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CBD and Your Dog: First Things to Know

Should you give CBD to your dog?

So you’re all in for CBD. You’ve used it for sleep, for relaxation, for weight loss, and for overall wellbeing. You’re thrilled with the way it’s enhanced your quality of life. And you’re spreading the good word. You’ve recommended it to your grandma for her glaucoma and to your co-worker for his carpal tunnel. Now you’re thinking about giving it to Fido. 

It’s a good idea to start by looking at the available research. Studies on the use of CBD for pets have been fairly limited, and are just beginning to appear in larger numbers due to the rapid increase in popularity of this medicine. These studies have focused primarily on the use of CBD for treating arthritis and epilepsy in dogs, as well as for canine pain relief. What does the research say, and what precautions should you observe when considering giving CBD to your companion animals?

Dogs and CBD:  Clinical Research

Clinical trials conducted at Colorado State University indicate early positive results using CBD to reduce the frequency of seizures in dogs, including some cutting-edge research which lends great credibility to this application. There is also strong evidence of the efficacy of CBD for treating pain and mobility issues related to arthritis. 

In the absence of a large body of research, though, and in response to growing numbers of pet owners who are curious about using it for their animals, some veterinarians are beginning to advise clients to try it if they want, while being guarded about giving a definitive recommendation.  It’s helpful to look at anecdotal evidence, including the experience of many dog owners who have had success in treating their dogs with CBD.   

What Vets Are Saying About CBD for Dogs

“There is a growing number of vets who are saying to their clients, ‘We don’t know much about it.  If you want to try it, try it,’” says Aidan Gannon, owner of Petz Love Food and Supply in Lone Tree, Colorado.   He bases his recommendations for his customers on the input of vets who have done detailed case studies and seen positive results with their clients, as well as his own investigation of various brands on the market.

Gannon became interested in CBD when customers began coming into his store asking about it for their animals.  “I started taking it myself, and I found that it worked extraordinarily well for inflammation for my lower back… and [when I used it for a few days] the quality of sleep was a lot better.”  Then he heard from holistic veterinarians who gave CBD to their patients. They were seeing positive results for a range of health issues, from anxiety to skin problems to cancer. What he learned was enough to convince him to begin carrying CBD in his store.

Many vets are uncomfortable recommending CBD, primarily because the research is still in the early stages.  The only studies have been conducted by Colorado State University.

“It depends on the veterinary outlook,” says Gannon.  The younger generation of veterinarians, he says, are more likely to use it for their patients and are more comfortable recommending it. Older vets tend to be more hesitant, mostly because CBD is not a part of conventional medical treatment.

Pointers for Starting Your Dog On CBD

When beginning CBD with your dog, keep a few things in mind.  

  • Don’t mix CBD and pharmaceuticals. If your pet is currently on medications, phase them out first (in consultation with your vet, of course) to avoid any interaction between the two.  There are two reasons for this. 1. You may be canceling out the effects of CBD with pharmaceuticals, or vice versa. 2. Combining CBD and pharmaceuticals may stress the animal’s liver. 
  •  Make sure that you’re buying CBD oil sourced from organically grown plants. Because the hemp plant pulls toxins out of the soil as it grows, using only organic material protects you and your fur baby from ingestion of those harmful toxins absorbed by the plants during their growth cycle.
  • Read the label. Be certain that you’re buying CBD oil and not hemp oil.  CBD products often contain hemp oil as a carrier, but do be certain that there is actually CBD in the product.
  • Read the COA (certificate of analysis).  The COA should be conducted by an independent lab and indicate that the product was given a “pass” rating for pesticides, heavy metals, and microbials.
  • Choose a full spectrum product (one that contains all of the original chemical constituents of the whole plant, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids) rather than an isolate.  Full spectrum is superior to isolate (CBD only, with THC removed) in terms of its healing properties. However, many find success with isolates, and these are definitely preferable to not using CBD at all. 
  • If you do go with a full spectrum product, especially one with a high THC concentration, watch carefully for any adverse reactions. Animals, like people, are highly individual in their responses to cannabis. If you notice any digestive upset or any kind of psychoactive reaction such as panting, pacing, or signs of anxiety, scale the dosage down and reintroduce more gradually, or try a different product.  Adverse reactions are highly unusual but they can happen, especially with puppies – possibly because their metabolism is higher than that of adult dogs.
  • Find out how the CBD oil was extracted.  Nathan Richer of Natural Pet Organics prefers CO2 extraction over other methods because this is the cleanest method, offering the highest quality of CBD.  Solvent extraction, by contrast, results in harmful residues in the product as well as a shorter shelf life. Since the extraction method is not always listed on the label, it is always best to ask the retailer.  If they can’t give you an answer, contact the manufacturer.
  • The product should be sufficiently potent, containing at least 250 mg of CBD per ounce.  Anything less than this is likely to be ineffective for your pet.
  • Start low and slow to find the correct dosage.  Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM, recommends 1 mg per 10 lbs of body weight when starting out. 
  • Beware of CBD oils that are priced significantly less than similar products from other manufacturers.  These, across the board, are inferior products. Don’t waste your time or your money.
  • Stay in touch with your vet and have them reevaluate your pet on a regular basis, particularly if the animal has had elevated liver enzymes.  Blood tests should be performed periodically to make sure that they’re not in the danger zone.
  • CBD is not a cure-all.  As mentioned above, animals are highly individual in their responses.  Scale your expectations and be prepared to switch gears after a trial period of a few weeks if you don’t see any improvement.  

Keep all of these suggestions in mind when shopping for CBD oil for your dog, and you’re likely to find the best product for your canine’s needs. There are a lot of products to choose from, so have this list close at hand while shopping and researching.  Your reward may be a dramatically improved quality of life for your best friend. 

Loren Freed 615-578-8873