CBD Oil for Dogs
CBD dispensaries have popped up in many states all over the country in people’s hunt for wellness. But CBD oil can also be used to help dogs with anxiety and other issues. What is CBD and how does it work? And, will it give your dog the munchies? First, let’s define some of the terms that can be confusing.
“Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is a cannabinoid — a naturally occurring compound found in both hemp and cannabis (cannabis is also referred to as marijuana),” says Jodi Ziskin, director of communications with Treatibles in Petaluma, California.
Hemp and marijuana are “Both members of the Cannabis sativa plant and share similarities but have very distinct differences due to each plant’s biological structure,” says Jon Neveloff, partner with King Kanine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Consider that a rice cake and rice pudding are from the same plant but quite different.
“CBD is one of hundreds of compounds found in cannabis. It is the most prevalent compound in hemp, a special strain of cannabis that has only trace amounts of THC, the substance in medical and recreational strains of hemp that is associated with psychoactive effects,” says Joey DiFrancesco, CEO and founder of LolaHemp in New York City. This is crucial because THC can be toxic to pets. (For more THC specifics, see “Why the Farm Bill Matters” on page 38.) “CBD is non-psychoactive,” Joey adds. It won’t get your dog high in any way.
Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil
Both CBD oil and hemp oil come from the same plant, but CBD oil comes from the flowers, leaves and stalk of the hemp plant, while hemp oil comes from the seeds of industrialized hemp plant.
Hemp oil is a nutritional supplement full of nutrients that can be used in cooking and for moisturizing — like in soaps or lotions. It has a variety of other manufacturing uses, such as making plastic and as a bio-diesel fuel.
CBD oil is a supplement used for medicinal purposes, like treating various conditions, such as inflammation and anxiety, among others.
Help for anxiety
Many owners report benefits to using CBD oil for dogs, and CBD oil has been recommended to assist with many ailments that plague our furry friends, including anxiety.
“The most common conditions that relate to anxiety include location and separation anxiety, as well as noise phobias,” says Annie Chrysler, CBD specialist and product manager with SpaRoom based in Cleveland, Ohio. “For example, CBD oil can provide noticeable relief to dogs who demonstrate car ride anxiety or who experience anxiety when visiting the veterinarian’s office. CBD oil can also provide noticeable relief for dogs who have noise sensitivities such as fireworks and thunderstorms.”
Amanda Howland, co-founder and CTO of ElleVet Sciences in Portland, Maine, explains further. “Pain and anxiety are so interrelated in dogs that we wanted to have both a profound anti-anxiety effect and an extremely effective pain management effect, to help the pet feel better in every way.”
Angie Krause, DVM, with Boulder Holistic Vet in Boulder, Colorado, says in her experience CBD is consistently effective for treating dogs with mild to moderate anxiety. “For severe generalized anxiety, I have more success with drugs like Prozac,” she adds.
So how does it work? It’s based on science; the same science that explains how CBD works with man and man’s best friend, who have some biology in common. That’s because all mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS.)
CBD can help keep your dog calm around other animals. Photography by: ©chendongshan | Getty Images
Jillian Dutson, marketing and advertising manager with Pet Releaf, based in Littleton, Colorado, explains. “When your dog consumes CBD, his ECS is activated. The ECS works as a two-way communication system with various systems in the body such as the immune, nervous and digestive systems just to name a few. This two-way communication allows these parts of the body to speak to one another to help them function at optimal levels of health.”
And there’s more to it: “Although further studies are needed, initial findings show that CBD binds to a number of endocannabinoid receptors,” says Lauren Brychell, marketing coordinator with cbdMD in Charlotte, North Carolina. “These receptors regulate everything from inflammation to pain perception, and CBD has shown the ability to potentially raise dopamine levels and improve mood while reducing symptoms of anxiety.”
Speaking of studies, “Most of the research done on cannabidiol, indeed cannabis writ large, has taken place outside of veterinary research, which is not uncommon, as vet research typically lags behind human medicine,” Joey says.
More benefits and dosage
There are many common uses for CBD oil in dogs, other than anxiety. “I use CBD for dogs with seizures, arthritis, cancer, pain, chronic inflammation and allergies,” Dr. Krause says.
Joey, too, cites success in using CBD for the Big C. It can “Shrink tumors in several types of cancer both because it appears to have antitumorigenic properties of its own and because it appears to enhance the effectiveness of some chemotherapy agents.”
CBD oil has also been used to treat the following ailments:
- Sleep issues
- Vomiting and nausea
- Muscle spasms
- Digestive issues and appetite loss
- Skin conditions
As with any supplement or medication, getting the correct dose is crucial. Many of the manufacturers state dosing suggestions should be determined based on each dog’s individual stats and condition. Some suggest generic guidelines as a starting point: 1 mg per 10 pounds of body weight twice a day; Dr. Krause recommends 0.5 mg/kg of CBD twice daily for anxiety.
Of course, always get input from your dog’s vet on any treatment. “First, many symptoms that CBD may help with can be an indication of a deeper and more serious medical problem that needs to be treated,” Joey says. “Second, CBD oil can interfere with the metabolization of other drugs (in a similar way that grapefruit does). Third, the answer to dosing questions is dependent on what condition is being addressed.”
And don’t assume you and Fido are in for a quick fix. “While some dog owners may notice an immediate difference in their pet, we suggest waiting two to three weeks to see the full effects,” Lauren says.
Giving to your dog
Whatever the dosage, you have a couple of options on how to administer CBD oil: topically or ingested. But which is better?
“The answer ultimately depends on the individual dog,” Annie says. “More commonly, topical application can provide a more localized sense of relief, such as pain relief in the hips and legs. Ingesting can provide a broader sense relief, such as separation anxiety relief.”
Angela Ardolino, founder and CEO of CBD Dog Health in Tampa, Florida, lists other conditions that lend themselves to direct applications. “It has incredible benefits for skin issues, including allergies, hot spots, bug bites, skin tumors, warts and cysts when applied topically,” she says.
If you do decide to go the oral route you have more choices here, too. According to Angela, “The best way to administer CBD is to lift the dog’s lip and administer it right onto the gums (it is absorbed through capillaries in the gums).” Putting it under the tongue is also common. CBD oil can be mixed in with your dog’s food or treats made with CBD oil.
It may come down to what your dog — and wallet — prefer. “The oils and treats that I use in the practice have the same hemp extract in both,” Dr. Krause says. “The oil is more cost effective.”
Why the Farm Bill Matters
In December 2018, President Trump signed the much anticipated 2018 Farm Bill into law. Whether you’ve got a city dog or a country dog this is something that can affect dog owners everywhere regarding CBD. In short, the Farm Bill officially legalizes cultivating and producing industrial hemp and removing the crop from the federal list of controlled substances.
The Farm Bill helps lit restrictions off of CBD production. Photography by: ©CaraMaria | Getty Images
That last part may also free up your veterinarian to be able to discuss CBD oil more in depth with you. The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration named cannabis and cannabinoid products as Schedule I controlled substances, with no accepted medical use. That hindered veterinarians’ ability to administer or prescribe them. Some vets opted not to talk about CBD as a treatment because of these restrictions.
“Now that the Farm Bill has passed, I believe this will not be an issue moving forward,” says Angie Krause, DVM, with Boulder Holistic Vet in Boulder, Colorado. “Hemp is legal at a federal level, and each state will decide how they want to regulate hemp. If a state declares hemp illegal, it may limit the veterinarian’s ability to prescribe or discuss hemp/CBD.”
The Farm Bill will:
- Define industrial hemp broadly to cover all parts of the Cannabis plant including seeds, derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, etc. as long as it has a THC level of 0.3 percent or less.
- Remove hemp completely from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
- Make the USDA the sole federal regulatory agency overseeing hemp cultivation.
- Authorize and fund hemp research as part of the Supplemental and Alternative Crops program and the Critical Agricultural Materials Act.
Regarding that research, Heidi Hill, Holistic Hound founder and trained homeopath in Berkeley, California, says, “We are thrilled with this victory … This decision will also fund and allow long-overdue research into the many health and wellness benefits of this amazing plant.”
A final look at terminology
Some manufacturers tout CBD isolate while others say full spectrum is better. Here’s the difference and an industry professional’s take on each:
- Full spectrum, or whole plant, CBD contains all other cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant, including minute amounts of THC. “[Full spectrum] contains all the beneficial constituents of the whole plant, including other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and fatty acids. These naturally occurring components all work together for enhanced benefit and what is called ‘the entourage effect,’” says Heidi Hill, Holistic Hound founder and trained homeopath in Berkeley, California.
- CBD isolate is purified CBD that has been extracted from the marijuana plant and isolated, hence the name, from the other cannabinoids. “Our knowledge about CBD and its benefits are well-established, but we are just beginning to learn about the possible benefits of other compounds in the hemp plant. To claim the benefit of a full spectrum product over CBD itself, is premature,” says Joshua Sosnow, DVM, chief medical officer of CompanionCBD and owner of Arizona practices North Scottsdale Animal Hospital and Desert View Animal Hospital.
Sharing pros and cons
If you have other pets at home with similar conditions, they may also benefit from the same product your dog uses — with different dosages, of course. “There is a big difference in dosing for dogs and cats,” Amanda says. “Cats are not small dogs! The half-life in cats is extremely short, meaning they metabolize it very quickly. We have very specific dosing for dogs and for cats based on science.”
According to Colette Florido, founder and president of CR Pets Thrive in St. Petersburg, Florida, says, “A high-quality CBD product will work equally well for both cats and dogs. The main difference you’ll find between options for cats and dogs is what other flavors are combined with the CBD, knowing that each pet has their preferences.”
Some CBD products for cats come in catnip or fish flavors, while beef or peanut butter flavors are used for dogs.
The most important part about sharing CBD oil is to never share products made for humans with your dog or any other pets. “It is vital to make sure that the oil you are buying is not just a human product with a paw print on the label,” Angela says. “Human products may contain artificial flavoring, like xylitol, that is toxic to dogs.”
Joey gave a flavor-specific example of toxicity. “Wintergreen oil, which is perfectly fine for people and probably won’t bother a dog, is potentially toxic to cats. It is commonly found in CBD products made for people.”
There is much more research to be done on using CBD oil for your dog but hopefully you now know more about how it works and how it might help. And just to confirm: CBD oil won’t give your dog the munchies. If your dog is craving Scooby snacks, it has nothing to do with a supplement.
Nope, not FAQs, these are Questions to Ask Frequently when looking for quality CBD for your dog.
Make sure to ask the right questions to keep your dog safe! Photography by: ©vitalytitov | Getty Images
Jon Neveloff, partner with King Kanine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says, “The most important question is: Are there lab results on this bottle of CBD? If so, what are they testing for?”
“Know where the hemp is grown,” recommends Angie Krause, DVM, with Boulder Holistic Vet in Boulder, Colorado. “U.S. hemp grown organically is preferred. Extraction technique is very important. For cats, I prefer CO2 extraction. This ensures there are no harmful chemical residues. A guaranteed analysis should be available from the manufacturer to quantify the
concentration of CBD in each ml.”
Colette Florido, founder and president of CR Pets Thrive in St. Petersburg, Florida, says to “ask to see the company’s certificate of analysis (COA) and lab tests. If the company can’t or won’t [share it], do not buy. It means they don’t test for pesticides, solvents, mold, yeast and E. coli. An ethical CBD company will proudly show you their COA.”
Jillian Dutson, marketing and advertising manager for Pet Releaf, in Littleton, Colorado, suggests you ask these questions when comparing CBD products:
- Where is their hemp grown and can they prove it?
- If claiming organic, do they have the necessary certifications to verify these claims?
- How much CBD is in their products and do they have consistent third-party testings to confirm these amounts?
Jodi Ziskin, director of communications with Treatibles in Petaluma, California, adds these:
- Does the milligram count on the label reflect the amount of hemp oil or does it include the carrier oil(s)?
- Is the company a National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) member and are they fully compliant with their packaging and marketing?
“We bought and tested about 20 different products we got from pet stores and online, and out of the 20, none had what was advertised on the label and some had no CBD at all,” said Amanda Howland, co-founder and CTO of ElleVet Sciences in Portland, Maine. “Pet owners need to be careful and research the company.”
CBD Oil & Dogs: Everything You Need to Know
For both people and animals, medicine tends to trend high-tech. One of the most promising new veterinary drug therapies, however, incorporates ingredients derived from cannabis, a plant that’s been in use by humans for thousands of years. This primer covers the basics of veterinary cannabidiol (CBD) and reflects what’s currently known.
New findings are released every day, it seems, so if you’re interested, we advise staying on top of developments by bookmarking a few reliable websites. If your vet is open to discussing it—for legal and licensing reasons, not all are—we strongly advise starting there.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of at least 60 known plant-based cannabinoids, naturally occurring active chemical compounds that act on the brain and body. It’s derived from cannabis, a complex plant in the Cannabaceae family, and has no psychoactive effects —it provides “the benefits without the buzz,” as one writer put it.
CBD is the plant’s second most abundant cannabinoid; first place goes to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which generates marijuana’s distinctive high. It’s extracted and processed as either an isolate (on its own) or as a full-spectrum oil, one of a group of related cannabinoids that often includes cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidivarin (CBDV), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), terpenes and flavonoids.
GET THE BARK NEWSLETTER IN YOUR INBOX!
Sign up and get the answers to your questions.
Over millennia, humans have domesticated, developed and cultivated multiple strains of cannabis and used them for a variety of purposes. Today, generally speaking, the two you’ll hear the most about are hemp, which is legally defined as cannabis plants that contain less than 0.3% of the psychoactive THC, and marijuana (strictly speaking, a product rather than a plant type), which has more than 0.3% THC. Many CBD products for dogs are sourced from hemp.
The Science Behind CBD
Every animal with a spinal column has an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which scientists estimate evolved more than 600 million years ago and has been carried forward across the millennia. This ancient system—discovered through the work of several researchers between roughly 1965 and 1995—is named for Cannabis sativa L., the plant species that most dramatically affects it. Its basic functions have been summarized as to “relax, eat, sleep, forget and protect.”
To do this, the ECS maintains the body’s internal balance through a network of activators and receptors that most notably affect the central nervous system and the immune system. Cannabinoids are the ECS’s messengers, and their effects depend on the receptors to which they bind.
This is a very specific process; a receptor will only accept the particular compound for which it exists, and is unaffected by others. Research shows that cannabinoid receptors are similar across species, functioning much the same way in dogs as they do in people, although dogs have far more receptors in their brains than any other animal tested (including humans).
Robert J. Silver, DVM and veterinary herbalist of Boulder, Colo., suggested another way to understand this system: “Receptors are like locks, and cannabinoids are like keys. They fit together perfectly. Once the cannabinoid connects to the receptor and turns that lock, a series of actions occur in the cell membrane; these actions are responsible for some of the cannabinoid’s effects.”
Full-Spectrum CBD Extracts
Whole-plant or full-spectrum extracts are considered to be the most therapeutically effective. In this form, CBD works in conjunction with other cannabinoids to produce what’s called the entourage effect: the result of numerous types of cannabinoids, each with a specific function, working together. You’ll sometimes see THC in the mix as well; aside from its recreational aspects, it has its own set of medicinal properties and can be particularly effective against severe pain.
Is CBD safe for Dogs? Does it work? How does it work?
These are just a few of the questions that can only be reliably answered by evidence-based scientific research, which is now taking place in the U.S. and around the world, and is the best way to separate fact from fiction.
More work has been done to discover CBD’s effects on people than on animals—for example, at least 132 original studies have focused on CBD’s human-safety profile—but that tide seems to be turning. Take, for example, the following:
• In 2016, Dr. Stephanie McGrath, neurologist and assistant professor at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, completed a preliminary pharmacokinetic (what happens to a drug in the body) and safety study on CBD. Following this study, Dr. McGrath began two pilot studies involving owner-enrolled dogs with poorly controlled epilepsy and painful osteoarthritis. These have now ended and results on the epilepsy study are scheduled for publication in the Canadian Veterinary Journal later this year. One of its big-picture findings: 89 percent of dogs who received CBD had a reduction in the frequency of seizures. (McGrath and her team are now starting work on a larger epilepsy-focused project.)
• The results of a study led by Dr. Joe Wakshlag, associate professor and section chief of nutrition at Cornell, currently under review for publication, also contribute to the knowledge bank. According to the abstract, its objectives were to “determine the basic oral pharmacokinetics, determine safety and assess efficacy of CBD oil in managing pain in dogs with osteoarthritis.” The Canine Brief Pain Inventory and Hudson activity scores reportedly showed a clinically significant reduction in pain and an increase in activity with CBD treatment.
• Dr. Dawn Boothe, director of clinical pharmacology at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, is studying CBD as a treatment for epilepsy in dogs and is also developing an assay to measure cannabinoid toxicity and efficacy.
• Dr. Jamie Peyton, chief of small animal integrative medicine at University of California, Davis, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, led a late 2017/early 2018 study on the current use of cannabis with companion animals. By anonymously filling out an online questionnaire, participants provided the study with data that can be used to inform future research (the study is now closed).
A Research Roadblock
CBD could prove to be a life-improving medication for dogs, but without the backing of clinical research to establish its effectiveness and dosing, it’s hard to know for sure. That research is hindered by cannabis’s federal Schedule 1 drug classification, which puts traditional academic research institutions in a legally ambiguous position. It also makes funding harder to come by; much of the work currently underway is sponsored by companies who produce CBD products.
In the future, we’ll look into questions of CBD and the law, delve into the role veterinarians can play in your decisions and provide a glossary of terms to help guide you through this evolving landscape. For now, check out The Bark’s informative CBD & Dogs section.
A Eureka Moment
As described in an article on Labroots, “Scientists discovered the brain’s opiate receptor in 1973, but it was not until 1988 in a government-funded study at the St. Louis University School of Medicine that Allyn Howlett and William Devane determined that the mammalian brain has receptor sites that respond to compounds found in cannabis. These receptors … turned out to be the most abundant type of neurotransmitter receptor in the brain.”