Over two-thirds (68%) of Americans own a pet. Since you’re reading this guide, we’re guessing you’re one of them. Your furry loved one may be a dog, a cat, a bird, or something more exotic. Whether they have fur or feathers, your pet feels like a part of your family, and you’d do anything to keep them happy and healthy.

In furtherance of that goal, many pet owners seek out fun enrichment toys, science-backed meal plans, and health-promoting wellness supplements for their pets. One of those supplements is CBD oil.

CBD oil has become quite popular among humans in recent years, due to the wide range of health benefits it offers. Now, researchers are finding that many of those same therapeutic benefits can also help out our four-legged friends.

While the research on CBD oil among cats and dogs is still in its infancy, thus far the results are promising. For pets, CBD oil appears to relieve anxiety, reduce pain and inflammation, and give their immune systems an overall boost.

In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about CBD oil for your pets, from the types of products you can buy to finding the right dose.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of many chemical compounds (known as cannabinoids) that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Manufacturers use carbon dioxide or a solvent like olive oil to extract CBD oil from the plant. As the solvent goes through the plant, it absorbs CBD. After extraction, the solvent evaporates, resulting in a concentrated form of pure CBD.

While it’s growing in popularity, CBD is less well-known than another cannabinoid that’s found in the cannabis plant. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, also comes from cannabis, and it’s notorious for producing the “high” of marijuana. While they both come from the same plant, CBD contains no psychoactive properties and will not get you (or your pets) high.

Also unlike THC, CBD is legal in all 50 states. This, along with its lack of psychoactive properties, makes it an attractive option for anyone looking for an all-natural wellness supplement for their pet.

While CBD is beneficial for both humans and pets, it affects us differently. We’ll dig into the details in the following section.

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System in Pets

As mammals, humans, dogs, and cats all have an endocannabinoid system. The primary purpose of our endocannabinoid system is to regulate our bodily functions and keep them in a balanced state. This includes our mood, appetite, pain response, and more.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is composed of three main elements: endocannabinoids (which have a similar structure to external cannabinoids like CBD); cannabinoid receptors (to which the endocannabinoids and cannabinoids bind); and enzymes (which break down the endocannabinoids after they’ve served their use).

When pets (or humans, for that matter) ingest CBD, the extra cannabinoids add to their internal endocannabinoid numbers, boosting the effectiveness of the overall endocannabinoid system. The CBD binds to cannabinoid receptors to treat whatever issue is currently out of balance. Perhaps your pet’s appetite is low, so the CBD helps the ECS boost it. Alternately, if they’re feeling anxious during a lightning storm, the CBD helps the ECS calm them back down.

Depending on the particular issue affecting your pet, CBD will bind to specific receptors in their brain, including the vanilloid, adenosine, and serotonin receptors. This interaction helps their endocannabinoid system better regulate inflammation and pain perception, while also increasing dopamine levels in their brain—leading to an lift in mood and reduction in anxiety. There’s also evidence that CBD can block GPR55 signaling, which may slow cancer cell reproduction.

Benefits of CBD for Pets

The list of benefits CBD provides for pets is a long one. Studies show CBD can help relieve the following canine and feline conditions:

  • Chronic pain and inflammation: When your pet consumes CBD, it targets cannabinoid receptors in the inflamed area where they are experiencing pain, whether from arthritis, old joints and hips, nerves, or something else. It also binds to receptors in the brain involved in serotonin production, boosting their mood and adjusting their perception of the pain. A small study found that a twice daily 2mg/kg dose of CBD increased movement and reduced pain among dogs with osteoarthritis.
  • Anxiety: Many dogs experience separation anxiety, or get nervous during fireworks or thunderstorms. Meanwhile, both cats and dogs alike can get nervous about going to the vet or driving in the car. Pet owners can give their pets CBD before they leave home for work, or before they get in the car, relieving their anxiety before the stressful event. The CBD engages the serotonin receptors in their brain, calming them down and boosting mood.
  • Seizures: Both dogs and cats can have epilepsy, although it’s less common among cats. For owners of pets with epilepsy, seizures are an extremely distressing experience. Problematically, many of the drugs prescribed to treat canine or feline epilepsy negatively impact their mood and energy levels, and can lead to even worse outcomes like kidney or heart failure. Fortunately, CBD has proven to be extremely effective in reducing the frequency of seizures for humans (in fact, the only currently FDA-approved drug with CBD is for pediatric epilepsy), and it seems to do the samefor our furry friends, too..
  • Cancer and related nausea: Nausea is a common side effect of the medications prescribed to dogs and cats with cancer. CBD can significantly reduce nausea, improving the quality of life for these animals. Furthermore, some studies indicate CBD may be able to slow or inhibit cancer cell growth.
  • Skin and fur problems: Just as people may take CBD to improve their acne or psoriasis, CBD has similar beneficial effects for dogs and cats. If your pet has dry, itchy, or otherwise irritated skin, CBD can soothe their skin while making their fur softer, shinier, and stronger.
  • Appetite stimulus: Many cats and dogs living with a chronic illness often have to change their diet as a result of their treatment. However, many pets have trouble adjusting to the new diet, and may lose their appetite as a result—which makes it harder for them to stay healthy and cope with the other symptoms of their illness. CBD helps boost appetite, by binding to and triggering the brain receptors responsible for hunger, enabling these pets to accept their new diet and maintain a healthy weight.

Even if your pet isn’t dealing with one of these issues, a daily CBD supplement can be a smart preventative measure. Think of it like a daily vitamin for your pet, helping balance their mood, energy, and physical health.

Types of CBD Oil for Pets

The name CBD oil is confusing to some, as CBD is available in many more formats than just oils. The most common CBD products for pets include:

  • CBD oil tinctures: These oil bottles contain CBD oil and a dropper, which you can use to add drops of the oil to your pet’s food or drink, or apply it sublingually to their tongue. It’s often easiest to measure out specific doses with CBD oil tinctures.
  • CBD capsules: CBD capsules resemble the pills you might otherwise give your cat or dog. They’re small enough to hide or smush into their food, or you may be able to open them and spread the powder over their food.
  • CBD dog treats: CBD treats are more commonly made for dogs, but they resemble any other kind of treat your dog enjoys, except that they contain CBD. With dog treats, you’ll want to double check you’re okay with the other ingredients, as these will contain more calories than the other types of CBD products.
  • CBD topicals: CBD topicals are balms, salves, and topical sprays you can apply directly to your pet’s body, by rubbing it into their fur or paws as a nice massage. These can be a good option for skin and fur issues, or canine arthritis. With these, check if the product is safe for your pet to eat. If it’s not, make sure you apply it in an area they won’t be able to reach with their tongue.

Which Product Should You Choose?

When applied sublingually, CBD oil tinctures are the fastest-acting of these methods, as they allow the CBD to directly enter your dog’s bloodstream under the tongue. This makes oil tinctures best for treating acute conditions, like a thunderstorm.

We recommend CBD oil tinctures for any condition, though, since the dropper allows you to consistently measure out the right dose for your pet. Further, one clinical study of dogs observed that tinctures provided the highest rates of absorption by the bloodstream. If your pet isn’t agreeable to a sublingual tincture, adding the oil to their food is a good compromise.

However, some pet owners prefer CBD capsules or treats. It’s important to note that with these methods, the CBD will travel through your pet’s digestive system first, so it will take longer for them to feel the effects. Depending on your pet’s metabolism, this could take 45 minutes to over an hour, so you’ll want to time the dosage accordingly (say, 45 minutes before you go for the anxiety-producing car ride).

How Much CBD Do You Give Your Pet? Finding the Right Dose

Unfortunately, because CBD is a newer therapy, there are no official dosing guidelines available for CBD. However, there are best practices you can follow, and your veterinarian can provide further guidance. The general rule of thumb is to provide your pet with 0.2mg of CBD for every 1 pound of their body weight. Here’s how that breaks down:If this concerns you, we recommend trying CBD oils instead. Oil tinctures provide the best way to consistently measure out a dose, and they also tend to have the highest rates of absorption by the bloodstream.

Pet’s body weight Starting dose of CBD
5 lbs 1mg
10 lbs 2mg
15 lbs 3mg
20 lbs 4mg
25 lbs 5mg
30 lbs 6mg
35 lbs 7mg
40 lbs 8mg
45 lbs 9mg
50 lbs 10mg
55 lbs 11mg
60 lbs 12mg
65 lbs 13mg
70 lbs 14mg
75 lbs 15mg
80 lbs 16mg
85 lbs 17mg
90 lbs 18mg
95 lbs 19mg
100 lbs 20mg

Is CBD Oil Safe for Pets?

Yes, veterinarians and researchers agree that CBD oil is generally safe for dogs and cats. Moreover, it rarely produces any side effects. If any side effects occur, it’s often among puppies or kittens, or when the pet was given an abnormally high dosage. To avoid this, always start with the lowest recommended dose and only give CBD to adult dogs or cats.

The most common side effect of CBD is slight drowsiness, which is often more present at the beginning of a CBD regimen. More extreme, although very rare, side effects may include nausea, dry mouth, vomiting, or changes in blood pressure. If you notice any of these, or if your pet starts acting very odd or drooling excessively), stop the CBD regimen and consult your veterinarian.

The other problem occurs when people give their pets CBD oil sourced from marijuana, as opposed to hemp. Hemp-sourced CBD oil contains 0.3% THC or less, but marijuana often contains 5% to 20%. THC can be toxic to both dogs and cats, and depending on where you live, it may also be illegal.

THC is especially dangerous for dogs because they have a higher number of CB1 receptors in their brain than humans do, and these are the receptors THC primarily bonds to. When either dogs or cats ingest THC, it can increase their anxiety and cause negative side effects like vomiting. To avoid this, only purchase CBD oils sourced from industrial hemp. These will contain 0.3% THC or less, will not get your pet “high,” and will be safe for your dog or cat to consume.

Finally, pets should only be given CBD oil that was made for pets. Pets should not take CBD oil for humans, and vice versa (humans should not take CBD oil for pets). Due to the differences in our endocannabinoid systems, taking a CBD oil that was designed for another species can lead to adverse effects. Further, human CBD oil may contain sweeteners that can be toxic for pets.

As CBD oil for pets is still a new and growing industry, it’s important to take a few extra precautions to ensure the product you’re buying will be safe for Fifi or Fido.

  • Only purchase CBD oils that are sourced from hemp. These will contain higher amounts of beneficial CBD, and 0.3% THC or less. As a result, they’ll be safe for your pet to use, legal no matter where you live in the U.S., and they will not get your pet high or cause other unintended side effects.
  • Know the difference between CBD oil and hemp oil (or hemp seed oil). While both come from the cannabis plant, hemp oil only comes from the seeds of the plant. These seeds contain very little CBD. While hemp oil is vitamin-rich and is a favored nutritional supplement, it will not provide the beneficial effects of CBD oil. Those are only available with CBD oil, which comes from other parts of the cannabis plant, like the leaves and flowers.
  • Only buy from manufacturers that use responsible sourcing and testing practices. Reputable CBD manufacturers use third-party labs to test the safety of their ingredients and the concentration of CBD. They’ll also make these test results available online or in their physical product packaging. Further, they’ll source their CBD from organic, non-GMO hemp grown locally in the USA—reducing the chances that any toxins or pesticides will be included in the CBD oil.
  • Speak to your veterinarian. It’s especially important to consult your veterinarian if your pet is taking any other medication, in order to avoid any negative interactions between their drugs and the CBD. However, any pet owner can benefit from speaking to their vet first as they can help you determine the appropriate dosage for your pet.