Unless you don’t spend any time on the internet (which clearly isn’t the case since you’re, you know, here), you’ve probably seen a ton about CBD oil and its myriad miracles. CBD is popping up in supplements, food, and even as a $2 upgrade to your coffee order at a shop here in town. And, as these things do, once an ingredient takes off in human health, it trickles down into pet health and starts cropping up all over the place. That’s definitely what’s happened with CBD oil. I started to wonder: Is it worth the hype?
So, as I do, I dug into the research.
Here’s where I disclaim a few things: I’m not a vet. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a doctor or nurse or vet tech or dietitian. I’m a journalist. This is for information purposes only. It’s my opinion based off the research I found and some anecdotal evidence from my life and my dog. Also, at the tail end of this post, I share my recommendation for a CBD oil for dogs that we tried and have kept Cooper on. More on that below, but they did compensate me for sharing information about their brand.
First, what is CBD oil?
I’m starting here because this is the biggest source of confusion when it comes to CBD products. There’s a misconception that CBD = marijuana. CBD (cannabidiol) is one extract from the cannabis plant; THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is another and the one that has the psychoactive properties.
In other words, CBD doesn’t make you “high.” THC does. And CBD oil doesn’t contain THC. That’s also why CBD products are legal. Because they don’t contain THC, they’re not regulated by the FDA. (Here’s how Live Science breaks it down.)
In human health, CBD products gained traction several years ago. CBD supposedly helps with everything from arthritis to schizophrenia to chemo side effects to anxiety to epilepsy to insomnia to even acne. The important thing to note is that there aren’t a ton of peer reviewed studies, but they’re coming. Just check out how many studies on CBD and epilepsy have been published since 2014.
So, CBD won’t get you high but it might help alleviate or lessen a whole lot of symptoms of a whole lot of conditions. Having read through a few dozen articles and abstracts, I think the science is coming, y’all. It seems legit and a whole new tool for taking care of our well-being. For now, though, keep in mind that most of what’s shared about CBD and its effects is anecdotal.
How is CBD oil used for dogs?
Now that we’re clear on what CBD oil is, the next question is how CBD oil is used for dogs. (I touch briefly on cats toward the end of the post. For today, let’s center on our pups.)
As in human health, there aren’t many published studies–yet. You can locate papers comparing how dogs, people, and rats metabolize cannabidiol; a few papers on pharmacokinetics–or, how it moves through the dog’s body; and one solid study on cannabidiol and osteoarthritic dogs. That last study is fascinating because it shows a decrease in pain, an increase in activity, and–the best part–no side effects for the pups. Check it out here.
I spoke with my vet, too, about CBD oil and he said two things: First, until the science is there, he doesn’t feel comfortable recommending it to patients. Second, he said that Cornell was doing great work in that area. Interestingly, that was the arthritis paper I mentioned above, but they also report on future studies and expansions:
The results seem to support anecdotal reports of CBD oil’s benefits. Veterinary assessment showed that CBD oil reduced pain (p < 0.03), and the Canine Brief Pain Inventory and Hudson activity scores showed clinically significant reduction in pain and an increase in activity with CBD treatment (p < 0.001), the abstract reports.DVM360 MAGAZINE
According to Dr. Wakshlag, in addition to this study, his team is completing a pharmacokinetic and safety study in cats, and there are plans for additional studies on the efficacy of CBD oil in acute pain management, behavior management, feline pain and concurrent usage with chemotherapy in oncology patients—so stay tuned.
OK, so with all that said, let’s circle back around to the question: How is CBD oil used for dogs?
Well, many of the same human health applications translate. For instance, the arthritis study. Also, many anecdotal articles and stories cite anti-anxiety (more on that in a minute) and anti-inflammatory applications, plus lessening the effects of other medical conditions / treatments. Lots of possibilities, so as that article concluded–stay tuned.
Is CBD oil safe for dogs?
You shouldn’t give your dog any medications or supplements without first consulting your vet, but know your vet might give you an answer like mine did. And that’s fair. You’ll likely be deciding this one for yourself. For us, I felt confident after doing all this research that it was worth a shot for Coop. I wanted to see if it mitigated any of his anxiety and daily stress. I figured I’d read enough to give a few products a whirl and see what happened.
However. I came to that decision on my own after a ton of research. Ultimately, I think this Dogtime article sums it up perfectly:
“CBD oil is safe for most dogs in the right doses and with the right products.”
Is CBD oil effective for dogs?
OK. Let’s dig into this one pretty thoroughly. Some of this might sound redundant–because it is to an extent–but it’s important.
Whenever you see an efficacy claim on a product, it’s because there’s been a lot of testing done, and those claims are watched (or regulated depending on the industry, like in the case of medication) by all sorts of consumer affairs and advocacy groups. There’s nothing like that done for dogs and CBD oil. There’s just anecdotal evidence and lotsa marketing.
There are also a ton of different CBD products for dogs, including baked or chewy treats, topical creams, oil, and so on. The efficacy of each varies.
I will say, we tried one of the most popular baked CBD treats with Coop, and it did nothing. I actually doubted the hype after that experience. Then, at Global Pet Expo 2018, I received a press sample of a transdermal cream, which you rub on the inside of your dog’s ear. It knocked him out. Completely zonked. In case of an emergency, I guess that would be OK, but I wanted something in between the treats (i.e. no effect) and the transdermal (i.e. zombie). I just wanted to take his edge off a smidge but leave him HIM!
After a few more rounds of trial and error, we ended up with an oil that works perfectly. More on that in a minute, but as for the effectiveness question, the idea I want to instill is this: You need to find what works for your dog. That means the right product in the right amount.
OK, so, what about CBD oil for cats?
The Cornell study mentioned above hasn’t come out yet. That said, many of the same uses for dogs are recommended for cats anecdotally, but careful dosing is critical. I haven’t researched the cats question (I can if anyone’s curious… let me know in the comments if you want me to dig into this) mostly because my girls aren’t facing anything where I thought it would be helpful or worthwhile. Here’s a PetMD article that addresses the basics.
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that the oil we chose for Coop is designated for dogs and cats, so if I wanted to just try them out on it to see what happened, I’d feel perfectly safe (at a super-duper small dose).
My bottom line is this:
You know your dog. You know his typical behavior and you know when he’s “off.” If you’ve been thinking about trying a CBD oil with your dog, my experience has been that the treats just don’t do it but the actual oil strikes the right balance. Even if your vet can’t or won’t comment, it’s worth running it by him or her first just to be extra careful that there won’t be conflicts with any medications your pet currently takes. In all things health, always, always talk it over with your vet before you take action.
We’re sticking with the oil we’ve been using–in fact, this reminds me I need to reorder!–and plan to for as long as we see a positive effect in Coop.
The oil we use (plus a discount to try it):
As I mentioned, we tried a few versions of CBD for Coop before settling on one.
We’re using a tincture that we add to his food. It took us several days to find the right dose. For Coop, it’s much lower than the recommendation for his weight.
After a couple days, though, both John and I noticed separately that he reacted and barked way less than usual. Plus, he seemed to settle easier, and on the Fourth he kept his head about him the whole night. That day, we actually divided his dose between his breakfast and his dinner and added a smidge extra to each serving, just to cover the spread and get him through the fireworks. And it did. He slept!
We’ve been super happy with the experience and don’t have any plans to change or take him off it anytime soon!
The brand we’re using is called Veritas Farms. He’s on the Full Spectrum Pet Tincture in the tuna flavor (Coop can’t have pork, but there is a bacon flavor if your dog’s not into fish). The bottle is small, but it lasts. For Coop, I started him on his current bottle on Monday, June 3. Today’s Friday, July 19, and we’re almost out. A solid month and a half, so a little under $1 a day. Worth it for a calm, happy pupper!
BUT! If you’ve read this far, well, first of all THANKS! 🙂 Also, if you got here and are now super curious, I highly recommend the Pet Tincture, and Veritas Farms was kind enough to give me a discount code to share (and, btw, it works for anything on their site, not just the pet product, if you’ve been wanting to try some CBD products for yourself).
Here’s how to get a discount: You can either go to the Veritas Farms main page and poke around the shop OR go straight to the pet tincture. Add whatever you want to purchase to your cart, then use code Maggie15 at checkout to get your discount!
WHEW! There you have it.
If you still have questions, please leave ’em in the comments. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll certainly track it down! I’m also curious if any of YOU have tried CBD oil for your pups (or for yourself) and what your experience has been. Please share so we can all learn from one another! Thanks for sticking with me on this–such an important topic!