Medications are the traditional way to manage arthritis in dogs. The most popular options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and the sedative gabapentin.

These veterinary-prescribed drugs can be effective at reducing the pain and joint inflammation associated with canine osteoarthritis. But they don’t always remove symptoms, leaving dogs in daily discomfort.

What’s worse is that some dogs experience side effects like stomach upset, gastrointestinal distress, and tiredness from taking NSAIDs.

That’s why more owners are asking if natural remedies can help with their dog’s arthritis. The most popular natural remedy right now is CBD oil.

In this post, we’ll cover the science of whether CBD oil works for dogs with arthritis – and if it’s better than standard treatments like NSAIDs.

We’ll also give you a CBD treatment plan for canine arthritis that’s been tested by researchers at Colorado University’s specialty clinic for animal pain management.

On this page:

Does CBD oil work for dogs with arthritis?

Is CBD better than NSAIDs and other arthritis medicines for dogs?

Arthritis treatment plan for your dog



Does CBD oil work for dogs with arthritis?

Pet-friendly CBD oil is clinically proven to reduce pain and inflammation in dogs. Studies have demonstrated the benefits of CBD in dogs of various ages and breeds, including those diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

Not all CBD products are made equally, however. For the best results, it’s important to choose a high-quality CBD oil produced specifically for dogs.

See our review of the best CBD oils for dogs with arthritis for our current recommendations.

But, in general, CBD oil for dogs works best when it:

  • contains an independently tested full-spectrum hemp extract
  • is made with a high-fat carrier oil like hemp seed or MCT oil
  • is available at a good price point so dogs can receive regular doses

Is CBD better than NSAIDs and other arthritis medicines for dogs?

Clinical evidence shows that most dogs will get the best results by using CBD oil and NSAIDs together.

Dogs that experience side effects when taking NSAIDs may be able to reduce their dose or stop taking medications completely when supplementing with full-spectrum CBD oil.

CBD is compatible with existing veterinary arthritis treatment plans that include NSAIDs, gabapentin, and other common medications.

Researchers at Colorado University’s specialty clinic for animal pain management tested out the effects of CBD oil on dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis who were already taking NSAIDs and gabapentin. Here’s what they found:

Research on CBD and NSAIDs in dogs

With so many dogs taking arthritis medicine, researchers Lori Kogan, Peter Hellyer, and Robin Downin at Colorado State University wanted to find out if CBD oil could replace traditional existing treatments.

Their study was published in March 2020 in the AHVMA journal. In the 90-day experiment, the researchers swapped 32 dogs’ usual treatment of NSAIDs for a twice-daily dose of full-spectrum CBD oil.

During the study

All of the dogs taking part in the study had been previously diagnosed with osteoarthritis and had experienced arthritis pain for at least three months.

To find out how CBD compared to the dogs’ regular treatment plans, vets assessed the animals every two weeks, while owners filled out surveys that included a 10-point pain scale.
What CBD did the study use?

The CBD oil given to the dogs was “a certified organic, cold-pressed hemp seed oil infused with 1,000 mg of full-spectrum hemp extract derived from organically grown hemp plants, cultivated in Colorado.”

The study began by using a 0.25 mg/kg dose of CBD oil, delivered on food twice per day. Researchers then adjusted each dog’s CBD dosage depending on their pain level, weight, and how well they were responding to treatment.

Most dogs settled on a dosage of 1-2 mg of CBD per kg of bodyweight for the duration of the study.

Results: what did the study find?

After 90 days, the study found that, compared to their regular treatment of NSAIDs, CBD had a superior pain-reducing effect for 30 of the 32 dogs.

CBD was so effective for 21 of the dogs, they were able to stop or reduce their dose of gabapentin, which they were also taking for their arthritis-caused pain.

“When pet owners were asked to compare cannabis products to other forms of medication or therapy, 93% reported that cannabis products work better [for canine osteoarthritis] than other treatments.”
(From AHVMA)

For the 30 dogs, CBD reduced owner-judged pain scores from an average of 3.2 to just 0.97. That’s pretty impressive results – especially for six of the dogs, who experienced pain reduction of five or more points.

Seven of the dogs’ pain scores did not change. But, they could move from their existing treatment with gabapentin to CBD.

Owners told the University researchers that their dogs had become “more attentive, animated, and mentally engaged after starting the CBD oil.”

CBD treatment plan for dogs with arthritis

Studies like this one show how CBD can enhance or replace NSAID prescriptions for dogs with arthritis. Based on that research, here’s an easy-to-follow treatment plan for your dog.

First, what CBD should I use in my dog’s treatment plan?

  • Full spectrum CBD extract for full therapeutic effect
  • High-fat carrier oil to increase absorption via digestion
  • Recipe made for dogs to stay safe and legal

The study from Colorado University recommends using a pet-safe CBD oil that contains a full-spectrum hemp extract.

Full-spectrum extract

“Full-spectrum” is the term CBD producers use for an unprocessed, whole-plant CBD extract.

Full-spectrum products contain all the beneficial cannabinoids and micro-compounds found in the original hemp flowers.

That means lots of CBD – plus other dog-safe cannabis anti-inflammatories like CBG, CBC, and anti-oxidant terpenes and flavonoids.

Related: best CBD oil for dogs with arthritis

Avoid! Isolate CBD

Isolate CBD is a highly processed product that doesn’t contain the same therapeutic blend of hemp compounds.

High-fat carrier oil

CBD oils are more effective for dogs with arthritis than CBD treats or creams. That’s because of the high-fat content of oils.

Consuming CBD orally along with fatty foods and oils increases absorption, so more CBD stays in dogs’ bodies.

Pet-specific products

CBD oils for dogs are created to be safe and legal for all pups. They contain less than 0.3% THC, which is the cannabis compound that produces a high when consumed in larger amounts.

Many human CBD products contain more than 0.3% THC. At these higher concentrations, THC is both unsafe and illegal for dogs. It can cause anxiety, nausea, seizures, and even coma. That’s why human cannabis products should always be kept away from dogs and other pets.

When found in trace amounts in pet-safe CBD oils, however, THC can help reduce dogs’ pain and discomfort.

Traces of THC in CBD oils are also a good indication of a full-spectrum extract.

How much CBD oil should I give my dog?

  • Starting dose of 0.25 mg/kg to check CBD is well tolerated
  • Gradually increase up to 4 mg/kg of CBD to meet your dog’s needs
  • Monitor your dog’s symptoms to find the right dosage
  • Most dogs find that 1-2 mg/kg of CBD works best

Based on this study and our surveys of owner experiences, dogs benefit most from a steadily increasing dose of CBD oil.

That means starting with a small amount of CBD to check that your pup will accept it, then raising the dosage to meet your dog’s needs.

CBD dosages are written per kilogram or pound, so you’ll need to know your dog’s weight and be ready to do a little bit of math to work out the right dose.

For example, this study began by giving dogs a starting dose of 0.25 mg/kg of CBD oil. So, a dog weighing 15 kg would receive an initial dose of 3.75 mg.

Remember! CBD oil contains a hemp extract + carrier oil (and any other ingredients)

A dropper full of CBD oil does not equal a dropper of CBD. Check the concentration of your oil to see how much CBD is infused per part.

Once you’ve given your dog their starting dose, keep observing symptoms to check for any improvements.

If, after a few doses, CBD is having no effect, begin to increase the amount. Increase CBD doses in steady increments while continuing to check for symptom improvements.

You can safely increase your dog’s CBD dose up to 4 mg/kg. Safety studies have shown that amounts as high as 20 mg/kg of CBD are tolerated by dogs without side effects, though they are not recommended.

Once you’ve found an effective dosage, stick with that amount. Most dogs will respond well to 1-2 mg/kg of CBD, seeing a positive effect on symptoms.

The final CBD dosages in this study ranged between 0.3 and 4.12 mg/kg. However, nearly two-thirds (19) of dogs responded best to a dosage of 1 to 2 mg/kg.

Remember, CBD is unlikely to fully resolve the symptoms of canine osteoarthritis.

Here’s our full CBD dosage guide for dogs for more condition-specific studies and information.

How often should I give my dog CBD, and for how long?

  • Give your dog CBD twice per day to keep it working in their body
  • Adding CBD to meals can make it easier to give dogs their dose
  • There is no maximum time limit to CBD supplementation for dogs

The latest research on CBD and dogs suggest that it lasts between eight and twelve hours in dogs’ bodies.

That means that dogs should be given CBD twice per day to keep it working on inflamed tissues and stiff joints throughout the day and night.

Most owners incorporate a twice-daily dosage schedule into their pet’s mealtime routine. There’s no scientific difference between dropping CBD oil into your dog’s mouth and onto their food, so many people find it easiest to mix CBD oil into their pet’s usual meal.

Over the past few years, researchers have been looking at the benefits and safety of long-term CBD supplementation for dogs.

Studies have found that CBD continues to be a safe and helpful remedy for dogs for 6 months and longer. There are no reports of side effects emerging as a result of long-term use of CBD.

Should I reduce my dog’s dose of NSAIDs?

  • CBD can be a substitute for NSAIDs for reducing pain and inflammation
  • CBD is compatible with NSAIDs, meaning both can be taken simultaneously
  • Dogs experiencing side effects to NSAIDs may be able to transition to CBD-only treatment

In this study, researchers replaced dogs’ NSAID treatment with CBD oil. They found that CBD oil was able to reproduce the benefits of NSAIDs and keep dogs at equal or better levels of comfort and mobility.

For two-thirds of dogs in the study, CBD was so effective that they were able to reduce their dose of the pain-relieving drug gabapentin – something the dogs were unable to do when taking NSAIDs.

The results of this study suggest that CBD may be able to do a better job than NSAIDs for managing pain and promoting mobility in dogs with arthritis.

However, we also know that CBD is compatible with NSAIDs and other commonly prescribed veterinary medications. That means, for dogs who currently tolerate NSAIDs well, there’s no reason to reduce their normal dose.

If your dog is experiencing side effects related to NSAIDs, studies like these provide evidence that CBD can be a viable therapeutic alternative. Your dog may be able to reduce or stop their course of medications and transition to a natural CBD remedy.

Any changes to a dog’s prescribed treatment must always be first discussed with their veterinarian.

Key points:

Researchers from the University of Colorado have shown that a 1-2 mg/kg dose of full-spectrum CBD oil can be more effective than NSAIDs at managing the symptoms of osteoarthritis for some dogs.

Owners should find the right dose of CBD for their dogs and provide it twice per day to keep CBD active within dogs’ bodies.

CBD is compatible with NSAIDs, so dogs should only reduce their dose of NSAIDs for a good reason, such as if they are experiencing side effects of the medication.