Over a third of Americans own a dog in the United States. If you’re one of those “dog people,” your dog probably feels like part of the family. In fact, many of today’s dog owners care so deeply about their furry loved ones, that they plan to spend more on their dog over the course of its lifetime than they will on their own health care costs.
As a dog owner, you likely have your ears to the ground for the latest and greatest ways to treat your dog, from actual treats and food to enrichment toys and doggie daycare. If your dog’s health suffers at all, however, you may be looking for more serious options to improve their quality of life and wellbeing.
One such option is CBD. Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a cannabis compound that provides health benefits without the high of marijuana. Many dog owners are increasingly turning to CBD to treat a variety of canine conditions, from anxiety to arthritis.
CBD is legal in all 50 states, but the research around its effects on dogs is still developing. However, a growing number of veterinarians are recommending it to their clients. While the research is not yet definitive, many believe CBD offers several therapeutic benefits to dogs.
In this guide we’ll explore what those benefits might be, how to ensure you find CBD products that will be safe for your dog, and everything else you need to know about CBD for dogs.
CBD and the canine brain: How CBD affects dogs
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive extract of Cannabis. It is distinct from THC, which produces the “high” effect of marijuana. Both THC and CBD have been shown to be beneficial to humans, such as with medical marijuana. However, due to differences between the human and canine brains, THC can have adverse effects in dogs.
Cannabis affects the endocannabinoid system, which both dogs and humans have. Because dogs have more CB1 and THC receptors in their brain than humans do, cannabis affects us differently. Specifically, dogs are more sensitive to THC. If dogs ingest cannabis with THC, it can cause other unpleasant side effects, such as increased anxiety.
Due to this sensitivity, it is recommended that dogs only ingest products with CBD. Fortunately, since CBD is an extract of cannabis without THC, dogs can enjoy the benefits of CBD without the risk of THC.
And those benefits are numerous. The cannabinoid receptors in the dog’s brain help regulate its response to anxiety, physical pain, nausea, and more. According to research from The American Animal Hospital Association, when a dog ingests CBD, it can affect how they perceive pain and stress, and boost their dopamine levels, lifting their mood. On a physical level, CBD’s interaction with the canine endocannabinoid system can reduce inflammation and block GPR signaling, thereby lowering cancer cell reproduction.
Thanks to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, CBD can help dogs with a variety of physical and emotional ailments, including:
- Relieving arthritis and joint pain
- Reducing inflammation
- Relieving anxiety and related barking or whining from separation anxiety, stressful vet or grooming appointments, scary thunderstorms or fireworks
- Reducing nausea and vomiting from other medications or car rides
- Reducing seizures or epilepsy
- Suppressing muscle spasms
- Improving sleep
- Improving digestive and nervous system health
- Improving appetite
Does CBD really work for dogs?
According to a 2016 report published in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (JAHVMA), 58.8% of dog owners are currently using CBD products on their dog. Over three-quarters of those products were prescribed by a veterinarian.
Most commonly, dog owners tend to use CBD to provide their dogs relief from the following conditions.
49% of dog owners in the JAHVMA survey reported that CBD relieved their dogs’ anxiety by “a great deal” or “moderate amount.” The calming effect of CBD can relax dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. Dog owners can give their dog a daily dose to calm their nerves when they leave the house for work.
CBD can also calm dogs on a more irregular basis, such as when they get fearful during a thunderstorm or fireworks.
Canine epilepsy affects 4% of dogs. Many of the medications used to treat canine seizures have intense side effects, such as phenobarbital, which is associated with increased thirst and appetite (and subsequent weight gain), increased urination, ataxia in the hind legs, lethargy, and even depression. Anti-seizure medication can also be expensive.
CBD products, on the other hand, are less expensive and less physically taxing on a dog, leading many dog owners to use them to treat seizures.
The American Kennel for Canine Health Foundation recently funded a clinical study to gather hard data on the treatment potential of CBD for canine epilepsy. The preliminary data from the study, released this July, appears promising. Of the sixteen dogs in the clinical trial, nine were treated with CBD and seven were treated with a placebo. 89% of the dogs who received CBD experienced a reduced frequency of seizures.
As an anti-inflammatory, CBD relieves the chronic pain many older dogs with arthritis live with on a daily basis. Providing your older dog with a daily dose of CBD can make their daily life more comfortable and make it easier for them to move around, enabling them to be more active and live a fuller life.
A 2018 study of dogs with osteoarthritis provided dogs with either a 2mg/ml/kg CBD or placebo oil twice a day for four weeks. At the end of the study, the dogs who received the CBD oil demonstrated a significant improvement. They expressed less pain and were more active than the dogs who took the placebo.
Nausea is an unfortunate side effect of many canine cancer treatments and medications. Although no studies have been conducted with dogs specifically, multiple studies of humans have found that cannabis can reduce or prevent nausea.
There are also not any studies of the effects of CBD on canine cancer, but anecdotes abound where CBD therapy has improved symptoms and quality of life for canine cancer patients. In some cases, CBD even appears to slow cancer growth.
While it may seem shocking to some dog owners, there are dogs who have trouble with appetite. This can be a common problem in older dogs or dogs with cancer. CBD stimulates appetite by binding to receptors in their brain that trigger hunger, helping dogs keep up a healthy appetite.
How much CBD oil is safe for dogs?
To date, there are no official dosing guidelines for CBD and dogs. However, the general recommendation is 0.2 mg/ml of CBD per pound of your dog’s body weight per day. To be safe, start lower than this amount and slowly increase the dosage until you notice a positive response from your dog. At that point, stop increasing the dosage.
Unless your dog’s body weight drastically changes, you will not need to increase the dose amount, since they will not develop a tolerance to it the way some people do with THC.
To determine the ideal dose for your dog, you can use this formula:
0.2 x [your dog’s body weight, in pounds] = mg/ml of CBD per day
To save you the math, we’ve calculated this formula for various dog weights, which you can view in the chart below.
CBD for Dogs Dosage Chart
These are only intended to be used as general guidelines. Whichever CBD product you purchase will have its own recommended dosage amounts on the label. Those dosing guidelines, along with any additional guidance from your veterinarian, should take precedence over the chart below.
|Dog weight (in pounds)||Recommended daily amount of CBD|
|5 lbs||1 mg/ml|
|10 lbs||2 mg/ml|
|15 lbs||3 mg/ml|
|20 lbs||4 mg/ml|
|25 lbs||5 mg/ml|
|30 lbs||6 mg/ml|
|35 lbs||7 mg/ml|
|40 lbs||8 mg/ml|
|45 lbs||9 mg/ml|
|50 lbs||10 mg/ml|
|55 lbs||11 mg/ml|
|60 lbs||12 mg/ml|
|65 lbs||13 mg/ml|
|70 lbs||14 mg/ml|
|75 lbs||15 mg/ml|
Note: Depending on the legal status of marijuana in your state, your veterinarian may be more or less restricted in the recommendations they can provide to you regarding CBD and your dog. Because of conflicting federal and state guidelines, the American Veterinary Medical Association does not yet officially recommend CBD for dogs. However, they are preparing educational resources which your vet can access and use to share further information with you.
How and where to buy CBD for dogs
CBD products for dogs come in several shapes and forms, including:
- CBD oil
- CBD tinctures
- CBD oral and topical sprays
- CBD dog treats
- CBD balms
The best form of CBD for your dog depends on your preference and theirs. Some topical forms, like a balm, may be more suitable for dogs with arthritis, as you can provide them with a soothing massage as you administer the dose. If you provide your dog with CBD on a daily basis, though, a more practical application may be more efficient, such as an oil you mix into their food or a morning dog treat. If your dog doesn’t mind getting spritzed in the face, a CBD spray can be useful for emergency applications, such as when a thunderstorm starts.
When first introducing CBD to your dog, the American Kennel Club recommends starting with tinctures, as these are the easiest form to adjust the dose. Since you’ll likely be adjusting the dose a lot in the beginning, this is an important consideration.
Further, in one clinical trial, researchers tested multiple CBD delivery methods for dogs, including a transdermal cream applied to their ears, capsules delivered orally containing a powder form of CBD, and oil tinctures. Of the three, the oil tinctures consistently provided the highest and most consistent rates of bloodstream absorption.
Where to buy CBD for dogs
CBD is legal in all fifty states, and CBD products for dogs are widely available online. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to purchase CBD products at your local pet store or from your vet.
How to safely buy CBD for your dog
Currently, CBD is not regulated by the federal government, and there are discrepancies between the state and federal laws. As such, there’s a lack of regulation that allows less scrupulous manufacturers some leeway when it comes to labeling their products. One study of CBD products sold online for humans found that just over 20% of them contained undisclosed amounts of THC.
Because THC can be potentially dangerous for dogs, it’s up to pet owners to do their research to ensure they buy a product that’s safe for their dog. If you’re considering CBD for your pet, follow this checklist to find reliable products you can trust.
1. Only use products that are intended for dogs.
Humans and dogs have different endocannabinoid systems, and your dog may react very differently to a product than you. A manufacturer creating CBD products for dogs will take more care to ensure it doesn’t contain THC, due to the negative effect it has on some dogs. Plus, CBD products for humans may contain innocuous ingredients that are perfectly harmless to us, but can be unhealthy for your dog. Only purchase CBD products labeled for use by dogs.
2. Look for third-party testing.
Reputable manufacturers will use a third-party lab to analyze the strength of the CBD and other ingredients in their products. They’ll also include a certificate that displays the amount of CBD in your product. Finally, a brand that uses third party labs is less likely to inaccurately label their products or contain ingredients that may be harmful for your dog.
3. Follow the dosing guidelines.
Generally, about 1 mg/ml per every 5 pounds of your dog’s body weight is a safe daily dose. However, dosing may vary by product. Review the dosing guidelines on the label and follow them.
As you begin administering CBD to your dog, watch them closely and be on the lookout for any negative symptoms. You may want to keep a diary or even record your dog on video so you’re not just relying on your memory.
4. Talk to your veterinarian.
Your dosing may also vary based on your dog’s unique conditions, as well as any other medications they’re currently taking. Your vet can further recommend an appropriate dose, taking into account your dog’s age, health, and other factors. Do not replace any prescription medication your dog is taking with a CBD product without first talking to your vet.
5. Choose products extracted from hemp, NOT marijuana.
Hemp and marijuana are two plants in the cannabis family, and CBD products can be extracted from either of them. Marijuana, however, contains more THC than hemp, so CBD products extracted from marijuana plants can have more THC as well. Hemp plants, on the other hand, contain 0.3% THC at the most—compared with up to 30% in marijuana.
While THC can have its own benefits, it puts your dog at risk of increased anxiety and other uncomfortable side effects, so it’s best to avoid it in any CBD products you use for your dog.
Depending on where you live, you can also run into issues of legality if you purchase products that contain more than 0.3% THC. To keep your dog safe and your purchase legal, only purchase dog CBD products extracted from hemp.
6. Review the other ingredients.
Depending on the type of CBD product you use, it may contain other ingredients to make it more appealing to your pet. Check what these are and confirm that you’re okay with introducing them into your dog’s diet. For example, if the CBD product contains oil, remember that olive oil is easier on your dog’s digestion system than coconut oil.
It can also be a good idea to look exclusively for organic CBD products, since they won’t contain pesticides or other harmful ingredients.
7. Finally, trust your gut.
Review the brand’s “about us” page and read online reviews from other pet owners. Where do they source the cannabis for their products? How do they test it for safety on dogs? Does the price seem too good to be true? (An extremely low price can be an indication of poor quality).
If the brand or manufacturer doesn’t seem reputable to you for any reason, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it, look for another option. There are a growing number of CBD brands and products available online, and you will be able to find another, more suitable option you can trust.
CBD for Dogs: Common FAQ
There are a few more common questions people have about giving CBD to their dogs. We answer them below.
Is CBD safe for dogs?
When administered safely in the proper dosage amounts, CBD is generally considered safe for dogs. Typically, problems only occur when the dog overdoses on CBD or if the CBD product also includes THC. In the event of an overdose, the dog may experience drowsiness or an upset stomach. To avoid this outcome for your dog, ensure that you supply him or her with the proper dosage amount of a CBD product extracted from hemp only.
As we mentioned above, THC can increase anxiety in dogs. Additionally, dogs may experience an extreme adverse reaction if they ingest too much THC. Specifically, high THC concentration can result in static ataxia, causing them to sway or wobble, drool excessively, and experience body tremors or low blood pressure. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day for them to recover.
To date, most issues of toxicity reported to the AVMA have occurred among young puppies, and often involve other substances that are dangerous for dogs, such as chocolate, product wrappers, or xylitol (a common sugar substitute in human food products).
What are the side effects of CBD for dogs?
According to the American Kennel Club, high doses of CBD may cause the following side effects in dogs:
- Drowsiness: When CBD is used to treat anxiety, the dog may appear drowsy as a result of the calming effect. Consider reducing the dosage to reduce the drowsiness.
- Dry mouth: If a dog experiences dry mouth from CBD, they’ll produce less saliva and will drink more water as a result. If you notice your dog drinking more water than usual after a dose of CBD, consider reducing the dose.
- Decrease in blood pressure: CBD can cause a temporary drop in blood pressure. If your dog appears light-headed, consider reducing the dose.
Is hemp oil the same as CBD oil for dogs?
No, hemp oil (also called hemp seed oil) is not the same as CBD oil. Both CBD and hemp oil come from the hemp plant, buy hemp seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant while CBD is extracted from the trichomes of the plant’s flowers.
While hemp seed oil can improve your dog’s coat and skin health, it will not provide them with the health benefits of CBD. It does not contain any CBD. To enjoy the health benefits of CBD for your dog, the product should contain CBD oil, not hemp oil.
Can you give your dog human CBD oil?
Dogs have smaller brains than humans, and consequently fewer cannabinoid receptors. We also have larger endocannabinoid systems than our dogs. Because of this, dogs should not take CBD oil designed for humans. Human CBD products contain different ingredients and concentrations than CBD products designed for dogs, and what’s safe for humans isn’t necessarily safe for dogs.
Giving a dog CBD products designed for humans can overload your dog’s endocannabinoid system and result in uncomfortable side effects. Further, the product may contain other ingredients that are unsafe for dogs.
To be safe, it’s best to reserve dog CBD products for dog consumption only, and human CBD products for humans only.
How quickly does CBD oil work for dogs?
Typically, dogs begin to experience the effects of CBD within the first one to three hours of receiving their dose. How quickly your dog responds to CBD can depend on a variety of factors, such as the product, the dosage amount, or the age or health of your dog.
Alternatives to CBD for nervous or sick dogs
If you’re not sure about giving CBD to your dog, you can try other behavioral methods to treat your dog’s particular condition. You can also combine any of these methods with CBD to make your dog’s treatment more successful.
- A regular exercise routine is one of the best things to tucker out an over anxious dog. Give your dog’s brain and body something else to focus on with regular exercise, specialized agility or scent training, or even extended game play with you around the house.
- For dogs living with chronic pain, seek out additional dog products that make your home more comfortable for them. These might include dog booties that make it easier for them to walk around on your floors, or dog stairs to help them get on the couch or other higher surfaces.
- If your dog has a low appetite, you should talk to your vet about it. However, if they’re just a picky eater, you can tempt them with chicken broth, wet dog food, or plain boiled chicken.