What is CBD oil?

CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is one of between 80 and 120 chemical compounds called cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.48

To make CBD oil, a carrier oil, such as hemp seed or coconut oil, is infused with cannabidiol that’s been extracted from cannabis. For dogs, those cannabis plants are almost always non-intoxicating hemp, which ensures that no dog is getting high.

Sometimes, other non-psychoactive cannabinoids and organic compounds besides CBD will be infused into CBD products (typically called Full or Broad Spectrum CBD.) This depends on the oil type, brand, and intended purpose.

Does CBD oil work?

Yes. CBD oil works because of both its cannabinoid content and its delivery mechanism (the oil).
Repeated studies have shown that CBD and THC effectively stimulate our body’s endocannabinoid system, which itself is able to affect all major organs and internal systems. Through the endocannabinoid system, CBD has proven itself an anti-inflammatory and an anxiolytic (anxiety-reducer) in trials including human participants, mice, rats, and in studies from the previous century, monkeys.

Research studies involving dogs and CBD do exist, but there aren’t many of them due to the ethics and practicalities of experimenting with pets. Data is also limited to specific effects of CBD on certain conditions. Take a look at the ‘Does CBD work for …?’ section for more on the clinical research and evidence collected on CBD and dogs so far.

Despite the early stages of research, CBD for dogs has continued to gather momentum thanks to a wealth of positive anecdotal reports from owners. Hang around any pet store, doggy park, or other puppy meet up, and there’s a fair chance that you’ll hear CBD brought up by at least one pet parent, often with stories about their dog’s anxiety, joint issues, or skin and coat health.

CBD can be found in all manner of dog treats, snacks, and topical creams, but oil remains a favorite carrier for its versatility, and ability to help digestion. Popular carrier oils are high in Omega and medium-chain fatty acids, which increase the rate of CBD absorption by the body and come with their own dietary benefits.

Unlike treats, oil can be measured out and dropped into food, ingested sublingually (under the tongue), or massaged topically into skin. Each method offers slightly different effects on the endocannabinoid system and the body, all three are possible with CBD oil.

How does CBD oil work in dogs?

The endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system is a relatively recent discovery, having only been found in the early 90s.52

Despite it’s newcomer status on the scientific stage, endocannabinoid systems (often abbreviated to ECS) are found in all mammals, dogs and humans included.

The ECS is able to signal and impact all major organs in the body, including the nervous system, immune system, and brain. It’s the primary system through which CBD, other cannabinoids, and the body’s own equivalent compounds are able to have their effect, which is why CBD’s benefits can be so far-ranging.53

The ECS has three main components:
cannabinoid cb1 & cb2 receptor in the dog brain infographic
  • Cannabinoids. These signalling compounds may be naturally produced by the body (endocannabinoids) or introduced by ingesting cannabis products (phytocannabinoids).
  • Cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids interact with the ECS through receptors, which are found across bodily symptoms. Receptors called CB1 and CB2 get the most attention in research on CBD and cannabis, as they seem to become most active when a dog or person consumes CBD oil.
  • Enzymes. These break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids during and after use.

It’s generally thought that the ECS’s main function is to restore and maintain something called bodily homeostasis. This term is used to refer to how the body reacts to changes, both on the inside and out. For example, the ECS can be activated by a rise in ambient temperature, or the presence of a perceived threat. Likewise, the ECS comes into play during fevers or after an insect bite.

As a result of this function, the ECS is closely linked to stress and inflammation—two of the major ways ours and our dogs’ bodies react to external stimuli. Other functions impacted by the ECS include digestion, coordination, immune function, mood regulation, pain, and sleep.

Exactly how CBD is able influence the ECS in reducing stress, inflammation, and imbalances is still disputed by researchers. While other cannabinoids such as THC bind directly to cannabinoid receptors in the same manner as the body’s naturally produced compounds, it’s thought CBD may work indirectly, either by mimicking endocannabinoids or by inhibiting enzymes’ ability to break them down, increasing their potency and duration.54

What do vets say?

Right now, most veterinarians and pet care professionals aren’t saying much about CBD oil. But that’s not necessarily because they don’t acknowledge the benefits of CBD for dogs. In fact, many vets are already using CBD oil with their own dogs.

The reason they might not tell you about their personal experiences with CBD is mostly a legal matter. As of 2020, CBD products for pets are not officially sanctioned by the FDA,55 which makes them unfit for prescribing or recommendation by health professionals.

Legislation in a minority of states, including California and Colorado, does allow vets to discuss CBD with pet owners, but such regulations stop short of the full power to prescribe. With the continuing relaxation of cannabis prohibitions, as well as 2018’s Farm Bill amendments allowing the production and sale of hemp products, expect changes in this area in the near future.

Does CBD have any side effects?

Relative to traditional pharmaceutical medications given to dogs, CBD is extremely safe and has a highly favorable side effect profile. The majority of dogs will exhibit no unwanted symptoms after taking CBD oil, but if your dog does experience side effects, they may include

  • Sleepiness, fatigue, or lethargy
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Vomiting
  • Ataxia (coordination issues / drunkenness)
  • Hyperesthesia (hyper-sensitivity / overwhelming sensations)

That said, it’s worth repeating that repeated studies on CBD have proven it one the safest, most compatible, and least toxic treatments available right now. A 2018 World Health Organization report called CBD “well-tolerated, with a good safety profile,” that’s unlikely to cause adverse reactions or dependency in either humans or animals.

Dog’s toxicity threshold of CBD is very high. While it’s still important to calculate the right dosage for your dog’s size, weight, and condition, studies have shown that a toxic level of CBD is almost three hundred times higher than the average doses recommend by our dosage guide.

Specifically, it’s thought that dosage levels above 30mg of CBD per kg of bodyweight are the concentration at which CBD can cause problems. At this dosage, a 1981 study on Rhesus monkeys reported liver and kidney weight increases,56 while a 2018 study on mice described decreases in circulating testosterone, as well as fertility issues57

Is CBD right for my dog?

CBD’s wide spectrum of use cases means that many dogs are able to benefit from CBD oil. However, just because CBD is a popular supplement, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog should be taking it.

We’ll cover this in more depth in the ‘Does CBD work for …?’ section, but dogs with ongoing conditions such as hip dysplasia or seizures are likely to benefit from low, consistent daily doses of CBD.

On the other hand, dogs vulnerable to isolated or one off events, such as bouts of separation anxiety, seasonal allergies, or phobia of fourth of July fireworks, are more likely to benefit from single, occasional uses of CBD oil.

Happy dogs, showing no signs of anxiety, inflammation, skin irritation, or chronic conditions, shouldn’t take CBD, or any wellness supplement, without a good reason.

The CBD buyer’s guide

In 2020, buying CBD oil for your dog is easier and more convenient than it’s ever been. Thanks to more progressive laws and a wide public interest in the wellness benefits of cannabis, manufacturers across the country are producing some of the best CBD consumer products found anywhere in the world.

Along with CBD’s rise in popularity, however, comes a minority of bad actors looking for a share of the market. These sellers take advantage of the current lack of FDA regulation and low knowledge levels of many first-time buyers, by offering mislabelled, sub-par, or even unsafe products.

But don’t fret. Here’s a CBD buyer’s guide containing everything you need to know about browsing and purchasing CBD oil for your dog, and how to stay clear of shady products.

What’s the law on CBD oil for dogs in 2020?

Unlike the laws on THC-containing cannabis, state and federal regulators are closely aligned when it comes to CBD oil and other products produced from hemp.

As mentioned above, the 2018 iteration of the federal farm bill, signed into law by president Trump, grants hemp farmers, manufacturers, and retailers the right to sell and transport hemp-made products across state lines—the caveat to the ruling being that hemp must be industrial-grade, meaning that contains less than 0.3 percent THC.

As a result, as long as CBD oil is made from hemp and not marijuana (which all CBD oil for dogs should be anyway), there are no federal restrictions on buying CBD oil for your dog.

With that said, it’s important to point out a couple of state-level regulations that, while unlikely to prevent you from legally buying CBD, do further restrict the types of CBD products eligible for sale in those areas:

  • In Idaho, a 2015 ruling by the Attorney General requires that CBD products “must both contain zero THC and be derived from one of the five identified parts of the cannabis plant.”58

  • In Nebraska, the law on CBD and hemp products is currently changing, with hemp cultivation soon to begin in the state.59

  • In South Dakota, industrial hemp was only legalized in March 2020.60

  • In American Samoa, possession of CBD is illegal under the territory’s drug laws.61

Where should I shop for CBD oil?

Despite its widespread legality, not every outlet is able—or willing—to sell CBD. At the same time, some CBD outlets tend to be better options for consumers than others.

Full spectrum vs broad spectrum vs isolate CBD

One of the first things you’ll notice when shopping for CBD oil is a product’s spectrum listing. CBD’s ‘spectrum’ refers to the variety of compounds and cannabinoids extracted from cannabis and contained within the oil. Oils a general separated into three spectrum categories: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and pure isolate CBD.

Full spectrum CBD

CBD + all other non-psychoactive cannabinoids + THC (<0.3%) + full terpene profile + carrier oil

= Full spectrum CBD oil

Full spectrum CBD oil contains the widest assortment of cannabis compounds and cannabinoids. Alongside CBD (Cannabidiol), oil may include CBG (another cannabinoid that’s good for inflammation), THC (in tiny amounts), and terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic compounds that contribute to the smell and taste of cannabis and CBD oil, and may also carry their own health benefits.

Broad spectrum CBD

CBD + optional non-psychoactive cannabinoids, and terpenes + carrier oil

= Broad-spectrum CBD oil

Broad spectrum CBD oil will contain some subsection of compounds, depending on what the manufacturer deems the most beneficial oil recipe. For example, broad spectrum oil might simply contain CBD plus a few flavorful terpenes.

Isolate CBD

CBD + carrier oil = Isolate CBD oil

Isolate CBD oil is the purest of the three categories. Depending on the quality of production, isolate CBD may simply contain the carrier oil and 100 percent cannabidiol.

As far as dogs are concerned, there’s no substantial difference between full, broad, and isolate spectrum oils. All are safe for your dog to consume, and all carry similar if not equal benefits to health.

There have been minimal reports that CBD oils containing strong terpenes (so, full and broad spectrum) may increase the risk of stomach upset or diarrhea in dogs. However, such claims haven’t yet been substantiated.

There’s also growing research on something called the entourage effect, which is the hypothesis that the potency of each component of cannabis increases when they’re all consumed together as one substance, rather than as isolated parts.63

For dogs, this is likely of little importance, but it may suggest that full-spectrum CBD oils are more potent relative to other oils with equal CBD concentrations.

Which extraction method is best for CBD oil?

No matter the spectrum type, CBD needs to be extracted from the hemp plant and infused with a carrier oil. To do this producers generally use one of three established extraction methods: carbon dioxide extraction, solvent extraction, and oil infusion.

Today, almost all reputable producers use CO2 extraction methods, so it’s best to stick to those oils made using this process.

Solvents only tend to come into the mainstream picture for additional processes such as winterization, which uses an alcohol wash to further extract cannabinoids and distill concentrated CBD. Freezing the alcohol-soaked CBD helps manufacturers to separate different compounds by controlling for their melting and precipitation points.

Above all, it’s the quality of the manufacturing and the extraction process, rather than the type of process itself, that has the biggest effect on CBD quality.

Which carrier oil should CBD for dogs use?

Whatever the spectrum level and extraction method, CBD oil needs to contain, at least, CBD and a carrier oil. As far as oils are concerned, there are three types you’re likely to see most often in products for pets. These are: hemp seed oil, MCT oil, and grapeseed oil.

All three are safe for consumption and should pose no problem for your dog. However, there are some slight differences between them. These relate to additional health benefits, and the oils’ ability to aid CBD absorption.

Hemp seed oil, made from cold-pressed hemp seeds, is often used in CBD products thanks to its favorable dietary profile of fats and antioxidants. Hemp’s desirable Omega fat ratio makes it a good option for dogs taking CBD once or multiple times every day. Consumers may also be attracted to hemp oil due to the aesthetics of combining hemp extracts with hemp seed oil.

Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT oils are perhaps the most commonly used CBD carrier oils, partly thanks to their wide availability (in forms such as coconut oil), as well as their ability to speed up CBD absorption. Medium-chain fats are considered preferable carriers because they’re metabolized quickly by the body, aiding the digestion of CBD.

Despite their wide usage, some dog owners steer clear of MCT oils—especially those made from coconuts—as they find the oils can irritate their dogs gastrointestinal system and cause stomach upsets. This seems to be something that may affect certain individual dogs, rather than a general symptom.

A minority of CBD products use other kinds of plant or seed oils as a carrier, such as grape seed oil. While safe and possibly containing their own antioxidizing benefits, these oils tend to offer less in the way of additional health benefits, when compared to hemp seed or MCT oil.

Hemp seed oil

Is this carrier oil safe for dogs?

Yes

Does it have any additional benefits?
• High amounts of Omega fatty acids
• Anti-oxidizing and cholesterol inhibiting compounds.

MCT / coconut oil

Is this carrier oil safe for dogs?

Yes*

Does it have any additional benefits?
• Promotes fast absorption into the body
• Reduces fat storage and may speed up CBD effects.

*may contribute to stomach upset in some dogs.

Grape seed oil

Is this carrier oil safe for dogs?

Yes

Does it have any additional benefits?
• Contains antioxidant compounds.

Other plant oils

Is this carrier oil safe for dogs?

Yes

Does it have any additional benefits?
Depends on the specific oil

Should my dog have hemp- or cannabis-derived CBD oil?

With their constant appetite, goofy demeanor, and avoidance of bathing, dogs might seem like expert stoners. But the truth is that dogs and marijuana do not mix. Even small amounts of THC-rich cannabis can cause dogs to become frightened, confused, nauseous, and agitated.

Physical symptoms of THC intoxication in dogs can include difficulty waking, swaying and clumsiness, tremors, urinary incontinence, seizures, and in rare cases, death.64 Unfortunately, cases of canine THC poisoning are growing alongside nationwide cannabis usage, often from dogs getting into food products containing cannabis, such as cakes and cookies.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals, their poison control hotline has reported a huge increase in calls related to marijuana or cannabis ingestion in 2019, compared to the year before.65

All of which goes to say that, while CBD is a highly safe cannabinoid, THC should never be given to dogs. As a result, always look to give your dog your dog CBD products that are clearly marked as derived from hemp plants, and not labelled as sourced from ‘marijuana’ or ‘cannabis.’

While ‘cannabis’ CBD oils and even those explicitly made from marijuana plants may well have low THC concentrations and be safe for dogs, we don’t recommend taking the risk. With so many high quality hemp-derived oils to choose from, there’s no need to!

Does it matter if my dog’s CBD oil isn’t organic?

There is little difference between the organic certifications given to food and grocery products, and those attributed to CBD oil. CBD oils that are certified organic are held to a rigorous standard of quality that means farms operate without the presence of industrial chemical products.

Organic CBD is grown in soil free of USDA organic-prohibited pesticides for at least three years, and no synthetic additives are introduced during growth. Crops must be maintained using only non-chemical methods, such as rotations and organic fertilizers, and the hemp seeds can’t be genetically modified.66

Does this matter? In a sense, whether or not you count organic certification as important will depend on your personal values and priorities. There’s no doubt that organic practices allow farming operations to coexist with their surrounding environment, reducing the widespread damage caused by chemical runoff from chemical fertilizers and soil additives.

The benefits of organic produce to ours and our dogs’ bodies are less overt, but the relevant research consistently finds associations between an organic diet and improved health outcomes.67 While you’re unlikely to detect any ill-effects from giving your dog non-organic CBD, we can’t say with confidence that non-organic produce won’t contribute to an overall decrease in their long-term health outlook.

What about hemp seed oil?

Hemp seed oil is oil made by pressing the seeds of hemp plants. It is not psychoactive, and not a constituent of CBD, though it may contain trace amounts of cannabinoids. Often, hemp seed oil is used as a carrier for CBD.

While it doesn’t offer the benefits of CBD, hemp seed oil can be a worthwhile dietary supplement for your dog. Hemp oil is a rich source of polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which promote cellular growth and contribute to a healthy skin and coat.

Additionally, there are some indications that hemp oil may also contribute to an anti-cancer and anti-degeneration diet. Hemp seed oil contains vitamins A, C and E and β-carotene, along with phytol and tocopherol, which are known antioxidants linked with anti-degenerative benefits.68

Aside from its role as a carrier oil, you’re most likely to find hemp seed oil in kitchen and bathroom cabinets, as an ingredient in both salad dressings and cosmetic products. Oil can be dark or clear green, with darker oils tending to have the strongest flavors.

The top CBD oil brands and products available right now

(not yet determined)

The CBD user guide for owners

Knowing what to look for in a CBD oil pet product is one thing: knowing how to administer it is another. Here’s our dosage FAQ on the accepted best practices for introducing CBD to dogs, and maintaining a healthy relationship with the supplement.

Because CBD for dogs is currently unapproved by the FDA, and veterinarians in the US do not have the power to prescribe CBD products, there is no medically sanctioned or accepted dosage guide. This had left CBD manufacturers and pet owners to develop a consensus on the right levels of CBD through careful experimentation with their pups.

As a result, ours and other CBD dosage recommendations are always positioned at the most cautious end of things. As discussed below, the general rule when giving your dog CBD oil is ‘start small, observe, and increase only if beneficial.’

How do I give my dog CBD oil?

CBD oil is a versatile product that can work in several ways. While most owners administer CBD oil by dropping it onto their dog’s food, there are also benefits to other delivery methods, such as topical and sublingual application.

As a general rule, any method of CBD ingestion is going to have some level of whole-body effect. But, if you’re looking for a faster or more targeted effect from CBD, then a method other than standard oral ingestion may well be worth a try.

How much CBD should I give my dog?

How often should my dog take CBD?

The frequency of your dog’s CBD dose also largely depends on your dogs needs and their responsiveness to CBD. Most owners will adopt either a consistent schedule of one or two daily doses, or they’ll use CBD reactively as a solution for single occurrences such as insect stings, loud noises, post surgery, or before anxiety-inducing events.

Can I give my dog human CBD?

There should be no real difference in the quality or production methods used to make human and pet CBD oil. Because of this, both types of oil are interchangeable to a certain extent.

However, owners need to exercise caution when considering sharing their own CBD oil with their four-legged-friends. Human CBD oil varies in type and strength to a much larger degree than oil for dogs, so only a subset of human oils are fit for canine consumption.

Dogs should never be given human CBD products made from marijuana plants (often labelled simply as ‘Cannabis CBD’). They should also never be given CBD oil that contains more than 0.3 percent THC. Dogs should also steer clear of human oils developed to contain pungent terpene profiles or those made to be super potent.

If a human CBD oil is made from industrial hemp, and doesn’t contain significant levels of other cannabinoids or terpenes, then it should be ok for dogs to consume. Remember to always follow dosages appropriate for animals rather than humans.

How do I know if my dog’s CBD is working?

Right now, there’s little in the way of research of CBD onset times for dogs, which leaves us reliant on emerging scientific evidence, and anecdotal evidence. Perhaps frustratingly, we do see that CBD works differently for different dogs, with some responding to their first dose with thirty minutes, others only benefiting from effects after a week or more of daily ingestion, and some never showing any signs of response whatsoever.

Due to this large variance, we recommend steady dosing over a consistent period, with some careful observation to see whether CBD is producing any changes, either positive or negative. So, Don’t be surprised if effects aren’t immediate.

As for what those effects might look like, there are three broad signs to look for, which suggest that CBD is beginning to improve your dog’s quality of life:

Caregiver placebo effect

The caregiver placebo refers to the false perception of improvements by owners when assessing their dog’s condition.

While it’s easy to make judgements on health indicators with clear metrics such as blood pressure or hormone levels, identifying subtle improvements in things like joint mobility or pain is a much harder task. Because the effects of CBD can be subtle and internal—and dogs often hide their discomfort—there’s potential for owners to see signs of improvement where there aren’t any.

In a study testing the extent of the caregiver placebo effect, half of participants reported that their dog’s condition improved in response to treatment that (unknown to them) was in fact a placebo.73

It’s not possible to step outside your own evaluations of your dog’s condition, but there are a few simple things you can do to counter the natural tendency to be optimistic about CBD’s effects on your dog. It can help to:

  • Be conscious of your own vulnerability to caregiver placebos.

  • Use a diary to track doses and symptoms over time. This will help you see whether your dog’s improvements are consistent and associated with CBD, or whether it’s more a case of good days versus bad days. It may also reveal other associated factors you hadn’t previously spotted.

  • Inform your vet of your CBD supplementation plans and bring them in for a second opinion. Have them measure objective baseline indicators of health before you begin CBD treatment, and again after a month or two. This should reveal any factual difference in their condition.

Does CBD work for …?

CBD benefits dogs living with a large range of conditions, and has a long history of use in humans as both a supplement and direct treatment. When assessing the effectiveness of CBD for any particular canine disorder or disease, it’s important to look at both the scientific and anecdotal evidence, and weigh up any possible risks.

Some studies and trials have been undertaken on the use of CBD for specific canine conditions. For the most part, however, the science on CBD’s therapeutic effects is drawn from studies that use human and rodent subjects. As a result, we’re left to extrapolate, assuming that results seen in humans or mice are likely to also appear in dogs.

While it’s true that these assumptions are, to some extent, guesswork, we also know that the endocannabinoid systems of humans, mice, dogs, and most mammals, are highly similar. This fact, combined with the anecdotal reports of a continually growing population of owners, means we should feel confident in drawing (at least) general conclusions from CBD’s clinical evidence base.

doctor using stethoscope on a healthy puppyDogs can be notoriously neurotic and sensitive to change. For some breeds, a nervous disposition is simply a part of a normal personality trait. But isolated or manageable nervousness can start to become more concerning when a dog’s behavioral and emotional reaction to a trigger is highly disproportionate, or lasts for long periods before and afterwards

When extreme behavioral and emotional reactions stay closely correlated to a specific event (such as a trip to the vet, or bathtime) we might classify a dog as having a phobia. The term ‘anxiety’ tends to be applied when the state of agitation persists more generally, affecting large portions of dogs’ and owners’ lives. Generally speaking, though, phobias and anxieties are closely related disorders stemming from an overactive fear response, and a lack or internal resources or techniques to deal with the situation. Separation anxiety is often cited as the second most common emotional-behavioral disorder in dogs, behind excessive aggression. The term refers to dogs that become disproportionately upset when separated from their family.

Most often, canine separation anxiety is centered around one particular person or other animal in the family home, meaning that dogs don’t have to be alone to experience symptoms. Separation and other canine anxieties are likely to have one or more specific triggers that lead to a sudden increase in a dog’s stress responses. For example, a car engine starting, the doorbell ringing, or the regular time somebody leaves the house for work, can all be enough to trigger an anxiety attack. Depending on the severity and the strength of a trigger, this might result in anything from pacing and patrolling, to barking or crying, to incontinence and severely destructive behaviors.

According to the ASPCA, it’s not exactly why some dogs develop anxiety disorders. Of course, previous emotional or physical trauma can seriously impact a dog’s mental health, but some may develop symptoms of anxiety without a clear cause. 74 We do know that dogs who have multiple owners across their lives are more prone to behavior and separation issues. One study on over 400 pups found that dogs in single occupancy homes were almost at double the risk of separation anxiety, while neutering was also an associated factor.75 A death, other change in family makeup, or even something as minor as a new routine may also be triggers.

Interestingly, common theories about anxiety in dogs often don’t emerge in the data. Early separation from the mother, over-spoiling by owners, or the presence of other pets in the home have not been widely associated with anxiety in a clinical setting.

Under the influence of CBD, dogs should feel calmer and more relaxed. In turn, this should make them more receptive to training methods designed to manage and reduce future anxiety, such as crate training and conditioning.

There’s plenty of clinical evidence linking CBD consumption to reduced anxiety in humans and mice. A review of the field from 2015 was able to conclusively demonstrate CBD’s ability to reduce human anxiety behaviors related to PTSD, GAD, PD, OCD, and SAD.76

Last year, a study testing the effects of CBD on mice presenting with anxiety found that CBD decreased anxiety responses in all behavioral tests, and all animals tested.77

Perhaps most encouraging, though, was a study on rats in which CBD was able to reduce contextually-conditioned fear responses. In other words, CBD helped rats to deal with anxiety triggers associated with particular contexts, in the same way that canine anxiety is usually associated with certain triggers.78

These studies accompany a wealth of personal experiences with human CBD products, alongside anecdotal reports from owners, citing CBD oil as a contributing factor in their pet’s anxiety treatment plan.

Of course, there are owners and dogs out there for whom CBD was not effective in combating anxiety issues, but it’s safe to say that, when it comes to the amount and quality of evidence, anxiety reduction is one of CBD oil’s strongest claims.

Alongside separation anxiety, arthritis is a condition many dogs are at risk of developing during at least some stage of their life. Thanks to the care provided by owners, dogs are living for longer than ever before—and with age comes an increased risk of arthritis, meaning that numbers of arthritic dogs across the country are increasing.

Dogs are already prone to arthritis, thanks to their highly active lifestyles. In particular, all dogs are vulnerable to osteoarthritis, which is the degeneration or alteration of synovial joints. Synovial joints are found between the majors bones involved in physical movement, such as the hip and knee.

In 2018, a review of canine osteoarthritis levels in the UK dog population found that as many as twenty percent of the British dogs suffer some form of joint degeneration.79 In the US, data also suggests a twenty percent prevalence in dogs over a year old, rising to as high as 80 percent in dogs older than eight years.

For a confluence of reasons, male dogs are generally at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis than females. Breed is also a contributing factor. Large and heavy breeds (for obvious reasons), as well as purebreds of all kinds, report higher levels of arthritis than the general dog population.

As osteoarthritis is largely an inflammation issue, CBD can act as a powerful supplement to a dog’s existing arthritis treatment, or even as the sole method of direct treatment in some cases.

The science definitely backs up owner claims when it comes to CBD’s ability to reduce joint pain and inflammation. A recent study by Baylor College of Medicine gave a daily dose of CBD to arthritic dogs for four weeks, and found that treatment significantly improved their conditions, as assessed by both their owners and independent veterinarians. Even after the dogs stopped taking CBD, the beneficial results were recorded as lasting for two weeks.80

In 2016, a study that tried CBD on rats with induced arthritis found that “transdermal CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling, limb posture scores as a rating of spontaneous pain, immune cell infiltration and thickening of the synovial membrane in a dose-dependent manner.”81

Likewise, a similar study on mice with induced arthritis designed to mimic rheumatoid arthritis also showed significant success with CBD treatment. After treatment, mice showed local improvement in their hind paws as well as immunosuppressive effects on further arthritic damage.82

One big advantage of using CBD oil to treat arthritis, over other CBD products, is that it allows owners to give their dogs CBD in both clinically proven methods of administration: orally and transdermally.  By supplementing a dog’s oral CBD consumption with regular CBD joint massages, owners are able to provide a serious and side effect free therapeutic treatment for arthritis, or simply for painful, inflamed joints.

Like osteoarthritis and other conditions of age, rates of canine cancer are rising among the global dog population. According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, up to 50 percent of dogs older than ten years of age will develop cancer, and cancer is the leading cause of death for senior dogs.83

Among the most common cancers reported in dogs is mammary cancer, the chances of which can be drastically reduced by spaying (which also eliminates the risk of uterine or ovarian cancer.) Over a quarter of unspayed female dogs develop mammary tumors, which may be benign.84 Other cancers regularly treated in dogs include skin cancer, bone cancer, and leukemia.

Thankfully, an increasing number of effective treatments are making their way into veterinary practices from the world of human medicine. Today, dogs with cancer can expect to receive a range of effective treatments, from chemotherapy and surgery (when viable), to courses of immunotherapy, which uses techniques to promote a pet’s own immune system in fighting disease.

CBD is not a cure for cancer, and should never replace conventional treatments or go against the advice of vets. But research does indicate that cannabis derivatives may play a significant role in helping to slow cancer growth in dogs, as well maintaining wellbeing and quality of life during a dog’s cancer treatment.

When looking at the ability of CBD to directly affect cancer growth, researchers have found that substances able to increase the concentration of endocannabinoids at the surface of tumor cells may produce anti-tumor effects. This type of beneficial endocannabinoid activity has been shown in various cancer types, including thyroid, brain and prostate cancer.85 The extent to which CBD is able to act as an endocannabinoid booster is still being explored, but results so far look promising.

CBD oil supplementation may also act as a cancer preventative. In studies on cannabinoids’ ability to affect inflammation through the endocannabinoid system, the substance showed promise in suppressing inflammation caused by auto-immune stress, as well as reducing the risk of cancers with inflammatory components.86

More generally, CBD oil can help manage the inflammation, pain, and discomfort caused by traditional cancer treatments, acting as a less intrusive alternative to heavy pain medications such as opioids.

Many breeds of dog are susceptible to seizures. In some, fits can be infrequent and related to clear triggers. Others can experience seizures as a regular yet unpredictable part of life—often diagnosed as a form of epilepsy.

Canine seizures are usually separated into three categories:

  • Generalized or Grand Mal seizures are defined by full body convulsion, in which a dog often loses consciousness.
  • Focal seizures involve uncontrolled movements or paralysis in a certain part of a dog’s body, such as their back legs.
  • Psychomotor seizures occur when a dog present repeats odd and idiosyncratic behaviors, often without being aware of doing so.

The causes of canine seizures can be environmental or due to underlying health and hereditary conditions. Often, seizures will be related to issues with dogs’ kidneys, livers, and brains, but sometimes, no clear cause is ever found.

Beyond genetic and chronic health factors, consumption of toxins, low blood sugar, and electrolyte deficiencies rank among the most common seizure causes.

In humans, CBD has shown such promise as a treatment for some forms of epilepsy, that it remains the only purpose for which the FDA has approved certain CBD products.87

For dogs, CBD oil appears to be similarly effective. Scientists from Colorado State University who conducted a clinical trial on seizure-prone dogs found that 89 percent of those treated with CBD experienced reductions in seizure frequency.88

CBD shouldn’t be the only method of treatment owners try, however. According to MetroVet, nearly 75 percent of owners believe their dog’s seizures have triggers, suggesting that a key prevention method involves finding and controlling those underlying causes.89

Seizure triggers may be obvious—a loud noise, certain types of light, or common substances such as caffeine and Xylitol. Other times, finding triggers requires careful observation, which many owners achieve through keeping a record of how and when seizures occur, helping them spot patterns.

Another common condition for older dogs, the beginnings of hip dysplasia actually begin during puppyhood, when uneven bone growth across the hips and legs disposes dogs to increased degeneration of the hip joint later in life.

As symptoms of dysplasia progress, a dog’s daily routine can become severely affected, with pain and inflammation making it difficult to run, walk, or move from a laying down position to standing up.

Because of this, veterinarians are keen to ensure that puppies are closely monitored throughout their major growth stages for excess weight—especially those expected to exceed 50 pounds as adults. One study on puppy feeding found that dogs who ate according to their appetite were at nearly double the risk of developing dysplasia, compared to those on stricter mealtime schedules.90

It’s not clear that CBD can reduce or reverse hip dysplasia, but it can reduce symptoms, and may help prevent further degeneration. Here, CBD works in the same manner as it does for dogs with arthritis: by easing pain and reducing inflammation around the affected joint.

In this way, CBD’s main benefit for dogs with hip dysplasia comes as an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are often prescribed for dogs with hip issues, and are usually safe. However, some dogs experience frequent side effects during courses of NSAIDs, including vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.91

For dogs who do suffer NSAID side effects, CBD is able to offer equal pain and inflammation benefits through a different biological mechanism.

Dogs displaying symptoms of hyperactivity—excessive barking, biting or nipping, pacing, or destroying household items—should never be sedated unless under instruction from a veterinarian.

Besides the ethics of doing so, it’s actually quite rare for dogs to be diagnosed with genuine hyperactivity, or hyperkinesis. Hyperkinesis and its behavioral symptoms are caused by a range of physical issues, including a fast heart rate, overactive metabolism, and suppressed urination.

Without an underlying medical cause, hyperactivity is most often attributed to personal characteristics of breeds, a lack of stimulation or socialization, or expressions of anxiety.

To the extent that hyperactive behaviors stem from anxiety, CBD will help by reducing a dog’s underlying condition. However, if hyperactivity is caused by a lack of stimulation, excess energy, or is simply part of a breed’s character, then CBD is unlikely to have a significant effect.

CBD may play a role in helping dogs and humans manage their energy more efficiently. One Review of the endocannabinoid system’s role in the metabolism found that cannabinoids can positively affect glucose tolerance and metabolic regulation.92

Skin conditions appear to be increasing in the canine population, largely due to a rise in reported allergies. Like humans, combined aspects of modern urban life are resulting in many dogs becoming more sensitive to dust, pollen, pollution, and even fur.

According to a 2018 report by Banfield Pet Hospital, environmental allergies have increased by over 30 percent in dogs across the last decade. These and other skin irritants such as fleas can cause or exacerbate skin conditions by promoting inflammation, which brings swelling, heat, and itching to the area.

Topical application of CBD offers a potential treatment for several types of skin disorders and irritations, while regular oral ingestion of hemp seed oil supplements a dog’s diet with skin enriching Omega fatty acids.

In trials conducted on humans and mice, CBD has been found effective in reducing or curing conditions including psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, scarring, pruritus, inflammatory skin disease, and even skin cancer.9394

To use CBD oil on a dog’s skin, lightly massage it into the affected area, allowing CBD to interact with local cannabinoid receptors. Applying the oil directly to the site of reaction means CBD can bypass the digestive system, unlike other orally administered antihistamines. This increases bioavailability and keeps CBD working for longer.

Quick answers to commonly asked questions

No. Dogs may feel calmer and more relaxed when taking CBD oil, but when produced properly, CBD oil is non-intoxicating and incapable of producing a high. Always ensure your dog’s CBD products contain less than 0.3 percent THC and are made from organic hemp, not marijuana.

CBD is a cannabis derivative. CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. The majority of CBD products for pets are made from hemp, which is a legal, non-psychoactive strain of cannabis.

Yes. The toxicity of CBD has been tested, and appears to be around three hundred times the recommended starting dose for dogs. CBD also has a long usage history among people and pets, with few if any side effects reported.

CBD products made from industrial hemp are legal in the US. In some states, CBD products made from marijuana are also legal, but shouldn’t be given to dogs. In Idaho, legal CBD products must contain zero percent THC.

In a majority of states, vets are unlikely to raise the issue of CBD with pet owners, but pet owners may (and often do) initiate conversations about CBD with the veterinarians. At the time of writing, CBD products for pets remain unapproved by the FDA, which means that healthcare professionals don’t have the power to prescribe CBD.

Yes, but consumers should practice caution when shopping for CBD on the internet, as not all outlets offer the same quality of CBD products. Amazon currently bans the sale of legitimate CBD products on its marketplace. If in doubt, purchase directly from a supplier or through our reviews.

CBD pairs well with the majority of existing treatment plans, and should pose no issue when taken alongside most medications. However, supplementation to existing treatments of any kind should never be entered into without consultation with a healthcare professional.

Puppies shouldn’t be given intensive or long-term courses of CBD, but use of CBD under certain isolated circumstances may be appropriate. Always consult with a vet before giving your puppy any kind of medication or supplement.

The clinical evidence base for CBD’s wellness and healthcare potential is growing on a near weekly basis. Right now, the vast majority of studies have been undertaken using humans, rats, and mice as subjects. While a small number of studies have been completed on dogs, this leaves us to draw extrapolated conclusions from the data about CBD’s effectiveness for dogs.

Your dog may feel calmer, more relaxed, or sleepy after taking CBD, but many dogs also show no outward behavioral signs of change. Dog’s are also highly unlikely to become physically addicted to CBD. According to the World Health Organization’s 2018 Critical Report, CBD has shown no potential as an abuse- or dependency-forming substance to date.