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CBD Oil for Dogs: What is CBD, what does it do, and is it safe for dogs?

CBD has quickly become the trendiest new supplement in the pet and canine wellness world. An endless number of companies now offer and promote CBD oils, balms, and gels for a myriad of canine health and wellness issues ranging from travel anxiety to nervousness, nausea, aggression, and even canine epilepsy.

But what exactly is CBD, and what conditions does CBD oil for dogs treat? Is CBD truly safe and beneficial for our four-legged family members? Are there known side effects and risks with ongoing CBD usage? What should we as loving dog owners know about CBD oil before giving it to our dogs?

Although we (Mike and Steph) have never given CBD to our long-haired dachshund Django —f ortunately Django is young, in good health, and exceptionally calm — we felt it important to share information about this incredibly popular product that can be found in almost every pet store around the globe.

Here is everything you need to know about CBD and CBD products for dogs.

What are CBD and CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive and non-toxic cannabinoid that comes from cannabis plants, commonly known as marijuana and hemp. Cannabis plants contain an array of phytocannabinoids, but CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the most well-known phytocannabinoids. Unlike CBD which is non- psychoactive, THC produces a psychoactive effect or “high” in humans and dogs alike—the same high one gets from smoking marijuana.

Understanding the difference between marijuana and hemp

Marijuana and hemp both come from cannabis plants, but they are technically different things. Marijuana comes from the plants’ leaves, buds, and resin. Marijuana contains CBD and very high levels of THC, the psychoactive phytocannabinoid that causes a high.

Hemp refers to the rest of the cannabis plant. Unlike marijuana, hemp is non-intoxicating and contains less than 0.3 percent THC.

While the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, or a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”, the FDA does not classify hemp as a Schedule 1 drug. For this reason, CBD obtained from hemp is legal throughout the United States.

So what exactly is CBD Oil for dogs? Is CBD Oil different from Hemp Oil?

After being extracted from hemp, CBD is typically diluted with other oils (i.e. dog-friendly coconut oil) to form an ingestible substance that can be added to your dog’s dinner bowl. Although some CBD oils marketed to pet parents are organic and all-natural (i.e. made with organically-sourced CBD, non-GMO, free of pesticides, free of preservatives), others may contain chemicals, preservatives that extend product shelf life, or fillers.

CBD oils for dogs and pets are often marketed as “hemp oil” since CBD is derived from hemp (and not marijuana). You may assume the terms “CBD oil” and “hemp oil” are interchangeable, but this is not always the case.

CBD oils containing beneficial phytocannabinoids are based on “hemp extract oils”. “Hemp extract” or “hemp extract oil” are the terms you should look for in the ingredient list when shopping for CBD oil.

Other products frequently marketed as “Hemp Oil” are made with “hemp seed oil”. Hemp seed oil comes from the seeds of hemp and does not contain the beneficial phytocannabinoids found in hemp extract.

Both CBD oil and hemp seed oil can be marketed as “hemp oil”, so always be sure to read the full ingredient list before making any purchase.


Dogs, like humans, have an endocannabinoid system. Our endocannabinoid system regulates many important biological functions in the body including sleep, appetite, mood, memory, and pain modulation.

Your dog’s endocannabinoid system contains CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD binds to these receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. This binding can help re-balance key biological functions and lead to benefits we’ve come to expect with CBD use: inflammation reduction, pain mitigation, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety, and anti-nausea, to name a few.


CBD oils produced from reputable companies are generally considered safe for dogs. A 2018 study on the use of cannabidiol to treat canine medical conditions surveyed licensed veterinarians throughout the United States. Most veterinary participants supported the use of CBD products (mainly oils and edibles) for animals and suggested that cannabidiol is a useful treatment for pain, anxiety, and seizures.

With that said, dog owners should be incredibly careful which CBD products they buy for their dogs and what companies and websites they buy from. Almost anyone can market and sell CBD products to well-meaning dog owners since CBD products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unfortunately, not every company selling CBD pet products has you and your dog’s best interests at heart and may provide misleading or downright false information and claims about their particular product.

A general rule of thumb is to avoid buying CBD oils from third-party marketplace sites like eBay, Etsy, and Amazon unless you know and trust the seller.

As Dr. Joseph Wakshlag, the chief medical officer at ElleVet Sciences, explained to us, “There’s a lot of tomfoolery and shenanigans going on out there when it comes to CBD oil.”

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Dr. Wakshlag studied 13 commercially-available CBD oils for dogs. He found that 20 percent of the CBD oils had less CBD than their packages said. Two products actually had no CBD (you read that correctly – zero CBD in products marketed as “CBD oils”) , and several products contained unwelcome chemical preservatives added to extend product shelf life. “There also are a lot of CBD companies basing their claims on human or rat data,” Dr. Wakshlag told us.

Dr. Wakshlag recommends calling CBD companies to ask for their certificate of analysis. “Ask for the last three batches to make sure that their product is consistent,” he says. “They could have 25 mg per mm one month and 6 mg per mm the next.”

If you are considering purchasing CBD oils for your dog, please consult your licensed veterinarian first. You vet should be able to point you to a trustworthy CBD brand and product appropriate for your dog based on his or her health condition and needs.


Although there is very little research on CBD and its effectiveness in treating various canine health conditions, CBD oil is often used to treat the following ailments in pets:

  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Pain management
  • Inflammation
  • Nausea
  • Low appetite
  • Joint pain

In addition to the above, CBD is frequently used as a supplemental remedy for:

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis (often called eczema) affects 10 percent of dogs. Golden retrievers, poodles, Shih Tzus, cocker spaniels, and bulldogs are more likely than other dog breeds to have atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is typically caused by grass, mold spores, or dust mites. Your dog may have red, greasy, or tough skin that smells like yeast. Symptoms include itching, scratching, rubbing, and licking.

One 2015 study found that CBD oil decreases skin itchiness and slowly heals it. Dr. Wakshlag also told us that CBD oil may also lessen allergies when it is used with other medications, such as Apoquel and Atopica.

Genetic Epilepsy

Genetic epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in dogs. It often occurs in male dogs between six months and six years of age.

One in 20 dogs—at some point in their lifetime—will experience repeated seizures that last for five to 30 minutes. According to BMC Veterinary Research, genetic epilepsy occurs more often in large dog breeds (e.g., border collies, German shepherds, and Labrador retrievers). It is also common in mixes of at-risk breeds, such as goldendoodles and bodacions (border collie and dalmatian mixes).

Dr. Stephanie McGrath is a neurologist at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. In a 2019 pilot program, Dr. McGrath treated nine dogs with CBD oil and seven dogs with a placebo for twelve weeks. All dogs in the study continued to receive anticonvulsants, such as phenobarbital and potassium bromide. Dr. McGrath found that 89 percent of dogs receiving CBD oil had fewer seizures.


CBD oil is often used for dogs with osteoarthritis since it helps to soothe canine joint pain.

Twenty percent of dogs have osteoarthritis. Car accidents are the most common cause of this wear and tear disease. Osteoarthritis can also be caused by infectious diseases (e.g., Lyme disease and systemic lupus erythematosus), genetic conditions, and obesity. According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2020 State of Pet Health Report, 52 percent of dogs with osteoarthritis are also overweight or obese.

Dr. Wakshlag gave dogs 2 or 8 milligrams of CBD oil per kilogram of body weight every 12 hours for 4 weeks. Eighty percent of the dogs had less pain and more flexibility. “GRPV and glycine interceptors interact with CBD and dampen the signal that goes up the spinal cord for pain,” he explains.


One study determined that about 1 mg per pound of body weight given twice daily was the optimal dose to treat arthritis in dogs. Unfortunately, there is limited research on what CBD dosages are most effective at treating other health conditions in dogs.

As Dr. Liz McCalley, the medical director for Purple Paws Pet Clinic , explained to us: “It is still largely unknown what dose is best to help with other conditions. I recommend that pet parents start with a lower dose and then gradually increase to the lowest effective dose for their dogs”.

Please consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog CBD oil and to confirm the appropriate dosage based on your dog’s weight and unique health needs.


Generally speaking, CBD oil for pets is considered safe and non-toxic. With that said, it is important to be aware of any potential side effects and risks that could result from CBD usage. The following side effects have been associated with canine use of CBD oils and products:

  • Dry mouth. CBD oil can cause dry mouth that affects your dog’s teeth and gums. Dry mouth can cause bad breath and make it painful for your dog to swallow. If a dog drinks too much water in a short period of time, his or her electrolyte levels can become imbalanced. That can cause difficulty breathing, uneven heart rate, muscle weakness, seizures, and bone fractures.
  • Diarrhea . In a 2018 study, 30 beagles were given CBD-infused capsules, oil, or cream for six weeks. All 30 beagles participating in the study had diarrhea and were treated with antibiotics (i.e., metronidazole). “The episodes of diarrhea were suspected to be secondary to the CBD treatments,” Dr. Liz McGrath explains. “Dietary variation, including treats, and stress could not be ruled out.”
  • Vomiting. In a study carried out by Dr. McGrath, 20 percent of dogs vomited when they received CBD capsules or oil. CBD oil tastes bitter with a distinct earthy flavor. For this reason, it is not unsurprisingly that dogs typically dislike the taste of CBD oil in their mouth or dinner bowl.
  • Low blood pressure. High doses of CBD can cause a temporary drop in canine blood pressure. Low blood pressure in dogs can result in fatigue, confusion, increased thirst, excessive urination, and fainting.
  • Drowsiness. CBD oil might make your dog slightly drowsy since there is a small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in it. THC is the substance in marijuana that causes a “high”. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most dogs sleep 12 to 14 hours per day. If your dog’s sleeping habits change after he or she begins taking CBD, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • Drug interactions. CBD oil causes minor liver enzyme elevations. Since CBD is metabolized in the liver, it may cause negative drug interactions with prescription medications. When used in conjunction with other prescription drugs, CBD may cause toxic levels of the prescription drugs to enter the bloodstream. “This is why it is very important for pet parents to speak with their veterinarians before giving CBD to their dogs, especially when their dog is receiving other medications,” Dr. McCalley says.
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CBD oil for dogs is often sold in one-ounce bottles with a medicinal dropper. The cost for these typically start around $20 and can go up to $45 depending on the brand and quality of ingredients.

Prices for other CBD pet products (capsules, soft chews, baked treats, balms, gels, etc) vary widely and cost anywhere from four cents to $3 per mg.


CBD oils can certainly be beneficial for dogs depending on the animal’s unique health and wellness needs. With that said, there is very little research on CBD and its effectiveness in treating various canine health conditions. There are potential side effects that could result from CBD use, and there are also a ton of unregulated CBD products on the market. For these reasons, please always consult your licensed veterinarian before giving your dog any CBD product.

CBD For Dogs? New Research Backs Canine Cannabis Use For Osteoarthritis

Brett Hartmann gives his dogs Cayley, a six-year-old-Labrador Retriever drops of a cannabis based . [+] medicinal tincture to treat hip pain and anxiety. New research supports CBD for canine osteoarthritis.

AFP via Getty Images

Is your dog suffering from canine osteoarthritis? A new study suggests that CBD may help dogs with this painful arthritic condition.

Canine osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition marked by pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility. And it can leave dogs lethargic, irritable and reluctant to play, run or jump. Unfortunately, the condition is all too common in dogs. Researchers estimate that it affects at least 20% of all dogs older than 1 year old, with higher risk for older dogs.

The recent study, published in the journal PAIN, looked at whether different doses and formulations of CBD might help dogs suffering from osteoarthritis – and the results suggested that it could.

Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine worked in collaboration with the CBD brand Medterra on the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The 4 week study included 20 large dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis who were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or one of three different CBD options. The dogs were evaluated before and after the regimen by both veterinarians and their owners on factors related to their mobility and pain. Details about the amount of CBD each dog was taking was kept from the owners and veterinarians so that it wouldn’t influence their evaluations.

While the placebo group and the low CBD group showed no improvement, by the end of the one month period, the group of dogs who took higher doses of CBD or used CBD in a liposomal formulation saw significant improvement in their mobility and quality of life.

“I openly admit that I was surprised at how quickly we saw such large results” says Matthew Halpert PhD, Faculty with the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine and Senior Scientific Advisor for Medterra. “I would not have expected to see too much of anything in just one month.”

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Halpert, who designed the experiment, explains that in the placebo and lower dose groups, the owners reported their dogs to be “just as miserable as before” and veterinarians didn’t see any improvement in the dog’s mobility. But in the two higher dose groups “almost every dog saw significant improvement in their conditions, in regards to reduced pain and increased ability to move around. And the dogs seemed happier and were able to do more.”

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Even two weeks after the dogs stopped taking the CBD, those in the higher dose groups were still showing improvement. “This would tell us that the CBD was in fact addressing the underlying inflammatory issues” Halpert explains. “It wasn’t just masking the pain”

CBD dog treats are part of an emerging market of CBD products for pets, projected to reach $563 . [+] million in sales during 2020.

These results add additional scientific backing to the emerging market of CBD for pets. There is currently a wide variety of products geared towards dogs and other pets. According to the Brightfield Group, a consumer research group focused on the cannabis space, the US Pet CBD market expanded by more than 10 times its 2018 size in 2019, producing $321 million in sales. In 2020 it is projected to reach $563 million in sales.

The research also lends support to reports of success with CBD from dog owners, such as Zoe Lilly, who lives in Oxfordshire England with her 7 and a half year old dog Zeus – a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Zoe says she noticed Zeus getting a little stiff on one leg, so she decided to try out CBD. She says “It’s made his movement more fluid and he can play pretty well.” Zoe hasn’t noticed any negative side effects in Zeus since starting, but she does report noticing that it helps relax him before vet visits.

While there has been previous research suggesting CBD can help with canine osteoarthritis, this study looked at both traditional CBD and CBD in a liposomal formulation, a method used to make it easier to absorb CBD, which isn’t very bioavailable on it’s own. “It’s kind of like a Trojan horse, or a water balloon” explains Halpert. “We put the CBD inside of that and the liposome itself, the balloon itself, is actually very bioavailable.”

When ingested, liposomes are said to be more easily absorbed into the bloodstream of both humans and dogs, making it easier to absorb CBD. In this experiment, dogs taking a daily dose of 20mg’s of liposomal CBD did significantly better than those who took 20mg’s of traditional CBD, adding some evidence to the theory.

Still, other experts disagree. Stephen Cital, a veterinary anesthesia & pain management specialist points out this study didn’t test the CBD levels in the blood after dogs ingested these two CBD options. They just looked at the outcomes in the dogs’ behavior. He’s not convinced liposomes make a difference.

“I have never seen an added benefit to liposomal encapsulation with these molecules” he explains “I think in theory makes a lot of sense, but we haven’t seen the data to support that at this point.”

Cannabis or hemp derived CBD products may help dogs with osteoarthritis – according to new research.

Still, Cital supports the use of CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis and has even had his own success story, using CBD to treat his own 11 year old mixed breed dog, who was having shaking in his back legs and a hard time getting up the stairs.

“Within three days I noticed that his back leg stopped shaking.” Cital reports, recalling how his elderly dog was more able to walk up the stairs and play. Cital says he has seen many dogs in his practice see similar improvement with CBD. “You just see the life brought back into them. and [you] get a few more quality years out of them comfortably.”

Other veterinarians with experience using CBD in dogs also reported seeing positive results using the drug for canine osteoarthritis.

Gary Richter, a veterinarian in Oakland, CA says he’s “certainly seen quite a number of dogs that are on either CBD or some other preparation of cannabis for the treatment of osteoarthritis and many of those dogs do very, very well.”

While none of the dogs in the recent study saw negative side effects, Richter says he’s seen some dogs have minor side effects from the drug. “The one side effect that is sometimes seen is an elevation in one of the liver values, the alkaline phosphatase” he explains. Still he says that the elevation “does not appear to cause any real world issue, in the sense that it doesn’t make the dog sick. And it is reversible if you stop giving the CBD.”

Gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea or vomiting also occasionally occur for some dogs, but Richter and Cital say it is unclear if this is related to the CBD or the oils and other compounds in CBD products.

Elizabeth Mironchik-Frankenberg, a veterinarian and founder of Veterinary Cannabis Consultants, also adds that “CBD can interfere with the metabolism of other drugs, so this needs to be taken into consideration.”

Richter, Cital, Mironchik-Frankenberg and Halpert all urged pet owners to talk to their veterinarian before starting a CBD regimen and to make sure you use high quality CBD products. “There are a lot of products out there and not everything is made properly, not everything is labeled accurately, not everything has in the bottle, what it says on the label” explains Richter. Cital suggests only using brands that can show lab tested results with their products to ensure dosing information is accurate and the product is free from contaminants.