With the growing popularity of CBD oil, many people are interested in its potential benefits for their dogs. More and more people give their dogs CBD oil to curb anxiety, reduce seizures, or improve inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Read on to find out which of these uses are backed by science, how to calculate the dosage, and what side effects to look out for.
What Is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is a therapeutic oil with a non-psychoactive compound of cannabis: cannabidiol or CBD.
CBD has grown in popularity for a number of health conditions in humans. Its recent legalization in many countries sparked a keen interest in dog owners. They normally seek an alternative remedy for their dog’s [1+, 2]:
- Pain and inflammation
Although the research on its effects on dogs is scarce, several CBD oil products have been formulated specifically for dogs (mainly liquid tinctures, tablets, chews, and treats). In fact, over 50% of vets recommend and prescribe them based on experience .
Benefits of CBD Oil for Dogs
Insufficient Evidence for:
CBD reduced seizures caused by electric shocks and drugs in old studies in mice and is even approved for some types of epilepsy in humans [3+, 4, 5, 6].
In the only clinical trial in epileptic dogs, infused CBD oil reduced seizure frequency slightly better than the placebo. The therapy was most effective when blood CBD reached high levels. Thus, we’re in need of a method that can accurately measure CBD blood levels to allow dosage adjustment [7, 8].
On the other hand, CBD oil safely reduces seizures in people with some types of epilepsy. It helps both children and adults who don’t respond to anti-seizure drugs. CBD oil might work in a similar way for dogs with seizures, and anecdotal reports back this up [9, 10, 11, 12].
However, more trials are needed to confirm its effectiveness and establish its therapeutic use. Consult your vet if you plan to give your dog CBD oil for seizures.
2) Pain and Inflammation
CBD oil is often given to dogs with painful and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, back pain, and terminal cancer. CBD probably improves these conditions by blocking the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (such as TNF-a, IFN, and IL-1) and increasing those with anti-inflammatory effects (such as IL-10 and IL-12) [13, 14, 15].
In the only clinical trial in dogs, oral CBD oil reduced arthritic pain but had no effect on limb mobility or weight-bearing capacity. CBD also slowed arthritis progression in mice [16, 17].
Although there are no studies in dogs for these conditions, rat and mice studies revealed that CBD reduced:
Again, the evidence supporting its use in arthritis or any other inflammatory and painful conditions is very limited. Discuss with your vet how CBD oil may help in the case of your dog.
Lack of Evidence (Studies in Humans and Other Animals)
The main causes of anxiety in dogs include [23+]:
- Fear (especially to loud noises such as fireworks and storms)
- Separation from their families
- Confinement in small spaces (such as the car)
- Age-related neurodegenerative diseases
Although it hasn’t been investigated in dogs, some owners give their dogs CBD oil to reduce their anxiety in all these situations. Indeed, CBD reduced anxiety in 4 small trials on almost 100 people and several studies in mice and rats. It was more effective at moderate doses and given for short periods [24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32].
Although proponents of CBD oil claim it improves heart health, the results of 2 old studies in anesthetized dogs were contradictory. Injected CBD increased heart rate and pumping in one study. A synthetic CBD derivative lowered blood pressure and heart rate in the other one. No studies were performed on conscious dogs, making it hard to draw any conclusions [33+, 34].
A systematic review of 25 studies in animals and humans concluded that CBD reduces blood pressure and heart rate in stressful conditions but has no effect in normal circumstances. It also improves brain blood flow in animals who suffered a stroke .
It’s possible that many dog-owners are confusing CBD oil with hemp oil. These two products are not the same! Although both are made from hemp, the procedures and parts of the plant used are completely different.
Hemp oil is made by pressing hemp seeds. It is much lower in CBD but abounds in essential nutrients and heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids. As such, it’s more likely to support your dog’s heart health.
On the other hand, CBD oil is usually made by extracting CBD from the flowers and leaves of hemp and dissolving it in a food-grade oil (such as coconut oil). It’s high in CBD but lacks the healthy fatty acids found in the seed. Thus, it’s more likely to help by reducing your dog’s anxiety-provoked fast heartbeat in stressful situations.
CBD oil is frequently recommended to dog owners to reduce nausea and lack of appetite caused by diseases, surgical procedures, and drugs.
Although studies in dogs are lacking, CBD reduced nausea and vomiting – and further enhanced the action of drugs used for this purpose – in multiple studies in mice and rats [36, 37, 38, 39, 40].
CBD Oil Dosage for Dogs
Because CBD oil is not approved to treat any conditions in dogs, there is no official dose. Consult your vet about the best dose and delivery method for your dog’s condition.
Most manufacturers recommend a CBD oil dose of 0.5 mg/kg (0.5 mg/2.2 lbs) and up to 1 mg/kg per day. Based on this, the doses for small (below 10 kg), medium-sized (10-30 kg), or big (over 30 kg) dogs are:
- Tincture oil (~1 mg CBD per drop): up to 5x/day (small), 5-15x/day (medium), and 15-30x/day (big)
- Capsules (~10-15 mg CBD per capsule): up to 0.5x/day (small), 0.5-1.5x/day (medium), and 1.5-3x/day (big)
- Treats (~5 mg CBD per treat): up to 1x/day (small), 1-3x/day (medium), and 3-6x/day (big)
CBD Oil Safety & Side Effects in Dogs
Keep in mind that CBD oil is an insufficiently researched supplement with a relatively unknown safety profile. The list of side effects below is, therefore, not a definite one. You should consult your vet about other potential side effects based on your dog’s health condition and possible drug interactions.
CBD oil is generally well tolerated and the most common adverse effect is increased drowsiness. Other effects reported by over 2k vets who completed an online survey included :
- Digestive issues (diarrhea, constipation, lack of appetite, and vomiting)
- Thirst and dry mouth
- Changes in blood pressure and heart rate
- Increased anxiety
Two clinical trials using higher doses (2-2.5 mg/kg 2x/day) reported lack of coordination (ataxia) and possible liver damage (increased blood alkaline phosphatase) in some dogs [7, 16].
Other components of CBD oil preparations such as carrier oils and alcohols may also cause upset digestion and other health issues [41+].
There are no studies on injected CBD megadoses in dogs, but their effects in monkeys were severe (tremors, breathing difficulties, heart attacks). These should not happen with normal, oral CBD oil dosing in dogs [42+].
Don’t give your dog CBD oil for unproven uses only because it’s natural. Talk to your vet about the best therapies and doses first and report any toxicity signs immediately.
CBD blocks a liver enzyme that breaks down many drugs (CYP2C19). In contrast, the oil might increase the effects of certain medications given to dogs, although there are no studies in these animals. Talk to a vet if your dog is on medication before giving them CBD oil [43, 41+].
How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Your Dog
After you and your vet have agreed to give your dog CBD oil, it’s important to choose a high-quality product from a reputable source. Do your research and make sure that the oil:
- Is just for dogs (to avoid flavorings and other additives only suitable for humans)
- Doesn’t contain harmful pesticides, fungicides, or solvents (you may prefer to choose an organic oil obtained through carbon dioxide or cold-pressed extraction)
- Is independently tested (to make sure it meets quality standards)
- Contains enough CBD and little or no THC.
- Allows you to accurately adjust the dose (tinctures are preferable over treats)
- Is produced by a company committed to animal welfare
As mentioned, be sure not to confuse CBD oil with hemp oil. Some manufacturers sell hemp for dogs claiming it will lower anxiety and reduce seizures, but they don’t even state the oil’s CBD content.
The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of CBD oil users who may or may not have veterinary or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.
Do not consider user experiences as veterinary advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional veterinary advice for your dog because of something you have read on SelfHacked.
People mainly bought CBD oil to improve their dog’s anxiety due to loud noises, separation, car trips, and unfamiliar environments. Other conditions popularly improved with this oil included arthritis, epilepsy, lack of appetite, and pain due to terminal cancer. Most users were satisfied and reported good results.
In a few cases, the users reported the oil wasn’t as effective as they expected or didn’t work at all. Some users stopped giving their dogs CBD oil after noticing it caused them digestive issues and drowsiness, while others complained that their dogs wouldn’t eat the treats or food with the oil on it.
Many people report CBD oil helps their dogs overcome anxiety in stressful situations. They also say it works for inflammatory conditions, pain, and seizures. Research in animals and humans seems to back them up, though studies in dogs are uncommon.
Veterinarians are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about CBD oil. It’s best to talk to an experienced vet before giving CBD oil to your dog.
Make sure to get your dog a high-quality CBD oil free of THC and chemicals (such as additives, flavors, and pesticides). Importantly, don’t confuse CBD oil with hemp oil.
Most dogs tolerate CBD oil well. Talk to your vet to adjust the dosage to your dog’s weight and start low to reduce the risk of side effects.