this limit. Meanwhile, broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate products are THC-free.
Full-spectrum hemp oil contains the full range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and fatty acids, such as omega-3, that occurs naturally in hemp plants. The combination of all components delivers the purported effects of CBD through a mechanism called the entourage effect.
Legality of CBD
Only 47 out of the 50 states in the USA have allowed CBD with varying degrees of regulation per state(36). According to federal laws, people may travel with CBD through different states with similar CBD possession restrictions and usage limitations.
The US typically associates CBD’s legality with the 2018 Farm Bill or the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018(37). This law declassified organic hemp plants as marijuana plants, thus removing them from the Schedule I category of the 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act(38).
Before the 2018 Farm Bill’s passage, both hemp and marijuana belonged under the Schedule I drugs category, which consisted of potentially abusive or addictive substances with no recognized health benefits.
Cannabis sativa plants may come from hemp and marijuana varieties. The 2018 Farm Bill redefined hemp plants as cannabis plants that contain less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. Meanwhile, marijuana plants are cannabis plants that have more than the established limit.
The difference in THC concentrations implies that CBD oil derived from a particular plant does not make its users feel any psychoactive effects.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed legal restrictions from owning hemp products. Local laws may still supersede federal law since state laws are the primary enforcement authority in drug-related offenses(40).