Success stories of dogs overcoming anxiety, slowing seizures, and even beating cancer due to cannabidiol (CBD), one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, can be found all over the internet. It may be confusing to understand how one substance can help so many random problems, so we dug into the research to help you determine if your dog needs or can benefit from CBD.
Cannabinoids are substances including CBD and THC that mimic the endocannabinoid chemicals naturally produced in all mammals. Receptors for endocannabinoids can be found throughout the body and acts as a master regulator that works to keep the body at homeostasis. This is why we find that CBD can positively impact so many different issues. What is crucial to know, is that of the Cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, THC causes a high, while CBD does not.
Is CBD Harmful?
The worst reaction to CBD every documented was diarrhea and changes to some liver enzymes after several weeks. This is 180 from the consequences of a dog ingesting THC, which include toxicity and even death if consumed at human dosages. Even so, it is best to talk to your vet prior to giving your dog CBD as you never know how it may impact other medicines your dog is taking.
Does CBD Work?
Research with dogs is still scarce, but there’s are about 23,000 pieces of research that look at CBD’s effect on laboratory animals and humans. The result of which show encouraging results for pain (especially arthritic pain), itchiness, anxiety, and cancer, all of which have at least one canine study as well. In short, the result in dogs depends.
Arthritis in Dogs: A Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine study found dogs given CBD at a rate of 4.4 mg per pound twice daily for a month showed significant improvement in pain relief and quality of life. Lead investigator Joe Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., DACVN, said that some dogs were initially so decrepit that their owners considered euthanasia, but that after just days on CBD they were trotting around and even climbing stairs. A Baylor University study found similar improvement, adding that CBD worked better when delivered via an oil. .
Itchiness in Dogs: An Australian study conducted by the company CannPal found their CBD product reduced itchiness, inflammation, and skin lesions by 51% after 8 weeks of consistent usage. An American study conducted by the company ElleVet found their product, which combines CBD with another cannabinoid, CBDA, significantly reduced owners’ reports of itchiness.
Cancer in Dogs: In a Cornell University study of CBD, dogs, and cancer, researchers found CBD, along with a chemotherapy drug, reduced cancer-cell proliferation more than the chemotherapy alone.
Behavior Issues with Dogs: A study from the University of Western Australia may show promise for aggressive behavior. Shelter dogs with aggressive tendencies exhibited less aggression toward humans when tested after 15 days of daily CBD consumption. In a study from the University of Kentucky, physiological measurements of anxiety in response to noise were not significantly different for CBD versus placebo, and were worse compared to trazodone (a drug commonly prescribed for anxiety). It is worth nothing that in this study the CBD was administered 4 to 6 hours prior to testing, which may have been too long afterwards. You usually see the impact of CBD as soon as 30 minutes after consumption.
Seizures in Dogs: In a Colorado State University study, dogs were given CBD for 12 weeks and had 33 percent fewer seizures than those given a placebo, but it didn’t work for every dog. These researchers are now working on a larger trial using higher CBD doses.
There’s also evidence from laboratory animals that CBD is effective in promoting bone healing, fighting infection, treating inflammatory bowel disease, slowing degenerative myelopathy, quelling nausea, and relieving pain, but these have yet to be specifically researched in dogs.
Overall, the evidence concludes that CBD can help at least some conditions. The endocannabinoid system is the largest system in the body and the least explored. As we start to learn more about the endocannabinoid system, we're learning that CBD may not be a miracle drug, but it may be the miracle your dog needs.