CBD for Dogs: Why, How, and How Much?

cbd and dogs

As regulating bodies, researchers, and CBD brands continue to shape the public understanding of CBD in different ways, exploring its uses for dogs may seem a bit premature at first.

Each discovery we make in terms of how humans physiologically respond to CBD, however, sheds light on how dogs may respond to a cannabidiol supplement as well.

This is because dogs have an endocannabinoid system, just like humans do.

The growing body of research focused on the canine endocannabinoid system (ECS), the special set of receptors in their cells that respond to cannabinoids and impart their effects, is bringing to light the many similarities between canine and human ECS function.

For example, in a review of medical research by Dr. Robert Silver, Chief Medical Officer at RxVitamins, both canines and humans have two receptors that primarily respond to cannabinoids, labeled CB1 and CB2, and each receptor is very similar in its functions.

By measuring (increased) endocannabinoid activity in dogs suffering from inflammatory conditions, for example, we know that dogs can use CBD for inflammation control, as humans do.

Still, there are many differences between dogs and humans when it comes to CBD.

The rate at which CBD is processed, for example, what it’s used for, and how long its effects last are all different in canines compared to humans.

The more we recognize and respect these differences, the better equipped we will be to help our pets with appropriately administered and dosed CBD supplements.

First, let’s take a look at why we should even consider CBD for dogs—how does it help?

Then, we’ll get into the mechanics of how to give them CBD, how much, and which brands are best, keeping in mind how our bodies respond differently to cannabidiol.

Table of Contents

  1. Why Give Your Dog CBD?
  2. How to Give Your Dog CBD
  3. Recommended CBD Products for Dogs
  4. Before (and After) You Buy…

Why Give Your Dog CBD?

reasons to use cbd for dogs

Here are some reasons backed by science that you might give your dog CBD.

Arthritis

We humans aren’t the only ones with creaky, sore joints.

Dogs suffer from osteoarthritis, too, with varying consistency between breeds.

In both humans and dogs, osteoarthritis is characterized by inflammation and pain at the larger joints, like hips, knees, and elbows, as the cartilage lining these joints breaks down.

A 2018 study by researchers from Cornell University and Colorado State University that investigated the “safety and clinical efficacy of cannabidiol treatment in dogs with osteoarthritis” confirmed that CBD has an analgesic (pain-relieving) effect.

Dogs with osteoarthritis who were given CBD throughout this clinical trial demonstrated statistically significant improvements on both pain and activity scales, with no side effects observed throughout.

Epilepsy

The most promising use of CBD supplements in humans to date, backed by the only federally approved CBD drug, involves staving off epileptic seizures.

The research is still fairly sparse when it comes to epileptic dogs and CBD, but a clinical trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by researchers from Colorado State University suggests that our canine companions may benefit in the same way.

After a twice-daily regimen of CBD oil use over twelve days, dogs demonstrated a 33% greater reduction in seizures than the placebo group participants.

Digestive Health & Nausea

Whether it’s irritable bowel syndrome or a one-time bout of nausea after consuming something they shouldn’t have, dogs can experience acute and long-term digestive distress in several ways.

Both anecdotal and research-related accounts point to CBD as a possible solution to this problem.

Among other things, CBD is classified as an “antiemetic,” meaning it can prevent vomiting and reduce nausea when ingested.

This effect is observed in dogs as well as humans and is especially useful in counteracting medication- or chemotherapy-induced nausea.

Honorable Mentions

It’s important to note that the “anecdotal accounts” mentioned above, while not providing a sufficient basis for federal approval or widespread use of a substance, are still important to researchers because they help direct them towards new possibilities to investigate.

Using this lens, we can consider anecdotal evidence of CBD’s utility for dogs (or humans) as a possible preview of research to come.

In the case of CBD, the knowledge base is slowly and surely shifting from personal success stories to objectively verified proof, but we still have an extensive “database” of these stories to choose from.

The following uses of CBD for dogs, for example, are either yet to be thoroughly verified or are currently being verified in this increasingly busy vein of research:

  • Treatment of auto-immune diseases
  • Anti-tumor effects
  • Treating heart arrhythmias
  • Fighting heart disease
  • Reducing stress and anxiety

How to Give Your Dog CBD

ApplicationAbsorption RateDifficulty
CBD chewSlowEasy
CBD oil (in food)SlowEasy
CBD oil (directly in mouth)FastHard
CBD softgelFastHard

Like any new supplement or medication, administering CBD to your dog comes with a few extra complications.

Accurately gauging the immediate and long-term effects of the CBD without the luxury of verbal feedback tops this list of complications.

There are more immediate needs, however, that a dog owner has to address before giving their dog CBD.

Namely, how?

In other words, which form of CBD (gummies, pills, oils, etc.) is best, and how do you physically administer it?

As it is with humans and CBD, the answer is not a matter of better or worse, but of individual preferences and circumstances.

In the case of certain brands, like those mentioned below, pet-specific CBD products may come in chewable form.

If your dog will comply, you can also apply CBD oil under their tongue using a dropper, though it’s important to note that some dogs may not like the odor or taste of full-spectrum oil (in which case a CBD isolate may be better).

Many pet owners find mixing CBD oil in with food to be an easier delivery system, both for masking odor and avoiding the need to position the tongue and hold the dog still.

However, if you are prioritizing absorption speed because the dog is having a seizure, applying oil to the gums is best if you can safely do so.

Speaking of absorption, dosage is a prime example of the not-so-simple parallels between the human and canine response to CBD supplements.

You can’t just start with a human dose and reduce it in proportion to the weight difference between humans and dogs, for example.

Thankfully, most CBD brands that cater to dogs will have dosage recommendations on their product, as it is for the rest of us.

The following CBD brands and products have been tested by our own team as well as various certifying agencies and other publications to be safe and effective for dogs.

Charlotte’s Web Hip & Joint Chews for Dogs

Charlotte’s Web Hip & Joint Chews for Dogs

Concentration

30-count: 2.5mg/chew (75mg total)

60-count: 2.5mg/chew (150mg total)

Price

30-count: $19.99 ($0.267/mg)

60-count: $34.99 ($0.233/mg)

Ingredients

Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract, Glucosamine HCI (vegetable), Turmeric Root Powder, Chondroitin Sulfate (bovine), Brewers Dried Yeast, Chicken Liver Hydrolysate, Coconut Glycerin, MCT Oil, Natural Flavor, Natural Tocopherols, Potato Flour, Potato Starch, Salt, Sunflower Lecithin, Sunflower Seed Oil, and Water

In addition to the 5mg of hemp extract and 2.5mg of CBD in each chew, this product contains glucosamine (125mg), turmeric powder (75mg), and chondroitin sulfate (30mg), all of which assist in nourishing and lubricating the cartilage in joints typically affected by osteoarthritis.

We found that our dogs were very fond of the savory chicken flavor, and towards the end of week one, our older test subject was noticeably less labored in his normally limping gait.

Overall, these chews are effective, easy to administer, and safe, although we can’t assign the lion’s share of the credit to CBD in this case, given the above formula.

Panacea Life Sciences Canine Softgels

Panacea Life Sciences Canine Softgels

Concentration

10-count: 5mg/softgel (50mg total)

30-count: 5mg/softgel (150mg total)

60-count: 5mg/softgel (300mg total)

Price

10-count: $10 ($0.20/mg)

30-count: $28 ($0.187/mg)

60-count: $50 ($0.167/mg)

Ingredients

Beef Gelatin, Glycerin, Fish Oil, PCR Hemp Oil, MCT from Coconut Oil, Kolliphor HS-15

Each gummy capsule contains 7.5mg of hemp oil and 5mg of hemp-derived CBD, and pet owners can choose from a 10, 30, or 60-count container.

Known for their expertly researched formulas and extensive testing, Panacea Life Sciences has added several distinct features to these softgels that help them stand out from the crowd.

For instance, each gel is fish-shaped so that the pet owner can twist off the tail and administer it in the dog’s jowl, which may help absorption rates.

According to Panacea, the way the product’s formulation is also meant to optimize the speed of absorption for faster relief.

Receptra Pet Tinctures

Receptra Naturals Pet Tinctures

Concentration

16mg/ml (480mg total)

25mg/ml (750mg total)

Price

16mg/ml: $44.99 ($0.094/mg)

25mg/ml: $69.99 ($0.093/mg)

Ingredients

Organic MCT Oil, Receptra Hemp Extract

Hailed across the CBD industry as a no-nonsense provider of heavily tested, hemp-derived CBD products, Receptra Naturals offers two levels of concentration in their pet CBD tinctures: 16mg/dose for smaller pets and 25mg/dose for larger pets.

Administer the drops by mouth following a meal, making sure to adhere by the dosage recommendation on the label: a .25ml starting dose of the 16mg/dose for small dogs and a .5ml starting dose of the 25mg/dose for big dogs.

Receptra is unique in that they extract from the hemp flower, using this extract as part of a proprietary blend (Receptra Hemp Extract) that they have included in these tinctures.

Owners of dogs, cats, and even birds have praised this product for its efficacy in quickly relieving joint pain and anxiety for their pets.   

Before (and After) You Buy…

It’s no secret that humankind and dogs, per the adage, have been best friends for a very long time.

We go to great lengths to help them when they’re afraid, anxious, or in pain, and CBD is proving itself an excellent remedy in that regard.

Still, if we don’t take the proper precautions, we could render their CBD routine less effective.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, there are three crucial considerations to keep in mind, both before and after you purchase CBD for your dog:

1)  Introducing your dog to other supplements at the same time may obfuscate the effects of the CBD, as will removing a supplement at the same time.

2)  Using poorly reviewed, untrusted, or otherwise unfit brands may result in an inferior or even harmful CBD product.

3)  CBD is not a medication, and it’s very unlikely to cause damage in the event of an “overdose,” but it is always highly recommended you consult a veterinarian before use.

Some veterinarians will be hesitant to discuss CBD for dogs because of prohibitive legislation in their practicing state, but thankfully, these penalties are being lifted as the life-affirming benefits of CBD continue to disrupt the world of modern medicine.

With a strong brand behind you and consistent, watchful use, CBD has the potential to improve your dog’s quality of life.

Tim Kalantjakos

Tim Kalantjakos is a health and wellness content writer, marketer, and former physical therapist assistant living in Omaha, NE. A self-proclaimed detangler of stuffy and jargon-filled medical concepts, Tim uses writing as a way of educating and informing health-conscious people all over the world in plain English. When he’s not writing, Tim is playing with his two little girls, cooking, and making unnecessary landscaping changes to his backyard.