Can CBD Oil Really Help My Dog?

Helen Merino
7 min readApr 1, 2021

The Risks and Rewards of Thinking Outside the Box

Image by Erin Stone from Pixabay

It seems like just yesterday that CBD Oil was considered an outlawed substance. That’s all changed.

Store windows everywhere proudly announce “CBD OIL SOLD HERE.” You can get it at the pharmacy, the health food store, and now it’s at your pet store too.

But is CBD a good idea for your pet?

Despite its outside-the-box identity, CBD oil for dogs has become a valued go-to for veterinarians and pet owners alike to help with a number of symptoms.

“CBD does help with a wide variety of issues,” says Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM, of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, “and we are learning more all the time…Skin issues, stress, cognitive issues, and quality of life are very common areas where CBD [can] help.”

Common uses of CBD oil for dogs include:

  • Arthritis/Pain Management
  • Cognitive Issues
  • Cancer Therapy
  • Seizure Therapy
  • Anxiety/Stress
  • Acne
  • Atopic Dermatitis (Itchy Skin)

So how do you know if CBD is the right choice for your dog?

Let’s first drill down on how it works. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of CBD oil for dogs. Then we’ll discuss some tips you should know before your first purchase.

Wait…Hemp Extract? Will CBD Oil Get My Dog High?

So, what is CBD? Well, CBD stands for cannabidiol, an extract harvested from the hemp plant.

Yes, that hemp plant, marijuana’s straight-laced cousin.

CBD oil interacts with your dog’s endocannabinoid system, a system that supports homeostatic balance for mammals’ immune and nervous systems.

Basically, when environmental shifts occur, the endocannabinoid system helps your dog’s body from getting out of whack. CBD is meant to support that system.

“But wait,” you might be thinking, “Hemp extract? I don’t want to get my dog high. I just want to manage his health.”

Not to worry. Tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, is the psychoactive element in marijuana.

THC is derived from cannabis. CBD oil, on the other hand, is derived from legal hemp.

New federal regulations state that legal hemp can’t have more than trace elements of THC (0.3 % or less).[1]

So, any legal bottle of CBD oil won’t have enough THC to give your pup a buzz.

Is CBD Oil Safe for My Dog? What Are the Side Effects?

The data drawn from human use indicates only mild side effects from CBD oil like dry mouth, light-headedness, and drowsiness.

The data from dog use is vast and encouraging too, but it’s chiefly anecdotal. The clinical testing is, at this point, too thin to say anything conclusive yet.

Still, vets are consistently observing pretty much the same mild reactions in their dog patients as in the human lab trials.

“There are no known severe side effects to CBD but there are some dogs that might be sleepier. Some might have occasional loose stools, but all in all, [there are] very few side effects,” says Dr. Wakshlag.

Of course, there’s always a danger of individual reactions to anything. You should talk to your vet before starting your dog on any medical treatment.

Is CBD the Best Option for My Dog’s Anxiety?

Thunderstorms, fireworks, nearby construction, and — worst of all — separation from you, any of these might trigger anxiety in your dog.

A regimen of CBD is often suggested as a therapy for stressed out pups.

Obviously, anxiety starts as an emotional symptom for your dog, but it’s experienced in their body.

CBD addresses itself there, binding to receptors in the endocannabinoid system and regulating the physical cues of stress your dog is experiencing.

Tests are ongoing, but clinicians and researchers are already impressed by the evidence on the table.

Even Dr. Jeffrey Powers, Chairman of the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents, uses CBD on his St. Bernard, Ella. “I tried almost all of the products available for the treatment of [her] conditions, but found them ineffective.”

Along with suffering from arthritis, Ella gets freaked out by thunderstorms. Dr. Powers decided to give CBD oil and CBD chews a go, “Ella has done extremely well from several standpoints.”

Can I Give CBD Oil to My Dog for Pain?

CBD Oil for dogs with arthritis is gaining quick ground as a “best practice” measure for some vets.

Even if your dog hasn’t gotten an official diagnosis yet, you may be noticing changes as they age, such as:

  • A decrease in energy
  • Sensitivity or swelling around the joints
  • Difficulty in staying in a sit
  • Difficulty getting up from naps
  • Yelping when touched
  • Resistance to jumping into the car or using stairs
  • Falling behind on walks

Any of these could be a real indication of your dog in pain.

Osteoarthritis, cancer therapies, muscle soreness — all of these have been major areas of focus for CBD therapy in dogs.

Researchers found “a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity” with no observable side effects.[2]

That means a chance to interrupt pain with lower risk to your dog’s health than with some of the medications traditionally aimed at pain in pets.

If you‘re the owner of a dog who’s struggling with discomfort, a tincture of CBD oil is often a good alternative to bring your dog back to their former ease and friskiness.

What Are the Best CBD Oils on the Market? 6-ish Tips for Buying CBD.

Like any product on an open market, not all CBD oils are created equal. It’s worth your while to do a little research before you give CBD to your pup.

  1. Go Fancy, Go Organic

This is one time where you won’t want price to dictate your decision. Organic is likely the best option, if you can swing it.

Regardless, read the label.

Make sure that the ingredients are simple and contain no pesticides, herbicides, solvents, or fungicides.

2. Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil

Read the product for its “official” title. Meaning, what are they calling it on the label?

Does it say “CBD Oil?” Or is it labeled “Hemp Oil?”

Hemp oil has its health benefits (it’s omega rich), but it has little to no helpful CBD in it. Be sure to grab the one that says “CBD Oil.”

3. Be Sure It’s CBD Oil For Dogs

Be sure to buy your dog’s CBD at a pet store, and make sure it’s packaged specifically as CBD for dogs.

Human products could contain sweeteners and other ingredients that are toxic to your pup.

We’ll say it one more time, read your labels.

4. Tincture vs. Treat

While CBD pet treats definitely sound like the fun and easy option, a tincture is likely the better choice.

Tinctures are the little bottle of oil with the squeeze dropper at the top.

The oil is less processed, easier for your dog’s body to absorb, and dosing is more precise. Also a few drops won’t add any tubbiness to your pup.

  • As for how to administer the tincture, it’s pretty straightforward. Just squeeze the dropper, slowly, directly into your pup’s mouth.
  • Some dogs may rebel at that. So if squeezing a dropper into your dog’s mouth sounds like an “easier said than done” situation, you can mix the CBD Oil in with your dog’s food.
  • Whichever you use, start with a small dose on the food. Let it absorb for a few minutes before giving it to your dog. Then you can slowly raise the dose as your dog’s taste adjusts.

5. Papers Please

All manufacturers should be able to provide a copy of the Certificate of Analysis (COA).

A COA is a certificate issued by an accredited lab that lists all the elements of the compound in that little bottle.

It should give you a full breakdown of cannabinoids, terpenes, microbial levels, and contaminants.

It should also make clear that the THC content is safely (and legally) under the restricted levels.

You can ask the company itself for the COA, but usually a simple poke around Google will turn up what you need. Most good companies make the info easy to find.

6. Don’t Stress

In the end, don’t stress about it. It’s not like you’re choosing a college. But with a little effort and a good search engine, you should be able to start your dog on a safe and useful CBD routine.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that this “outside-the-box” product is swiftly becoming an essential in a lot of homes and vet offices.

The anecdotal evidence is too substantial to ignore, and the interest in CBD oil for dogs is justified.

Testing is ramping up and, as the market grows, the science will likely grow with it. In the end, it’s up to you and your vet.

As dog lovers, we’re lucky to live in a time when the well-being of our furry best friends is a cultural priority. We’re also lucky that our medical options for them are increasing.

As your dog’s biggest fan, I’m guessing you always do your best for them. Now, thanks to legal and medical advances, your “best” can just keep getting better and better.

[1] According to the guidelines set down by the FDA’s 2018 Farm Bill.

[2]Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs Lauri-Jo Gamble1, Jordyn M. Boesch1, Christopher W. Frye1, Wayne S. Schwark2, Sabine Mann3, Lisa Wolfe4, Holly Brown5, Erin S. Berthelsen1 and Joseph J. Wakshlag1

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Helen Merino

Dog Trainer/Pet Space Copywriter/All Around Fur Magnet