CBD oil for dogs: A veterinarian explains the pros and cons
CBD oil is everywhere, and seemingly in everything. You’ve probably heard someone mention CBD, especially if you live with a chronic condition like pain or anxiety, or if you follow Kim Kardashian, who had a relaxing CBD-themed baby shower to celebrate her fourth child with husband Kanye West.
As some states have begun to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis, the market has enjoyed an influx of readily available CBD, including CBD oil for dogs to treat pain, anxiety, to control seizures and more in the family dog.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the many active compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another active compound and the most well-known, due to its psychoactive properties — it’s the compound that gets you “high.”
But, much like the use of CBD in humans, not a lot is known about how CBD oil for dogs works – and if it actually works. According to the American Kennel Club, there have been no formal studies in how it affects dogs, and our expert backed that up.
“Does it actually help with pain, or does it just make them not care? We don't know, but they seem to be less reactive to low level pain stimuli, for example arthritis and things like that, when they take the product,” explains Mark Verdino, MD, senior vice president and chief of veterinary staff at North Shore Animal League America. “And certain anxieties, they seem less reactive to certain things.”
Essentially, CBD is non-psychoactive but has a number of the same medical benefits as THC. This means you can take advantage of the therapeutic benefits for your pet without being concerned they will have the “stoned” feeling that goes with THC – which obviously would be very upsetting for a dog.
“The psychotic ingredient in it that makes people high is not present at CBD oil, and they're not entirely sure how the CBD, the Cannabidiol, actually works to do the things that they're claiming that it does,” says Verdino. “We don't know, but they seem to be less reactive to low level pain stimuli, so like arthritis and things like that, when they take the product. And certain anxieties, they seem less reactive to certain things.”
The doctor shared that he uses CBD for his own dog, a senior who gets jumpy in the evenings, and it seems to relax the animal.
“At night time when the lights are dimmed down, it's dark out, they don't see it well in the dark, and he gets a little spooked. And when I give him the CBD, he seems to just go to sleep.”
The question is, of course, how is it working. Verdino says, “So is it helping with the anxiety, or is it just making him drowsy? I don't know, but it seems to help. So we have a symptom, and it helps with that symptom.”
Could there be risks? At the moment, we don’t know. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD for use in dogs (or humans) and has not issued dosing recommendations, and any medication or supplement carries the potential risk of reaction, so it’s important to try a small dose first and monitor how your dog reacts to it.
Verdino had some words of advice if you choose to give your dog CBD, saying, “I recommend people use a pet-specific product just so that they know that the concentration is appropriate, that there's nothing else in it to... because look, this is a fairly unregulated industry.” Products include tinctures with a dropper that are easy to use to fill a pill pouch, such as Elevate for dogs. There are also treats available like MediPets CBD Treats, Hemp My Pet biscuits and King Kalm Crunch CBD treats.
And with good reason, as many human friendly CBD products are in gummy form. “There's really nothing to prevent a CBD company from making it flavored with an artificial sweetener like Xylitol, which is toxic for animals. So I would definitely choose a veterinary-specific product, and I would choose one that seems to be from a more reputable manufacturer,” according to the doctor.
Bottom line? CBD products for dogs – whether oil or in a treat – have been shown to anecdotally help with some issues like pain and anxiety, but too few studies are available to conclusively say they will help. It’s best to talk with your vet about your dog’s specific issues and heed the doctor’s recommendations.