If you’ve googled CBD oil recently, you’ll know there are numerous ways to introduce your dog to the benefits of this cannabis derivative.

You can drop it on their treats and snacks. You can apply to your dog’s gums, paws, and joints—especially good for aches and pains in elderly dogs. Or, you could massage it directly into their skin.

But how do you decide which application method is best for your pet?

Brown dog scratching itself


Why delivery method matters

Here’s the theory behind applying CBD oil topically to doggo’s skin, rather than having them eat it:

  • CBD interacts with the body through the endocannabinoid system. This system has receptors throughout most of the body’s major organs and can affect all kinds of internal processes.

  • CBD interaction will be strongest where receptors are exposed to the highest concentrations of CBD (cannabinoid) molecules. This is why traditional cannabis products are often inhaled—to expose them directly to the bloodstream and circulatory system.

  • Therefore, you should apply CBD wherever you want it to have the biggest effect. That means oral consumption for digestive or whole-body systemic issues, on bones and joints for targeted pain relief, and the skin for topical treatment and conditioning.

As a general rule, any method of CBD ingestion is going to have some level of whole-body effect, but as the largest organ in the body, the skin stands out as a way of targeting localized clusters of cannabinoid receptors, while bypassing the digestive or circulatory system.

Related: Best CBD oil for dogs with arthritis

When skin application is the right option

So, why might you want to target cannabinoid receptors in a dog’s skin? There are four main reasons for delivering CBD via the skin (but don’t feel limited by these—other reasons are just as good too!)

When not to put CBD oil on your dog’s skin

  • When you’re short on time. If you don’t want an oily pup, you’ll need to massage oil well into fur and skin, which can take some time. While this can act as a nice bonding moment between you and your dog, it may not be convenient at all times of the day. Here, a quick CBD treat is probably better.

  • When you want CBD to have a systemic or whole-body effect. While skin application may minorly affect other parts of the body, oral or sublingual (under the tongue) ingestion is best for treating general issues like anxiety.

  • When a target area is in a place your dog can readily lick off (you may as well save time and go for the oral route!)