CBD for dogs is becoming more and more common as people discover the number of benefits it can provide, not only for us but for our pets as well. This article provides veterinarian advice on the pro and cons of using CBD oil. Proponents say CBD is helpful for pets' anxiety and other conditions. Opponents say the products aren't regulated.
CBD for Dogs: A Vet Explains the Pros and Cons
In the past few years, CBD products have been gaining popularity in both people and animals. Marijuana and other hemp products have been studied to determine their effects on people and animals. The studies show that CBD for dogs and other hemp products are beneficial.
What is CBD for dogs?
Cannabidiol or CBD is found in hemp plants. Unlike what many people believe CBD does not contain THC. THC is the compound found in marijuana responsible for the euphoric state. In recent years CBD has been explored for potential medical uses with success in both human and veterinary medicine.
Is CBD safe for dogs?
CBD oil is very safe for dogs. Many dogs show improvement with their condition after taking CBD for a few weeks. Many people have reported that using CBD for dogs or cat has significantly reduced or eliminated pain from arthritis or helped with seizures and other neurological problems.
Benefits of using CBD for dogs
Colorado State University Veterinary School has published studies showing the benefits of CBD oil in reducing pain associated with osteoarthritis. The information that we have regarding the use of cannabis in veterinary medicine has come from recent studies done on laboratory rodents (mice, rats, and guinea pigs). Studied on laboratory animals has shown benefits for disorders of the cardiovascular system, cancer, pain, disorders of the respiratory system, or metabolic disorders. There has been very little published studied on cannabis in dogs and cats. Most of the studies in companion and large animal medicine are on the toxic levels, effects, and treatment rather than therapeutic applications. Currently, some of the most frequent studies of cannabis in veterinary medicine are for the treatment of glaucoma, pain, skin disorders, and cancer.
Cannabis has been shown to have a wide variety of beneficial effects on the body in laboratory and companion animals. Most cannabis has psychotropic properties, which can cause behavior effects in animals and can become addictive. However, many other medications have these same effects and are used for medical purposes today because the benefits are much greater than the side effects. Pet owners have reported the successful use of CBD with their pets for both large and small animals. Studies are being performed to prove the benefits of cannabis in animals as well as products being produced that limit the THC content to help decrease the potential for toxicity.
Symptoms treated by CBD for Dogs
There are many different problems that CBD products can help treat, such as:
- Anxiety: CBD has been shown to help decreases stress and help with anxiety. Many people will use CBD around thunderstorms or fireworks. CBD products will help keep your dog calm
- Arthritis: One of the primary uses of CBD is for pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Colorado State Veterinary School has published studies on the effects of CBD in arthritic patients. The study showed that CBD does help decrease the pain and inflammation associated with this disease.
- Cancer: CBD may help decrease the size of your pet’s tumor. Also, if your pet is undergoing chemotherapy and feels nauseated, CBD products can help reduce nausea and even help increase their appetites.
- Seizures: A recent study has shown that CBD products can help decrease the number of seizures that your dog has. In the study, 89 percent of dogs who took CBD products saw a decrease in the number of seizures. CBD products are suitable for those dogs who do not respond to traditional medication or who cannot take conventional medicines due to the side effects or other diseases.
- Skin disorders : CBD has been shown to help repair a healthy skin barrier. When this barrier is disrupted, allergies, bacteria, and yeast are allowed to invade the skin causing all the skin disease that we see. CBD will help repair this layer and help your pet to feel much better.
Potential risks and side effects of CBD for dogs
There are studies published that show that CBD given to dog over a long period of time at very high dosages have little to no side effects. Some of the dogs taking the medication long term did show a slight increase in a liver enzyme (ALT). While most other medications used to treat dogs can have a large list of unwanted side effects. This makes CBD a great option, especially for those pets with chronic pain or other medical conditions that prevent them from taking traditional medications.
Types of CBD products for dogs
There are many different types of CBD products for dogs. These are the typical type of products that contain CBD:
CBD for Pets – Top 3 Pros and Cons
Source: Austin Community College Vet Tech Program, “Veterinary Tech Students from Austin Community College Are Involved in Helping with Heartworm, FeLV, FIV, and Socializing and Cleaning up the Animals at Bastrop Animal Control and Shelter,” flickr.com, Nov. 10, 2014, creative commons license
When people talk about giving marijuana to pets, they are really talking about the use of CBD products derived from hemp. The California Veterinary Medical Board explains that CBD is the “abbreviation for cannabidiol, which is one out of 60 naturally occurring compounds present in cannabis. It is the second-most prevalent cannabinoid in both hemp and marijuana and is nonpsychoactive.” CBD extracted from hemp contains less than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the compound in marijuana that causes the high. 
THC is toxic for cats and dogs even in small amounts. The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center reported a 765% increase in calls regarding animals ingesting marijuana from 2018 to 2019. 
In 2020, pet owners spent about $99 billion on their furry friends, a growth of 12 times over 2019 as more people worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The market for CBD products aimed at companion animals jumped from $32 million in 2018 to $400 million in 2019. During the pandemic, in 2020 sales rose to $426 million and are expected to jump to $629 million in 2021.    
A survey found that 11% of dog owners and 8% of cat owners gave CBD to their pets in 2019, often in the form of pet treats, tinctures administered under the tongue, and salves or creams applied topically. Reasons cited for giving CBD to companion animals included caring for aging pets and treating conditions such as anxiety, pain, and seizures.    
Is CBD Good for Pets?
A majority of veterinarians agree that CBD helps animals.
A Veterinary Information Network survey found that 79% of vets with clinical experience using cannabis products said CBD was somewhat or very helpful for chronic pain in animals; over 62% said it was helpful for managing anxiety. Over 80% of those vets said there were no reports of adverse effects aside from sedation. 
A study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science found that 82.2% of veterinarians agreed or strongly agreed that there are medicinal uses of CBD products for dogs from a medical standpoint. 
Jeffrey Judkins, DVM, holistic veterinarian at Animalkind Veterinarian Clinic, said that CBD is “100% non-toxic. You can’t overdose on CBD. It might make pets sleepy, but there’s no toxicity.” Judkins reported success in using CBD to alleviate pain and anxiety in animals, stating, “Recently I was able to significantly reduce the amount of a narcotic pain drug a dog was being given (with adverse side effects) by substituting a cannabis product.”  
Studies about CBD use in pets have had positive results.
A clinical trial found that 89% of dogs who were given CBD oil experienced fewer seizures. Researchers at Cornell University who performed a double-blind cross-over trial on dogs with osteoarthritis found “a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity” with CBD oil. There were no observed side effects from the CBD treatment. Studies on laboratory animals have shown benefits for cardiovascular health, the respiratory system, and cancer and pain treatment.   
While experts acknowledge that research in this area is preliminary, they speak positively about the results to date.
Stephanie McGrath, DVM, neurologist at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, stated, “We saw a correlation between how high the levels of CBD were in these dogs with how great the seizure reduction was. It’s really exciting that perhaps we can start looking at CBD in the future as an alternative to existing anticonvulsive drugs.” 
Pet owners report success in treating their animals with CBD.
Many pet owners swear by the use of CBD to treat ailments such as anxiety, pain, digestive issues, and inflammation. Their positive experiences are reflected in the growing market for CBD pet products. The industry was estimated at $400 million in 2019, and could jump to $1.7 billion by 2023.  
A study of people who gave their dogs CBD found that less than 5% reported any side effects, and the most common side effect was lethargy (a lack of energy). 
Joshua Hartsel, PhD, chemist and CEO of Delta-9 Technologies, stated that since all mammals have an endocannabinoid system, “the same or similar benefits of cannabinoids found in humans can also be applied to most veterinary species.” In fact, people have been giving medical cannabis to pets and farm animals since the 1800s. 
CBD pet products are unregulated.
The lack of regulation means pet owners could be buying CBD with unlisted ingredients that are potentially toxic to their pets, such as THC. Experts say these products are in need of testing for the presence of heavy metals, pesticides, and THC. “It’s really the Wild West out there,” said S. David Moche, MBA, CEO of a veterinary medicine company that sells CBD products.   
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that 70% of the CBD products they analyzed didn’t match the concentration listed on the label, and 21% of their samples contained THC despite it not being on the label. 
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement, “We want to stress that FDA has not approved cannabis for any use in animals, and the agency cannot ensure the safety or effectiveness of these products.” According to the FDA, animals who ingest cannabis could suffer negative side effects such as “lethargy, depression, heavy drooling, vomiting, agitation, tremors, and convulsions.” 
There isn’t enough scientific evidence to support giving CBD to pets.
Research in this area is so new that no one knows the long-term impacts of CBD use in companion animals, or what an effective and safe dose would be. 
Sue Lowum, DVM, a veterinarian and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, said she wouldn’t recommend CBD for pets because “We just don’t have enough information at this point to draw any legitimate conclusions… there is no assurance the CBD oil they purchase is safe or effective.” Veterinarians’ knowledge about CBD use in pets is purely anecdotal at the moment because of the limited scientific evidence available.  
Further, researchers found that some seller’s websites contain “blatant lies” about CBD.  The American Veterinary Medical Association stated, “While both marijuana and industrial hemp products are available, no studies, doses, or uses in veterinary medicine have been determined… AVMA cautions pet owners against the use of such products.” 
Using CBD instead of traditional medicine may harm animals.
A phenomenon called the “caregiver placebo effect” may cause pet owners to misread their animals’ response to CBD. This might lead to suffering in animals that could have been helped by veterinarian-prescribed medications with scientifically proven effectiveness. 
Alex Avery, BVSc, veterinary surgeon and founder of Our Pets Health, said, “Because we are so invested in our pet, we really want to see them improve and likely believe the treatment will work… There is a real risk we will see improvement even when it is not there.” 
Much of what we know about therapeutic CBD is specific to humans, and its effects on companion animals could be quite different because they don’t metabolize it the same way. CBD could also cause dangerous interactions with pharmaceutical drugs prescribed by a vet.   
Click for an Encyclopaedia Britannica video about the chemistry of marijuana
and how its potency and safety is determined.
1. What is the difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific evidence? Should one be trusted more than the other?
2. Should veterinarians be legally allowed to talk about cannabis with their patients? What reasons might there be to restrict those conversations?
3. Would you give your pets CBD products for medical reasons? Why or why not?
1. Learn about the debate from Mercey Livingston’s CNET article.
2. Explore the difference between CBD and THC for dogs at Pet MD.
3. Consider the debate via a Washington Post article by Maura Judkis.
4. Consider how you felt about the issue before reading this article. After reading the pros and cons on this topic, has your thinking changed? If so, how? List two to three ways. If your thoughts have not changed, list two to three ways your better understanding of the “other side of the issue” now helps you better argue your position.
5. Push for the position and policies you support by writing US national senators and representatives.