Updated on August 16, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
It’s an understatement to say we love our dogs. Our fur children are part of our daily lives, funny members of our families and emotional support providers when we need it most. We always want to keep them in good health, so with all the buzz around the benefits of CBD products for humans, it comes as no surprise that CBD oil for dogs has become a hot topic of discussion among pet owners and veterinarians.
CBD is an all-natural, legal way to help your fur child overcome a variety of ailments and behavioral issues, without the side effects that come with traditional prescription medication. Unlike medical marijuana, which can cause animals to become high, CBD oil for dogs is typically derived from industrial hemp and contains less than 0.03 percent THC — nowhere near enough to cause psychoactive effects in even the smallest animal.
While research around the benefits of CBD oil for pets is fairly new, there are many anecdotal stories about the efficacy of CBD in dogs. What’s even more exciting is that these aren’t isolated incidents. People all over the U.S. are discovering that CBD is giving their nervous, temperamental, ailing or elderly dogs an improved quality of life.
To learn more about how CBD oil can work for your dog, we’ve covered some important topics below like the types of ailments it can help with, how to choose a quality product, dosage guidelines and ways to talk to your veterinarian about CBD.
Understanding How CBD Oil Works for Pets
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) functions the same way in people as it does in dogs and other animals. In fact, the ECS exists in all mammals with receptors throughout the body: in the organs, immune system, glands, connective tissues and the brain. Receptors are involved in a number of physiological processes including pain sensation, memory and appetite. In short, the endocannabinoid system provides an essential bridge between the body and mind.
The ECS in both dogs and humans is part of what maintains the natural balance in the body and is stimulated by endocannabinoids, which are produced internally. However, the ECS can also be stimulated by external cannabinoids. This includes Cannabidiol—commonly known as CBD—the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants. Much like humans, dogs can become deficient in endocannabinoids. This is where CBD comes into play for treating a variety of ailments.
If you pup is suffering from ailments like chronic pain, inflammation or anxiety, you might consider giving them a pet-friendly CBD product. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, meaning it won’t make your dog “high.” In fact, CBD oil is known for being well-tolerated, even at large doses.
Benefits of CBD Oil for Dogs
Because CBD oil for dogs is typically produced from industrial hemp instead of marijuana, it doesn’t come with the psychoactive effects present in THC. And can be used to safely treat or manage a variety of ailments in pets without the side effects associated with many conventional medications. Your dog may benefit from CBD oil if they suffer from:
Acute or chronic pain
Arthritis and inflammation
Psoriasis or sensitive skin
Itching from allergies
Inflammatory bowel disease
Lack of appetite
Situational anxiety from loud noises, car travel or bad weather
By this point, you’re likely interested in incorporating a CBD product into their daily regimen. But with so many available products, where do you start? The next section offers insight on how to choose a quality CBD product for your fur child and what to look out for.
Choosing a Quality CBD Product for Your Pet
Not all CBD products are created equal. With the growing popularity of CBD oil for dogs, there are many sellers jumping on the bandwagon to get their share of the market, however, not everyone makes a quality product. It’s always important to do your due diligence in researching the right CBD product for your furry friend.
Always buy a CBD product made for pets, not for humans—Remember that CBD products are very different for humans and dogs. There are potency and dosage measurements that correspond with each and are important to follow.
Buy organic—Cannabis can easily pick up contaminants from the soil it’s grown in, which you don’t want transferred to your dog.
Ask for a certificate of analysis—Reputable companies will provide a certificate of analysis showing their product has been lab tested. This details factors like:
THC potency at or less than 0.3%
CBD per milliliter and per bottle
Free of contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals
Free of residual solvents
Free of bacteria, yeast and mold
Choose a product with a CO2 extraction method—This system uses carbon dioxide under high pressure and low temperatures to assure the purity of the product.
Choose a coconut oil or olive oil base—For maximum absorbability, look for a CBD product that’s infused with coconut or olive oil. It should also be free of alcohol.
Choose “Gold Grade” when possible—Some products are described as “gold grade,” which refers to the quality and clarity. Lower grade oils are darker and contain more chlorophyll and plant matter, compared to a higher quality extraction that comes out gold.
Beware of products that contain essential oils—It’s easy to confuse natural with safe. Essential oils are potent substances that can pose serious risks for dogs. While great for humans, essential oils can cause skin irritation in dogs and some are even toxic.
CBD Oil for Dogs vs. Other Products
With the growing popularity of CBD, new products are entering the market every day—some are more effective than others. The three most popular CBD products for dogs are oils, capsules and treats.
Tincture (oil)—This is the most common and effective method, providing the fastest relief from symptoms. CBD oils are always administered in drops. While the exact amount of drops needed for a dose can vary from one product to another, 2-4 drops taken 2-4 times a day is generally suggested.
Capsules—CBD capsules are clean and come with easy measurements. Each capsule typically contains between 5-20 mg of CBD. Again, the exact number of capsules needed for a dose can vary from one product to another, but 1 tablet taken 1-2 times per day is typically suggested.
Treats—Treats are great for finicky pups and picky eaters. If you find you’re having trouble with oil or capsules, this might be the best method for your pet. Keep in mind that, unlike oil and capsules, CBD dog treats can contain varying concentrations of CBD per treat and can be less effective. Dosage is also known to vary by brand, so it’s best to follow the specific product guidelines.
How Much CBD Oil Should I Give My Dog?
Understanding the correct CBD dosage for Fido can be confusing. Many companies will show the amount of CBD per serving, the amount of CBD per milliliter and the amount of CBD per bottle. Always read the instructions and seek out additional information on a product’s website if necessary. Keep in mind that most tincture droppers on the market dispense 1 milliliter.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s safe to follow this formula for the appropriate dosage: 0.25 mg x 1 lb of dog.
Approximately 1.25 – 2.5 mg of CBD is an appropriate dosage for 5 to 10 lb dog like a Chihuahua.
Up to 12.5 mg per day is a good dosage size for a 50 lb dog like a Bulldog or Australian Shepherd.
Administer CBD oil orally, or if your pup is finicky, it might be easiest to mix with their food. Next, you’ll want to closely monitor their behavior as it can take up to an hour to kick in. Always remember to start with the minimum dosage and increase if needed. Now that you have an understanding of dosage guidelines by weight, you’ll want to evaluate the type and severity of your dog’s ailments.
Consider Your Dog’s Ailments
It’s important that you consider why you want to give your dog CBD in the first place. The reason will help you administer the appropriate dosage. For example, a French Bulldog that gets anxious while traveling in the car will have a different dosage requirement compared to a German Shepherd suffering from hip dysplasia. There are typically three reasons:
Standard—This provides general immune support and situational aid like anxiety from driving in a car, bad weather or large crowds.
Therapeutic—This refers to treatment for nausea, inflammation, arthritis or pain from an injury.
Medicinal—This refers to other situations where a larger dose is recommended such as cancer, epilepsy or hip dysplasia.
So, you’re on board with CBD for your fur child, but maybe you want to run it by your veterinarian first. Because of CBD’s association to cannabis, this can be an uncomfortable topic to bring up. The next section will teach you how to have an open and honest dialogue with your vet about CBD.
How to Talk to Your Vet About CBD Oil for Dogs
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “under current federal and state law, veterinarians may not administer, dispense, prescribe or recommend cannabis or its products for animals.” However, a prescription from your vet isn’t necessary to obtain CBD oil supplements for your dog.” Still, many pet owners prefer their vet’s advice on new supplements, medicine or food, so bringing up the topic of CBD oil can be uncomfortable because of its relationship to cannabis. Here are some suggestions for how to best approach the topic of CBD oil for your dog with your veterinarian.
Be Open and Honest
First, keep in mind that while your vet may not be up to date on the latest research around CBD oil, it’s unlikely they will be surprised by your inquiry. With more pet parents curious about the benefits of CBD oil for dogs, they’ve likely already been approached about the topic.
You might mention that another pet-owning friend, who uses CBD, has noticed benefits for their dog. You can also bring up news stories or articles about the benefits of CBD oil that are relevant to your dog’s situation. Don’t be hesitant to state why you are curious about CBD oil and remember that your vet has your dog’s best interests in mind.
Your vet sees many pets every day, so they may be able to share what other dog owners have found to be helpful. Here are a few questions you can ask your vet to spark the conversation about CBD.
In your practice, have you seen CBD oil benefit other pets?
Are you familiar with any studies or research on CBD oil?
Where have you gone to obtain information about CBD oil?
How should I give CBD oil to my dog?
How to Buy CBD Oil for Dogs
The state in which you live can dictate how you purchase CBD oil for pets. For those who live in a state where recreational or medical cannabis is legal, it’s as easy as visiting your local dispensary to pick up a CBD product.
CBD is legal if it is derived from industrial hemp meaning that it contains no more than 0.3% THC. Even if there isn’t a dispensary in your area, your local pet store might carry CBD pet products, or you can order from a specific company and have the product shipped to your home. If purchasing online, always buy from a credible supplier who provides a Certificate of Analysis.
Potential Side Effects of CBD Oil for Dogs
As you know by now, CBD is a non-psychoactive and non-toxic substance that will not cause an overdose in your dog, unlike products that contain THC. However, as with anything new you give your pooch, there can be some trial and error. It’s common for Fido to appear sleepy 30 minutes to an hour after administering CBD. However, there are some symptoms you should look out for.
Stop treatment immediately if your dog displays any of these side effects. After they are feeling better, try resuming treatment at a lower dose. If the conditions persist, fully stop treatment and contact your vet.
It never hurts to do some digging of your own. To date, there have only been a few studies published on CBD for animals, which limits the amount of true scientific data. However, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence to help you make an educated decision. The American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Health Foundation is currently funding a study on the effects of CBD on dogs with epilepsy. You can always contact a specific pet CBD company or inquire about specific products for your dog next time you visit your local dispensary.
CBD oil can be a highly effective and safe medicine. This guide aims to educate dog owners on the benefits of CBD while providing tips on how to purchase a quality product, dosage guidelines and ways to talk to your vet about CBD for your dog. Always remember to consider your pup’s ailment and follow the appropriate dosage guidelines of each product.