CBD Oil for Dogs. What Should You Know?

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Wondering if CBD oil for dogs can be effective? We discuss how CBD oil for dogs works, its uses, benefits dog lovers have experienced, what veterinarians think, and what to look for when buying CBD oil for dogs. 

How Does CBD Oil Work for Dogs

Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM, of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, explains the basics of how and why CBD works inside the body. “It’s a pretty fascinating mechanism,” he says. “The endocannabinoid system, which all mammals have, handles maintaining balance in the body. In simple terms, the endocannabinoid system’s job is to correct problems. CBD interacts with and activates the endocannabinoid system so it can work to restore balance in the body and correct what is wrong.” 

The endocannabinoid system is a messenger system that helps regulate sleep, appetite, pain, the immune system, and more. CBD impacts the activity of the messengers in this system and stimulates the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, as well as the brain. The endocannabinoids in CBD are like the ones found in your dog’s body.  Because of this, the potential benefits of CBD oil are wide-ranging. 

What Benefits Can CBD Oil Provide Dogs?

Some of the common dog health issues that CBD oil can help with are highlighted below:

  • Joint Problems – CBD oil is a natural anti-inflammatory and can avoid side effects that traditional medications for these conditions can cause. Common traditional medication side effects include deterioration of joints/soft tissue over time, liver damage, and kidney damage.
  • Specific conditions for which people buy CBD oil for dogs include:
    • arthritis
    • hip and elbow dysplasia
    • sprains and strains
    • torn ligaments 
  • Cancer – CBD oil has been extensively researched as a cancer-fighting substance. CBD oil kills cancer cells by blocking their ability to produce energy. And it can stimulate the immune system to produce killer cells that cause death in cancer cells. CBD oil can also help with nausea associated with many cancer treatments and can reduce cancer-related pain.
  • Seizures – CBD oil has been found to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures due to how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system. CBD oil can bind to receptors in the brain to affect the abnormal electric charges of the neurons in the nervous system that cause seizures. Colorado State University studied CBD oil as a treatment for epilepsy in dogs. Amazingly 89% of dogs that received the CBD oil had a reduction in seizures [1]
  • Anxiety – Different common forms of anxiety include:
    • noise phobia
    • separation anxiety
    • aggression
    • fear

Researchers aren’t 100% sure how CBD oil relieves stress and anxiety, but it’s thought that it can help regulate serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood, social behavior, digestion, sleep, and appetite. A recent Calming Study commissioned by Earth Buddy in partnership with MoreBetter Ltd and the Releaf app provided some interesting empirical data that evaluated the effectiveness of Earth Buddy’s full-spectrum CBD edibles, oils and water-soluble products. Also, here are the highlights of the study.

  • Pain management – Some of the most promising research on CBD is for pain management. From nerve pain to arthritis, CBD oil works well while avoiding the harmful side effects of pain medications. CBD oil can also help manage severe pain from injuries
  • Allergies – Allergies for dogs can be difficult to treat.  Skin allergies are one of the most common reasons for vet visits.  CBD oil can help relieve dry and itchy skin and promote the growth of new healthy skin cells.

What Do Veterinarians Say About CBD Oil for Dogs?

Candidly, CBD products are not FDA approved.  There are many things you need to be aware of before buying CBD oil, which will be covered later in this article.  Because of this regulatory uncertainty, lack of knowledge and many of society’s presumptions about CBD as well as cannabis, many vets are reluctant to recommend or even advise on CBD. If your vet is reluctant to discuss CBD oil you can always discuss it with a local holistic vet.  One very prominent holistic vet is Dr. Andrew Jones. Holistic vets are typically more willing to discuss CBD oil as an alternative to more traditional medicine. This all said, many early clinical results, mainly out of Colorado State University and Cornell University have been very promising. [1] [2]

In addition,  an anonymous survey was conducted by the Veterinary Information Network News Service or VIN News Service in early 2018 to assess veterinarian views on marijuana and CBD/hemp products. A total of 2,130 responses were recorded and evaluated. 63% of veterinarians reported they were asked about CBD oil at least once a month.

Some interesting results came out of this survey based on vet first-hand observations or owner reports are below:

Ultimately, it comes down to individual product quality. “Good CBD products are extremely effective,” Dr. Wakshlag, DVM of Cornell University indicates. “Bad ones are not effective.”

Side Effects of CBD Oil for Dogs

According to Dr. Wakslag “There are no known severe side effects to CBD,” “but there are some dogs that might be sleepier. Some might have occasional loose stools, but all in all, [there are] very few side effects.”

Gary Richter, DVM, a veterinary health expert for Rover.com, agrees with this assessment, saying that sleepiness and minor gastrointestinal issues are “the worst-case scenario” and “pretty uncommon.” Dr. Richter also points out, “As I often tell people, any medication or supplement can potentially cause an upset tummy.” 

Dogs Taking Other Medications

If your dog is taking any other medications or supplements you will want to check with your vet or holistic vet too. CBD oil has many health benefits but it can change how your dog metabolizes some medications or supplements.

Due to this, if your dog is taking any of the following medications you’ll need to ask your vet about dose changes:

  • Steroids
  • Allergy medications
  • Liver or kidney medications
  • NSAIDs
  • Heart medications
  • Anxiety medications

It’s important to note that even if your dog is not taking any traditional medicines that CBD can still affect herbs and natural supplements, so make any potential adjustments. 

CBD Oil Dosage for Dogs

Dr. Robert Silver recommends giving your dog 0.05 to 0.25 mg/pound of body weight, twice daily. He also suggests starting with a lower dose and working your way up. If 0.05 mg/pound is enough, stay at that dose. Only increase dosage if the lower dose stops working. If that happens, increase the dose to 0.125 mg/pound, twice daily, and only continue to increase if your dog needs it. Each bottle of CBD has a specific concentration expressed in milligrams (mg) so please note potency in considering dosage. 

For anxiety or health prevention, you’ll usually find that the lower doses work well. But if your dog is dealing with pain or immune issues, you’ll most likely need a larger amount. 

Most prefer to bypass the digestive system and opt to apply CBD oil to their dog’s gums or beneath his tongue. This allows the CBD oil to act more quickly in the bloodstream and helps prevent digestive issues.  If you find it too difficult to apply this way most dogs are alright with the taste, so you can just put it on your dog’s food. Vets/holistic vets prefer using CBD oil over other formats (edibles, sprays, topical balms, or creams) for potency, ease of application, and effectiveness reasons.  

Buying CBD Oil for Dogs – Dos and Don’ts

CBD oil made from hemp contains much lower amounts of THC. To sell hemp legally, it must contain less than 0.3% THC. Cannabis has relatively high levels of THC, which causes its psychoactive effects. CBD is what provides health benefits to your dog. As a result of the low THC, he won’t get “high”.  

Your dog will also get the same pain-relieving and immune-supporting benefits from hemp CBD.  Now let’s lay out what you need to know when buying high-quality CBD oil.  

Buy Full Spectrum or Broad Spectrum 

Review the label of the CBD product and look for full spectrum or broad spectrum.  Broad spectrum may have a few of the elements removed and near whole plant benefits. Full spectrum will provide all the plant benefits as discussed below.  Broad spectrum is your best alternative if you cannot locate full spectrum CBD oil.

This is important since other valuable cannabinoids occur naturally in full spectrum hemp. This includes CBC (Cannabichromene) and CBG (Cannabigerol).

CBC for its proven:

  • Cancer-fighting properties
  • Pain and inflammation blocking abilities
  • Positive effect on brain cells

Also, CBG can decrease inflammation in the digestive tract, protect nerve cells and the eyes. It also supports healthy bladder function and fights cancer cells. 

A full spectrum CBD oil will also contain terpenes such as limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene. These are also naturally occurring medicinal substances found in all hemp.

Together, cannabinoids and terpenes create what is called the “entourage” effect. These compounds work synergistically to boost the medicinal properties of CBD oil. 

Only Buy CO2 Extracted CBD Oil

CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide to extract CBD oil from the plant. Using a high-pressure chamber, CO2 breaks down the hemp and releases the oil. 

This method creates oils with a higher concentration of CBD, which makes the product more expensive.

The alternative to CO2 extraction is solvent extraction, which is the cheapest way to extract oil from the hemp plant.  This method uses solvents such as propane, butane, and petroleum products.

Solvent extraction leaves behind toxic residue from these solvents that are dangerous to your dog. 

Sometimes natural solvents are used for this method, such as ethanol or olive oil. This is much safer but unfortunately, these oils can destroy the hemp plant’s waxes and eliminates some of the benefits of the resulting oil.

Important Note: 

CBD extracted with CO2 pulverizes the terpenes. This will make them hard to detect in testing. They won’t show up on a Certificate of Analysis but they’ll still be there and will contribute to the CBD oil’s medicinal effects. 

CBD extracted with solvents will preserve the terpenes. So you will find them noted on the Certificate of Analysis. 

Beware of CBD Oil Additives

Make sure there are no chemical additives or preservatives in the CBD oil you’re considering. Even if the hemp is grown organically, this will cancel out the health benefits.

Also, avoid CBD oil with added essential oils (EOs).  Even though they’re “natural,”  EOs can affect animals significantly.

If your holistic vet recommends using a CBD oil with an EO, then follow their dosing recommendations. This person should know what’s best for your dog’s unique health needs but ask questions about any EOs and additives to make sure you’re comfortable. 

Obtain a Certificate of Analysis

If you cannot be provided a Certificate of Analysis (“COA”), then stay away!  If there isn’t a COA on the company’s website, you’ll want to ask for one before you buy any CBD oil.

In this case, a COA is a document that shows the amount and type of cannabinoids in the CBD product. A COA should come from a third-party laboratory. 

Important information to look for on the COA:

  • Confirm CBD content is the same as advertised on the product label.  This might involve converting what’s on the COA to the bottle size too.
  • Confirm CBD oil is full spectrum and not from isolate.  COA will show CBD but no other cannabinoids if from isolate.
  • THC level levels below 0.3% but above 0.0%.  If above 0.3%, probably from marijuana vs hemp, and if 0.00% then the CBD oil is from isolate.
  • Make sure the CBD oil is properly tested by a third-party lab.
  • Go organic and avoid contaminants.  Make sure you know where the product was grown.  Hemp can be very absorbent and can absorb pesticides, heavy metals, and solvent residue.  Check the COA.

Don’t Focus on Price

Everyone loves a bargain but for buying CBD oil, the price needs to take a back seat. Cheap CBD oil is usually an indicator that it isn’t a high-quality product. Also, buying the highest price CBD oil doesn’t ensure you’re always buying high-quality product.  Your priority is to buy high-quality CBD oil since low-quality CBD oil can be ineffective, or worse, harmful to your dog.  

To recap, when seeking to buy high-quality CBD oil your focus needs to be the following:

  • Extraction Method. (CO2 extraction)
  • Confirm CBD concentration. (CBD on COA should match label on bottle.)
  • Full spectrum or at least broad spectrum. (CBD oil should have other cannabinoids, not just CBD – entourage effect.)
  • THC content. (THC should be less than 0.3% but higher than 0.0%.)
  • Seek organic and know where it comes from.  (Go organic to avoid contaminants.)
  • COA (Third party COA online, or ask the producer for one.)

To Sum It All Up

While not FDA-approved, CBD oil for dogs can seemingly provide promising benefits with few side effects. Researchers, vets, holistic vets, and dog owners appear to have success in using CBD oil for dogs for seizures, joint problems, anxiety, cancer, pain management, and allergies.  CBD oil can be an especially good option for dog owners that have tried everything else with limited or no success. The key is to buy high-quality CBD oil by doing your research and not letting price drive your decision.  Even more important, consult your veterinarian/holistic veterinarian first!

Three CBD oil for dogs brands that we profiled in our article Best CBD Oil for Dogs 2023: Top 3 Brands include:

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Mother of three children and avid dog lover. I've had several dogs over the years including Border Collies, Pomeranians and Shih Tzus. We absolutely love our current Shih Tzu Fiona and I'm consumed with learning about all dog breeds, dog fitness and discovering new dog wellness tips!

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