Can CBD Be Used by Cats & Dogs?

Like you, your pet has an endocannabinoid system (ECS). So, like you, your dog or cat could benefit from the effects of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD is one of over 100 known cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Both marijuana and hemp are types of cannabis (think of them as cousins), but with the important distinction that hemp has a negligent amount of THC in it (.3 percent or less) and can’t get you, or your pet, high. (Sorry, Fluffy.)

The ECS involves a network of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) that are meant to regulate homeostasis (balance and wellbeing) by interacting with our natural endocannabinoids. Plant-based cannabinoids like CBD and THC can interact with the ECS to activate responses in the body, many of which are thought to be beneficial.

Our furry friends can suffer from anxiety, epilepsy, arthritis, recovery from surgery, and cancer just like we humans can. And the benefits of CBD may be able to help them as well.

Is CBD Oil for Dogs the Same as Hemp Oil?

While they both come from the hemp plant, CBD oil products for dogs and hemp seed oil products for dogs are not the same. Each is considered to have health benefits, albeit for different reasons.

Hemp seed oil is extracted from hemp seeds which can contain low levels of CBD. It’s loaded with Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids, Omega-9, GLA (gamma linolenic acid), and a range of healthy proteins and amino acids.

It’s thought to be beneficial for skin and coat health, relieving joint pain, and boosting immune system function.

CBD Pet Food
A bowl of dry pet food infused with CBD oil

CBD, on the other hand, is derived primarily from the flowers and sometimes the leaves and stalks of hemp plants. CBD oil products for pets can be THC-free, or have the legal negligent amount that cannot cause intoxication. What CBD does have, if full spectrum, is an army of cannabinoids and whole plant nutrients like terpenes and flavonoids. These are thought to work synergistically to promote health benefits such as relief from inflammation, chronic pain, anxiety, and seizures.

Many of these effects have been observed in an impressive amount of studies involving mice. However, a much smaller percentage of studies have been conducted on dogs and humans. It’s important to remember that most of the health effects have not been confirmed by clinical scientific studies. But there’s mounting anecdotal evidence that CBD can provide therapeutic effects for our furry friends.

What Are the Benefits of Giving CBD to Your Pet?

While veterinarians currently find themselves in a gray area where they cannot prescribe or technically suggest CBD as a treatment for your pet, they can however engage in conversations if you bring up the subject with them.

It seems that while veterinarians are cautious of making definitive claims, they’ve perhaps seen enough results from their patients to be willing to talk about CBD for pets.

CBD For Dog Anxiety
CBD is said to help treat pain, stress and anxiety in dogs

The AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Jerry Klein, explains that while there’s no conclusive scientific evidence for treating dogs with CBD, dog owners report that CBD can successfully treat inflammation, cardiac conditions, nausea, poor appetite, anxiety, and even cancer.

Here are some of the ways CBD is thought to help:

  • CBD oil is reported to help with gastrointestinal issues in pets. Dogs such as great Danes, German shepherds, golden retrievers and collies are particularly prone to digestive ailments. Common diagnoses are acute gastroenteritis, colitis, constipation, diarrhea, pancreatitis, etc. Animal studies have shown that CBD can prevent colitis (IBD) and restore normal gut motility in inflammatory bowel disease.
  • CBD is known to manage pain in animals. Your little pet child may be recovering from an injury or surgery, or perhaps they’re getting to that age we all come to where there’s just more aches and pains. Your furry friend doesn’t have to live with it. Here are just some of the ways CBD may decrease pain in pets:
    • The impact of inflammation on oxidative stress (which causes degeneration and premature aging)
    • Inflammation in acute pancreatitis
    • Pain caused from cancer
  • It’s known to ease the symptoms of arthritis. It’s not fair, but our pet babies get arthritis, too. CBD is thought to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. In fact, it can potentially treat many conditions for which inflammation may be a response. It is known to reduce the production and release of inflammatory cytokines that set off allergies, hypersensitivities and autoimmunity in people and pets.
  • They say CBD can ease your pet’s anxiety. Does your cat constantly hide or cry for no reason? Does your dog bark excessively or have terrible separation anxiety that presents itself in the form of a torn up house when you arrive home? CBD could help your pet de-stress. It’s a safe, nontoxic way to possibly ease your pet when taking a trip to the vet or the groomer, or if they’re having issues in a multi-pet household.
CBD For Aggressive Cat
Aggression is another behavior that can be treated with CBD, even in cats.
  • It also might help with your pet’s loss of appetite. It’s very worrisome when your pet won’t eat. Whether it’s due to age, treatment, or recovery from an illness or injury, CBD is known to help boost a dog or cat’s appetite. It’s a proven antiemetic in humans and animals, so much so that The National Cancer Institute reports that it increases appetite on its website.
  • CBD can treat seizures and epilepsy. This cannabinoid is a proven natural anticonvulsant and can be used to control seizures, tremors, tics, and spasms. The FDA has already approved Epidiolex, the first FDA-approved drug containing a purified substance derived from Cannabis sativa. This means: CBD can, in some situations, control violent seizures when nothing else can. It has saved the lives of many children suffering from devastating seizures. It could help your pet, too.
  • CBD may have anti-cancer effects. Studies suggest that CBD and other substances found in hemp have anti-tumor effects. CBD has even been shown to stop cancer cells from growing and increase tumor cell death in preclinical studies. Many pet owners have reported positive results with CBD used for treating animals with cancer.

Are There Any Studies on CBD for Pets?

Some clinical studies concerning the effects and safety of CBD on dogs have been conducted, and others are underway.

Colorado veterinarian researcher Stephanie McGrath began receiving so many phone calls in 2013 from pet owners and veterinarians about CBD that she was finally compelled to investigate all the cannabis for pets hubbub. As assistant professor of neurology at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, she eventually became one of the first researchers in the field of veterinary cannabis.

In her studies, she found that CBD is absorbed similarly to how it is in humans and that it seems to be metabolized by the liver (like in humans as well). Her recently published study revealed that CBD could possibly help treat seizures in dogs. Like many veterinarians, she believes that much more scientific evidence is needed to substantiate the anecdotal health claims about CBD for pets.

A 2018 Cornell study showed that 2 mg/kg of CBD twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis.

Currently, The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) is funding a study through the Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (Stephanie McGrath’s neck of the woods again) that will evaluate the use of CBD in treatment-resistant epileptic dogs.

Is CBD Safe for Dogs?

Areas of concern

According to a 2017 World Health Organization report, pure CBD is considered safe and well-tolerated by animals. But there are some things to keep in mind, especially if you are not going to consult a vet on the subject.

  1. Consider the liver. Canine studies from 2018 noted increases in the liver enzyme alkaline phosphatase (ALP) during CBD treatment. During her study, McGrath ran a liver function test to check the dogs’ livers. Everything came back normal. Because of this uncertainty of why ALP levels are showing up elevated, special consideration should be given to dogs with liver issues or that are already taking medications metabolized by the liver when considering CBD for treatment.
  • Choose a pet-specific product. Mark Verdino, MD, senior vice president and chief of veterinary staff at North Shore Animal League America has some valuable advice when it comes to this. He says because the CBD industry is fairly unregulated, with a pet-specific CBD product you’ll know that you’re getting an appropriate concentration. Giving your pet human edibles, he warns, could be toxic. Some artificial sweeteners that could show up in gummies, for instance, can be toxic for animals. Dr. Verdino, by the way, gives CBD to his dog at night for anxiety.
  • Don’t cheap out. In the CBD industry, high-quality is going to cost you a little more. Why? Because the industry is unregulated, legitimate CBD producers are willing to pay for third-party testing to prove what is in their product (and what is not). Look for a certificate of analysis (COA) which will tell you the results of the testing. Low quality CBD can have more THC than it claims, less CBD than it claims, and even heavy metals and pesticides. As a bioaccumulator, hemp leeches the impurities out of soil. So if it’s grown around contaminants, they will be in the end product.

One thing to keep in mind is that dogs are reported to have more cannabinoid receptors in their ECS than we do, and they will be more susceptible to a THC overdose in the short-term. This, however, will not be an issue if hemp-derived CBD is used. There’s just simply not enough THC in it to cause intoxication. To be sure, always use a product with a COA.

CBD Dog Treats
CBD for your pet is available in many forms, including dog treats as shown above.

How Much CBD Should You Give Your Dog?

Some pet-specific products will have recommendations for dosing, but the truth is, not enough data has been collected to substantiate exact dosing. Therefore, it is recommended that you dose gradually. Start out with 1 mg per 10 pounds of body weight twice a day and monitor your pet’s reaction. Start low and go slow when increasing.

CBD Oil for Pets vs. CBD Treats

As with humans, pet-specific CBD products come in several forms, such as edibles (treats), oils, and topicals. Treats work well because of their appeal. But a CBD oil product allows for more adjustment in dosing. Again, you will figure out what works best for your beast baby.

What Is the Best CBD Oil for Pets?

Ananda Pets Full Spectrum CBD Oil is the perfect place to start. Ananda is a reputable hemp company and high-quality CBD producer that does rigorous quality control testing. This product is made exclusively for dogs and cats and comes with dosing recommendations. What’s more, it comes in tincture form for ease of dose adjustment that you can administer by dropping directly into your pet’s mouth or by putting it on their favorite food.