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CBD for dogs: what is beneficial?

22/08/2022 5 MIN. READ Sophie Klingler
22/08/2022 5 MIN. READ Sophie Klingler

In humans, CBD can have not only analgesic or anti-inflammatory effects, but studies have shown it to be effective with other conditions, including some severe forms of epilepsy.

Since dogs are known to be the better humans, why should we deprive them of the effects of cannabinoids?

If you want to know more about whether that's actually such a good idea or not, read on.

Why the distinction between CBD and THC is so important

First of all, it should be made clear that dogs should never come into contact with higher doses of THC, as this can poison them. This also means you should definitely not smoke a joint or leave highly concentrated cannabis butter lying around (which is generally a bad idea anyhow) in a living space shared with a dog.

But, luckily, we can draw a clear line here between CBD and THC, as cannabis doesn't necessarily involve THC. Thanks to controlled commercial hemp cultivation, only hemp varieties with an extremely low THC content of maximum 0.2 percent are permitted in the EU. In fact, we now have a few initial studies on the use of CBD oil with dogs, in treating osteoarthritis or epilepsy, for example. And these aren't the only potential situations in which CBD might be relevant for our beloved furry friends.

The basics: What effects might CBD have on dogs?

We’re not the only animals on this planet that are naturally equipped with an endocannabinoid system – pretty much everything from primates to dogs to cnidarians also have them.

According to researchers, the almost universal presence of the endocannabinoid system and the fact that it developed rather early in evolutionary terms is a strong indicator of just how important it is in biological terms. But it also means that dogs have cannabinoid receptors. So at least in theory, CBD could prove effective for dogs. In treating what, you wonder

Potential uses of CBD oil with dogs

According to preliminary reports by dog owners and studies, CBD could be helpful for dogs with:

  • providing pain relief
  • anti-inflammatory needs
  • anxiety relief
  • relieving sleep problems
  • osteoarthritis
  • epilepsy (the most common neuropathic disease in dogs).

Surveys of dog owners on the use of CBD for dogs

The results of a U.S.-wide survey of nearly 1,000 dog owners were published in a 2018 scientific report. According to the report, eighty percent of respondents had already purchased a hemp product for their dog.

Respondents cited pain relief (60.2 percent) as the most common reason for using cannabis products on their dogs. This was followed by reducing inflammation (i.e., redness, heat, or swelling around an injured area) at 48.7 percent, and relieving anxiety, which was at 47.1 percent. One in ten used the products to treat their dog’s sleep issues.

Dog owners indicated that cannabis products were either more effective or at least as effective as conventional prescription medications for all of the issues mentioned. Less than 5 percent of dog owners reported significant adverse effects, while the majority of respondents observed no adverse effects whatsoever. The most frequently reported side-effect was sedation or fatigue, but even this was only mentioned by 3.9 percent of the respondents.

Although a placebo effect can’t be excluded, the results show that most owners were convinced that hemp products could help their dogs with several conditions and with minimal side-effects. Nevertheless, the survey results should be taken with a grain of salt until large-scale studies on the effects of CBD on dogs are available.

Study on CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis

In 2018, researchers studied the use of CBD in 16 dogs with osteoarthritis. A significant decrease in pain and increase in activity was observed in cases involving the use of CBD oil. Evaluations by veterinarians also showed a decrease in pain. For the administration of CBD to dogs, the scientists recommended a dosage of 2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight twice daily. For a dog weighing 20 kilos, that would be 40 milligrams of CBD twice a day.

While the owners observed no side-effects, blood levels did show an increase in alkaline phosphatase. Among other things, this value provides information about how well the liver and gall bladder are functioning. The scientists who conducted the studies suggest that it may therefore be advisable to monitor liver enzyme levels (especially AP levels) when giving industrial hemp products to to dogs, at least until controlled long-term studies are available.

Study on the use of CBD in dogs with epilepsy

Up to 5.6 percent of dogs worldwide suffer from epilepsy. There are sometimes severe side-effects with prescription medications that can only reduce the severity, frequency and duration of seizures in 20 to 30 percent of dogsand cannot prevent them altogether. So a pilot study from Colorado State University that was published in 2019 explored the use of CBD in dogs with epilepsy.

Two dogs treated with CBD had to discontinue the study because of ataxia, a movement disorder. Of the remaining 16 dogs, nine were treated with CBD oil while the remaining seven received a placebo. Both groups were also administered a drug for the treatment of epilepsy in parallel.

The proportion of dogs that showed any response to treatment (i.e., whose seizures decreased by at least 50 percent) was the same in both groups. However, the CBD group showed a significantly greater decrease in seizure frequency compared to the control group. A significant increase in AP levels was also noted as a side-effect of CBD.

In sum: CBD oil for dogs

In addition to surveys indicating positive effects in the use of CBD with dogs, initial studies have already been conducted on small experimental groups. Nevertheless, research in this area is still in its infancy.

As a side-effect, an increase in AP values must be kept in mind. It should also be kept in mind that CBD in humans, especially in higher doses, can cause, for example, dry mouth, low blood pressure, or drowsiness.

While it’s unclear whether this applies to dogs in the same way, possible side-effects like these have to be observed, since our four-legged friends can only communicate indirectly with us.

Clearly, it’s not advisable to treat your dog with CBD on your own. There are just too few studies on this area at this point. However, if your dog is suffering from discomfort, it might be a good idea to discuss a potential CBD treatment with your vet.

From a purely practical standpoint, CBD oil has proven to be a good delivery method for dogs. Should you potentially consider buy CBD or using it, you should make absolutely sure that the CBD oil contains as little THC as possible and that the product comes from a trusted CBD dealer.

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