Even the purest CBD oil isn’t 100 percent CBD. In fact, when removed from the cannabis plant, CBD may come as a fine powder, depending on the extraction method used. Because of this, you’ll need a delivery mechanism to transfer the good stuff to your pooch—hence, carrier oils.

Carrier oils are chosen for their ability to infuse CBD, their flavor, and their own individual benefits, such as being rich in Omega and fatty acids. Let’s compare the most popular carrier oils for CBD to find out which is best for dogs to consume.

Why oil in the first place?

Next to CBD infused treats, CBD oils may stand out as an unusual choice of delivery mechanism. But oils have long been used to infuse the medicinal benefits of a wide variety of plants. In this sense, part of the reason why CBD is sold in carrier oils may stem from its history among the world of other essential plant oils like eucalyptus and tea tree.

The early days of homemade essential oils and CBD products required producers to directly infuse cannabis into heated oil, and filter out the particulate matter (see our post on CBD extraction methods. While a viable method, oil made this way can come with low purity and potency, so today’s industrial manufacturers have turned to more high tech extraction techniques, which rarely make use of the carrier oil itself.

Nevertheless, oil remains one of the major categories of CBD products for dogs, and continues to be a versatile form of delivery. Using CBD oil on your dog as opposed to food products gives you the option of either oral or topical application: use oil to massage your pup’s aching joints or post-surgery skin, and allow the CBD to work directly target the affected area. Or, add a few drops to their favorite treats to fine-tune exactly the right CBD dosage.

Hemp seed oil

It seems right to start at the source, so let’s begin with hemp-seed oil, which is made from the cannabis plant itself. Quick recap: hemp and marijuana are both types of the cannabis plant. But, whereas marijuana plants are bred to pump up THC levels (cannabis’s psychoactive component), hemp plants are developed for their CBD concentrations, as well as their credentials as an industrial material.

In fact, for hemp products, including hemp oil and CBD, to be legally classed as ‘industrial,’ it must contain less than 0.3 percent THC. This should ease the minds of pet owners worried about the potential for CBD oil to affect their dog’s subjective experience (it can’t when made from hemp).

Hemp-seed oil is made by pressing the grain of hemp plants, in the same way as other oil seeds, such as canola, flax, or sunflower. Because of this production method, and the fact that hemp oil doesn’t include cannabis flowers, it’s not a medicinal cannabis product in the same way as CBD or THC. In fact, hemp seed oil will likely contain basically nonexistent levels of cannabinoids (around 10 parts per million of THC, in Canada, for example.)

Does this carrier oil work for dogs?

For dogs, hemp seed oil is a fine way to ingest CBD oil. Whether or not your dog goes for its grassy taste may be a matter of personal preference, but hemp oil itself is perfectly safe for canine consumption.

What’s more exciting is hemp seed oils impressive 3:1 ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6, which makes it a premier option for incorporating Omega fatty acids into your dog’s daily diet. Omega supplements have been proven to support dogs’ ability to keep a soft coat and maintain healthy skin.

Hemp seed oil may even act as an antioxidant, as well as helping to block cholesterol absorption for some pups. A 2000 review of hemp seed oil from The Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods notes the presence of Beta-Sitosterol, alongside Tocopherols, which are both considered beneficial dietary supplements in dogs and humans alike.

MCT oil

MCT oil stands for medium-chain triglyceride oil. You can find these medium-chain fats in a most dairy products, from butter and whole milk to yogurt, including products from sheep and goats. Perhaps most popularly, however, MCTs are sourced from coconuts.

Coconut oil has enjoyed a significant increase in popularity in recent years, thanks to its energy-efficient profile and benefits to skin health. As a carrier for CBD oil, MCTs are usually extracted from coconuts, as well as palm oil. Thanks to their structure, they are thought to help the body absorb cannabinoids more effectively.

Does this carrier oil work for dogs?

Most humans prefer the taste of coconut oil compared to other oils mentioned in this article, but the same might not necessarily be true for doggos. Furthermore, there is some debate on whether MCT oils are beneficial to canine health—specifically to a dog’s gastrointestinal health.

The ASPCA recommends caution when giving any coconut product to your dog, due to their super-high fat content, which has been known to cause stomach upset, loose stools, or diarrhea. A review by the University of Central Florida from January of this year suggests that high-fat foods can “enhance intestinal permeability” in humans, causing gut inflammation and the growth of unwanted bacteria.

On the other hand, the small amounts of coconut and other MCTs in the average CBD oil dosage may not affect your dog’s stomach, and may actually be worth the minor risk. MCT is often considered more beneficial as a CBD vector than oils containing longer-chain acids, because the oil is broken down and absorbed at a faster rate. This not only makes it more available for use as an energy source, but may also result in greater and faster absorption of any CBD consumed along with the oil.

Other plant, vegetable, and seed oils

Hemp seed and MCTs are probably the two major types of CBD carrier oil. But beyond them are a whole variety of other plant and seed oils, many of which are simply those you’ll find in the average kitchen cupboard:

  • Grapeseed oil,
  • Avocado oil,
  • Sunflower oil, and
  • Olive oil (often used for homemade CBD oil).

Does this carrier oil work for dogs?

As common oils, these carriers should pose no major health risks to dogs. However, they do differ in terms of general dietary benefit. For example, grapeseed oil is largely comprised of polyunsaturated fats and contains many of the same anti-oxidizing compounds as hemp oil (although usually in lower concentrations).

On the other hand, olive and sunflower oils contain longer-chain fats, which shouldn’t be an issue for occasional canine CBD users, but are definitely worth bearing in mind if your dog is consuming them once or twice a day, every day. These oils also aren’t great for expediting CBD absorption—although olive does contain vitamins K and E.

Let’s compare

Is this carrier oil safe for dogs? Does it have any additional benefits?
Hemp seed oil Yes Contains high amounts of Omega fatty acids, as well as anti-oxidizing and cholesterol inhibiting compounds.
MCT / coconut oil May cause stomach upset in some dogs. Promotes fast absorption into the body, which reduces fat storage and may speed up CBD effects.
Grapeseed oil Yes Contains anti-oxidant compounds.
Other plant/seed oils Yes Negligible

The Verdict

Before we announce the grand prize for best CBD carrier oil, let’s underline the most important purchasing decision when it comes to CBD products: production quality.

Remember that CBD products are still awaiting stricter regulations, which means it’s up to consumers to practice extra vigilance when buying CBD oil. The type of oil used to carry your dog’s CBD becomes irrelevant when the CBD itself is made from an inadequate plant, or when extraction uses unregulated materials or methods. Always look for assurances that CBD is derived from organic hemp plants, and that it’s been made by a properly certified producer.

With that said, let’s take a look at the key findings on CBD carrier oils for dogs:

  • Any popular type of CBD carrier oil should be safe for consumption by dogs. This includes hemp seed oil, MCT oil, and oil pressed from common plant and seed sources.

  • However, MCT oil does have the potential to cause gastrointestinal irritation in some does at high concentrations.

  • Of all oils, hemp seed oil has the best combination of benefits and digestibility. In addition to being safe and non-irritating, hemp seed oil boasts an awesome combination of Omega acids and antioxidants—what’s not to like!