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Can CBD Help My Dog Take It Easy?

Maybe, but you need to be extremely careful about which products you use

First came CBD oil. Then pills. Gummies. Topicals. Then Burgers. Pizza, too. And now CBD has pervaded the animal realm — namely, with CBD dog treats. But what does CBD oil do for dogs? What does CBD dosing for dogs look like? Is CBD safe for dogs? Alongside Zac Pilossoph, certified CBD professional educator and chief veterinary officer for CBD Dog Health, Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer at the American Kennel Club and Zulema Lino, 2019 Budtender Awards CBD award winner, we’re answering all your questions about CBD for dogs.

What Does CBD Do for Dogs?

Pilossoph says that, because dogs have an endocannabinoid system somewhat similar to humans, they can benefit from CBD in many of the same ways we do, “but by far the most common uses are going to be for helping to stabilize mood and to create an anti-anxiety feeling, and some chronic pain and arthritis.” He mentions that he recently found success in consulting with and guiding pet parents who medicate metabolic and endocrine conditions — namely, Cushing’s syndrome, an overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol in dogs — with CBD as well.

There’s some science to back this up, and science that’s still in the works. “CBD products have shown promise in veterinary medicine,” Klein says. “Papers have been published in the use of CBD for pain (osteoarthritic and possibly neurogenic), as well as testing that’s currently being done on the use of CBD in drug-resistant epileptic dogs.”

Is CBD Safe for Dogs?

In the right form, yes. “If you do have a product that’s been vetted for safety — which, it took me years to find one — there’s never been a registered death from a full-spectrum hemp product that wasn’t adulterated,” Pilossoph says.

But when navigating the world of CBD for dogs, you need to practice extreme caution. One thing to remember is that THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, is toxic to dogs. “In fact, there’s been a significant rise in marijuana toxicity cases presenting to veterinary emergency clinics in the past year due to change in marijuana laws in some states,” Klein says.

You also need to watch out for mislabeled CBD products for dogs, a problem Pilossoph says is extremely widespread. “CBD products not containing THC, the psychoactive component, are readily for sale in many locations, but these products are unregulated and quality control isn’t standardized,” Klein explains. “Possible drug interactions haven’t been tested or approved.”

Pilossoph says the best CBD treats for dogs should be transparent and provide third-party testing results on their labels. However, even then, he says, “It’s a bit of a gamble.”

Beyond that, some CBD dog treats have unnecessary ingredients and might not be right for your pup. “I prefer tinctures of oil over hard dog treats,” explains Lino. “There are a few reasons for this: First of all, your dog’s teeth. The older they get, the more fragile their teeth get.” Plus, she says oils are easier to mix into their food.

Again, though, Lino warns that not all CBD oils are created equally. “For your fur baby, you have to make sure the oil you use has no added flavorings, like lavender or even lemon,” she says, which, while not heavily toxic, can be unappetizing to dogs and may cause stomach upset.

How Can I Start My Dog on CBD?

This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but discussing with your veterinarian is the only real way to make sure your dog gets proper care. “It’s recommended to always speak to your veterinarian before starting or adding any supplements, additives or herbal medicine to your dog,” Klein says.

Pilossoph explains that there are all kinds of different CBD products — full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, isolates — and what product you use really depends on your dog and the problems they’re dealing with. Plus, CBD dosing for dogs can be especially tricky. “Accurate dosing for dogs, which can range in weight from tiny toy breeds, such as Chihuahuas weighing four to five pounds, to giant breeds of dogs, such as Mastiffs weighing over 150 pounds, hasn’t been tested and solidified,” Klein says.

You can see then why treating your dog with CBD without the guidance of your veterinarian is ill-advised.

How Long Does It Take for CBD to Work on Dogs?

It depends on the condition and what products you use, but Pilossoph says you may notice improvements in anxiety almost immediately, whereas more complicated issues like auto-immune conditions can take weeks or months to improve. Or, for example, weaning your dog off a seizure medication with awful side effects so they can take a more natural CBD product instead is a lengthy process that obviously requires a lot of time and careful planning.

So, Should I Use CBD for My Dog?

That’s between you and your veterinarian. If you have your doubts, Pilossoph says you can always start with low doses and increase from there. But again, do your due diligence, make sure you’re getting a good product, and don’t put your dog on some random CBD routine you found in a Facebook group. After all, Klein says, “At this time, the use of CBD is best described as ‘buyer beware.’”

This article has been updated to clarify that Zac Pilossoph has never personally used CBD to “treat” dogs, but instead guided pet owners on how they can use CBD to medicate their animals.