It’s estimated that around a quarter of people living in the developed world now have some form of allergy. Whether it’s seasonal pollen or peanuts, something about modern life is contributing to a rise in susceptibility to allergy.
Our four-legged friends are not immune to this allergy increase. While it’s highly unusual (but possible) for dogs to be allergic to foods, a 2018 report from Banfield Pet Hospital found that environmental allergies have increased by 30.7 percent in dogs over the last decade. As of 2017, nearly two percent of dogs may also have a flea allergy—an intense itching some dogs have in response to flea saliva—which is thought to be the leading cause of allergies in pups.
So, can CBD oil help dogs with allergies?
What’s the science here?
Most allergic responses are inflammatory responses. Many features of allergic inflammation resemble inflammation resulting from immune responses to infection or things like bug bites. As this 2013 paper from Nature writes, allergic disorders ‘trick’ the immune system into reacting to substances that would otherwise be inconsequential to the body.
When the body identifies an allergen, the immune system responds by inducing inflammation, which helps to increase blood flow and send immune compounds to the affected area. As a result, the site becomes hotter, redder, and swollen—which can be anything from mildly irritating to life-threatening, depending on the severity and location of the allergy.
Inflammation is something that CBD has been proven to effectively reduce. By interacting with cannabinoid receptors across the body’s endocannabinoid system, CBD is able to “down-regulate over-reactive immune cells” and enhance the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis in response to external threats and infections.
Could my dog be allergic to CBD oil itself?
Yes, they can. While rare, dogs and humans alike can theoretically be allergic to any organic or chemical substance—which is why it’s always important to exercise caution when introducing your dog to new substances. Our dosage guide recommends starting out with around 0.2mg of CBD per pound of body weight.
If your dog does develop a reaction to CBD, it’s likely to manifest differently depending on how they ingested the product. For orally ingested CBD, a reaction might involve diarrhea, nausea, or a dry mouth. An allergy to topically applied CBD is more likely to cause itching or a rash.
CBD oil for respiratory/seasonal allergies
Skin allergies are more common than respiratory allergies in dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t occur. Just like us, pups can develop respiratory reactions to dust or mold inside the home, or seasonal reactions to pollen outside. If so, expect to see sneezing, wheezing, and/or discharge from the eyes or nose.
Just like seasonal allergy medication, CBD is able to act on Mast cells in the immune system and reduce the release of histamines. As a result, allergens should have less of an effect on your dog’s breathing. CBD may also help open up congested sinuses and relieve pressure in nasal cavities.
To reap these benefits in environments where your dog is constantly exposed to allergens, a daily dose of CBD is likely the best dosage option. You can drop oil directly into your dog’s mouth, onto a treat, or use pre-infused snacks to help build up reserves of histamine-inhibiting cannabinoids in your dog’s body. For more information, check out this article on the different ways of administering CBD oil for dogs.
If your dog’s mouth has become irritated, using a CBD oil tincture to apply CBD directly to the gums should help to significantly reduce inflammation.
CBD oil for skin allergies
There’s little a dog dislikes more than being itchy, which is unfortunate considering that flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) and other forms of skin irritation are the most allergens for dogs of all kinds!
Here, topically applied CBD can be a highly effective salve for itching, inflammation, and irritation. Applying the oil directly to the site of reaction means bypassing the digestive system and metabolism (unlike antihistamine drugs), which improves bioavailability and allows the CBD to remain in the affected area for a long period of time.
CBD can even be helpful as a treatment for one-off or more occasional skin allergies, such as bee stings. While it’s unlikely that CBD will do anything to reduce a dog’s allergies, it can play a role in soothing painful inflamed stings, as well as having the added benefit of helping agitated dogs to calm down.
Hopefully, it’s obvious. But CBD has no place in dealing with potentially fatal systemic allergies that cause anaphylaxis. In these cases, a reaction can quickly become life-threatening—if a dog enters anaphylactic shock and is not treated with the right veterinary care and the correct medication (usually epinephrine).
If you suspect your dog may have a serious allergy to a common environmental substance, look to begin a dialogue with your vet. You’ll likely know if they’re prone to anaphylactic reactions, as they generally only occur after a previous allergic response that ‘sensitizes’ dogs to future contact with the substance. Your vet will likely help devise a plan for responding to reactions, and/or prescribe emergency medications to keep at home.