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Cannabidiol for Dogs: Tips for Successful CBD Treatments

May 30, 2024 09:22AM ● By Ruth Roberts, DVM, CVA, CVH, CVFT, NAN
Happy dog using CBD

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Cannabidiol (CBD) is a standout compound found in cannabis and hemp plants. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it will not get a pet “high”, but it has caught the attention of dog owners worldwide for its health benefits. With more than 100 cannabinoids interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to regulate everything from mood to inflammation, it is no wonder that CBD supplements for pets are on the rise. But as popularity grows, so do questions and concerns.

 

CBD Safety

Research suggests that CBD is generally safe for dogs when used responsibly. A 2022 study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science determined that a daily dose of 4 milligrams (mg) of CBD per kilogram of body weight was well-tolerated in clinically healthy dogs for six months. Another study published in the same journal two years earlier tested the tolerability of three cannabis oil formulations containing CBD, THC or a combination of CBD and THC versus a placebo. The researchers found that dogs tolerated escalating doses of 18.3 to 640.5 mg of CBD oil well, concluding that a CBD-predominant oil formulation was safer for dogs than formulas containing higher concentrations of THC.

 

Choosing the Right Product

Angela Ardolino, founder of CBD Dog Health, highlights the benefits of full-spectrum hemp extract, which, unlike CBD isolates, incorporates a broad array of cannabinoids, including CBD and even THC in trace amounts up to the legal threshold of 0.03 percent. She recommends choosing organic, U.S. hemp-derived products to guarantee purity and legal compliance; CO2 extraction for a high-quality, solvent-free extract; and formulations made specifically for dogs rather than humans to prevent overdosing and unnecessary ingredients.

According to Ardolino, products should have enough CBD to treat a condition effectively, from 6 to 12 mg for stress or anxiety to 12 mg for pain and 50 to 100 mg for severe conditions like cancer or seizures. Consider bioavailability, also—sublingual oils are most effective for absorption.

"Only choose products that have a COA [Certificate of Analysis] by a third-party lab that tests for potency and purity and to ensure it has no contaminants like pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins or solvents in the product,” recommends Ardolino. “This is also the only way to prove that you are buying a full-spectrum hemp extract. It should be easily found on the label or on the website. If you can’t easily find one, don’t buy the product.” Customer reviews can also provide insights into a product’s efficacy, safety and quality, as well as a company’s transparency and level of customer support.

 

Getting a Dog Started on CBD

While the general guidance is to start with a low dose and adjust based on the dog’s response, Ardolino notes that conditions like seizures, pain or cancer may require a higher dosage from the start. She acknowledges that dogs may initially experience a mild psychoactive effect, but this typically subsides as they become accustomed to CBD. The key is to monitor a pet’s reaction closely and adjust the dosage as needed to find a balance that alleviates symptoms without causing discomfort.

 

Duration of Effects

How long the effects of CBD will last depends on a variety of factors, including a dog’s size, as well as the dosage and administration method. A 2021 study published in Animals found that an intravenous administration of CBD will generally be eliminated from the body within nine hours. However, an oral dose, which is influenced by food intake and liver processing, has a lower bioavailability (13 to 19 percent), so less CBD enters the bloodstream, and yet its effects may last longer due to a slower absorption rate. The exact duration varies with dosage, metabolism and whether it is taken with food.

 

Potential Risks 

While CBD is generally well-received by many dogs, some may experience mild side effects, including dry mouth, a decrease in blood pressure or drowsiness. Selecting the appropriate dosage and a high-quality product is crucial to minimize these risks. Research indicates that CBD can also influence liver enzymes, notably cytochrome P450s and alkaline phosphatase, both essential in metabolizing various medications. Consequently, there is a potential risk of interactions when CBD is used alongside other drugs, possibly altering the effectiveness and required dosages of those medications. Therefore, despite the availability of CBD treats and products, consulting a veterinarian before introducing a CBD regimen is vital to ensure safety and efficacy.

Ruth Roberts is an integrative veterinarian and holistic health coach for pets, as well as the creator of The Original CrockPet Diet. Learn more at DrRuthRoberts.com.

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