You’ve probably heard of people giving their pets CBD treats and supplements for a variety of conditions, including anxiety, joint pain, allergies, and cancerous tumors. But, is it safe?
Pet parents across the globe have been sharing stories about how CBD has been a game-changer for their dog’s health, but is CBD right (or even safe) for your dog?
As always, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian about your options. We also believe in doing your own research and educating yourself about the latest in canine health. This article will give you a brief overview of how CBD works and whether it’s considered safe.
Spoiler alert if you don’t have time to read: In general, CBD is very safe for dogs, and it’s well-tolerated. The instances of side effects tend to be mild and relatively rare.1
What Exactly is CBD?
There’s been a lot of confusion about what CBD is, with the media and well-meaning individuals labeling it as marijuana.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid compound found in cannabis plants. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is also a cannabinoid. While CBD binds to receptors in the body that respond to inflammation and help restore balance, THC has psychoactive properties that you get you high.
CBD supplements for pets are typically derived from cannabis plants that don’t have any (or negligible amounts of) THC. For legal purposes, these plants are referred to as hemp plants. THC, on the other hand, is present in marijuana plants. Though hemp and marijuana are technically the same (they’re both cannabis), the difference will be in the THC content.
Okay, that can get confusing, so we’ll sum it up in one sentence:
Hemp = less than 0.3% THC. Marijuana = more than 0.3% THC
Hemp is a form of cannabis that has very low, negligible levels of THC so there are no psychotropic properties that will make your pet high.
How Does CBD Work?
Without diving too deep here, we’ll give a brief overview of CBD works so that you understand how it can potentially help your pet.
CBD binds to a CB2 receptor in the brain. The CB2 receptor is the same receptor that produces serotonin, leading to relief in the form of relaxation.
Any inflammatory condition can also be potentially helped by CBD in both humans and animals. This includes pain, inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, asthma, and even allergies. There is clinical evidence that has shown that CBD balances the immune response to inflammation by interacting with the body’s endocannabionid receptors.
Let’s illustrate with a brief example, which often surprises people…
If your dog has allergies, you might notice that he is scratching his skin and struggles to get comfortable. The discomfort your pup is experiencing is the result of skin inflammation that is an immune response to an allergen. CBD has been shown to bind to a dog’s CB2 skin receptors, and evidence is still being gathered to be able to conclusively claim the effectiveness of CBD on your dog’s allergies.
The reason is that there are CB2 receptors in the skin of dogs, BUT again there is limited evidence to support these claims. It’s simply a matter of so few studies having been done at this point, which makes a lot of what doctors recommend purely theoretical based on what we know so far about CBD and how it works.
THC and Dogs - A Potentially Dangerous Combination
While THC in humans can produce an effect that makes someone “high,” it is actually toxic to pets, including dogs, cats, and horses. It affects the central nervous system can result in an abnormally slow heart rate as well as numerous other symptoms that require immediate medical attention.
Basically, the signs of THC toxicity can mirror antifreeze poisoning, which is almost always fatal without early access to an antidote and other aggressive treatments.
Dogs in particular are extremely sensitive to the adverse effects of THC, so even though, in humans, it’s believed that THC-containing CBD is more effective in humans, the opposite is believed to be true for dogs.
BUT, I Heard You Need THC for CBD to Work?
According to Dr. Robert Silver, it’s an urban myth that you need THC for CBD to work, which is great news for pets who are not supposed to have THC.4
The next question pet parents often ask is whether they should give their dogs a CBD isolate or broad-spectrum CBD. The issue comes down to whole-plant versus isolating a compound. While an isolate contains CBD only, a broad-spectrum product has other synergistic and beneficial properties from the entire plant. This is often referred to as the “entourage effect.”
Veterinarians, along with people doctors, typically recommend broad-spectrum options and compare it to getting your nutrients from a vitamin as opposed to eating the really food.3 Whole food nutrition inevitably wins out.
Further, a pharmaceutically “pure” CBD isolate requires much higher dosages to be effective than if you had a full-spectrum extract (also called a broad-spectrum extract). A broad-spectrum extract contains the whole plant and is typically needed in much smaller doses.
Safety Tip: Get Hemp-Derived CBD that Does Not Contain THC
Remember, hemp-derived CBD does not contain THC.
So, how do you know that the label from the CBD maker is accurate? As a pet parent doing your research, it’s important to have access to third-party lab test results to confirm that the CBD you’re giving your pet does not contain any THC. sometimes THC can contaminate a strain due to cross-pollination, improper extraction, or sloppy handling.
A Note about Dosing
Many pet parents are concerned that their pets can overdose on CBD. The good news is that very high dosages of CBD have been studied in dogs with no ill effects.
Even further good news is that you don’t need a high dosage of CBD for it to be effective. Given that CBD is not an inexpensive product, pet parents are naturally concerned with finding budget-friendly ways to give their fur babies the best life possible.
According to pet CBD expert, Dr. Robert Silver, the recommended dosage varies between 0.1 and 0.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight administered two times daily.
You might have to do a little bit of math to find the ideal dose. One kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds, and we’ll walk you through a sample scenario to help you find your dose.
Step 1: Convert pounds to kilograms. If your dog weighs 25 pounds, then that is the equivalent of 11.3 kilograms.
Step 2: Determine dosage range. The math works out to 1.13 milligrams to 5.65 milligrams two times daily (0.1 of 11.3 is 1.13 and 0.5 of 11.3 is 5.65).
Step 3: Check the label of your favorite CBD product (obviously Nurture Chews) to see how much CBD is in a dosage.
The moral of the story is to start with a low dose and work your way up to higher doses if you feel it is necessary for effectiveness. This strategy helps you save money and minimize the risk of adverse effects. Dr. Silver recommends trying 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 is:
Start low. Go slow. Stay low.
Common Side Effects of CBD in Dogs
Dr. Silver has done several safety studies on CBD in pets. Minor instances of diarrhea and increased liver enzymes may be observed as your dog acclimates to a new ingredient in their diet.
Other potential side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Tremors (associated with dogs who have Parkinson’s)
- Lower blood pressure
These effects were observed in dogs on higher doses of CBD, so it’s a good idea to follow the mantra of starting with a lower dose and only increasing dosages when the CBD is well-tolerated.
The Bottom Line:
There is still a growing body of evidence regarding the efficacy of CBD in both humans and animals. However, the safety studies are relatively conclusive and CBD dog treats are considered a safe option for dogs.
To ensure you are getting a high-quality, THC-free CBD treat, we recommend looking at the company’s lab reports to ensure that the label reflects what’s actually inside. NurtureChews provides this information for each batch, and the chews are conveniently dosed at 8mg per treat.