Does CBD Work for Dogs?
Topper, a 7-year-old Ibizan Hound, could hardly walk after being diagnosed with severe arthritic changes due to Valley fever. “The pain became so debilitating he had to be carried outside to eat, drink, or use the bathroom,” recalls owner Christy Moore. “He was on pain medication but it wasn’t working. A friend recommended pet CBD. Within three days he could walk on all four legs and I was crying tears of joy. It was the miracle we needed.”
Lady Amelthia, a Greyhound, was so petrified of thunderstorms she would destroy a crate to escape. “Holding her only made her claw to get away. A ThunderShirt reduced her from 100 to 90 on the anxiety scale,” recalls owner Jenn Boswell, director of the Alabama Greyhound Adoption Center. “Veterinary-prescribed trazodone took it down to a 50. Tried three drops of CBD oil and it went down to a 5.”
Success stories abound of dogs overcoming anxiety, slowing seizures, and even beating cancer due to cannabidiol (CBD), one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. But how can one substance help so many unrelated problems? Or can it?
Cannabinoids are substances including CBD and THC that mimic the endocannabinoid chemicals naturally produced in all vertebrates. Receptors for endocannabinoids are found throughout the body. The body’s endocannabinoids act as master regulators that signal other systems when to speed up or slow down, working to stabilize the body and return it to homeostasis. Cannabinoids from the cannabis plant affect these same receptors, each in slightly different ways. For example, THC causes a high, while CBD does not.
Is It Harmful?
Unlike THC, which can cause toxicity and even death in dogs when given at prescribed human dosages, the worst CBD has been documented to do is cause diarrhea and changes in some liver enzyme values after several weeks. The main concern with CBD is that it inhibits a chemical in the body called cytochrome P450 that is responsible for metabolizing most drugs. If a drug’s efficacy depends on its metabolized product, CBD could render it less effective. If a drug’s safety depends on it being cleared from the body within a certain time frame, CBD could cause it to build up to toxic levels. Never give your dog CBD without your veterinarian’s knowledge if your dog is taking other drugs.
Does It Work?
Research with dogs is still scarce, but there’s a huge body of research (about 23,000 published papers!) looking at CBD’s effect on laboratory animals and humans, with encouraging results for pain, especially arthritic pain, itchiness, anxiety, and cancer, all of which have at least one canine study as well. The results in dogs? It depends.
Arthritis: Several studies have looked at CBD’s effectiveness against arthritic pain, all with positive results. A Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine study found dogs given CBD at a rate of 4.4 mg per pound twice daily for a month showed significant improvement in pain relief and quality of life. Lead investigator Joe Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., DACVN, said that some dogs were initially so decrepit that their owners considered euthanasia, but that after just days on CBD they were trotting around and even climbing stairs. A Baylor University study found similar improvement, adding that CBD worked better when delivered in a liposomal formulation.
Itchiness: Two recent double-blind, placebo-controlled dog studies report CBD significantly reduces itchiness. An Australian study conducted by the company CannPal found their CBD product reduced itchiness, inflammation, and skin lesions by 51 percent after eight weeks of treatment. An American study conducted by the company ElleVet found their product, which combines CBD with another cannabinoid, CBDA, significantly reduced owners’ reports of itchiness.
Cancer: Cannabinoids are reported to induce cancer-cell death and prevent metastasis. In a Cornell University study of CBD, dogs, and cancer, researchers found CBD along with a standard chemotherapy drug reduced cancer-cell proliferation in vitro more than the chemotherapy drug alone. Anecdotal reports from veterinarians have claimed CBD shrunk cancer cells or put dogs into remission.
Behavior: Anxiety, and especially noise reactivity, is a major reason dog owners seek help using CBD. But despite anecdotal reports of its effectiveness, no controlled study so far has shown it to be particularly effective. A study from the University of Western Australia may show promise for aggressive behavior. Shelter dogs with aggressive tendencies exhibited less aggression toward humans when tested after 15 days of CBD administration. In a study from the University of Kentucky, physiological measurements of anxiety in response to noise were not significantly different for CBD versus placebo, and were worse compared to trazodone (a drug commonly prescribed for anxiety). Note, however, that in this study the CBD was administered four to six hours before testing, which may have been too long a waiting period.
Seizures: Lots of anecdotal reports hail CBD’s success combatting seizures in dogs, but the single controlled study delivered moderate results. In this Colorado State University study, dogs given CBD for 12 weeks had 33 percent fewer seizures than those given a placebo, but it didn’t work for every dog. These researchers are now working on a larger trial using higher CBD doses. Note that THC has been reported to cause seizures, so it should never be included in any CBD product for seizure control. In addition, CBD’s effect on cytochrome P450 could interfere with prescribed anti-seizure drugs, so never use it without your veterinarian’s consent.
Other: There’s also evidence from laboratory animals that CBD is effective in promoting bone healing, fighting infection, treating inflammatory bowel disease, slowing degenerative myelopathy, quelling nausea, and relieving pain, but these have yet to be specifically examined in dogs.
How to Choose CBD For Dogs?
With hundreds of CBD products on the market, and little regulation of them, it’s not easy to know which is best. Look for a product with the National Animal Supplement Counsel (NASC) Seal of Quality Assurance, and one that has a third-party certificate of analysis that includes potency, lists all ingredients, and discloses the possible presence of heavy metals, mycotoxins, or pesticides. Avoid edible products formulated for human consumption, which often contain ingredients such as xylitol that are toxic to pets.
Choose broad-spectrum products, which include other cannabinoids and substances known as terpenes that are also in the cannabis plant. CBD seems to work best when it’s in conjunction with these rather than isolated. But avoid full-spectrum products that include THC.
Aim for about 0.1 to 0.2 mg per kilogram of your dog’s weight, given twice daily by mouth. Work up gradually, but beware that more is not always better with CBD, as sometimes the response is biphasic, meaning that it doesn’t work if you give too little or too much.
Is It Legal?
Many veterinarians are reluctant to suggest CBD, whether because they believe CBD is not yet sufficiently proven helpful or because they fear professional or legal repercussions. CBD products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for dogs, but neither are common supplements such as glucosamine or fish oil; nor the majority of human-approved prescription drugs routinely prescribed in veterinary practice.
While it is legal to sell hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3 percent THC, until recently the American Veterinary Medical Association did not approve of veterinarians suggesting any cannabis products, including CBD, for patients. Even now, the law is unclear enough that many veterinarians fear repercussions if something went wrong due to their suggestion of CBD.
While some veterinarians are hesitant to suggest CBD, almost all are eager to discuss it once you bring it up. Of course, some veterinarians are more versed in its pros and cons than others. The main concern is its possible interaction with prescribed drugs.
Overall, the evidence is compelling that CBD can help at least some conditions. The endocannabinoid system is the largest system in the body, and the least explored. Every year brings new discoveries—and new claims. It’s the beginning of a brave new world of health, but as with any new path, expect some wrong turns, dead ends, and false hopes. CBD is not a miracle drug, but it may be the miracle your dog needs.
This article originally appeared in the award-winning AKC Family Dog magazine. Subscribe today!
CBD Dosage for Dogs: How Much Should I Give My Dog?
Still not sure how to figure out how much CBD you should give your dog?
As a team of CBD aficionados and pet lovers obsessed with their puppies, we’ll be more than happy to help you find the right dose of cannabidiol (CBD) for your furry friend.
And if you’re here for the first time wondering why on earth we would even consider giving CBD to a dog, here’s a quick reminder:
Dogs and cats have an endocannabinoid system, too – just like humans.
That being said, CBD, a powerful compound found in the cannabis plant, shows great potential as an alternative form of treatment for dogs, cats, and other pets that are struggling with a range of health conditions.
Finding the right dose of CBD can be tricky, as there are plenty of factors that can determine the effects it will have on your dog or cat.
We’ll cover all you need to know about dosing CBD for pets and walk you through the best dosage guidelines for different forms of CBD consumption.
Things to Consider Before Giving CBD to Your Dog
Figuring out the right CBD oil dosage for your dog can be a hard nut to crack, especially for pet owners who are just getting started with CBD for pets.
We’ll use dogs as an example because that’s where we have the most experience; however, the same guidelines apply to cats and other (mammalian) pets.
There are three essential factors to take into consideration prior to buying CBD for your pet:
1. Consumption Method
One of the factors that determine how much CBD you will give your dog is the type of product you use, along with the brand you’re using.
CBD products for dogs come in 4 main forms:
- CBD and Hemp oil
- Topical rubs
- Treats (edibles)
CBD and hemp oils are by far the best option for dogs as they offer the highest bioavailability. This means that less CBD is needed to produce the effects you want.
However, not every dog will like the distinct taste of CBD oil, so if that’s the case, CBD dog treats would do the trick.
Not only will they taste better – imagine flavors like Chicken & Bacon or Roasted Duck – but they also come with a fixed CBD dose.
This way, you know exactly how much CBD you’re giving your dog.
However, there’s one downside to using CBD dog treats:
They’re much slower.
The cannabinoids in the treats need to pass through your dog’s digestive system to make it into the bloodstream. This means the effects will have a slower onset time than oils and your dog may receive less CBD overall.
The same applies to CBD capsules for dogs, but capsules just aren’t as enjoyable for the dogs as the treats.
The benefits of capsules, however, are that they have a higher fixed dose, and are more reliable in the level of effects they’ll produce.
2. Your Pet’s Size
It’s no surprise that the CBD dosage for vary depending on your dog’s size. But how do I determine what dose is correct?
The general rule is that larger dogs need more CBD to experience the effects than smaller puppies. Some brands provide their own dosage charts based on the weight of your dog. This makes dosing easier from the start.
Keep reading to learn specific dosage guidelines depending on the size of your dog.
3. The Severity of Your Dog’s Condition
Finally, keep in mind that your dog’s condition can also affect how much CBD should you give him/her.
The more severe the condition, the higher the dose they’ll likely need to alleviate the discomfort.
If you want to supplement your dog with CBD oil, low doses will usually suffice, but for anxiety or joint pain, you’ll need to increase the dosage and observe the effects until you hit the sweet spot.
General CBD Dosage Guidelines For Dogs
For general supplementation or mild conditions, the exact amount of drops in a CBD oil to meet the estimated dosage will vary between products.
In general, 2-4 drops taken two to four times a day are recommended.
You can also adjust the dosage, based on the size of your pet and his/her condition we’ve just talked about.
A CBD capsule, in turn, will contain between 5-20 mg of CBD each. The dose of encapsulated CBD is around 1 tablet taken once or twice per day.
As for pet treats, they will vary in concentrations of CBD.
Always check if your CBD company provides dosing instructions at the back of the package. If it does, it’s best to follow the instructions.
Actually, regardless of the product you use, we always recommend following the dosage instructions that came with it and based on this, adjust the dose as needed.
We recommend starting at the low end of the dose, and increasing gradually once you know how your dog will respond.
How to Figure Out How Much CBD You Should Give to Your Dog By Size
To make it easy for you, we’ll break down exactly how to choose the right dose for your dog based on their size (measured in weight).
Some people prefer to use a very small dose, no matter what size their dog is and working up from there.
A rough starting dose to do this is 1 mg.
This allows you to gradually work your way up the optimal dose without wasting too much CBD oil in the process.
Even large dogs are about ⅓ the size of average humans, so considering that in humans, the jumping-off point is around 1-3 mg, the above figure makes sense.
To begin with, let’s discuss how much CBD you should give to your dog, based on relative weight.
1. Small (2-15 lbs)
Extra small dogs will need the least amount of CBD, which may sound relieving at first.
But there’s a catch.
Tiny dogs have a super-fast metabolism!
You will need to increase the frequency of CBD administration to 3-4 doses per day, instead of 1 or 2 with larger dogs.
If your dog is suffering from pain, the starting CBD dose of 1 mg may be enough for the beginning.
For behavioral conditions like dogs with anxiety, we recommend measuring out ½ mg worth of oil and adding a couple of drops if you don’t see any improvement for the next 3-5 days of use.
As for a routine, it’s best to start by administering CBD twice daily.
Each time you want to increase the dosage, you can do it in 2 mg increments until your dog finds some relief.
Nevertheless, try not to exceed 15 mg CBD doses in extra small dogs.
Remember that these are all relative figures, and should not be taken as medical advice or as a veterinary recommendation.
2. Medium-Small (15 – 30 lbs)
Having done in-depth research on different CBD dosages for medium dogs, we’ve noticed that many people achieve success with a 2 mg dose, and increasing by 3 mg until they get some results
This data refers to dogs suffering from pain and arthritis.
For psychological conditions and poor appetite, try using half the dose above (1 mg of CBD).
For most medium sized dogs this should do the trick.
Dog owners who want to help their friends with anxiety are recommended to increase doses by no more than 2 mg, keeping mind that they shouldn’t exceed 2 doses per day.
The maximum dose of CBD for a dog of this size is about 20 mg per day.
Like we said before, larger dogs require more CBD to experience the desired effects.
What’s an appropriate initial dose of CBD for dogs with general pain?
It’s generally believed that a 1-3 mg dose of CBD is a good starting point, depending on the level of the pain.
If you’re not seeing the results you want to try increasing by 3 mg.
For behavioral conditions (lack of focus), psychological disorders (panic, anxiety), and poor appetite, the recommended initial dose is 1 mg twice a day.
Make sure to keep a watchful eye on your dog’s behavior to notice if the effects of CBD are kicking in.
If not, increase the dose by no more than 2 mg.
The maximum dose for CBD for a dog of this size is about 30 mg per day.
4. Large (60 – 150 lbs)
Owners of large dogs should follow the same general recommendations as for medium-large dogs.
With very large dogs, you can expect to have a much higher dose, however, it’s best to work your way up slowly by 3 mg per dose until you find signs of relief.
Getting The Dose Right With Different CBD Products
So now that you know the mg of CBD you should use on your dog or cat, you may be wondering how this applies to different CBD products.
After all, not all CBD products contain the same concentration of CBD.
Calculating the right dose of Cannabidiol may look like a cutscene from the “Beautiful Mind” movie, so we’ll help you out a bit.
Below, we share specific details about CBD dosing for dogs using common strengths and volumes.
1. CBD or Hemp Oil
CBD oil for dogs typically comes in 150, 300, and 600 mg bottles. Here are the basic dosage tips for this kind of CBD.
Here’s a quick reference to how the different CBD concentrations work out in drops.