Does CBD Work for Pets? Everything You Need to Know
By now, you’ve probably heard of the many benefits of consuming Cannabidiol (CBD), whether it’s in the form of an oil, edible or topical creams, and how it can improve your quality of life. These benefits can range from helping you sleep better to reducing symptoms of diseases like arthritis and even cancer. And because of CBD’s many therapeutic benefits, it has become a popular form of a natural alternative or supplement to traditional medicine. But did you know, CBD can also be given to your pets to relieve symptoms of their own health issues and improve their quality of life?
If your dog, cat or even horse has been experiencing pain, inflammation or anxiety, you can safely give them CBD to help alleviate their symptoms. There is still room for research to be done on the effects and methods of administering CBD for animals for optimal outcomes, but there are already some studies that show promising results. Many veterinarians are also seeing the potential of CBD and recommending it for their furry patients.
So if you’re looking into trying CBD for your pets, or you’re just curious about learning about a natural therapy or supplement, keep reading for all the details. Here’s everything you need to know on why, when and how to give CBD to your pets to help them live a better life.
Is CBD Safe for Pets?
CBD has been noted as non-toxic for animals, meaning it usually doesn’t result in adverse reactions when it’s consumed orally or applied topically. However, as each individual dog, cat or any other pet is different from the next, you should first test your pet’s personal tolerance with a small dose. Speak with a vet to discuss how best you can use CBD, especially if your pet is already being treated for any conditions.
CBD quality can differ from product to product. To ensure that you’re purchasing a high-quality CBD product, always check their labels so that you’re sure of what you’re giving to your pets. You could also get in touch with the supplier or brand with any queries you have about the ingredients and how their products are made. Requesting a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) can ensure that the product’s labels and ingredients have been verified, and this can put you at ease. The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) in the United States provides seals of certification when products for pets have been thoroughly vetted and proved to be ethically and safely produced. You can check if the product you intend to buy has been approved by them or a similar local organisation so you know you’re getting a high-quality product. It’s also wise to do some research on the product you’re looking to buy, as well as read its reviews. This is so that you can be sure of its safety and effectiveness.
As yet, there aren’t any Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CBD products for animals, but the use of the substance is becoming more recognisable for its benefits. In 2018, a bill was passed allowing vets to discuss more openly the use of CBD for pets. This bill will be likely to set a precedent for more freedom in the discussion and clinical trials or research of CBD for animal treatment.
How Does CBD Work in Animals?
Every human has a natural system that is known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is a complex network of chemical signals and cell receptors. It also produces natural cannabinoids that assist the system in taking responsibility for the regulation of many processes. These include temperature control, sleep regulation, pain and inflammation, appetite as well as immune responses.
Animals also have an ECS and it works in the same way ours does. It works to maintain the perfect biological balance, called homeostasis, through regulating the different processes and functions that it’s responsible for. When CBD is administered into the body, the cannabinoids from CBD interact with the ECS in the same way that the natural ones do. They boost and supplement the function and activity of the ECS. For example, when your pet’s body is under repeated stress, their ECS can experience burn out and their natural cannabinoids may not be able to function optimally, so they need extra support. Stimulating the function of your pet’s ECS with CBD can help their bodies maintain homeostasis without experiencing this burnout.
Benefits of CBD for Your Pets
CBD has many benefits for animals. It provides owners with a natural solution to their pets’ health issues. As pets age, they may begin to face a host of obstacles to their health. Whether your pet is experiencing the symptoms of a disease or you’re looking to improve their overall health at any age, here’s how your pet can benefit from CBD. It assists with easing the following concerns:
CBD is a known anti-inflammatory so if your pet is experiencing inflammation, CBD may reduce it. As we’ve mentioned, CBD interacts with the animal’s natural ECS. One of the processes which it regulates is inflammation. CBD can be good for pets with arthritis as it helps reduce the inflammation caused by the disease. In a study testing the effect of CBD on inflammation in dogs, 80% of them were reported to have shown improvement in their mobility and pain. This indicates that CBD helped reduce the dogs’ inflammation.
- Pain relief
Another responsibility of the ECS is to manage the body’s pain receptors. These are usually found in the Central Nervous System (CNS) and CBD interacts with them in the same way that natural cannabinoids do when trying to reduce pain. CBD is good for relieving general pain, nerve-related pain and can also help relieve pain in animals with osteoarthritis.
- Helps lower the frequency of seizures
Seizures occur when there is overstimulation that causes uncontrolled electrical activity between brain cells. On average, it's estimated that 5% of dogs suffer from seizures in their lifetime. That's 1 in every 20 dogs. You can help your pet by giving them CBD, which assists in reducing excitement in the brain and limiting the activity of uncontrolled electricity. It can also prevent the brain cells from being damaged during seizures.
A study posted in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association showed that CBD decreased seizure activity in epileptic dogs. A group of them were given CBD along with their seizure medication and another group was given a placebo along with their seizure medication. The researchers found that the group that took the CBD had significantly decreased numbers of seizures.
- Reduces stress and anxiety
Just as we do, animals can also undergo stress and anxiety. When this occurs, you may find your pets acting differently. They may have bad urinating habits, mood swings, pace up and down or become extremely reserved.
To alleviate your pet’s anxiety, try giving them CBD. It has been shown to elevate serotonin levels, the hormone that regulates moods and cognitive function. When serotonin levels are increased, feelings of nervousness are reduced and replaced with calmness. This will result in your pet feeling happy and relaxed again.
- Improves mobility and joint health
Animals can also be affected by diseases like osteoarthritis. When this happens, they may have swelling and inflammation in their joints, experience pain and may also find it difficult to move about. Because CBD can reduce inflammation, it helps create better joint health which enables your pet to become more mobile. Old age could be another factor that contributes to joint pain and decreased mobility, which CBD can ease.
- Improves appetite
If your pet is struggling to eat and is suffering from a lack of appetite, CBD can stimulate a change. Because the ECS is responsible for metabolism, boosting this process with CBD will increase your pet’s food intake. And you can then get them back on track to healthier eating habits.
- Acts as an anti-nausea
Some pets may feel nauseous when eating. Because CBD can improve their appetite, this eating-related nausea can be resolved. Stressful situations can also cause nausea so giving your pet CBD to relax or calm down can reduce their nausea.
- Can boost the shine in their coat
A shiny coat usually means a healthy pet. Because CBD can be used to alleviate many health concerns, your pet will overall be feeling healthier, which means they’ll also be looking healthier. For added shine, you can try massaging CBD oil into their coat. This way, not only do they get a topical treatment, but small amounts of CBD could be absorbed into their skin and assist in other areas of concern.
What Do Veterinarians Say About CBD for Pets?
Although there is still more research and clinical testing needed, there are a lot of vets that aren’t opposed to the use of CBD for pets. There are also many that in fact recommend its use for pets, and some CBD pet products have been developed alongside vets and specialists in pet health.
In a survey conducted by the Veterinary Information Network, 79% of vets said that CBD products were somewhat or very helpful in treating animals who experienced pain. The survey also found that 62% of vets agreed that CBD was very helpful in treating animals with anxiety.
It's always important that you discuss CBD with your vet before giving it to your pet for utmost safety. In some cases, your vet may not be legally allowed to talk about CBD treatments because it hasn't been approved by national food and drug administrations in every country or state yet. But this legal status is constantly and rapidly changing.
Which CBD Products are Best for Your Pets?
There are three main types of CBD extracts that you are likely to find when it comes to CBD products. They are:
- Isolate: during the extraction process, when CBD is sourced from the hemp plant, the other substances are stripped away to leave only pure CBD. This means that CBD isolate products only contain CBD and no other substances, like Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). and because of this, CBD isolate will not make you high.
- Broad Spectrum: during the extraction process, the main substance that is sourced is CBD, but small amounts of other substances from the hemp plant are also present. You’re likely to find less than 0.3% of THC, but because these other substances are present, you experience what is known as the entourage effect.
- Full Spectrum: during the extraction process, most of the plant’s particles and substances are sourced. Again, you’ll find less than 0.3% of THC, but the entourage effect is much stronger because the full range of cannabinoids from the hemp plant is present.
Although any of the above are considered to be safe for animals because they are non-toxic, it’s recommended that you stick to CBD isolate to avoid any reactions to THC or other substances like terpenes. You may also find your pet having a reaction if you give them too much of an extract that contains THC. This could mean that they may experience mild THC toxicity if consumed in large enough amounts.
You can find CBD in a variety of forms. These can range from oils to balms, creams and CBD infused edibles or snacks. You can choose which form is best for your pet depending on the condition you want to treat and your, as well as their, personal preference. Oils are good for oral intake and if you’re looking for something with a higher potency. They are often given directly into the mouth or placed under the tongue. You could also add a few drops of CBD oil into your pet’s food if they prefer to ingest it this way. Using a dropper is ideal because you can adjust the dose without having to be limited to a fixed amount like you would with a tablet or treat. Oils can also be massaged into your pet’s coat, if they have one, for added shine and as a treatment for any topical conditions. Balms and creams can also be used when massaging your pet to help them with joint pain and overall relaxation.
Flavoured snacks and treats are another way to go. There are a variety to choose from and usually provide added vitamins and minerals as well. You may find that your pet enjoys these more because they are flavoured with their favourite taste. Whichever form you choose, just make sure you do so with your furry friend’s preferences in mind.
Tips for choosing a CBD product for your pet
- Read the labels carefully
When choosing a CBD product for your pet, make sure to read the labels and double-check that you have the right information to make an informed decision. Remember, not all products will be formulated in the same way. Some may use different quality hemp or are processed using different techniques which can affect the way your pet responds to the CBD.
- Go organic
Always pick a CBD product that is organic. This will not only ensure the quality of the product but also there is less processing so more benefits. And you also know there are no additives or artificial ingredients. This will also ensure that the CBD is of good quality.
- Check if the product was third-party tested
If a company is reluctant to share any information about its production process or test results and analysis, you should be cautious. It may mean that they are trying to hide something from you. So take the time to check if their purity has been verified so your pets don’t suffer from unknown contaminants that could be present.
- Don’t just go for the cheapest option
When shopping for CBD, especially oils, you usually get what you pay for. The problem with going for a cheap CBD product is that it may have a weak formulation or include unwanted ingredients, like pesticides or heavy metals which can be toxic. This could put your pet at risk. Make sure you invest in the quality of a CBD product so you avoid your pet going through any distress.
Will CBD Make My Pet High?
CBD does not have any psychoactive properties, which means it won’t make your pet high. The psychoactive cannabinoid in the hemp plant is THC, usually found in full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD. The amount of THC present, however, is less than 0.3%, which usually isn’t enough to give your pet a high. However, if taken in enough doses and depending on the physiology of the animal, they may feel these effects. But it’s unlikely to have an unwanted impact on your pet’s brain or body in the long term. Should you have any doubts, stick to pure CBD isolate products.
Guidelines for CBD Dosage for Pets
Just like humans, each pet is unique. That means the way they will respond to CBD will be different for each one. So the best way to figure out how much CBD your pet needs is to follow the golden rule. That is to dose low and slow. Smaller animals and breeds would need smaller doses and possibly lower potencies. The condition of your pet can also play a role in how much CBD you should give them. For example, a pet that needs CBD to soothe its anxiety would need a smaller dose compared to a pet that takes it to reduce seizures. Also, if your pet is chronically ill, they may need a higher dose than say a pet that is taking CBD just for overall well-being.
Always start with the lowest dose possible and take note of its effects on your pet, or reactions if any. This will ensure you don’t give your pet more than they can handle. If you are content with the results of the low dose, you can continue with it more regularly.
If you feel like your pet may need a higher dose, you should gradually increase it until you feel they are getting the right amount and benefiting well. But make sure that you give them enough time to adjust to a new dose before you increase it as their bodies may need a few days, sometimes weeks, of consistent use to get used to the CBD and process it properly.
According to a study published in Front Vet Science, the recommended dosing for a dog is 1-2 milligrams for every kilogram your dog weighs. So if your dog weighs 20 kilograms, you could give them 20-40 milligrams of CBD. But each CBD product is different, so discretion is required. Remember to read and follow the instructions on the label and always start out with a minimal dose. It’s best to consult a vet if you are unsure so they can help you work out what will be most beneficial for your pet.
- How long does it take for CBD to have an effect on my pet?
This could depend on the method of delivery and the dose. If the CBD was taken orally in the form of an oil, it usually takes about 30 minutes for the animal to feel the effects. And these effects should last from 4 to 6 hours. If the CBD was added to your pet’s food, it may take a bit longer before you see any effects because the CBD has to first pass through the animal’s digestive system before it reaches their blood supply.
- Are there any side effects that my pet may experience?
Although CBD is generally safe for animals, sometimes, your pet may experience side effects from taking it. In this case, the effects are usually minimal and go away on their own once the use of CBD is discontinued. Side effects that they may experience include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or digestive issues
It’s important that you consult with your vet should you feel that your pet is not tolerating their CBD products well.
- When should I give my pet CBD?
Depending on what the reason is for giving your pet CBD, you can administer the drug at any time. Consider following a regular schedule if you are treating them for something.
There are certain situations when you may need to give them a dose outside of their schedule, or even as a once-off incidence. For example, if you know that an upcoming event is going to cause them anxiety, you could give them CBD 30 minutes before to calm and relax them so they don’t get anxious during the event.
- Can I treat my pet with CBD every day?
It is safe to give your pet CBD every day. CBD is a natural and non-toxic product. However, you should pay attention and take note of how the CBD is affecting them, and if you feel they need it less frequently, you can adjust their dose accordingly.
- How long will CBD stay in my pet's system?
CBD can last up to 24 hours in your pet’s system. However, this may vary depending on the amount of CBD you gave them and its concentration, the condition you are trying to treat and their physiology. If you’re looking to maintain a consistent level of CBD in your pet’s system, try giving them a low dose twice a day. But as always, pay attention to how your pet is feeling and make a decision with discretion.
- How can I tell if CBD is working on my pet?
You should wait for at least 30 minutes before you see any therapeutic effects. Depending on the reason for giving your pet CBD, you should see behavioural changes. For example, if you are treating them for pain, you should take note of how they walk, sit and interact with you and other animals and compare it to how they were before treatment. If you notice an improvement in their behaviours, the CBD is likely to be working on them.
- Why didn’t the dose of CBD have an effect on my pet?
Sometimes, your pet may not experience the effects of CBD straight away because every one of them has an ECS that responds uniquely. Give them a bit of time to adjust. They may just be stuck in an old routine which could make you think that there were no changes. They also may need their dose to be adjusted or their diet. Allergens in their food, and at times the environment, could be the cause of the issue. See if tweaking these factors have any effect.
You can also try giving them their doses at a different time in the day. Some may respond better when given in the morning, while others may benefit from snacking on CBD edible treats throughout the day.
- Can CBD interact with other medications that my pet is on?
Yes, CBD can interact with other medications so it’s important to check with a vet before giving your pet any CBD if they are already being treated for something. CBD can affect the metabolism of other drugs. So if your pet is able to take the drug, their CBD doses may need to be adjusted accordingly. This is especially in the case of using CBD for seizure control.
- Are CBD products for pets the same as those for humans? And can I use my own CBD products for my pets?
Generally, the same CBD that’s used in products for humans is the same CBD that’s used in products for animals. However, it’s recommended that you follow instructions from your vet and read the labels on any CBD products first before giving it to your pet. This is in case it contains any substances that may be toxic for animals. For example, certain essential oils and artificial sweeteners, as well as chocolate, can cause adverse reactions.
Your pets are also likely to have an affinity to different tastes compared to you. They may not like the taste of an orally consumed CBD product because CBD has an earthy tone to it. CBD products for animals are developed with this in mind and often have pet-friendly flavours, like fish or chicken, added to them to cover up the taste of CBD. CBD edibles designed for animals will also likely contain added vitamins and other supplements that are beneficial for your pet.
- Which animals can tolerate CBD?
All animals have an ECS and generally are tolerable of CBD because it’s a natural, non-toxic substance. It’s best to do a test with a small amount of CBD to see how your pet reacts but, animals that have been noted for receiving CBD well range from dogs, cats, hamsters, horses, birds and reptiles.
- Can my pet overdose on CBD?
The short answer is no because CBD is non-toxic. If you’re giving your pet pure CBD, they are unlikely to experience any serious symptoms. However, too much of anything isn’t good, so you may find that your pet has a certain threshold of CBD tolerance. Beyond that threshold, there may be a risk of your pet feeling overly sleepy, sluggish and having an upset tummy. But these won’t last for long and they generally won’t have adverse effects. In a case where you think your pet is experiencing any of these side effects, try lowering their dose.
The Bottom Line
As your life companions, it’s not easy watching your pets suffer in any way. Whether their health is declining because of old age, injuries or diseases, everyone wants to do the best they can to alleviate any distress. CBD is a natural therapy that aids in ensuring your pet’s overall well being is maintained and they’re kept in good spirits.
CBD can offer your pets many benefits. And the great thing is that it’s non-toxic so you don’t have to worry about your pet overdosing or facing any adverse reactions. Remember to always start your pet off with a minimal dose and slowly work up from there for optimal results. When you decide to start your pet on CBD, you should contact your vet if you’re unsure about contraindications with other medications and to make sure your pet is always in good health.