Is CBD oil safe for dogs? We define the terms and review the potential benefits, side effects, and proper dosages for canines. The story of Bruce Wayne, my disabled pug with Pug Myelopathy, who has overcome so many obstacles with the help of CBD and integrative medicine.
What’s the Right Dosage of CBD Oil for Dogs?
Following the legalization of marijuana in many states, pet owners have shown increased interest in the benefits of marijuana and CBD oil for their canine companions. In this article, we will define CBD oil, explain how it differs from marijuana, and discuss health benefits, side effects, and dosage recommendations for dogs.
What Is CBD Oil?
The Cannabis plant has been around for thousands of years and is known to contain more than 450 chemicals and over 80 cannabinoids. A cannabinoid is a class of chemicals found in Cannabis that can cause various effects on the body. The effect of each cannabinoid can be different. The amount and concentration of each cannabinoid varies with the specific plant and strain of plant. CBD is derived from the hemp plant, which is a relative to the marijuana plant. Hemp is a type of Cannabis plant known to have more CBD than THC with a max of 0.3% THC.
The two most studied and available cannabinoids are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabidiol (CBD) has limited or no psychotropic properties. CBD is thought to decrease anxiety, lessen nausea and vomiting, reduce seizure activity, control pain, and decrease inflammation. It is increasingly being used in both humans and dogs for a variety of medical and behavioral conditions.
CBD is one of the many components of marijuana but, when used by itself, it does not cause the “high” that is often associated with the plant. To date, there is no evidence that CBD can be addictive.
How Does CBD Oil Differ from Marijuana?
Marijuana, also known as Cannabis, is a drug derived from the Cannabis plant. It is classified as a psychoactive drug and used for recreational, spiritual, and medicinal purposes. As mentioned above, the Cannabis plant has many different cannabinoids, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the most potent and psychogenic cannabinoid. Marijuana can produce different physical and mental effects, including an altered sense of time and consciousness, changes in thought, relaxation, impaired body actions, increase in appetite, feelings of euphoria (in humans, referred to as a feeling of being “high” or “stoned”), and an increased awareness of sensation. Other effects may include delusions, anxiety, and/or paranoia.
Cannabis is used medically to treat nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms, seizures, chronic pain, anxiety, inappetence, as well as other medical problems. Learn more about the ingestion and toxicity of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) here.
Cannabis can be utilized by smoking or vaping, as extracts, or in food “edibles” such as brownies, cookies, and other baked goods. The effects of cannabis generally begin between 15 and 50 minutes of intake and last for two to seven hours, depending on the amount and concentration of the product.
Long-term effects are poorly defined. Some research suggests that long-term use can be associated with memory and cognitive problems, risk of schizophrenia, and risk of addiction.
As the medical benefits of marijuana are explored, increased interest has been placed on the plant and CBD products.
Because of the availability of marijuana, there has been an increase in exposure to pets. Learn about Marijuana Toxicity in Cats here.
How Is CBD Oil Made?
A process called CO2 extraction, which is pressurized carbon dioxide used to pull phytochemicals from a plant, allows for the removal of the desired cannabinoids. Some CBD products contain isolates or only certain cannabinoids, while others are described as being “full spectrum,” which means that the product contains all the cannabinoids natural to the plant. The full spectrum CBD products are high in CBD and extremely low in THC. Once CBD is extracted from the plant, it is often formulated and sold as an “oil.”
What Is the Difference Between Hemp Oil and CBD Oil?
It is important to note that CBD oil is different from hemp oil. Although both are derived from the hemp plant, hemp oil is made from hemp seeds and the end product contains no CBD. CBD is made from the flowers, stalks, and leaves of the hemp plant, where the cannabidiol is located. Each type of oil has its own medical benefits. Hemp oil is rich in minerals and vitamins and some pet owners use it as a vitamin supplement.
How CBD Oil Works for Dogs
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) regulates and balances many body processes. In humans, it impacts immune responses, appetite, memory, mood, sleep, and even fertility. The ECS was discovered over 30 years ago as researchers worked to better understand THC. The ECS system is active in the body regardless of the use of cannabinoids and created to interact with naturally-occurring cannabinoids produced by the brain. These receptors can also interact with plant-based CBD products.
Cannabinoids bind with very specific membrane-bound receptors called the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2). Cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) is found in the brain and (CB2) receptors are found in the immune system, such as within the spleen. Cannabidiol (CBD) has affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors and may also work by altering the update of adenosine in the body to promote sleep and relaxation.
Health Benefits of CBD Oil for Dogs
In humans, CBD oil has been used to treat a variety of conditions. This includes anorexia and weight loss associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), cachexia, cancer, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, degenerative neurological conditions, depression, dementia, dystonia, epilepsy, glaucoma, irritable bowel syndrome, pain, Parkinson’s disease, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, sleep disorders, spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and Tourette’s syndrome.
CBD oil is used and prescribed for a variety of uses in dogs, many of which are extrapolated from human research and use.
The most common uses in dogs include:
- Anxiety and Fear-Based Behaviors. Anxiety, such as separation anxiety, can affect some dogs, causing a wide range of symptoms that include pacing, circling, panting, escape behavior, persistent barking, aggression, tremors, chewing, and repetitive physical activity, such as digging, tail-chasing, and/or inappropriate urination and defecation. In humans, some believe that CBD decreases feelings of anxiety, and it is being used in dogs for the same purpose. Some research suggests that in humans, CBD may increase serotonin in the brain, which reduces feelings of anxiety and fear, and improves mood. Fear-based behaviors such as Noise phobias (thunderstorms) may also benefit from CBD oil.
- Arthritis and Joint Pain. Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints that causes pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility. The most common use of CBD oil for dogs is for its anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is associated with many medical conditions. CBD is believed to interact with immune cell CB2 receptors, which decrease inflammation and pain.
- Cancer. Some research suggests that CBD may have anti-tumor properties. Cancer is a disease caused by abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue. It is a very common illness in dogs and is the most common cause of death in senior dogs. Some cancers can be treated with surgery, while others are treated with drug therapies. The goal of cancer treatment is to remove the cancer (if possible) or decrease its growth. Many pet owners like CBD as part of their dog’s treatment, due to its low cost and lack of side effects when compared to chemotherapy. In humans, research is being conducted to document the use of CBD and explain how cannabinoids can slow the spread and growth of tumors. There are reports that suggest CBD can be useful in the treatment of breast cancer and colon cancer, and it may even enhance the effects of chemotherapy.
- Homeostasis. It’s believed that CBD may create an environment of “homeostasis.” Homeostasis is a state of harmony (equilibrium) of internal and physical processes or a “state of perfect balance.” Research suggests that the endocannabinoid system may play some role in homeostasis. Diseases and inflammation develop when things are out of balance.
- Nausea, Vomiting, and Appetite Stimulation. Nausea is a very common symptom of many different diseases and it can be a side effect of medications and chemotherapy. It decreases the appetite and is associated with weight loss, lethargy, lower activity levels, and dehydration. In human medicine, it is believed that CBD can control nausea and improve appetite.
- Pain Management. It is believed that the endocannabinoid system is involved in pain management and, today, CBD is best known for its pain control capabilities. CBD has been shown during scientific trials to stop the absorption of anandamide, which is a brain chemical that depresses pain signals.
- Seizure Disorders (epilepsy, etc.). One of the most popular discussions surrounding the use of CBD for dogs is related to seizures. Many believe that CBD has natural anticonvulsant properties, although it is unclear how this works and has only been documented in humans.
A study published in June of 2019 by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University investigated “the effect of oral cannabidiol (CBD) administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy.” Essentially, the study used 26 client-owned dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. These 26 dogs were placed into two groups, one receiving CBD-infused oil twice a day for 3 months in addition to their normal seizure medications, and the other group receiving non-infused oil under the same conditions. The seizure activity, side effects, and blood CBD levels were compared for both groups.
Two dogs in the CBD group developed ataxia and were withdrawn from the study. This left 9 dogs in the CBD group and 7 in the placebo group. According to the study, “Dogs in the CBD group had a significant (median change, 33%) reduction in seizure frequency, compared with the placebo group. However, the proportion of dogs considered responders to treatment (≥ 50% decrease in seizure activity) was similar between both groups.
This data makes it hard to gauge the impact of CBD oil use for dogs. Ultimately, this study demanded additional research, specifically experimenting with higher doses of CBD to determine if that further influenced seizure activity.
Additional Uses and Potential Benefits of CBD Oil for Dogs
are very common in dogs and cats because of food ingredients, pollens, molds, grass, and more. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD may be beneficial to control the symptoms of itching and skin inflammation in some dogs.
- Some veterinarians refer to Cognitive Dysfunction as “doggy Alzheimer’s,” since abnormal changes in the brain concerning cognitive function resemble those of humans with Alzheimer’s Disease. Signs of senile dementia may include reduced activity, sleeping more, lack of awareness of the environment, confusion, and difficulty walking. Some dogs will go into a room and stare at the wall or seem confused as to their surroundings. Research in human Alzheimer’s has suggested there may be benefits to giving CBD oil, although no research has been conclusive in veterinary medicine. The neuron processes that have been documented suggest that CBD may decrease inflammation of brain cells, promote new cell growth, and potentially decrease cells that contribute to amyloid production. is a slow, progressive spinal cord disorder most commonly seen in senior, large-breed dogs. It causes weakness and difficulty walking on the rear legs. Some believe the anti-inflammatory, pain control, and anti-anxiety properties of CBD benefit dogs with this disease. is a condition that results in high eye pressure, ultimately leading to vision loss. Treatment includes eye drops, oral medications, and surgery. Glaucoma can be genetic or caused by tumors, infections, secondary to cataracts, as well as other diseases. Human studies dating back to the 1970’s have looked at the benefits of cannabis on eye pressure and found it can reduce pressure up to 30%. How this impacts dogs is yet to be determined, but some advocates are hopeful. (IBD) is a group of gastrointestinal disorders that involve infiltration of the gastrointestinal tract by inflammatory cells. Common signs are persistent vomiting and diarrhea. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD may make it beneficial to dogs with these disorders. associated with car or boat rides can occur in some dogs. The anti-nausea properties of CBD may help dogs with this condition. results from inflammation of the pancreas, characterized by activation of pancreatic enzymes that can cause the pancreas to begin digesting itself. It can be mild or life-threatening. Common signs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, and weight loss. The anti-inflammatory and pain management attributes of CBD may help in treating this condition.
CBD is also often recommended in addition to traditional therapies.
Side Effects of CBD Oil for Dogs
It is important that dog owners understand that adverse effects can occur with any drug or supplement. CBD is not psychotropic, which means it does not cause the symptoms noted with THC, like lethargy, listlessness, stumbling, glazed over eyes, and urinary incontinence, or the typical signs associated with the feeling of being “high.” There is evidence that CBD can increase a liver enzyme, the alkaline phosphatase (ALP), however the significance of this finding has yet to be determined. The overall toxicity of CBD oil in dogs appears to be limited.
There are no clear research findings that indicate drug interactions when CBD is given with other medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, and more.
In humans, the most common side effects of CBD oil include a dry mouth, drowsiness, and a slight drop in blood pressure. In dogs, it is more difficult to determine these effects and few adverse outcomes have been documented. Some dogs with dry mouths may lick their lips more often or drink more, dogs with lethargy may sleep more, and dogs with low blood pressure may appear weak, lethargic, or generally less active.
Impure CBD products may contain THC, which can cause psychotropic effects such as depression, lethargy, listlessness, loss of motor coordination or balance (stumbling), incontinence, low heart rate, low blood pressure, low body temperature, respiratory depression, dilated pupils and glazed over eyes, vocalization like crying or whining, agitation, drooling, vomiting, seizures, and coma. Some dogs may experience hallucinations and have increased sensory stimulation to noises or fast movements.
When giving CBD oils to your dog, make sure you monitor them closely for any abnormalities and notify your veterinarian of any problems.
The Controversy Over Using CBD Oil for Dogs
There is much controversy about the use of CBD oil products in veterinary medicine.
Issues include the following:
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) has not approved CBD use for dogs.
- It is unknown if CBD works for most medical conditions in dogs. Research is underway to determine its effect on pain and seizures. The most positive research to date, although limited, has been on the use of CBD in dogs with osteoarthritis.
- There are substantial differences in the quality and purity of CBD products.
- There is poor quality control of the production of CBD products. CBD is also unregulated by the Federal Government. This means that no agency is looking at the purity, concentration, quality, or label declarations. There are substantial differences in quality in various CBD products, specifically the presence of preservatives, insecticides, and additives. In fact, some products have been shown to contain little to no CBD oil.
- Safe and therapeutic doses of CBD oil in dogs have not been established.
- It is unknown how CBD interacts with other treatments or medications. There may be undocumented drug interactions that have yet to be determined.
- Impure products may contain various amounts of THC, which can cause unwanted side effects.
- Human CBD products may be in the form of baked goods or gummy candy and many contain an artificial sweetener known as Xylitol, which can be toxic to dogs. Learn more about Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs here.
- It can be difficult to extrapolate the research to determine if CBD will work for a particular medical problem. Some CBD research studies conducted in dogs use very particular formulations and doses for specific conditions. This means you cannot assume a different formulation or dose will work.
When using CBD oil, it is recommended to obtain a high-quality product that is organic, free of preservatives, and additives. Ideally, it should be well documented that the product has been tested and free of THC.
Is CBD Legal and Can Vets Prescribe it?
Until recently, CBD was categorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, similar to heroin and morphine. This prohibited vets from prescribing CBD products.
In late 2018, the DEA announced that drugs including CBD with THC content below 0.1% were classified as Schedule 5 drugs, as long as they have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA). In many states, by law, CBD products can have no more than 0.3 percent (%) THC.
The laws surrounding the legality of veterinary prescription vary by state and have been the source of controversy and confusion. Even after the reclassification of CBD, many available products are not approved by the USDA and are still prohibited by some states.
What Is the Proper Dose of CBD Oil for Dogs?
The dose of CBD for dogs may vary. Please see your veterinarian for recommendations for the best quality and safest product, as well as the appropriate dose for your dog based on the condition you are trying to treat.
You can buy CBD in various formulations. CBD can be applied topically, but is more commonly given orally. The preferred formulation for most pet owners is an “oil,” which allows you to better regulate the amount your dog is receiving. Many products indicate dosage recommendations on their labels. The amount you give will be dependent on the concentration of CBD in the product.
CBD oil for dogs is most often dosed by body weight and given every 8 to 12 hours as needed. It is recommended to start with a low dosage and gradually increase until you receive the desired effects.
Dosage recommendations for CBD oils in dogs vary (as you will read below). A common starting dose recommendation is 0.1 to 0.2 mg/kilogram of body weight (0.05 to 0.1 mg/pound) once to twice daily.
Examples of Starting Doses by Weight:
- 5 pounds to 10 pounds – approximately 0.25 mg to 1 mg per dog per day.
- 11 to 20 pounds – approximately 0.5 mg to 2 mg per dog per day.
- 21 to 40 pounds – approximately 1 mg to 4 mg per dog per day.
- 41 to 60 pounds – approximately 2 mg to 6 mg per dog per day.
- 61 to 80 pounds – approximately 3 mg to 8 mg per dog per day.
- 81 to 100 pounds – approximately 4 mg to 10 mg per dog per day.
- 101 to 120 pounds – approximately 5 mg to 12 mg per dog per day.
- Over 121 pounds – use a combination of the above.
It is important to determine the mg of CBD per unit of the product to calculate this dose to give your dog.
ALWAYS SEE YOUR VETERINARIAN to determine the best quality and safest product, as well as the dose most appropriate for your dog and their condition.
A study conducted in 2018 by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine evaluated the safety and pain control properties of CBD oil in dogs with osteoarthritis. Results suggested that CBD, when given twice daily at a dose of 2 or 8 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight, increased comfort and activity (approximately 1 or 3.5 mg/pound).
Pet owners interested in CBD for their dogs may become frustrated by the lack of firm recommendations from their veterinarian. This is due to lack of research proving effectiveness, a vast range of quality and purity, laws that prohibit the use of CBD oil in some states, and the overall limited experience using it and seeing results. If CBD oil is recommended, it is also most commonly used in conjunction with traditional treatments. It is critical to obtain a high-quality product, start slowly, and get approval from your veterinarian.
Bruce’s Story: CBD for Pug Myelopathy
The story of Bruce Wayne, my special pug with Pug Myelopathy, is one of many obstacles, all overcome with the help of integrative medicine and Full Spectrum Hemp Extract.
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Bruce’s Pug Myelopathy Diagnosis
Bruce started out like any other happy, healthy dog, free of issues. However, at 5 years old, Bruce started to show signs of hind end weakness. His tail stopped curling and his back legs did not work properly, he would suddenly lose control of his rear legs, and often stumbled looking like his back legs were drunk walking.
After an MRI, Bruce was diagnosed with a slipped disk and intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). Bruce had his first spinal surgery, known as a hemilaminectomy, to fix a slipped disk in 2015. Unfortunately, not many vets understand or even know of Pug Myelopathy. Because of this, Bruce’s vets thought his spinal injury was not congenital and the surgery was all he needed. Pug Myelopathy is in fact a congenital illness, very similar to Degenerative Myelopathy. However, with PM, the spinal cord damage is localized to the lumbar spine only and does not quickly progress up the spinal cord as DM does.
After Bruce’s PM Diagnosis
Unfortunately, throughout the years, Bruce’s condition progressed exactly how Pug Myelopathy does. Two years after his first surgery, Bruce faced another issue: Neurogenic Bladder. This basically meant Bruce was unable to urinate on his own, his bladder could not empty and without intervention, would burst. The cause was another spinal issue, a spinal cyst that damaged the nerve controlling Bruce’s bladder. Another MRI and surgery were performed to break up the cyst to alleviate pressure on Bruce’s spinal cord. Although the surgery fixed the compression issue, Bruce never regained the ability to urinate and now must be catheterized on a twice-daily basis.
By 2018, Bruce lost control of his back legs completely, was unable to walk on his own, and needed the assistance of a wheelchair. His wheelchair, custom-made by Eddie’s Wheels, gives Bruce the freedom he needs while still sustaining nerve function in his feet and legs. Even though Bruce can’t “feel” his rear legs, his spinal cord still needs to be stimulated in order for him to maintain muscle mass and retain some nervous system function.
Supporting Bruce Holistically
Bruce goes to physical therapy every week and utilizes the water treadmill to keep his legs moving. Bruce has the ability to “spinal walk” which means that although his brain is not telling his legs to move, his spinal cord is hard-wired to do so. He still walks in the treadmill; with the help of the water, he can gait and keep his muscles moving. Spinal walking is an incredible phenomenon.
Although many pugs are afflicted with Bruce’s condition, not many pug parents have the tools and resources to be able to conquer this disease with the success Bruce has. Bruce has a team of many highly skilled physicians and experts. He has weekly visits with arguably the best chiropractic neurologist in the world, Dr. Carl DeStefano, as well as weekly acupuncture appointments, massage therapy, cold laser therapy, and physical therapy.
The other foundation of Bruce’s health is his diet and supplement protocol. Bruce eats an exclusively all-fresh and whole food diet, rotating various cooling and neutral proteins like beef, duck, and rabbit. This is critical to maintaining urinary health since Bruce has to be catheterized and is holding urine longer than most animals, making his likelihood of urinary crystal formation higher than a normal dog.
CBD for Pug Myelopathy
Bruce also has a daily supplement regimen, which includes Full Spectrum Hemp Extract CBD. Without Bruce’s CBD regimen, he would have a missing link in his foundational health. CBD’s ability to balance all systems in the body is absolutely critical to keeping Bruce well. CBD helps protect Bruce’s body from chronic pain and inflammation, nervous system damage, and GI upset due to lack of nutrients from his damaged spinal cord. Because Bruce has a spinal cord disease, this means that his microbiome and GI tract will always need support. The spinal cord “feeds” every system in the body, and the gut is arguably the most important system in the body since it intrinsically connects all systems, especially the immune and nervous system.
In addition to the systemic benefits Bruce’s cannabis regimen offers, I also give Bruce CBD to manage a very strange phenomenon that is still not fully understood. Pugs like Bruce often experience neurological spasms in their rear legs. When Bruce experiences these spasms, it looks like his legs are running a marathon and then cramping up. His legs will spasm for upwards of 1-2 hours. This was happening 2-3 times a day and caused Bruce significant disorientation and fatigue. When these spasms first began, I tried EVERYTHING to manage and control them. I tried conventional pharmaceuticals like gabapentin, methocarbamol, and valium to no avail.
I even tried a CBD oil from a brand I previously carried in my store. Nothing seemed to help. However, Angela Ardolino, a medical cannabis expert, saved the day! She convinced me to give CBD another shot, this time trying CBD Dog Health tinctures. Within two doses of their HEAL: CBD Oil for Dogs, Bruce’s spasms resolved. Bruce is now free of these spasms! In the extremely rare case they do occur though, he sleeps right through them! I am forever grateful to Angela for reaching out to help me when I was at a very low point in Bruce’s care, and for teaching me about Full Spectrum Hemp Extract as a natural alternative. Bruce has since dealt with some other serious health issues, like thrombocytopenia and acute liver disease, and FSHE has helped get Bruce through those issues too!
Pug Myelopathy is a condition that requires close monitoring and care, but it is possible to give your pug excellent quality of life through a multi-modal approach of fresh food, supplementation, and proper physical rehabilitation. My hope is that with more information and education, veterinarians who encounter pugs like Bruce will be able to provide their clients better tools to help care for their pugs more proactively.
If you have a pug, regardless of whether it has or does not have PM, please consider contributing to a research study being conducted at Purdue University to try to identify the gene responsible for the condition. Healthy pugs and pugs affected with hind end weakness and/or paralysis area encouraged to submit samples.
Krysta Fox is an experienced Veterinary Technician, a career inspired by her own beloved pug’s medical issues. With her years of experience working in traditional, holistic, and integrative practices, working alongside some of the most gifted practitioners in the industry, her varied experiences have played a key part in expanding her knowledge of veterinary medicine. She has also previously taken on several roles within the industry, including the manufacture and sales of raw pet food as well as consulting on animal health and nutrition. With her combined veterinary and pet industry knowledge, she can effectively help almost anyone she comes across in some way regarding their pets’ health.