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We Asked A Vet: What’s The Deal With CBD For Dogs?

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Brett Hartmann gives his dogs Cayley, a six-year-old-Labrador Retriever drops of a cannabis based medicinal tincture to treat hip pain and anxiety, June 8, 2017 at his home in Los Angeles, California.

It’s early morning, just after breakfast, and six-year-old Cayley is wide awake, eagerly anticipating her daily dose of cannabis.The black labrador, tail wagging, laps up the liquid tincture owner Brett Hartmann squirts into her mouth, a remedy he uses morning and evening to help alleviate Cayley’s anxiety.As the multi-billion dollar medical and recreational marijuana industry for humans blossoms in the United States, so is a new customer base — animals. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

CBD is gaining popularity as a treatment for anxiety, pain, and epilepsy, among other conditions. As it turns out, it has a lot of potential to help our furry friends too.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is gaining popularity as an alternative treatment for things like anxiety, pain, and epilepsy. But did you know that CBD can also be used to relieve ailments in dogs? We spoke to a veterinarian and a CBD expert to give you the full scoop on CBD for dogs.

What is CBD?

CBD is a natural compound found in the marijuana or hemp plant. CBD sourced from industrial hemp plants with 0.3% THC or less is legal to buy and sell nationwide. Cannabidiol is only one of 80 plus cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant, but unlike it’s more popular cousin, THC, it’s non-psychoactive. That means it doesn’t produce a “buzz” or “high” in humans or dogs. It does, however, have tons of potential medical benefits.

How does CBD for dogs work?

“CBD has much the same effect in animals as it does in people,” says Dr. Gary Richter, an Oakland, California-based holistic veterinarian and author of “The Ultimate Pet Health Guide.” “CBD effects the endocannabinoid system, which is a system of neurotransmitters in the body that helps balance and maintain normal body function.”

In fact, all mammals, dogs and humans alike, have endocannabinoid systems and cannabinoid receptors all over their bodies. Our bodies even produce natural cannabinoids, like anandamide, known as the “bliss molecule” for its role in mental health, pain relief, and hunger.

What can CBD for dogs be used to treat?

CBD can help with an array of ailments and discomforts in both dogs and people, including:

  • Pain and Inflammation

  • Anxiety

  • Epilepsy and Seizures

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease

  • Cancer

  • Autoimmune Disease

  • Sleep

  • Arthritis

Dr. Gary Richter says the most common way pet owners are using CBD for dogs is to help with pain, stress, and anxiety.

Brandon Nolte, author of “The Ultimate Guide to CBD Health Oil” and Founder and CEO of Healthy Hemp Oil, reiterated Dr. Richter’s claim that CBD for dogs can help with stress, pain, and even, sleep.

“Dogs who suffer from stress may benefit from CBD to improve their mood,” Nolte says. “CBD binds to your dog’s CBD receptors and creates a sense of calm and security. Your pet may feel more relaxed and even friendlier because they are in a better mood. Dogs who are hyperactive seem to settle down a bit.”

CBD for dogs can help with pain and inflammation, especially in older or injured animals.

“CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory, so it can typically help pets who have problems with joint pain or muscle soreness,” says Nolte. “Taken over time, the inflammation may be reduced, increasing your pet’s mobility and improving their energy levels. Overall, dogs seem more youthful than before they took CBD.”

Is CBD for dogs safe? What about CBD side effects?

Brett Hartmann gives his dogs Cayley, a six-year-old Labrador retriever drops of a cannabis-based medicinal tincture to treat hip pain and anxiety. (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Because CBD derived from the hemp plant is non-intoxicating, your dog won’t get buzzed. Dr. Richter says CBD for dogs is safe as long as pet owners use an appropriate dose.

“The worst-case scenario from a CBD-only standpoint is it could potentially make the dog a little sleepy,” says Dr. Richter. “But that’s about as bad as it would be expected to get. Every once in a blue moon, there’s a dog that experiences some gastrointestinal issues, but it’s actually pretty uncommon. But as I often tell people, any medication or supplement can potentially cause an upset tummy.”

Brandon Nolte adds that CBD for dogs or humans can take a week or so before the body gets used to it, so don’t expect an overnight cure.

“When CBD starts to hit pets’ bloodstream you start to see dogs pull back more towards their normal state. Lethargic and tired dogs, who may have aches and pains start to feel more loose and limber and start to regain missing energy. Meanwhile, overactive, anxious dogs may stop destructive behavior like chewing [and] clawing furniture, and they may seem calmer and more grounded. It sounds wacky, but CBD really does help on both sides of the spectrum.”

How to Administer CBD for Dogs

Nowadays, there are so many CBD products, it can be a bit daunting. How do you know which CBD is best for dogs? There are CBD treats as well as hemp-based CBD oils and tinctures, each with their pros and cons.

CBD oils and tinctures can be dropped directly into dogs’ food. In fact, Dr. Richter says dogs can even take CBD oil meant for humans.

CBD dog treats will take longer to absorb than oil, but will provide longer relief, so deciding between the two will depend on your pet.

As far as dosing goes, Nolte recommends giving pets about 5 mg of CBD per 50 pounds of weight and then adjusting accordingly. However, Nolte also notes, he’s not a doctor and the best course of action is to consult with your vet first about CBD for dogs. A good rule of thumb for CBD for dogs or humans is to “start low and go slow.”

Another thing people should look for when purchasing any CBD product is to make sure it’s been tested by a third-party lab to ensure safety and quality.

Is CBD Legal?

CBD derived from industrial hemp plants is legal in all 50 states. In places with adult-use cannabis, pet owners can also buy CBD and THC products derived from the marijuana plant for pets. However, there’s a caveat in California: Dr. Richter told Herb that veterinarians cannot legally recommend giving pets cannabis products because of the federal government’s “Schedule I” classification of the plant.

“People are going out and buying cannabis products for their pets. They’re getting them at pet stores and at dispensaries and the only people in the entire state [of California] that are forbidden from giving pet owners advice on how to give it safely is the veterinarian community,” Dr. Richter says.

It sounds crazy, but it’s the current state of affairs. Dr. Richter added there’s a good chance California will introduce legislation regarding the issue this year.



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