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Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is a type of chemical naturally found in cannabis. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it’s nonpsychoactive, which means it won’t produce a “high.”

Research on CBD is in its early stages, but some studies and anecdotal evidence have found that it may be helpful in treating conditions like anxiety, pain, cancer, and arthritis. CBD pet products are marketed as a natural way to treat these conditions in dogs, making pet owners curious.

It’s important to understand that just because these products are for sale doesn’t necessarily mean they’re considered safe or beneficial for pets.

Currently, there are no CBD products approved by the FDA for use in animals — as a drug or as food. Given that, this article will cover current research into CBD use for dogs, as well as explain the possible risks and benefits to help you make an informed decision.

A recent survey of 2,131 participants conducted by the VIN News Service found that 63 percent of veterinarians reported that they were asked about CBD oil for pets at least once a month.

But veterinarians aren’t always willing to discuss it — those who advise clients on using CBD for their pets can risk penalties and license suspension in some states.

In other states, veterinarians have a little more freedom. California recently passed a law that prevents state regulators from penalizing veterinarians for talking with clients about using cannabis for their pets, including potential side effects and toxicities.

Other bills like this are in the works, but for now, don’t expect your veterinarian to recommend CBD products, and definitely don’t expect a prescription.

Even in states where medicinal cannabis is legal, the existing laws only allow for a human healthcare provider to prescribe cannabis to people. They don’t authorize veterinarians to administer, dispense, prescribe, or recommend such products for use in animal patients.

Takeaway Because there’s little research on CBD for dogs, and its safety and efficacy is unknown, you should always talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog CBD. Know that in some states, your vet may not be able to provide a professional recommendation or opinion.

Research done on CBD and humans has shown that it may be effective in treating epilepsy, anxiety, irritable bowel disease (IBD), and chronic pain. But only a few reliable studies have been done on the effects of CBD in dogs.

One study from 2018 sought to assess safety, anti-inflammatory properties, and anti-pain properties of a CBD oil in dogs with osteoarthritis. Researchers gave dogs doses of 2 or 8 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight.

Eighty percent of the dogs showed improvement in their pain and mobility, as measured by two veterinary resources — the canine brief pain inventory and the Hudson activity scale. However, it’s important to note that this study was funded by a CBD producer, so the results may be biased.

A small study published in 2019 found that epileptic dogs given CBD in addition to seizure medication had significantly fewer seizures than those that received seizure medication and a placebo.

However, similar numbers of dogs in both the CBD group and the placebo group responded to treatment and had decreases in seizure activity. The authors recommended further testing before reaching any definitive conclusions.

While these studies and others like them could give a window into CBD’s medicinal potential for dogs, more studies are needed to confirm this research.

CBD for pets comes in many forms, like treats, oils, and creams. But research on the efficacy of each method is sparse.

One Colorado State University study from 2018 on dogs with epilepsy found that CBD oil, given orally, was more effective than a cream or gel capsule. However, more research is needed before any conclusions can be made.

The previously referenced 2018 study on dogs with osteoarthritis showed that the most effective dose for increasing the dogs’ comfort and activity levels was 2 mg per kg of weight.

However, because this study may be biased, and because other data on CBD dosage for dogs is sparse, this shouldn’t be considered a dosing recommendation.

Every dog will respond differently, which is why it’s important to start with a small dose, monitor your pet’s results, and adjust from there. Most products will offer dosing suggestions, but keep in mind that these are developed by the manufacturer.

Since CBD isn’t regulated, there’s no way to tell how much is safe and effective to give a dog.

Tips

  • Start with a low dose.
  • Monitor your pet’s reactions.
  • Increase doses slowly if needed.

Because the FDA doesn’t currently regulate CBD, there’s a lot of variability in products on the market. That means that certain CBD products for humans and pets are more effective than others.

A good rule of thumb when selecting CBD products is to look on the product’s website for “certificates of analysis” and other evidence of third-party testing. These certificates tell you things like if products are pesticide and heavy metal-free and if the quality is as advertised.

You may also want to consider whether a product contains THC in addition to CBD. Currently, there’s even less research on the effects of THC in dogs than there is on the effects of CBD.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists THC as a toxic substance for dogs and cats. Although the lethal dose of THC is more than 3 grams per kg, negative effects may occur at lower levels.

Make sure you research each brand before purchasing, and consult a veterinarian about the side effects and toxicities that these products may cause in your pet before treating.

If you give CBD to your dog, watch for signs of a positive or negative reaction.

For example, if you give CBD to your dog 20 minutes before a firework show and find them lying comfortably during the festivities when they’d otherwise be cowering under a bed, the CBD has probably been effective.

Or, if your dog’s arthritis has been causing mobility issues, and after about a week of CBD. they’re able to run and jump like they used to, chances are high it’s doing something.

As for negative effects, look for excessive panting, lethargy, vomiting, dribbling urine, and loss of balance. If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms, they may have consumed too much and may be experiencing toxic effects.

In this case, it’s best to visit your veterinarian. They’ll be able to help you regardless of whether they’re willing to discuss CBD with you.

Overall, it’s important to recognize that research on CBD in pets is sparse. CBD isn’t currently regulated by the FDA, so there may be safety issues if products are inaccurately labeled. On the other hand, anecdotal evidence and some preliminary studies suggest that CBD may be useful in treating certain conditions in animals.

If you decide to try CBD for your dog, talk to your vet first. Then start with a small dose and carefully monitor your pet for positive or negative effects.

Is CBD Legal? Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Check your state's laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.


Alexa Peters is a freelance writer who covers music, culture, travel, and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Paste, the Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine, and Amy Poehler's Smart Girls.