CBD Oil for Dogs: The Science Behind this Pet Health Trend
One of the biggest health trends of 2018 has been the rise of CBD oil – for both people and pets. However, many people have seen these products popping up at their favorite pet boutique and are wondering if there is more to this trend than just clever marketing.
This article is designed to answer your questions about CBD oil for dogs by exploring the current state of medical research for this promising natural supplement. While there is still much to learn, the actual evidence for the benefits of this supplement may surprise you.
CBD Oil: What Is It?
CBD oil, also known as cannabidiol, is a compound that is extracted from plants in the cannabis family. It belongs to a class of chemicals known as cannabinoids.
It turns out that many different plants, many of which have been used for traditional healing for centuries, also produce cannabinoids.
- Echinacea: You may know this garden flower by its common name: The American Cone Flower. Holistic healers have long been prescribing this plant for its anti-inflammatory properties and immune boosting powers. Scientists have verified that the active compounds in this plant include N-alkylamides, which mimic the action of cannabinoids.
- Cocoa: Yup. Turns out chocolate contains compounds that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, including N-Linoleoyl ethanolamide and N-oleoylethanolamide. While it may help boost our mood, chocolate is highly toxic to dogs (for other reasons) so its healing benefits don’t translate to our furry friends!
- Black Pepper: One of the compounds found in this common spice is called beta-caryophyllene, a terpene that is responsible for the characteristic smell of pepper. It is also found in cannabis. Research has shown this compound exerts anti-inflammatory effects and may even help common cancer treatments’ ability to fight tumors.
Will CBD Oil Get My Dog High?
Cannabidiol is in cannabis, the family of plants that includes marijuana. This might worry some pet owners because dogs have gotten into stashes of medical grade marijuana or pot infused edibles made for recreational use. In some cases, this has even resulted in overdose and death in small dogs that ate large quantities of these products.
However, when it comes to CBD oil for dogs, this supplement is extracted from a specific variety of cannabis known as hemp. Hemp is a very special type of cannabis that is defined by U.S. law to include less than .3% of the compound known as THC.
It is THC, another cannabinoid found in cannabis, that produces the psychoactive effects of the plant (along with other properties). Without THC, hemp does NOT cause the high. AND, THC is precisely the compound that some dogs seem to have problems with, but only when much more concentrated than you would find in quality CBD hemp oil made for dogs.
Safety & Side Effects Of CBD Oil In Dogs
In addition to being non-psychoactive, CBD oil has been confirmed to be safe in both humans and dogs. This is true even at extremely high doses of CBD. It has a very good safety profile with low incidence of side effects, and those are mild. Nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, and changes in appetite were those most commonly reported in human studies.
One thing that is important to note is that if you decide to use CBD oil with your dog that you purchase it from a reputable manufacturer and buy a product specifically made for dogs. Read on to learn more about how to make sure you are making a good choice for your pet.
How Does CBD Oil Work?
Cannabis based medicine is nothing new. In fact, it has been used for both medicinal and recreational use for thousands of years. However, due to a prohibition on marijuana in much of the world, research has been hampered. That is, until recently.
The Endocannabinoid System
In 1988, researchers discovered a previously unknown biological system present in all animals (those with bones that is): The Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
This distinct system is made up of a collection of transmitters, receptors and special enzymes that are responsible for maintaining homeostasis, in other words balance, in a wide variety of critical life processes. (See table below.)
Cannabidiol specifically interacts with this system by breaking down into lipids which in turn activate endocannabinoid receptors. Now it is a little easier to understand why CBD oil has become such a big deal in health circles for both people and dogs.
The long list of potential benefits that is supported by research is precisely because of the role that the ECS plays in achieving balance in several important biological systems, including:
The Entourage Effect
The other thing that people new to CBD oil should understand is “The Entourage Effect.” Although it sounds a bit like a marketing ploy, this term was actually coined by scientists in 1998. It describes the principle that the hundreds of compounds found in cannabis have a complex relationship.
Even trace amounts of one cannabinoid can amplify or mitigate the effects of the others. For example, it is widely understood that THC and CBD interact, and even trace amounts of THC may amplify the pain relieving power of CBD.
In the CBD world you will come across “full spectrum” CBD oil. These products have been gently refined to preserve the full cannabinoid and terpene profile of the whole plant.
Other products, often marketed as “THC free” or “CBD isolate,” contain only the CBD which has been chemically extracted in isolation prior to adding to a carrier oil or topical.
Note that full spectrum products usually contain trace amounts of THC. However, as long as you are buying a quality product from a reputable manufacturer, CBD for dogs will be refined from hemp, which is naturally very low in THC. Full spectrum oils made just for dogs are safe and may even enhance the properties of the oil.
Full spectrum oils are more difficult to extract and need to use organic hemp for a clean finished product. They tend to be a bit pricier as a result, but many pet owners and holistic veterinarians appreciate the difference of the Entourage Effect.
What Are The Research Backed Benefits Of CBD Oil For Dogs?
Let’s turn now to the specific potential health benefits of cannabidiol, with links to primary research for your review.
CBD Oil For Dog Pain
Pain is one of the most researched aspects of the Endocannabinoid System as well as CBD oil more specifically. Let’s break it down:
This type of pain occurs when the nerves themselves are damaged or dysfunctional, signaling pain. In some cases the pain may occur in areas unrelated to the source of the problem. Typically, neuropathic pain can be tricky to diagnose and treat, particularly with our pets who are not able to tell us where it hurts.
Neuropathic pain is associated with several conditions in dogs, including:
This type of pain is from damage to the various tissues in the body. It is generally the culprit for pain in dogs from:
While inflammation typically causes some kinds of nociceptive pain by damaging tissue, it deserves a special mention since reducing inflammation is a major goal of certain drug targets, such as NSAIDs.
Inflammation is also an important component of several conditions in our canine companions, notably:
Can CBD Oil Help With Pain In Dogs?
Now that we have taken a brief tour of the types of pain and its causes, it is time to look at the research on cannabidiol.
In fact, CBD oil has been show to be effective against both neuropathic and nociceptivepain types. And, it also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. These are not just one off reports, rather, numerous studies have repeated these findings.
The mechanisms of how CBD works to mitigate both pain and inflammation are complex. It appears that it is happening among multiple pathways including by enhancing the effects of opioids and their receptors, changing pain perception in ways similar to anti-depressants, and blocking the communication of pain signals in the central nervous system.
Moreover, the precise role that THC may play in enhancing the pain reducing effect of CBD is still a matter of study. (This returns us to the notion of full spectrum CBD oil which many people seem to prefer when it comes to chronic pain management.)
When it comes to inflammation, the results are actually quite stunning!
One study showed that even as little as 2mg of cannabidiol a day can significantly improve mobility for dogs with Osteoarthritis (OA). Another showed that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are so strong that they may even reduce the nerve damage caused by the progression of OA leading to significantly better health outcomes.
Finally, cannabidiol has been shown to enhance the effects of opioids, reduce their tolerance building capacity, as well as mitigate some of their side effects.
If you think your dog may be able to reduce the amount of medications they are taking for chronic pain, it may be worth discussing the role of CBD oil can play with your veterinarian.
CBD Oil For Dog Anxiety
Although CBD oil has been studied in relation to a variety of psychological and cognitive disorders, it is perhaps its relationship to anxiety that is most relevant to our canine companions.
In human studies, CBD has shown promise in several anxiety related conditions, including:
While these conditions do not have a direct analog in the canine world, most animal behaviorists believe that several behavior problems that dogs struggle with are related to anxiety, including:
CBD is thought to interact directly with the central nervous system to effect mood and promote a calm state of mind. Neuroimaging has confirmed its activity in the limbic and paralimbic brain areas, for example.
However, there is another theory about its mechanisms that is particularly interesting when it comes to thinking through dog phobias such as fear or noise or cars. It turns out that cannabidiol may work to disrupt the way that learned fear operates.
When the brain makes a tight association between a certain stimuli and danger from a traumatic memory, it can result in a phobia. Over time, the persistent emotional state of panic in the presence of the trigger can deepen this relationship, causing the fear response to get worse over time.
Cannabidiol has been shown to help the brain essentially forget this association which works against the retention of learned fear. Great news for Fearful Fido!
Behavioral issues in dogs related to anxiety are notoriously difficult to solve, particularly if the issues are severe or if the dog is a danger to themselves or others. Treatment is usually a two-pronged approach: Medication and behavioral management.
As the table below shows, many of the prescription medications that veterinarians currently prescribe for anxiety related issues in dogs have risk of negative side effects.
Although some serious cases of anxiety do require pharmaceutical sedation to be manageable, it may be worth giving CBD oil a try in conjunction with a training program to help your dog learn to be calm in the face of triggers.
CBD Oil For Dogs With Cancer
First, let’s just be clear: CBD oil is not a cure-all for dogs with cancer! However, some veterinarians are including it as a part of an overall treatment plan. Why? Well, turns out that cannabidiol can contribute to a cancer treatment plan in three significant ways:
Tumor Shrinking Effects
While veterinary medicine has yet to confirm the anti-tumor effects in dogs, there have been multiple studies that have shown a surprising ability for CBD to actually shrink tumors and/or prevent their spread through a variety of mechanisms.
Examples include several distinct types of cancer, including:
Perhaps even more exciting about the future of cannabidiol and cancer for people and pets is that evidence shows that it may enhance the efficacy of traditional cancer treatments such as radiotherapy. A recent study showed that cannabidiol combined with chemotherapy increased survival rates of mice with pancreatic threefold over chemotherapy alone!
Immune System Support
As mentioned above, the Endocannabinoid System plays a vital role in regulating the immune system. While this is a benefit that could potentially help with a wide variety of conditions, cancer treatment is notoriously hard on the body. As a result, some holistic vets prescribe CBD oil for immune system support during cancer treatments.
Mitigate Side Effects Of Cancer Treatment
Finally, the side effects of cancer treatments can be debilitating on their own. Many of these may be helped with CBD oil as part of an integrated cancer treatment plan:
More research is certainly needed, and many vets are not ready to integrate CBD oil into a cancer treatment plan for dogs. However, expect to see this area of research grow over the next few years. Exciting stuff!
CBD Oil For Dogs With Seizures
In June of 2018 the FDA approved the first CBD based drug, Epidiolex®, for the treatment of seizures in two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. This was no surprise to anyone since the anti-convulsant properties of cannabidiol have been well documented in scientific research for well over a decade.
Research in veterinary medicine has yet to do specific clinical trials on the use of CBD for dog seizures, however, a patent has been filed exploring the role cannabidiol may play in future veterinary pharmaceuticals.
Furthermore, based on the success of developing CBD based drugs for people with seizures, the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation has funded a major dog specific clinical trial. This study will investigate both the safety and efficacy of cannabidiol for the treatment of seizures in dogs.
While the use of CBD oil for dog seizures has yet to be confirmed by veterinary research, the results on humans and laboratory animals is promising. More research into this potential therapy for epileptic dogs is currently underway.
CBD Oil For Healthy Skin In Dogs
The role of the Endocannabinoid System in skin health cannot be overstated. Most tissues in the body, including the skin, contain G-coupled protein receptors specific to cannabinoids. As far back as 2009, research had demonstrated:
“It seems that the main physiological function of the cutaneous ECS is to constitutively control the proper and well-balanced proliferation, differentiation and survival, as well as immune competence and/or tolerance, of skin cells. The disruption of this delicate balance might facilitate the development of multiple pathological conditions and diseases of the skin (e.g. acne, seborrhea, allergic dermatitis, itch and pain, psoriasis, hair growth disorders, systemic sclerosis and cancer).” (Biro, et.al., 2009)
In other words, the ECS maintains the immune function, natural lipid balance, and healthy growth of skin. And, deficiencies of endocannabinoids may actually cause a variety of skin problems relevant to our canine companions.
Add to this that CBD oil is also known sooth both pain and inflammation (explored above), and it becomes easy to see why some folks are turning to this natural supplement for their dog’s skin health, such as allergic dermatitis.
When it comes to dealing with skin issues, it is imperative to talk to your vet before using CBD oil. It can be so effective at dealing with the symptoms that it could mask an underlying issue such as food allergies or an immune system dysfunction. That being said, your vet may approve the use of either oral or topical CBD oil for skin problems in your dog.
Reducing Prescription Medications For Your Dog
Cannabinoids such as CBD oil work closely with the body’s other biological systems. In some cases, this means that they can affect the metabolism of certain medications, sometimes by boosting their efficacy.
This may be especially true for reducing medications commonly prescribed for pain and/or inflammation in chronic conditions such as arthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia, or autoimmune disorders.
It turns out that cannabinoids may enhance the effects of drugs such as opioids and NSAIDs, making it possible to reduce their levels without losing their potency. In addition, since these classes of drugs can have serious health complications with long term use, there is good reason to consider any options to reduce their use with chronic conditions.
Of course, it is imperative to work with your vet to find out if CBD oil could help to reduce other medications that may have dangerous side effects with long term use.
How To Give CBD Oil To Dogs
Sublingual Dosing: Drop the oil directly into the mouth for immediate absorption.
Oral Dosing: Add drops to food or feed CBD infused dog treats or capsules.
Topical Dosing: Apply a CBD infused cream or oil directly to the skin.
The table above illustrates the three main ways to consume CBD oil, along with the benefits of each method. You may notice that one difference between the methods of consumption is that they seem to act at different rates, with different potencies.
The reason for this has to do with the notion of bioavailability. This concept has to do with the rate and efficiency with which a compound is absorbed and metabolized in the body.
Depending on the way your dog consumes CBD oil, the bioavailability changes.
For instance, when taken orally via drops on food or from CBD infused dog treats, the bioavailability is relatively low. This is because the entire digestive tract is involved in absorbing the compound, leaving less of it available immediately in the blood stream.
On the other hand, sublingual dosing (directly into the mouth) seems to have a higher bioavailability, and a faster rate of absorption.
There are likely some important qualitative differences as well, many of which are not fully understood. For instance, many people that take CBD oil report different effects with different methods of consumption. That is why sometimes it might take some experimentation to find out which works best for your dog and his specific issues: sublingual, oral or topical.
Work with your vet to determine which method of consumption is right for your individual dog. Expect that it might take a little bit of trial and error to dial in what works best.
CBD Oil Dosage For Dogs
Although CBD oil is safe for dogs, there has not been much specific research into proper dosing. This is particularly true when it comes to targeting specific issues. So, we are not going to recommend any specific dose because we think it would be irresponsible to do so.
This situation is further complicated by the fact that CBD oil is not a regulated market and the concentrations of products vary greatly from one manufacturer to the other. So, two drops of one brand may be equivalent to 6 drops of another brand.
However, we do have some tips for best practice:
However, we do have some tips for best practice:
- Follow the directions that come with your product. Each manufacturer will send you dosing information (or make it available on their website) which is calibrated to the concentration of their product. This is your best starting place.
- Pay attention to mg of CBD per pound of dog. Your vet will likely recommend you start at a specific dose for pound of weight. You will need to calculate that based on the number of drops for the specific brand you use.
- Start low and bump the dose slowly. If you are dialing in the amount of CBD oil to use, it is advisable to start on the low end of the range (around 2 mg per 10 pounds of dog, daily). CBD is safe at larger doses but increase it slowly until you find the amount that is most effective.
- Acute situations may call for higher doses. Your vet may recommend a higher dose for “as needed” situations that are acute. For example, in the case of dosing before a car ride if your dog is car-phobic.
When it comes to dosing, the best advice we can give is to consult with your vet. If your regular veterinarian is not open to the use of CBD oil in dogs, then you may want to contact a holistic veterinarian in your area who likely has more clinical experience with the use of cannabidiol for dog health.
Why You Should Talk To Your Vet Before Giving CBD To Your Dog
Here at WileyPup, we want to give you the information you need to make informed decisions about your dog’s health. Many dog owners are interested in the use of natural health supplements, such as CBD oil, and are comfortable adding them on their own.
However, we want to stress the dangers of trying to diagnose and treat symptoms without getting a veterinary perspective.
First, you may actually unknowingly mask the symptoms that could be warning signs that something more serious is going on which needs medical attention. Since our dog’s can’t speak for themselves, symptoms represent one of the main ways your vet can get the whole picture of your dog’s health needs.
Second, if your dog is on other medications, cannabidiol, like many natural supplements, can interfere with their mechanisms. It is critical that your vet is involved in decisions about supplements in these cases.
Better safe than sorry! If your vet is not open to integrating CBD oil into your dog’s overall health and wellness plan, consider working with a holistic vet. Many of these vets have more training and experience using a variety of natural products for pet health.
How To Find Quality CBD Products
The emerging research demonstrating the various health benefits of CBD oil for both people and pets has led some manufacturers to sell scam products.
This is a very real problem, especially since some of these products have been shown to have high levels of THC, a potential health hazard for dogs. Other products don’t contain the concentrations of CBD they claim to.
There are still great products out there.
here are the quality indicators you should look for:
- Choose products formulated with dogs in mind. This is critical since some CBD products made for humans have flavorings or additives that are not good for dogs. In addition, they are sometimes made with different strains of cannabis that can have higher levels of THC than is ideal for dogs.
- Third Party Batch Testing. It is not enough to show a lab report of a random product from 3 years ago. Look for batch testing that verifies the full cannabinoid profile as well as the contaminant labs for each and every batch of CBD oil.
- Organic Hemp. When hemp is refined into CBD oil, all of the chemical residues are concentrated. This includes any pesticides or herbicides used in cultivation. Only organically sourced hemp produces a clean finished product.
- Full Spectrum CBD hemp oil. One of the issues we researched for this article was the value of a full spectrum hemp oil that includes the full range of cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp. We discussed the primary reason for this, the Entourage Effect, which is a science based argument for the health benefits of whole-plant chemistry.
- Reputation is everything. We did a lot of research putting this article together. One thing we learned is how important the reputation of the company is to a quality product. Fly-by-night companies just won’t do.
LolaHemp: Our Top Choice - CBD Oil for Dogs
Although our primary goal with this article was to provide our readers with a comprehensive look at the state of the research for CBD oil and dogs, we thought many of you would be helped by a well-researched recommendation to save you the time trying to sort through the options.
Our top choice is LolaHemp CBD Oil for Dogs. In addition to offering an organic full spectrum oil with up to date third party batch testing available right on the website, this company goes the extra mile with a strong commitment to animal welfare.
Through their partnership with various animal rescue organizations, LolaHemp donates one bottle for every four sold to a rescue dog in need.
Since anxiety and stress are always a part of the re-homing experience for abandoned animals, CBD oil can really help make life better for these dogs in line to find their fur-ever homes. Thanks, LolaHemp!
Conclusion: CBD Oil May Be Right For Your Dog
We hope you found this article exploring CBD oil for dogs helpful. We wanted our readers to have the latest information that is science based to make an informed decision about this growing pet health trend.
Do you have experience using CBD oil with your dog? Our readers would love to hear more! You just might help someone else with your story. Please feel free to leave a comment below!
Sharon Elber (M.S. in Science & Technology) - Professional Dog Trainer
Sharon is a professional dog trainer with over 10 years experience. She is also a professional writer that received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech.
For more info on Sharon click here