Cannabis oil (also known as CBD oil or hemp oil) has hit the human health market in a big way, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that its properties have begun to be explored with popular companion animals such as dogs.
Cannabis oil is based on the cannabinoid known as cannabidiol (CBD), rather than THC. THC is the psychoactive compound primarily responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana, and generally, cannabis oil actually contains very little THC. Given that cannabis products that contain THC above a certain threshold are illegal in many states, most CBD products are derived from hemp rather than marijuana in an effort to minimize potential THC content.
Is Cannabis Oil Safe for Dogs?
Relatively little is known about the effects of CBD in humans, and even less is known about how cannabis oil affects dogs. In fact, there have been no formal studies to date on CBD use with dogs. However, what scientists do know is that cannabinoids like cannabidiol interact with endocannabinoid receptors located in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The endocannabinoid system helps maintain balance in the body, and is present in both humans and dogs.
Research is inconclusive so far as to whether CBD actually helps dogs or simply makes them not care, scientists’ understanding of cannabidiol and its effects on the endocannabinoid system suggest that cannabis oil is likely to have real beneficial effects for dogs.
Cannabis flower is known to be potentially toxic to dogs, but cannabis oil and CBD, in general, is considered to be very safe. Cannabis oil or other CBD products with THC content less than 0.3% will not produce any kind of “high” in your dog.
Potential side effects of cannabis oil use in dogs are increased thirst, drowsiness, and temporary drops in blood pressure.
How Does CBD Work with Dogs?
Because cannabidiol works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, theoretically speaking, CBD can be expected to have more or less the same effects for dogs as it has for humans.
Anecdotal accounts suggest that CBD can also help with the following:
- Heart health
- Low appetite
It is also speculated to help support the immune system, brain health, and the general effects of aging. Cannabis oil may have anti-cancer benefits for dogs as well, but there is not conclusive data on this issue.
Although there is very little published research on CBD and dogs, a recent Cornell University study has found that once the right dosage is determined for a pet, cannabidiol seems to improve pain caused by arthritis. And Colorado State University is working on a study that will evaluate the use of CBD in treatment-resistant epileptic dogs.
How to Use CBD Oil with Your Dog
Finding the Right Product
Although cannabis products with THC content below 0.3% are legal in all 50 states for human use, veterinarians are not yet allowed to prescribe or recommend cannabis products to pets. So if you want to try cannabis oil for your dog, you will need to be careful about what kind you use and how much is given per dose.
Your first concern will be identifying reputable products and suppliers. Make sure that the cannabis oil in question comes from organically-grown plants, which means that it shouldn’t contain any pesticides or fungicides. The best way to get this information is to ask for a certificate of analysis from the manufacturer if it isn’t already on display on their site. If they refuse to provide one, that’s a big red flag.
When you’re shopping online, price is likely a big priority for you. You hop from site to site until you find the best deal on the product that you want. But when it comes to cannabis oil and other CBD products, this is the last thing you should do. The higher the quality and purity of the oil, the more it’s going to cost. The rule, “You get what you pay for”, very much applies to CBD. Cheaper options may seem appealing, but they are likely to contain pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, and fillers.
Make sure that what you’re buying actually contains cannabidiol. Because CBD is so new to the market, many companies are taking advantage of currently loose regulations, making “hemp treats” and “CBD for dogs” that may contain hemp extract or hemp seed, but actually contains little to no cannabidiol at all. This is another reason why viewing a certificate of analysis is so important.
Do not use CBD products that are intended for humans with your dog. It may be tempting to save some money by giving your dog the same stuff that you use, but when it comes to food and medication dosing, dogs and humans are very different. First of all, CBD-infused treats like gummies may contain artificial sweeteners like Xylitol, which is highly toxic to animals. Second, even if you have a large dog, you probably still weigh substantially more than they do. What may be a low dose of cannabis oil for you is likely to be a dose that is much too high for your dog.
Administering CBD Oil to Your Dog
The FDA has not approved CBD for use in dogs, and hasn’t issued any kind of dosing recommendations, so there’s going to be a certain amount of trial and error in finding the right therapeutic dose for your pet. To mitigate the risk of a negative reaction, start with a small dose, and watch your dog carefully to see how they react to it.
The easiest way to give CBD to dogs is via CBD-infused treats, but cannabidiol isn’t absorbed very well through the digestive tract. It’s more effective to give them cannabis oil, dosed via syringe under the tongue.