You’ve no doubt heard of CBD before. It’s been touted as a “wonder drug” that helps with everything from anxiety to epilepsy.
A lot of people out there have recommended CBD for pets, but the question is this: Does CBD actually work, or is it nothing more than a scam to rob people of their hard-earned money?
If you’ve turned to Google for answers, you might have come away from your search feeling more confused than when you started. 😿There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and it can be a challenge to sort the wild, unsubstantiated claims from reality.
This article aims to unravel the mystery of CBD and give you a better understanding of what it is and how (if) it works. This article is not medical advice, and it is not a substitute for a visit to your veterinarian, but it will give you a base of knowledge about CBD. By the time you’ve scrolled to the bottom of this page, you’ll understand the following:
- What is CBD?
- How CBD works
- How to identify quality CBD products
Real Quick… What is CBD?
Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant. Cannabis is sometimes referred to as hemp or marijuana, and the distinction comes from whether or not the plant contains THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, and marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC.
Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids (natural chemicals in the cannabis plant), but THC is a compound that gets you high, while CBD is believed to bind to various receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS for short).1 The ECS functions to regulate pain, memory, immunity, mood, and stress, promoting homeostasis, or a sense of balance in the body.2
Because CBD binds to certain receptors in the body and brain, it can produce various beneficial effects on the nervous system, which often translates into reduced inflammation. Reducing inflammation can improve symptoms of arthritis, bowel conditions, allergies, anxiety, and depression. There are even stories of CBD usage shrinking and eliminating cancerous tumors.
Though cannabis has been used by humans for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that the various cannabinoids were isolated and began to be studied. Because this field of study is relatively new, there is still limited evidence related to CBD usage and benefits in humans, and even less data regarding pets.
But My Friend Said *This* about CBD…
Though there are limited studies about the benefits of CBD in cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals, there is a ton of anecdotal evidence about the “miracles” of CBD for various conditions.
The success stories are bound to make any dog mom or dad turn to the first CBD product they find online or on a pet store shelf, but before you click add to cart, it’s wise to do some homework first.
If you’re reading this article, it’s most likely for one of the following three reasons:
Your dog has a condition for which traditional western medicine has not been effective in treating, or
You prefer natural and alternative treatments for your pet in order to avoid invasive procedures and chemical medicines, or
- The cost of surgery, medication, and therapies is prohibitive, and you’re seeking a more economical alternative.
Now comes the answer to the question you’ve been waiting for: Does CBD for dogs actually work?
The short answer is that it depends on the following:
- The condition your dog has
- The type and quality of the CBD your dog is taking
- How you administer CBD
- Your individual dog
Let’s address this list one by one because each can heavily influence whether CBD will work for your dog.
1. Your Pet’s Condition
Though there are studies using CBD for a wide variety of pain and health-related conditions, evidence is still being gathered.
What makes this field especially tough is that much of the evidence that’s been collected so far is anecdotal, or the studies only had a handful (a paw-ful?) of participants.
One rule of thumb that’s been observed is that lower doses are required for neuropathic pain, such as injuries that affect the nerves and spinal cord. For an inflammatory condition like osteoarthritis, a larger dose may be necessary to notice a difference.3
As always, be sure to discuss your pet’s condition with your veterinarian to explore the best options. Some veterinarians embrace CBD products, while others are still skeptical. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and share evidence that you discover during your research (including this article!).
2. The Type and Quality of CBD
Remember when we mentioned two types of cannabinoids: CBD and THC? Well, it turns out there are a lot more cannabinoids than just these two. There are somewhere between 60 and 100 total cannabinoids, and they also have medical benefits.
Depending on the brand of CBD you get, there could be different concentrations of CBD, and quality is always going to be an issue.
Also, because CBD comes from plants, no two products are exactly the same. One disturbing study found that a number of CBD products labeled for pets had absolutely zero CBD.4 Another study uncovered that 11 of 29 commercially available products were inaccurately labeled.5
This is why it’s important to view a company’s third-party lab reports and find out exactly what is in the batch your pet is consuming. Look for the batch analysis on the company’s website or via a QR code on the product label.
3. The Dosage You Give Your Pet
There’s not yet an official protocol when it comes to giving a pet CBD, but Dr. Robert Silver, a thought leader in the veterinary space, recommends a dosage of between 1/10 milligram per kilogram of body weight to 1/2 milligram per kilogram of body weight two times daily.6
If you’re not familiar with kilograms, here’s a handy reference to help you calculate recommended dosages:
1 kilogram is equal to about 2.2 pounds of body weight. So, if your pet weighs 30 pounds, that equals about 15.8 kg.
According to Dr. Silver, that would mean giving a 30-pound dog between 1.58 mgs and 7.9 mgs of CBD twice per day.
Dr. Silver also says that you don’t necessarily need high doses for CBD to work in pets. The moral of the story is to start with a low dose - this helps you save money and minimize the risk of adverse effects. Try a low dose for 10 to 14 days, and if you’re not seeing the results you want, bump it up a little bit and see how that goes.
In safety studies, dosages of up to 5mg per kg of weight were administered with no ill effects, so there is a lot of wiggle room.
The mantra, according to Dr. Silver, is:
Start low. Go slow. Stay low.
4. How You Administer CBD
There’s a surprising number of ways you can give your dog CBD, including:
- Biscuits and chews (treats)
- Capsules and tablets
The bioavailability differs based on the methodology, however, there are no guidelines yet on which method is best.
As you’re beginning your CBD journey, it can be helpful to go the route where it’s easiest to get your dog to take the CBD. Inevitably, this will usually be in the form of a treat such as a biscuit or chew.
NurtureChews are a great option for administering adjustable dosages of CBD in a way that your pet will love! NurtureChews come in three delicious flavors with added ingredients to support immune and allergy function, anxiety and mood, and hip and joint mobility.
5. Your Individual Dog
Pet patients, just like people, are bound to respond differently to a substance. It’s believed that in addition to the uniqueness of the plant product, some dogs may not respond if they don’t have an endogenous deficiency in the endocannabinoid system.
In plain English, this means that if your dog doesn’t have the actual condition you are attempting to treat, you might not notice a difference. Again, a visit to your trusted veterinarian for an official diagnosis and treatment plan is key.
The good news is that because CBD is a natural product, it is generally considered safe to take. Side effects are minimal as long as you follow safety protocols such as not giving too much CBD too soon and avoiding human CBD products that could contain ingredients that are toxic to your pet.
Why Is CBD So Confusing?
When it comes to CBD, society as a whole is learning about how it works, and the miracle stories have given a lot of people hope when it seemed like nothing else was helping their pet with conditions like pain and anxiety.
When something news hits the market, the science and data have to play catch up. Unfortunately, as a result, we see fly-by-night companies doing massive cash grabs, taking advantage of desperate and hopeful pet parents seeking solutions for their beloved pets.
To make matters worse, there is little to no regulation, which has led to a “gray” market and a mounting avalanche of false promises and misinformation. It doesn’t help that the terms are a mouthful, and there’s overlap and confusion between hemp and marijauna.
We hope this article has helped shed some light on some things for you as you begin your journey into the world of CBD. To sum up, CBD has a growing body of evidence, and we look forward to the completion of more studies that support the use of CBD for various conditions.
In the meantime, we invite you to try NurtureChews. Our treats come in three delicious flavors with 600 mg of CBD per package.
- Wakshlag JJ, Cital S, Eaton SJ, et al. Cannabinoid, terpene, and heavy metal analysis of 29 over-the-counter commercial veterinary hemp supplements. Vet Med (Auckl). 2020;11:45-55.