Study review: The Use of Cannabidiol-Rich Hemp Oil Extract to Treat Canine Osteoarthritis-Related Pain: A Pilot Study

Date: March 2020
Publication: AHVMA
Authors: Lori Kogan, Peter Hellyer, and Robin Downing
Location: Colorado State University
Using: full-spectrum CBD oil
Full study:

What happened?

  • Researchers at Colorado University’s specialty clinic for animal pain management wanted to see if full-spectrum CBD oil could do a better job than NSAIDs at reducing pain caused by osteoarthritis in dogs.
  • Instead of giving 37 dogs their usual treatment of NSAIDs, they gave them a twice-daily dose of full-spectrum CBD oil (in various amounts between 0.3 and 4.12 mg/kg) for 90 days. A vet examined each dog before CBD treatment began, and then every two weeks throughout the study.
  • 32 dogs completed the study, and 30 showed reduced pain. 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.

(image source:

Table 1. Patient Characteristics of Dogs With Chronic Pain Enrolled in CBD Trial

What were the results?

30 dogs showed reduced pain. 21 dogs in the study who were taking the medication gabapentin could reduce their dose or stop taking the drug completely.

Introduction summarized:

One popular type of hemp product is CBD oils for dogs, with research suggesting that pet owners often use pet-friendly CBD oils to reduce the pain associated with canine osteoarthritis.

While drugs like NSAIDs and gabapentin can help lower arthritis-related inflammation and increase mobility, they may not be so effective at reducing pain, which is why many owners turn to CBD oil.

This study was made to find out if full-spectrum CBD oil can reduce pain caused by osteoarthritis in dogs, and increase dogs’ mobility as a result. The study was also designed to look for any side effects of CBD and to find the correct dosage.

Materials and methods summarized:

37 dogs were chosen from the study, most of whom were patients at the Colorado University specialty clinic for animal pain management.

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

Five dogs withdrew from the study due to unrelated preexisting health conditions.

The use of NSAIDs was restricted for all participants.

The study began by using a 0.25 mg/kg dose of CBD oil, delivered on food twice per day. Based on bi-weekly examinations, the CBD dose was then adjusted based on the dogs’ pain levels.

The final dosages ranged between 0.3 and 4.12 mg/kg of CBD. However, the majority of dogs (19) responded best to a dosage of 1 to 2 mg/kg.

The CBD oil 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.” (See our top CBD oils for dogs with pain or arthritis here for information on pet-friendly products.)

Assessments of the dogs were made every two weeks by vet examination and owner surveys and included a 10-point pain scale.

Dogs that were also taking gabapentin who were responding well to CBD had their gabapentin doses reduced.

Results summarized:

Of the 32 dogs who completed the study, just two showed no improvement. For all the others, pain was reduced from an average of 3.2 on the pain scale, to just 0.97.

Seven of the dogs’ pain scores did not change, but they were able to move from treatment with gabapentin to CBD.

Table 2. Starting and Ending Numeric Rating Score, CBD Dose, and Gabapentin Doses in a Clinical Trial of Dogs Receiving CBD for the Treatment of Chronic Pain

(image source:

Table 2. Starting and ending numeric rating score, CBD dose, and Gabapentin doses in a clinical trial of dogs receiving CBD for the treatment of chronic pain

Of the 30 dogs who benefited from CBD oil treatment, six experienced significant pain reduction of five or more points.

Like other studies, the researchers noted an increase in dogs’ levels of liver enzymes. More unusually, however, an increase in the enzyme ALKP was detected, not ALT as would be expected. As with other studies, this one calls for more research on the effects of cannabis compounds on the liver.

Also worth noting: this study had no placebo group. Results were also partly based on a subjective pain-interpretation scale.

The study in quotes:

“When pet owners were asked to compare cannabis products to other forms of medication or therapy, 93% reported that cannabis products work better than other treatments.”

“Many pet owners and veterinarians working with animals suffering from OA-related pain desire an alternative to traditional medications.”

“NSAIDs, as well as other drugs such as gabapentin, are sometimes inadequate in relieving OA-related pain and come with potential side effects.”

“hemp-derived CBD oil appears to positively affect dogs with chronic maladaptive pain by decreasing their pain, thereby improving their mobility and quality of life.”

“The CBD dose was adjusted as needed in response to the new assessment. CBD dose escalations of 0.5 to 0.75 mg/kg approximately every 12 hours were prescribed at each reassessment until the patient’s pain score on palpation was 0 to 1 on a scale of 10.”

“The primary goal was to achieve acceptable comfort without inducing sedation.”

“Only 2 dogs deemed by their owners and supported by the veterinary assessments to have achieved no measurable improvement.”

“It is unclear why some patients responded to a very small dose of the CBD product.”

“Quotes from clients include: “She’s more like a puppy”; “He is acting like a much younger dog”; and “I haven’t seen him play like this for a long time.” Additionally, several of the dog owners reported noticing that their dogs were more attentive, animated, and mentally engaged after starting the CBD oil.”

“These results strongly suggest that a CBD product, at an appropriate therapeutic dose, may provide a gabapentin-sparing effect for dogs experiencing chronic maladaptive pain.”