The CBD trend isn’t slowing—and now our dogs want in. Yep, the latest CBD products getting buzz aren’t for people; they’re for pets.
“Like human products, there is a wide range of concentrations and formulations available for pet owners interested in CBD,” says veterinarian Emily Luisana, D.V.M., Clinical Nutrition Fellow at BluePearl Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas.
So what makes these formulations pet-friendly? “Pet products tend to contain smaller amounts of CBD,” says Luisana. “They also often have added pet-friendly flavors (think bacon and salmon) or are made into treats or chewables.”
Ready for a test-run with your uptight cat? Here’s a breakdown of what we know about CBD and animals, and how to gauge whether your pet might benefit.
The History Of CBD For Pets
Though CBD has really exploded throughout the last few years, it has actually been used for pets for longer than you might think.
“CBD was discovered in the 1940s and used in animal research in the 60s,” says Luisana. “But once the Controlled Substance Act was passed in the 70s, the ability to use or study CBD in animals drastically decreased.”
According to Luisana, significant legal, regulatory, and professional red tape made it difficult to study, discuss, and recommend CBD for dogs, which it has been most commonly used for. To this day, the only true cannabis product (meaning one that contains THC) that veterinarians can legally prescribe is a drug called Epidiolex.
How Does CBD Affect Pets?
Since most of the conversation around CBD and pets focuses on dogs, we’ll stick to talking about our canine friends here.
In case you need a refresher, CBD, aka cannabidiol, is the second most prevalent of the active compounds of cannabis, per Harvard Medical School. However, CBD itself is quite different than the THC cannabis is best known for—and can be sourced from THC-free plants known as hemp.
As it does with humans, “CBD interacts with your dog’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), the system of switches and signals that help to regulate numerous functions in the body,” says Dr. Bob Menardi, D.V.M, veterinarian and director of Veterinary Technical and Educational Services at Canopy Growth. For this reason, pet owners are looking to give the same benefits CBD has given them to their pets.
However, there is still much about how CBD impacts pets that science has yet to discover. According to Luisana, dogs metabolize cannabinoids differently than humans, and we don’t yet know the implications of that difference.
Another thing to consider: CBD could interact with other meds your pet is taking. “We are unsure of all potential drug interactions, so dogs who are on other medications may be at a greater risk of side effects,” Luisana explains. Plus, “some cats and dogs have shown an increase in liver enzymes while on CBD.”
For that reason, you should consult with your veterinarian before adding CBD to your dog’s routine. “Always speak to your veterinarian first before starting any medication or supplement,” Luisana says. “They are the best-equipped to guide you.”
The Potential Benefits Of CBD For Dogs
With all of this in mind, there is some initial evidence that suggests CBD may offer certain benefits for your furry BFF.
1. It may support joint health
A 2018 study from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University found that dogs with arthritis that were given two milligrams of full-spectrum CBD twice per day experienced improved mobility and were more active. A 2020 study out of the University of Colorado saw similar results.
2. It May help Pets feel calm
“Just like us, pets likely experience everyday stress,” Menardi says. “We’ve all observed moments when our pets get a little stressed or hyperactive and wished there was something we could do to help calm them.” That’s where CBD might come in. One 2020 study found that giving dogs CBD in conjunction with the antidepressant trazodone might reduce anxiety symptoms. The study authors note that more research on this specific topic will help clarify future recommendations.
Giving Your Pet CBD
If you decide to incorporate CBD into your pet’s routine, shop for a high-quality product from a brand you can trust. (We recommend Garden of Life Dr. Formulated CBD PET Whole Hemp Extract Drops and Joy Organics Premium CBD Dog Chews.)
“It’s important to look for a product that’s backed by science and endorsed by the industry’s leading authority on non-pharmaceutical animal health products, the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC),” says Menardi. This denotes strict adherence to manufacturing, labeling, testing, and marketing guidelines to guarantee a consistent and high-quality product for discerning pet owners.
Read More: What Form Of CBD Is Best For You?
Specific dosing recommendations depend on your dog’s weight. Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, a holistic vet at Boulder Holistic Vet in Colorado suggests starting with 0.2 milligrams per kilogram of your dog’s body weight twice daily. From there, you can work up to 0.5 milligrams per kilogram twice daily. (Check out her helpful dosing chart to calculate the exact right amount for your pet.)
Once you’ve settled on the right product (and amount), keep an eye on your dog as you incorporate it. “Monitor your pet closely for side effects, such as decreased appetite, lethargy, or gastrointestinal upset like vomiting or diarrhea,” Luisana says.