Are CBD products right for your pet? CBD can help dogs and cats with cancer pain, arthritis, seizures, neurological and digestive disorders, anxieties, obsessions, mood, and appetite
Cannabis for cats and dogs
In late 2019, Rachel Feldman returned home from work to find that her 14-year-old dog Foxie had trouble getting up. She was dragging her leg around in obvious pain. It turned out to be bone cancer.
Feldman gave Foxie the pain relievers prescribed by her veterinarian, but they weren’t enough. Then, she had an idea: If products containing CBD (cannabidiol), derived from cannabis, were being used to manage pain in people, perhaps they might help her dog. She mixed drops of hemp-based oils she found at her local natural foods store into Foxie’s food. After several tries, Feldman discovered a product and dose that worked: During the final weeks of her life, Foxie was able to go out and play in the snow.
“She lit up for a while and would frolic around in the yard,” says Feldman, director of sustainer strategies at the Humane Society of the United States. “She probably got an extra month of good time with us.”
With the loosening of cannabis laws, more pet owners and veterinarians are using products containing CBD to alleviate pain, decrease anxiety, relieve gastrointestinal issues and reduce seizures in dogs and cats. At the same time, companies are marketing an array of items with CBD—not to be confused with THC, the psychoactive part of cannabis that gets people high. Stores carry oils, tinctures, treats and even hemp-infused peanut butter for pets, leaving many owners wondering what’s real and what’s hype.
“Can CBD help pets? The short answer is, ‘Yes,’” says Dr. Gary Richter, who gave a webinar on the topic to members of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. Richter has seen dogs with chronic arthritis pain, who got no relief from anti-inflammatory medications, walking around more comfortably within a few days of starting CBD. “Not every animal responds to it dramatically,” he says. “This is no panacea. But cannabis is an amazing option.”
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist and HSVMA Massachusetts state representative, did a survey through his nonprofit Center for Canine Behavior Studies that found half of participating pet owners had used CBD products and the majority were satisfied. “CBD does work; it is safe,” Dodman says. “I guess I would regard it as a breakthrough.”
This is no panacea. But cannabis is an amazing option.
Dr. Gary Richter, Veterinary Cannabis Society
Both Richter and Dodman caution that pet owners should consult their veterinarians before using CBD or any over-the-counter supplement. CBD is sometimes mistakenly used not to manage cancer pain but as a cancer treatment, which it isn’t. Also, putting pets on CBD for pain too quickly could mask the underlying problem.
Whether your veterinarian will talk to you about CBD may depend on where you live. A 2018 federal law allows stores to sell hemp products that contain CBD and less than 0.3% THC, but these sales remain restricted in some states that don’t allow medical or recreational use of marijuana. In some states, vets can be penalized for even discussing CBD products with clients.
Fortunately, that’s starting to change. California’s veterinary medical board once tried to prevent vets from even talking about CBD, but it now allows them to discuss it as a treatment option. Colorado’s veterinary medical board goes further, permitting vets to recommend specific products and dosages, while a recently enacted law in Nevada allows veterinarians to both recommend and administer hemp and cannabidiol products.
Allowing vets to discuss and recommend CBD products is crucial, says Richter. “Pet owners are coming to veterinarians for advice. Telling someone to go to the dispensary and buy cannabis is a bit like me saying, ‘Go the pharmacy and pick out an antibiotic and take some.’ ”
Currently, CBD products for pets are sold as over-the-counter supplements, without approval or regulation from the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine. Quality can vary; unless pet owners look at lab test results, they won’t know how much CBD a product actually contains. Some have none, says Dodman. A 2021 study by Leafreport.com, an industry website, found that more than half of CBD products were inaccurately labeled; most of those contained more CBD than claimed. Recognizing the need for pet owners and vets to be able to rely on the quality of CBD products, Richter co-founded the Veterinary Cannabis Society to educate vets and improve industry standards.
CBD Oil for Cats and Dogs FAQs
Hemp oil and CBD oil both come from the same hemp plant, but they are not the same thing. While hemp seed oil provides beneficial vitamin E, Omega 3 and 6, it does not offer any of the benefits that people wishing to purchase CBD are seeking because the seeds of the hemp plant do not contain cannabinoids. CBD is extracted from the leaves, stalks and flowers of hemp plants, which are rich in a variety of cannabinoids. When shopping for hemp CBD, make sure that you do not mistakenly buy hemp oil instead.
Is CBD oil safe for my dog?
While you should never give your dog marijuana with THC, hemp CBD comes from cannabis sativa, which is a completely different strain from cannabis indica, the product that contains the THC that creates a “body buzz”.
Hemp CBD products for dogs contain less than 0.3 percent THC, so it is not psychoactive. CBD oil made especially for dogs will not contain any harmful added ingredients and will be formulated to appropriate dosing levels. CBD does not pose a risk of addiction and generally has no side effects. It is safe for most dogs in the right doses and with the right products. However, you should consult with your veterinarian, especially if your dog is taking prescription drugs.
What are the benefits of CBD oil for dogs?
Like humans, dogs and cats have an endocannabinoid system that allows them to benefit from CBD oil. Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds that are most commonly found in–but not exclusive to—cannabis.
Relief is provided as the cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system and work with the receptors in the body that modulate pain, anxiety, and nausea.
For dogs, CBD oil may help with a lack of appetite, separation anxiety, excessive barking, nausea, anxiety from trips to the vet or groomer, seizures, pain from cancer or arthritis, recovery from surgery or illness, pacing, nervousness, fear of thunder, fireworks or loud noises or aggression toward another animal.
How much CBD oil should I give my dog?
The general dosing guidelines are to start with 1–5 mg per 10 pounds of body weight 2–3 times a day. When dosing, make sure to look at the actual amount of CBD, not the volume of the product, as potencies vary.
Keep in mind that the right dose can vary quite a bit from one situation to the next. You may need to experiment to find the right amount of CBD and how often to give it. Start with a dose in the middle of the range and expect to see results in 30 – 60 minutes. If there is no change after an hour, increase the dosage and observe your dog again. Your dog will not be lethargic, simply visibly calmer, and observable symptoms such as panting, pacing, and whining should decrease once the right dosage has been found. More information about CBD doses for dogs can be found here.
Where can I buy CBD oil for my dog?
CBD oil for dogs can be purchased at specialty pet stores or online. But, shopping online can be baffling. The tech giants won’t allow CBD ads, but sell the product anyway using confusing terminology, sometimes calling it hemp, healing hemp, or calming hemp, so it’s very hard to tell if they mean CBD or hemp oil. The ads may state an amount of mg without using the word CBD.
Because of this, when buying online, make sure that you are buying hemp CBD, not hemp oil. Hemp oil is made from pressed hemp seeds and does not contain CBD. The cannabinoids are found in the other parts of the hemp plant – the leaves, flowers, and stalks.
Make sure to find a company that has commissioned independent third-party testing and can provide a Certificate of Analysis, or COA. The COA lab results should show how much CBD (and how little THC) the product contains, as well as how the product did in tests checking for contaminants such as heavy metals and fungicides.
Many natural pet supply stores carry CBD for dogs and will be able to help you determine the best product for your dog’s particular situations. If you are in the Greater Seattle area, All The Best stores have a huge selection and highly trained pet care specialists ready to help.
What is the best CBD oil for my dog?
Due to sometimes confusing labeling and advertising restrictions, you’ll want to shop carefully to find the best CBD for your dog.
First, find a brand that you can trust. Look into how and where the hemp is grown, and make sure it’s pesticide-free and lab-tested for potency and purity. If your dog is not likely to be put off by a potentially grassy taste, consider full-spectrum CBD. This CBD offers the greatest amount of terpenes and beneficial natural plant compounds that work synergistically with the CBD to maximize effectiveness. If you have a pickier pup, broad-spectrum CBD products offer some terpenes and contain no THC, making them a good option for cats, too.
Because potencies vary, make sure to compare the total amount of CBD in the product, usually stated in mg, not the package weight or bottle size. Then, compare the amount of CBD that is the appropriate dose for your dog’s needs to find the best potency. The most affordable CBD oils for larger dogs or dogs who will benefit from long-term use would be larger bottles of higher potency.
Is isolate, broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum CBD best?
Terpenes are molecules that are produced by many species of plants that are the main ingredient in essential oils and are the fragrant compounds responsible for plants’ distinctive smells. The cannabis plant produces at least three dozen different terpenes.
Some scientists believe that hemp oil containing all the cannabinoids and other terpenes extracted from the plant is more therapeutically beneficial than isolated cannabinoids. The “entourage effect” of this synergy may increase the effectiveness of CBD.
When determining whether full spectrum, broad-spectrum (also known as distillate), or isolate CBD will work best for your pet, keep in mind that each has its benefits. Full-spectrum CBD products are the least refined and contain the greatest number of terpenes and cannabinoids. However, they usually have a grassy flavor that may be off-putting to pickier animals.
In comparison, CBD isolate is pure CBD – the most refined option. It contains no plant matter, so it has no flavor, making it a good choice for the pickiest pets. Some people prefer isolates, considering it pure CBD, but is recommended mostly if the taste is off-putting. Because of the additional refinement, isolates contain no THC
Broad-spectrum CBD is the middle ground; it still contains just enough plant material and terpenes for an entourage effect but has a mild taste. Both the full-spectrum and distillate options have virtually no THC (less than 0.3%) and the CBD isolate lacks THC completely, making all options non-psychoactive.
Does CBD oil help dogs with seizures?
CBD for use by humans who experience seizures entered the medicinal mainstream with Epidiolex — the first FDA-approved prescription cannabidiol — which researchers found reduces the frequency of seizures in patients with some forms of Epilepsy.
However, animal research is still in the early stages. The AKC Canine Health Foundation is currently funding a study on the effects of CBD on dogs with epilepsy through Colorado State University: Efficacy of Cannabidiol (CBD) for the Treatment of Canine Epilepsy. There are a number of pet owners who have found CBD to be an excellent option for controlling their dogs’ seizures.
Does CBD oil help dogs with arthritis or joint pain?
A study from Cornell University found that 2 mg per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of CBD twice daily “can help increase comfort and activity” in dogs with osteoarthritis. While CBD will not eliminate arthritis, it may decrease the pain and reduce the inflammation associated with dogs with arthritis, with no side effects.
Do vets recommend CBD for dogs?
If you’re using other medications, make sure you check with your veterinarian before using CBD oil just to be on the safe side. Many holistic and integrative vets are familiar with the benefits of CBD and will be easily able to answer your questions. Keep in mind that although veterinarians in 49 states can talk to their patients about CBD, except for in California, vets cannot initiate a conversation to recommend CBD. If you want guidance from a veterinarian about CBD for your pet, you’ll have to broach the topic.
Does CBD make dogs high?
There are major differences between the hemp plant from which pet CBD (cannabidiol) oil supplements are extracted and cannabis. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties, is only present in measurable amounts in cannabis, which contains very little CBD. Conversely, industrial hemp has high levels of CBD and virtually no THC. It’s important to note that THC can be toxic to dogs, but CBD is safe. Cannabis and THC are highly regulated even in states where their use has been legalized, but CBD extracted from industrial hemp is legal in all states.
Another important difference is that CBD oil and hemp oil are not the same things, especially for calming purposes. Though they’re from the same plant and neither product is psychoactive, hemp oil is made from pressed hemp seeds, which do not contain CBD. In comparison, CBD oil is extracted from hemp flowers, leaves, and stalks. Be sure to choose products that contain CBD, not just hemp oil.
The most important differentiation to remember is that hemp CBD offers all the benefits without the THC, so you can be assured that your dog won’t get high–instead, they’ll experience a level of mild relaxation without any intoxication.
What kind of CBD should I give my dog?
A variety of forms of hemp CBD for pets are available. CBD treats for dogs can be a convenient and enjoyable way to dose, but can get expensive for larger dogs used over the long term, or may not be a good fit for dogs on a very limited diet.
Convenient and popular bottled CBD oils with droppers are a great option because you can easily give your dog the correct dose, adding it to food or a treat.
Since some CBD oils have a “grassy” taste, topical CBD products can be a good option for finicky dogs. Coconut Oil with CBD is a wonderfully versatile product. It can be applied to the bare skin inside a dog’s ears, and since it’s also completely edible (and tasty) it can be added to food or treats. CBD balms can be beneficial for sores or cracked palms.
For a tasty treat your dog will love, try Honey with CBD. You can add this to food or a treat or your pup can lick it right off the spoon.
Can CBD help my dog focus during training?
Many people have found that CBD personally helps them focus, which points to the potential for CBD to improve a dog’s attentiveness during training.
Using CBD to help dogs focus is not a well-researched topic, but its anxiety-reducing properties can help a dog be in a more receptive state for training. When a dog is feeling stressed, they focus on the cause of anxiety or fear, so paying attention is difficult. Even if they’re motivated to please their human, the feeling of falling short can accentuate stress and anxiety.
Dogs who are in a relaxed state are able to focus more easily. If CBD reduces your dog’s anxiety, friction will be reduced, and positive reinforcement training can be more successful.
Does CBD reduce dog and cat inflammation?
Inflammation’s negative effect on health is widely known. Research by Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry on CBD indicated that CBD holds certain anti-inflammation properties. One study showed that CBD is so effective against Osteoarthritis inflammation that it may even slow the progression of the degeneration. Because CBD can address both pain and inflammation, dogs and cats may gain mobility, which can improve overall wellbeing.