Understanding CBD Oil For Dogs: Benefits, Pros, Cons & Risks

cbd oil for dogs

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This content was reviewed and fact-checked by veterinarian Dr. Aukse Caraite, DVM.

Recently, you may have heard a lot about CBD oil for dogs and wondered if it’s worth trying. CBD oil is becoming a more popular treatment for dogs with various issues, but many questions surround its use. What exactly is CBD oil? Are there risks associated with using it on dogs? Does it really work? And most importantly, is it safe? Here’s everything you need to know about CBD for dogs, according to science.

What Is CBD Oil For Dogs?

CBD oil, short for cannabidiol oil, is a natural extract derived from the hemp plant, a variety of the Cannabis sativa species. Unlike its close relative marijuana, hemp contains less than 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that produces a “high.” This means the commercially available CBD pet products will not produce a psychoactive effect or a “high.” on your dog.

CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant. These compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis and regulating various physiological processes. While marijuana is illegal in most states, hemp-derived oil is legal in all 50 U.S. states.

What’s The Difference Between CBD Oil & Hemp Oil For Dogs?

Many people confuse CBD and hemp-derived pet products. Dog CBD oil is not the same as hemp oil.

Dog CBD Oil

CBD oil is extracted from the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the hemp plant and is rich in cannabidiol (CBD), a compound known for its medical and therapeutic effects. CBD oil is primarily used to treat specific dog health issues and can be administered orally, added to food, or applied topically. It leverages CBD’s medicinal properties to provide targeted relief and improve overall well-being.

Dog Hemp Oil

Hemp oil, also known as hemp seed oil, is made from the hemp plant’s seeds and contains minimal to no CBD. It is valued for its nutritional benefits, rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that support general health and wellness. Unlike CBD oil, hemp oil is not used to address specific medical conditions but serves as a dietary supplement to enhance dogs’ overall nutrition and well-being.

How Is CBD Oil For Dogs Made?

CBD oil for dogs is made through a meticulous process that begins with the cultivation of high-quality hemp plants, bred to contain high CBD and low THC levels. Once harvested, CBD is extracted from the plant material using CO2 extraction, a method that ensures safety and efficiency. The extract may undergo winterization to remove unwanted fats and waxes, followed by distillation to refine it further. The purified CBD is then blended with a carrier oil, such as MCT or hemp seed oil, to enhance bioavailability. Rigorous third-party testing ensures the oil’s purity, potency, and safety before bottling, packaging, and distributing.

Several methods are available for extracting CBD oil for dogs, including carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction, ethanol extraction, and cold press extraction. The CO2 extraction method is generally considered the safest as it does not leave behind harmful residues like ethanol extraction or capture less beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes like cold press extraction.

Is CBD Oil Safe For Dogs?

According to a 2017 World Health Organization report, CBD appears safe and well-tolerated by animals.[1] Most vets agree that CBD oil is safe if your dog is not given an intoxicating amount of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana).

Here is what science says about CBD safety on dogs:

  1. A 12-week study where CBD was given orally twice a day did not report any side effects, with the researchers concluding that “CBD-rich hemp nutraceuticals appear to be safe in healthy adult dogs.” [2]
  2. According to a 2021 study using high dosages and a placebo as a comparison, only mild side effects were reported, such as hypersalivation and increased liver enzymes.[3] Dogs are more sensitive to THC because their brains contain more cannabinoid receptors.[4]
  3. Colorado State University found healthy dogs tolerated CBD well, with mild diarrhea and slightly elevated serum ALP (liver enzyme) levels. More extensive studies are needed to determine any long-term effects of CBD on dogs’ livers, but researchers found no immediate liver toxicity.[5]
  4. An experiment done in 2020 showed that animals that received high doses of CBD-rich extracts (10mg CBD and 0.5mg THC/kg body weight) experienced hyperesthesia (heightened sensitivity to sight or touch), swaying, and abnormal movements. The effects were attributed to THC rather than CBD. Based on these findings, dog owners who use full-spectrum CBD products (which can contain up to 0.3% THC) should avoid large doses and pay attention to their dogs’ reactions.[6]

We’ve found no reports of significant side effects or adverse health concerns from pet owners (or veterinarians, for that matter) using CBD oils or treats.

Benefits Of CBD Oil For Dogs

CBD oil may improve your dog’s quality of life and provide relief for several health conditions, including:

  • Wellness & preventive care
  • Seizures and epilepsy
  • Nausea
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Joint pain
  • Symptoms of cancer
  • Gastrointestinal issues ( Digestion problems)
  • Protects the nervous system
  • Increases appetite
  • Cancer
cbd oil for dogs benefits

The Scientific Research Behind Dog CBD Oil Benefits

Reduces aggressive behaviorA 2021 study of shelter dogs found that CBD reduced aggressive behavior toward humans.
ArthritisA 2018 study of dogs with osteoarthritis found that CBD reduced pain and improved activity levels.
Pain reductionA 2018 study led by Dr. Joe Wakshlag and a group of researchers from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine treated a group of dogs that suffered from osteoarthritis with different doses of CBD oil. The study found a significant decrease in pain and a substantial increase in activity level in dogs treated with CBD compared to the placebo group, which experienced a slight increase in pain.[9] Another study on canine osteoarthritis-related pain found that CBD reduced pain in dogs with this condition.
Improves quality of lifeCBD is associated with significantly improved quality of life as quantitated by both owner and veterinarian in a controlled study of daily cannabidiol for treating canine osteoarthritis.
Anticarcinogenic propertiesCBD showed anti-cancer effects against canine cancer in several studies.
Antiepileptic treatmentA 2019 research study led by Dr. Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, found up to 89% reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures in dogs treated with CBD oil.[7],[8]
Anti-inflammatory propertiesA 2021 study of dog immune cells found that CBD had anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulating effects. CBD was able to modulate the cytokine production stimulated by Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and thus reduced the inflammatory response
Veterinarian-recommended82.2% of 2,130 American veterinarians approved or strongly approved the medical use of CBD/hemp products for dogs in a 2019 survey. Vets and pet owners most commonly discuss CBD for helping with pain, anxiety, seizures, storm or fireworks-related phobias, and gastrointestinal conditions.[10]

Scientific research on CBD oil for dogs is still emerging, but existing studies provide promising evidence of its benefits in managing pain, anxiety, seizures, inflammation, and more. As always, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian before starting any new treatment to ensure it is appropriate for your dog’s specific needs and health conditions.

How Does CBD Work In Dogs: The Endocannabinoid System

CBD (cannabidiol) works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). All vertebrate animals, including humans, dogs, birds, amphibians, fish, and reptiles, have an ECS. This system is part of all 11 major physiological systems of the body and plays a crucial role in maintaining balance and promoting homeostasis across various functions. The ECS helps regulate mood, appetite, memory, metabolism, sleep, pleasure, movement, coordination, immune response, and more.

The ECS responds to cannabinoids produced by the body (endogenous cannabinoids) and external cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD). When administered, CBD interacts with the ECS, enhancing its ability to maintain homeostasis and provide therapeutic benefits. CBD acts as a key that activates the ECS, initiating its functions such as modulating pain, reducing inflammation, improving movement and coordination, and the previously mentioned benefits.

According to research, manipulating the ECS with external cannabinoids like CBD oil can be beneficial in treating various medical conditions. For instance, CBD’s interaction with the ECS can help alleviate symptoms in dogs, such as anxiety, chronic pain, and seizures. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that external cannabinoids could offer therapeutic benefits in treating several ailments.

According to the National Institute of Health, manipulating the endocannabinoid system with an external cannabinoid like CBD oil could be beneficial in treating several medical ailments.[11] A properly functioning ECS is essential for your dog’s overall health and wellness. 

Risks of CBD Oil In Dogs

Dr. Gary Richter, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California, and author of “The Ultimate Pet Health Guide,” says that it is rare to see pets show adverse side effects when given the correct dosage.

CBD is not for every pet. Side effects potentially due to CBD treatment have been reported.[12] Dr. McGrath says, “I would be a little concerned about giving CBD to a dog with known liver issues because CBD appears to be metabolized by the liver. You also need to be wary about giving CBD to a dog who already takes a medication metabolized by the liver. We don’t know these things interact right now.” Some canine studies also noted increased liver enzyme alkaline phosphatase (ALP) during CBD treatment. 

PetMD’s veterinary advisor, Dr. Jennifer Coates, points out that ingesting large amounts of marijuana has been fatal in several dogs, so preventing overdoses with cannabis-derived products such as CBD oil is important.[13] Another big concern dog parents should keep in mind is quality control. The CBD market isn’t well regulated yet, and CBD products could contain ingredients not listed on their labels, including THC, which is toxic to dogs. 

The American Kennel Club states that there aren’t many scientific studies on the side effects of CBD oil on dogs and that it is important to consider how CBD oil affects people since the human and canine Endocannabinoid systems are essentially the same.

Side Effects of CBD Oil For Dogs

  • Dry mouth (Increased thirst)
  • Drowsiness
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching
  • Dizziness

Can My Dog Overdose On CBD?

CBD (cannabidiol) is generally considered safe for dogs, but as with any substance, there are limits to how much can be safely administered. A fatal overdose is highly unlikely if the product contains 0% or 0.3% or less THC. If your dog ingests a large amount of a CBD product or if the CBD product has a higher than usual percentage of THC, an overdose could occur, leading to some adverse effects, including lethargy, impaired balance or coordination, urinary incontinence, vomiting or increased sensitivity to the senses.

Pros And Cons Of CBD Oil For Dogs

Pros

  • There is only one FDA-approved prescription CBD medication (Epidiolex) for treating seizures, further highlighting CBD’s potential therapeutic advantages
  • Most dog parents report beneficial effects after administering CBD to their dogs
  • Helps with an array of dog health issues
  • It may even help fight cancer in dogs
  • Super easy to administer
  • Works fast as far as benefits
  • Substantial evidence that CBD works
  • Human and animal studies have proven CBD can be beneficial to dogs
  • Hemp-derived CBD oil is legal in many countries
  • As of March 2020, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has not received reports of adverse events connected to animals given Cannabis products

Cons

  • May cause them to become lethargic and depressed
  • The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved CBD for use in dogs (or humans). The FDA is still awaiting more conclusive evidence to support CBD fully
  • The industry is not as regulated as others
  • Overdosing could happen if your dog drinks copious amounts of CBD
  • Any medication or supplement carries the risk of a reaction
  • Need more longitudinal studies on its effects
  • Accidental ingestion can cause adverse effects
  • CBD is categorized by the (DEA) as a controlled substance
  • Potential side effects include dry mouth, low blood pressure, and drowsiness

Full-Spectrum vs Broad-Spectrum vs Isolate

These are three types of CBD oil for dogs.

Full Spectrum

Full-spectrum CBD contains all the naturally occurring compounds found in the hemp plant, including a variety of cannabinoids (such as CBD, CBN, CBD, CBG, and CBA and trace amounts of THC, typically below 0.3%), terpenes (i.e., limonene, alpha-pinene), flavonoids, and other beneficial plant compounds.

The combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds enhances CBD’s therapeutic effects. This synergy is known as the “entourage effect.” Full-spectrum CBD is believed to be the most beneficial type of CBD because it contains multiple cannabinoids and other compounds.

Broad-Spectrum

Broad-spectrum CBD contains a range of cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds found in the hemp plant, but it has all the THC removed. Thus, it still offers the benefits of the entourage effect without the risk of THC.

Isolate

CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD, with all other compounds from the hemp plant removed. It consists solely of CBD. CBD isolate does not benefit from the entourage effect, which may reduce its overall therapeutic potential compared to full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products.

Which One Should You Pick?

Choosing between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate depends on your specific needs and preferences. Full-spectrum CBD offers the most comprehensive benefits due to the entourage effect but includes trace amounts of THC. Broad-spectrum CBD provides a similar range of benefits without THC, making it a good middle ground. CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD, free from any other compounds, and is ideal for those who need high doses of CBD or must avoid THC entirely.

A graphic representation of the different types of CBD compounds and their benefits.

Dosage

The amount of CBD oil you administer to your dog will vary by manufacturer. Remember, each bottle of CBD comes in different concentrations expressed in milligrams (mg). Underdosing is preferred at first. Monitor your dog’s response; if everything seems to be going well, shift to the manufacturer’s dosing guidelines for your specific CBD oil. Most CBD oil companies for dogs will provide detailed product dosing guidelines. Know that a clear and safe dosage level standard hasn’t been set by research, but you can learn more in our CBD dosage guide.

Dog CBD Products

While CBD oil is the most popular alternative for dogs, other options exist.

Oils

Dog CBD oils are administered beneath the tongue using a dropper, which is the most popular method for giving CBD to dogs. Compared to other dog CBD products, CBD oils have the fastest rate of absorption and efficacy because the oil enters the bloodstream directly when applied orally. CBD oils can also be added to smoothies and foods. We’ve created a thorough guide of brands offering the best CBD oil for dogs. Read our review of our best CBD oil for dogs for more details.

Treats

Administering your dog’s CBD oil through a tincture can sometimes be challenging for several reasons, including the dog not sitting still, disliking the smell or taste, or avoiding opening their mouth. For these reasons, CBD dog treats can provide all the benefits of CBD in an enjoyable and tasty snack. CBD dog treats are convenient and come in many irresistible flavors, making it easy for your pup to enjoy them without noticing the difference between their favorite treat and medicine. The primary difference between CBD dog treats and CBD oil is that edibles usually take longer to absorb, as they need to be digested before the effects kick in. Learn about CBD dog treats, including when to use them, dosages, the best CBD dog treats, and more in our comprehensive guide.

Topicals

CBD topicals, such as balms, shampoos, gels and creams, are applied directly to a dog’s skin, providing localized relief. This method is particularly effective for targeting specific areas that need constant relief throughout the day. If your dog suffers from arthritis, muscle pain, joint pain, or skin allergies, applying a CBD topical can provide localized pain relief and a soothing sensation. These topicals can be an excellent option for constant relief during the day, offering a transdermal treatment that does not reach the bloodstream, thus providing moderate benefits and effectiveness.

The primary difference between CBD oil and topicals is that topicals are applied to the skin and offer localized relief without entering the bloodstream, making them less systemic but highly targeted. You can also use CBD topicals in conjunction with CBD oil treatments for enhanced support. Additionally, CBD dog shampoos can make bath time even more relaxing while helping to keep your pet’s skin pampered and supporting a shiny, full coat.

Capsules

CBD capsules are another effective way for your dog to consume and benefit from CBD. These pills are ideal for dogs who dislike the flavor of CBD oil. You can administer them directly or mix them with your dog’s food. The best CBD capsules for dogs provide equally beneficial results as other CBD products, but it may take slightly longer to see the effects because the capsule must dissolve once ingested. However, calculating the CBD dose with capsules is simpler, as each pill contains a predetermined amount and potency. For more information on choosing the best CBD capsules for dogs and proper dosing, consult our comprehensive guide.

Spray

CBD sprays for dogs are a convenient and versatile way to administer cannabidiol (CBD) to your pet. These sprays are designed to be applied to your dog’s food or water, making incorporating CBD into their daily routine easy. This method benefits dogs that are picky eaters or have difficulty taking pills or oils directly.

How Long Does It Take For CBD To Work On Dogs?

The reaction times of dogs to CBD oil vary depending on the treated condition. When taken orally, you can start seeing results for issues like situational anxiety as quickly as 5 to 30 minutes. However, for conditions such as arthritis or immune system issues, it can take as long as two weeks to see consistent improvement. Factors such as the brand and dosage of CBD oil also impact how long it takes to work on your dog. If you don’t notice a change or it’s taking longer than expected, you may need to adjust the CBD oil dosage slightly.

Evidence & Testimonials

Watch this short video on researchers studying the effectiveness of CBD for treating arthritis and epilepsy in dogs and how a dog named Tucker, suffering from right elbow arthritis, got cured thanks to Cannabidiol dogs.

Dog CBD Oil Testimonials

We scoured the internet and came across hundreds of dog parents praising CBD and how it’s done wonders for their dogs. Here are a couple of real testimonials we found.

Dog CBD Oil Evidence

Watch as this dog takes CBD to cure his seizures.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can technically give your dog human CBD oil for humans, but veterinarians strongly advise against this practice. CBD oil for people has different dosage levels, potencies (usually higher), and other ingredients that may not suit your pet. You may risk overdosing on your dog when giving human CBD oil. It’s advised to give your dog what’s manufactured for them, not people, and vice versa.

CBD oil has many uses. Dog owners usually give their dogs CBD oil by mixing it into their food (orally). It can also be beneficial to drop it directly into their mouths (sublingually under the tongue) or rub it onto affected areas (topically).

Yes. The federal government does not restrict dog owners from buying CBD oil if it is made from hemp.

Carrier oils are the oils into which CBD extracts are infused. In general, hemp seed oil and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil are the best carrier oils because they are rich in healthy fats. Our favorite carrier is hemp seed oil because of its balanced Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. Additionally, it contains antioxidants and amino acids that keep dogs’ skin and coat healthy.

There is no significant difference in the CBD oils manufactured for humans or dogs. However, the dosage amount of human CBD tinctures is different. The main differences are the labeling standards imposed by the FDA, flavors available, and dosage amounts per bottle.

The Bottom Line

CBD is a growing industry and trend among dog parents. Despite the need for more testing, current evidence suggests that CBD may benefit dogs. If you are looking for pain relief, sleep improvement, or help with more severe issues like seizures, CBD may be able to help. Make sure you do your research before purchasing a CBD product. Always verify third-party lab results and follow the dosing instructions carefully. The ongoing research results are positive and promising for this new holistic medicine alternative. Don’t forget to consult your vet if you consider giving CBD to your dog.


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Sources

Canine Bible uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process and product review methodology to learn more about how we fact-check, test products, and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. World Health Organization
  2. MDPI
  3. CBD 28-day Safety
  4. CBD vs THC
  5. AHVMA
  6. Pharmacokinetic and Safety Evaluation of CBD
  7. Colorado State University
  8. Colorado State University
  9. Cornell University
  10. U.S. Veterinarians’ Knowledge CBD Survey
  11. Endocannabinoid System
  12. AHVMA: CBD Side Effects
  13. PetMD

Editorial Team at Canine Bible

Canine Bible authorship represents the unified voice of our entire editorial team and our in-house veterinarians rather than a single author. Each article, blog post, and review published under the Canine Bible name undergoes a rigorous review process, involving all team members to guarantee accuracy and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research. This collaborative effort is an integral part of our editorial process and aligns with our four pillars of content creation. This approach ensures our content is backed by expert knowledge and factual information, offering our readers reliable, actionable, and trustworthy content.

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