Whether it’s an injury or a chronic condition, there’s little worse than seeing dogs suffer. CBD products have gained popularity for their ability to reduce inflammation, soothe irritation, and induce calm, but does CBD actually work?

Our view on CBD and pain in dogs

What does the science say?

CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory

  • Evidence of the benefits of CBD for chronic pain continues to emerge, with studies turning up interesting results in both humans and dogs.
  • A 2018 study at Cornell on dogs with osteoarthritis found that CBD treatment helped improve comfort and activity levels compared to a placebo.
  • In a 2020 study, dogs suffering from joint pain experienced significant improvements in quality of life when treated with a combination of CBD and an anti-inflammatory drug.
  • A double-blind placebo veterinary study published in Pain also found that CBD significantly decreased pain and increased mobility.
  • Initial research suggests that CBD shares important metabolic pathways with NSAIDs, meaning it may offer a side-effect free treatment for joint diseases, injuries, and other inflammatory disorders.

Join the owners taking a dog-friendly approach to pain relief. Here’s our top recommendations for CBD products.

Why not traditional pain medication?

Getting real about risks and side effects

Chronic pain is on the increase among pups. Veterinary scientists estimate that 60% of all dogs show signs of joint degradation as they age. Canine cancer rates are also increasing, with around half dogs over the age of ten developing the disease.

The problem

Despite the need for effective pain management, standard treatments often cause unwanted side-effects.

The solution

Research confirms CBD elicits the same internal response as many anti-inflammatory drugs, by using safer internal mechanisms.

  • CBD works via the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a modulating system responsible for maintaining homeostasis across organs.
  • The ECS modulates the intensity of pain signals and reduces the sensitivity of pain receptors. The activation of cannabinoid receptors also helps reduce inflammation.
  • While researchers still aren’t sure exactly how CBD affects the ECS of dogs, they do know that CBD use is associated with reduced pain and inflammation.

Always consult a veterinarian before undertaking any new treatment plan with your dog.

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How to spot a dog in pain

Chronic pain can be tricky to treat in dogs because they’re evolutionarily wired to hide their discomfort (a trait that may stretch back to their wolfpack days).

But there are some key signs and signals suggesting things aren’t quite right. Be on the lookout for:

(Chronic pain may be leftover from injury or disease, or may result from a progressive or degenerative disorder that gets worse over time.)

The tail end

Unlike many innovations in animal healthcare, some of the most common pain management medications still come with a nasty list of relatively common side effects.

CBD is offering a way out for dogs who need anti-inflammatory treatment, but don’t require the serious pain relief of opioids.

NSAIDs work by blocking two enzymes in the body that play a part in producing swelling and signaling pain sensations. They’ve grown in popularity for humans and animals alike because they don’t contain steroids or narcotics like morphine. In dogs, NSAID tablets require a prescription and are marketed under names including Rimadyl and Metacam.

For stronger pain, your vet may prescribe opiates, but only on a short term basis. They work by blocking the brain’s ability to recognize existing pain sensations. Because they are a narcotic, pets on opiates require close monitoring.

Both types of prescription drugs can come with a heavy dose of side effects. For NSAIDs, common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, and other GI issues. This is because NSAIDs block the formation of inflammation-inducing prostaglandins, which also protects the stomach lining (hence why probiotics are usually recommended while taking NSAIDs.)

As for opiates, common side effects include mood changes, constipation, confusion, restlessness, or trouble breathing. And the longer either NSAIDs or opiates are used, the higher the risk of negative side effects.

How Does CBD Work to Help Pain in Dogs?

Researchers have been studying cannabinoids and their potential health benefits since the 1970s, but most of this research has been directed toward human use. It wasn’t until recently that scientists devoted more time and resources to understanding the effects of CBD on animals.

Nevertheless, we know that cannabinoids like CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is found across all mammals and most of the entire animal kingdom. This system is responsible for helping maintain homeostasis (our body’s inner balance) in a number of organ systems, including the nervous and immune system, as well as the reproductive and digestive processes.

The ECS itself consists of receptors and chemical signaling molecules that respond to both cannabinoid compounds made by our own body, and those that are introduced from outside. In dogs, many of these receptors are found in the brain, as well as cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, immune, and reproductive system tissues.

For pain specifically, we know that the ECS modulates the conduction of pain signals to the brain by reducing the sensitivity of pain receptors and the intensity of the signal itself. At the same time, the activation of cannabinoid receptors helps reduce inflammation. This all happens within our own bodies as part of our natural reaction to injury.

The precise mapping of how CBD affects the ECS of dogs and other animals is still an ongoing project. However, we know that using CBD is associated with less pain and inflammation in dogs, plus, we know that the canine ECS is partly responsible for modulating pain sensations and the inflammatory response.

So, the stage is set for future research to prove what many owners already know: that CBD (and its effect on the ECS) presents a new and bright option in the treatment of pain in dogs.


  • While dogs are communicative creatures, they often aren’t great at signaling when they’re in discomfort or pain.

  • When diagnosed with acute or chronic pain, dogs are often prescribed courses of NSAID and opioid prescription medication, which come with a long list of side effects.

  • CBD is a non-psychoactive derivate that interacts with the boy’s endocannabinoid system. This stimulates a natural soothing response to pain.

  • Existing CBD studies report minimal and relatively harmless side effects in dogs—if any. Nonetheless, the scientific verdict on CBD is still ongoing. Always consult a veterinarian before undertaking any new treatment plan with your dog.