Hard scientific data or grounded personal experiences?

Both have their merits. So what will you use to base health decisions on behalf of your dog?

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock in the past several years, it’s not a surprise to hear about the uptake in interest for CBD oil. Contrary to past stigma, CBD oil has gained quite a lot of traction in the medical and wellness world. Without a doubt, it’s become the latest fad that people have gone head over heels about. Although the research is still in the early stages, some physicians are beginning to support its positive effects with ailments such as sleep disorders, chronic pain, anxiety, and general well-being.

Let’s first debunk this played out myth: CBD oil is not like the marijuana you imagine stoners getting high off of. It’s the non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant. Therefore, it doesn’t make you high.

CBD is one of more than 120 compounds called cannabinoids found in the cannabis Sativa plant (marijuana and hemp). Unlike its cousin, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not cause any euphoric or intoxicating effects more closely associated with THC. In fact, while CBD does contain small traces of THC, it’s not near enough to provoke toxicity in a dog.

Some of the health benefits of CBD oil include pain relief, treating anxiety or depression, and even alleviating cancer-related symptoms. But this goes only insofar as to how it impacts humans. What about our canine friends? Can you give your dog CBD oil for their health conditions?

While it might be best to not give your dog the exact CBD oil that you are taking, there is an increased interest in the benefits of CBD oil for dogs. Maybe you’ve used it yourself and it has done wonders for your pain. Or perhaps no traditional medicine out there seems to be working for your dog’s condition. Due to rocketing interest and demand, manufacturing and supply of CBD oil specifically designed for pets are soaring. This is the new frontier of pet medicine.

What are the benefits of CBD oil for dogs?

Similarly to its impact on humans, there are a range of health problems that CBD has been alleged to help with in dogs, such as:

  • Anxiety: there are compounds that produce calming effects through the Endocannabinoid system that both dogs and humans have.

  • Epilepsy: CBD is known to reduce the duration and amount of seizures.

  • Cancer: CBD helps to alleviate the symptoms associated with different cancer strains

  • Arthritis/joint pain: CBD oil has anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce swelling in joints.

  • Increases appetite: CBD is linked to increasing the appetite in dogs that have trouble eating.

The key point to distinguish thus far is that CBD oil is not necessarily a magical cure for the above conditions. It’s more a useful aid in alleviating pain and negative symptoms. While minor, there are some potential side effects as well, but we’ll get into that later. After all, this realm is still new, topical, trendy, and uncertain, and so is the research. And with that comes a certain level of controversy.

The controversy surrounding CBD oil for dogs

The truth is, there’s not a heck of a lot of science-backed research to prove or disprove the correlation between CBD oil and treatment of health issues in dogs. This is largely due to the legal black hole that cannabis and medical marijuana continue to be in, even for humans. Because of that, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved anything yet.

This proves difficult when the advice is largely to buy from a source that has a third party or FDA analysis. The safety and risk of using CBD for dogs has not been fully researched yet. And the current risk analysis is largely based on the CBD side effects that humans face. However, some studies have been achieved and pet owners have reported positive reviews for the most part, so there’s no shortage of anecdotal evidence. Furthermore, with the recent 2018 Farm Bill that passed in the US, industrial hemp (containing low amounts of THC) is officially off the list of Schedule One drugs. This made hemp legal in all 50 states and therefore opened the door for industrial hemp to be introduced to the market. Sound the alarm for cannabis entrepreneurs rejoicing everywhere! But afterward comes the sounding alarm on scientific validity and developments. That still continues to drive a wrench in between the veterinarian-patient relationship when pet owners are interested in CBD for their furry babies, but there is no scientific evidence for veterinarians to draw from.

While there have been a select number of studies done to assess the effects of CBD oil in dogs, there’s way more anecdotal evidence regarding the effects of CBD in treating the various pains and/or health symptoms that dogs may experience. As opposed to hard facts proven from research and studies, anecdotal evidence derives from stories and experiences, in this case, it would be from pet owner testimonials based on first-hand observations. On the other hand, scientific evidence is grounded in empirical, verifiable research and studies achieved.

Both anecdotal and scientific evidence is significant for us to base the merit of using particular products or trying new practices. At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to both. But which one should you trust more when it comes to making health decisions on behalf of your dog? Can you believe the various claims? Do we need science to substantiate these claims? Is anecdotal evidence enough? Should you be giving CBD oil to help your dog? That’s what we’re going to sink our teeth into below.

CBD Oil for Dogs:
Is it the treatment you’ve been waiting for?

What does scientific research say?

There’s probably 1000+ personal accounts from pet owners about the effects of CBD oil on their pup. But what does science say so far? And, more importantly, is it enough?

Currently, there are less than 60 papers and studies listed on PubMed (an online research database) regarding cannabis and dogs. At the same time, some studies point to the toxic effects of accidental canine cannabis ingestion. However, it can’t be overstated that you should pay attention to the difference between medical marijuana and the different classifications of CBD oil.

Medical marijuana depicts products that have more than 0.3% THC. CBD oils derived from hemp have less than 0.3% THC and were only recently legalized in the United States in 2018, making them more accessible. But CBD oils derived from marijuana contain more than 0.3% THC. CBD oil derived from marijuana would be considered medical marijuana, while CBD oil derived from hemp is not. Knowing the difference between these is extremely important when evaluating any research or studies.

Research on CBD and arthritis in dogs

The first scientific study for evaluating the therapeutic effects of CBD for arthritic pain for dogs was only just done in 2019. Not too long ago! Accomplished by a team of researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, this study has already discovered some groundbreaking results. It revealed that in dogs diagnosed with arthritis, CBD treatment helped to seriously improve the quality of life – assessed by both owners and veterinarians. More specifically, nine out of 10 dogs on CBD displayed benefits, which lasted for two weeks after treatment stopped and was deemed safe.

In a study determined to find similar effects for dogs suffering from osteoarthritis and multi-joint pain, Dr. Joe Wakshlag of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine tested CBD oil to see if it could help dogs who are experiencing pain from osteoarthritis. Over 80% of the dogs taking CBD oil showed “significant improvement in pain levels and quality of life” without discernible side-effects. And the findings from this study reveal that CBD may be a useful therapeutic aid for treating osteoarthritis joint neuropathic pain.

Research on CBD and epilepsy in dogs

pilot study done by Colorado State University was published in 2018 to look at CBD oil as a treatment for epilepsy in dogs. In this study, 16 dogs were enrolled. Nine dogs were treated with CBD that has less than 0.3% or less of THC and 7 dogs were given a placebo. The research was conducted double-blinded, so the vets didn’t know which dogs were treated with CBD until it was complete. While the results of this study are promising, it’s worth noting that it didn’t use a large number of dogs. The results showed that  89% of the dogs who received CBD experienced reduced seizure frequency.

Upon looking at the science so far, much of it is in its infancy. It doesn’t have the solid, foolproof backing of tests and clinical trials that most medical treatments go through.

Currently, the FDA is working to learn more about the safety and quality of products containing cannabis and CBD, especially the safety of use for pets and other animals. To give you more insight into the steps and drug development process under the FDA guidelines – drugs must go through preclinical research before going through four phases of testing and reviews which could take anywhere up to four years or more. That’s why as of right now they’re recommending compliance with state regulations and discussions with your veterinarian.

So far, most researchers and veterinarians concur that more insight is needed to determine the value of cannabis products in dogs and other pets. In view of that, what merit do anecdotal evidence and observation have on the effect of CBD for dogs? Is it worth the risk to rely on personal testimonials? Is there even a risk in that at all? This might be ultimately up to you, but let’s get into this side of the CBD coin a bit more first.

Testimonials also support CBD for dogs

The anecdotal evidence of CBD’s effectiveness for anxiety, pain, epilepsy, and cancer is growing at a much faster rate than scientific evidence. Think about the last time you considered purchasing or using a product. You might have consulted a pharmacist or doctor, but you’re likely also scouring the internet or asking peers about their experiences. What makes us so curious about customer testimonials? And do they really persuade our decision to go through with something?

After all, a lot of veterinarians recognize the potential benefits, but there is a hesitancy for them to recommend CBD oil simply based on testimonials, which don’t necessarily replace scientific evidence and this can be a risky recommendation for a health practitioner to make. The truth is, there is less research on the use of CBD oil in animals compared to humans. However, does everyone consider science backed research when purchasing a product?

Essentially, science can often be too overwhelming and inaccessible. For many individuals, reviews are just a lot more simple and digestible. Decisions are exhausting to make, even more so when it revolves around health care for our pets. According to Trustpilot, 88% of consumers trust online reviews to make an informed decision about something. Reviews, recommendations, and personal experience all carry a high weight for those trying to make a thoughtful decision. And more so if the reviews are reputable and verified.

The grounds for reading reviews include:

  • Attesting to a company’s reliability
  • Understanding the best and worst of what can happen
  • Makes it easier for consumers to make a decision
  • Offers useful insight from people who’ve used the service or product firsthand
  • Gives awareness about product quality

The truth is, there’s so much information out there, and stories put together by the general public are a way of grounding all of it in a realistic, informal way that allows you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This is especially true when a dog owner is reading testimonials for a CBD oil that helped a dog with the same ailment as their own.

How does CBD oil compare to other treatments?

8 week old Golden Retriever puppy asleep lying on a white background with prescription pill bottles in the foregroundMedications that your vet approves and prescribes have likely been heavily studied, regulated, verified, and well-documented to merit a recommendation. But even then, there can still be disclaimers and potential side effects. So in that case, how does CBD oil compare to other tried and tested treatments?

So far, CBD oil anecdotally demonstrates an ability to help with issues such as pain, anxiety, and seizures. But this is still a case-by-case basis and acts more as a tool to alleviate symptoms temporarily. It might not solve the root problem, but it certainly assists.

In regards to one pet owner whose dog Bishop suffers from separation anxiety, he didn’t notice the oil had much of an effect, however, when he left Bishop at home, he noticed a difference in the lengths to which he didn’t claw all over the apartment. In this case, it wasn’t a full solution to anxiety but helped curb the outcome.

Most of us personally understand the experience of bodily pain and the urge to take pain relief medication to suppress it. When it comes to pain management, pain experienced in senior or disabled dogs is unbearable. From arthritis to hip dysplasia, reducing pain is crucial to keep your pup in good spirits. In some cases to aid the pain, prescription medication like opioids have been administered. But just because something is claimed to be effective, doesn’t mean it’s best for your dog…

Potential harmful side effects of opioids include long-term liver damage and chemical dependence. And of course, on a similar note, CBD also has potential side effects, albeit different from opioids – which is why we recommend taking it slow. But in CBD’s defense, it is derived from a plant, not created in a lab.

Even some FDA approved drugs have a degree of risk, and they too position a balancing act of benefits versus risks when it comes to drugs. For example, in the case of FDA-approved nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) for dogs, even when used correctly, there’s always a chance of side effects. While NSAIDs are meant to be a safe drug to combat pain and inflammation, they’ve come under some scrutiny in the past as well. It’s been brought to light that they could have potential adverse effects on immune-compromised and aging dogs.

At the same time, one study did demonstrate the effectiveness of CBD’s role to enhance opioids and NSAIDS while slightly reducing the heavy effects of these powerful drugs. Again, there’s still a lot more to learn, but so far, it’s looking quite optimistic.

What are consumers and pet owners saying about CBD?

In one owner’s experience, Georgia, her 5-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel suffered from syringomyelia, a serious neurological disease. With traditional medicine not working, the owner put Georgia on a supplement made from hemp to combat pain and anxiety. According to the owner: “I feel like I have a whole new dog. Georgia’s happy and relaxed. She’s not in pain. It’s amazing.”

Some testimonials on Canna-Pet, a Seattle based company that sells organic, hemp CBD for pets include:

Beyond the typical health conditions, CBD oil is also claimed to be extremely beneficial for rescue dogs that are victims of abuse and neglect. They may also have a physical condition, but more often than not suffer from severe anxiety, fear, and aggression as a result of their past trauma. One rescuer and dog foster provider observed incredible success among 17 dogs on CBD oil. The only exception was one dog that sniffed its way into the bag of CBD cookies and ate too many (lesson learned there), consequently, that dog experienced some negative digestive side effects albeit very minor.

What’s the first thing you notice after you read the personal testimonials? They pull at your emotions. It just feels more heartfelt and real. Rather than reading a bunch of percentages and scientific terms, you’re reading a story. And there’s something reassuring and affirming in that which science cannot replace.

Now for the not so great news….

There are possible side effects regardless. And it’s important to be aware of them if you decide to buy CBD oil for your dog, particularly when you’re administering the dosage.

What are the side effects of CBD oil?

  • Dry mouth: increased thirst and less saliva.
  • Tremors: this is more based on the side effects of human patients with Parkinson’s disease that experience increased tremors at higher than recommended doses of CBD.
  • Low blood pressure: might create a brief feeling of light-headedness or overt lethargy.
  • Drowsiness: the calming effect of CBD can also sometimes inadvertently cause slight drowsiness and noticeable changes in sleeping patterns.

It’s important to note that the side effects mentioned above are typically temporary, but can cause overall discomfort (which is what you’re trying to avoid in the first place). So giving the right dosage and correct form of CBD is paramount. The bigger picture issue is in regard to insufficient long term understanding of the safety and effectiveness of CBD products. Now, what does that mean for your dog’s present issues?

So what’s it going to be? Scientific or anecdotal?

Which evidence should you base your decision on?

While it’s ultimately up to your personal comfort, discretion, and location regulations, we currently lean more towards anecdotal evidence. The jury is in; most vets right now are apprehensive to recommend CBD oil to pet owners due to the scarcity of clinical trials and overhead approval from the medical world. Of course, nothing can replace the cold hard facts of controlled, tested trials in a lab to eliminate the risk potential. But even then, there’s still a chance of your specific dog reacting negatively. Nothing is guaranteed even then. Are we searching for certainty or affirmation? What makes anecdotal evidence any less factual, at least on a case-by-case basis?

If it’s that extra level of certainty you want, then objectively, scientific data can fill that void, but so can personal stories. As we’ve demonstrated, whether a drug has gone through years of research or more experimentally administered, there’s always a risk present. Like humans, dogs are all very different and what works for one dog may not work for another. On the other hand, we can’t help but notice a common thread in the overall reaction from dogs, which isn’t influenced by some external factor. We spoke to CBDPure about the benefits and advantages of CBD oil:

“Not only are the benefits for many dogs, across all breeds, sizes, and overall health, but the evidence is in the pet’s reaction to CBD usage. Unlike a human, a pet isn’t going to experience a “placebo effect” based on slick marketing or tales of success with CBD from others they trust. When CBD is beneficial for dogs, you see it immediately in their reaction, their movement, and their overall health.” 

Ultimately, once you educate yourself on the difference between CBD oil and marijuana, in addition to the various anecdotal and scientific evidence, it will be easier to make a conclusive decision within your comfort zone.

If you’re planning on purchasing the CBD products currently on the market, with or without veterinarian approval, it’s crucial to keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Document your dog: Once you start giving your dog, introduce smaller doses, and keep track in a journal of their progress and any differences you’ve noticed.

  • Hide the CBD product: You don’t want your dog accidentally getting into the stash – keep it high and out of reach.

  • Look for organic CBD oil: to qualify as organic, the CBD oil should be 1) extracted from organically grown hemp and 2) processed with no synthetic additives.

  • Get manufacturer analysis: if the FDA hasn’t given their stamp of approval, you can still assess company quality by requesting a Certificate of Analysis to offer a guarantee on their products. This also tells you the amount of CBD that is in the product (needs to be less than 0.3% THC)

  • Higher price almost always means higher quality: when it comes to CBD, you don’t want to necessarily be bargain hunting. In most cases, the higher the cost, the higher the quality. Expect to pay at least around $50+ for a high-quality bottle of oil.

  • Dose by body weight and pain level: refer to our dosage guide here.

  • Monitor any negative side effects: excessive excitement, vomiting, or disorientation.

Most importantly, products that contain CBD derived from marijuana as opposed to hemp, are not safe for your pet.

Concluding Thoughts

CBD oil’s popularity is only going to increase. It’s a matter of time before more scientific research is released in conjunction with the glowing reviews currently out there. Whether you decide to buy CBD based on anecdotal or scientific evidence, where possible, it’s always best to discuss with your veterinarian (permitting your local laws). Your vet will likely still be apprehensive or hesitant due to the limited scientific data.

But, when it comes to the health and comfort of your precious pooch, CBD has proven to soothe and aid pain, anxiety, epilepsy, and arthritis based on the various anecdotal stories. And there is more compelling anecdotal evidence that cannabinoids and hemp could relieve pain for dogs.

However, while scientific proof is not in abundance on the matter, research has also shown the effects of CBD to assist with reducing pain, inflammation, reduced frequency of seizures, and anxiety.