With a rapidly growing cannabis industry, the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for pets has become a hot topic among pet parents, veterinarians and manufacturers. There are countless products available on the market for your dog containing CBD and/or hemp.

 We know how important taking care of your dog is to you. When a dog is facing problems such as anxiety, poor appetite, having seizures, or is facing serious health problems, it’s only natural for an owner to want to try every possible means to help a beloved companion and improve quality of life.

 The Sparky’s Spots team has spent many hours spent doing our own investigation for our readers to understand what CBD is, why you might want to give it to your dog, and most importantly, what research exists on CBD and dogs. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and concerns about CBD and dogs.

  • What is CBD Oil? Can It Get My Dog High?
  • How Can CBD Help My Dog’s Health?
  • Is CBD Oil Safe For Dogs?
  • How Does CBD Affect Dogs?
  • Is CBD Oil Legal?
  • Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?
  • Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil for Dogs: Not the Same Thing
  • What Are Possible Side Effects of CBD in Dogs?
  • What Research Exists on Effects of CBD in Dogs?
  • Full Spectrum vs. Isolate CBD for Dogs
  • CBD Dosage For Dogs
  • CBD for Dogs: How to Choose
  • Certificate of Analysis (COA)

 

Just looking for the best CBD for dogs? We’re also pleased to offer our reviews of top-selling CBD for dogs.

 


What is CBD Oil? Will It Get My Dog High?

CBD is one of the phytocannabinoid molecules produced by the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis plants produce lots of molecules and compounds, including cannabinoids. The use of CBD for health conditions such as seizures, pain, and anxiety has been advocated for many years and has continued to grow in popularity.

CBD differs from THC, the molecule that has euphoric/psychotropic properties. THC is better known for its reputation with those using it for recreational purposes. Because the cannabis family includes both marijuana and hemp plants, CBD is frequently confused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is another compound produced by cannabis plants cultivated as marijuana.

CBD is non-psychotropic, meaning it does not affect the receptors in the brain the same way that THC does. CBD oil is derived from hemp, which is not the same type of plant as its more famous and controversial relative, marijuana.

Use of CBD will not get your pet high. While it may affect the mind, it is not intoxicating.  Because most CBD oils for pets are derived from hemp plants, not marijuana plants, the risk of your pet ingesting THC from a CBD oil derived from hemp is relatively low.


How Can CBD Help My Dog’s Health?

In recent years, CBD has become popular among humans for its therapeutic properties. Cannabinoids interact with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. Be aware that at this time, potential health benefits CBD has for dogs is anecdotal. It is believed to help provide relief from the effects of anxiety, pain, arthritis, and other health problems.

Common issues dog owners using CBD are concerned about include:

 

AnxietyAllergiesPain & StiffnessOther Concerns
Vet visits, travel and car ridesExcessive itchingRecovery from surgerySeizures
Separation anxietyLicking and “hot spots”Age-related, i.e. arthritisAppetite concerns
Loud noisesSkin issuesInflammationAggressive behavior
Grooming & nail trimmingDigestive issuesInjuriesCancer

 

If you walk into just about any store or dispensary selling CBD, the staff (who probably do not have a veterinary degree) will more than likely tell you about all sorts of medical benefits for your dog. We want to help our dogs too, but we believe consumers should be informed. Do not believe everything a manufacturer or salesperson tells you. They do not know your dog or his medical conditions.

We encourage our readers to be cognizant of misleading and unproven claims. CBD oil should never replace timely medical care for your dog. The FDA recognizes potential possibilities in the use of CBD, but has not approved it for use in animals. Many claim that CBD oil can cure cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimers. While it is known that CBD oil can help manage anxiety, insomnia and pain in humans, and the research for dogs looks promising, the research to understand what the side effects are is still in very early stages. There is even less research for long-term effects on dogs.


Is CBD Safe for Dogs?

Much of what we know so far about CBD’s effectiveness on dogs is based on anecdotal evidence, consumer experiences and experimentation. In 2019, nearly 11% of dog owners had used CBD products of some sort for their pet.

However, a recent study on single-dose pharmacokinetics and the safety of CBD in dogs and cats indicated that CBD appears to be safe in healthy adult dogs, but further study is needed to understand how cats absorb and metabolize CBD oil. Pharmacokinetics relates to how a drug is absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and ultimately excreted by a living organism.

Colorado State University’s 2016 study on pharmacokinetics of CBD in dogs was conducted to help with determining safe dosages to be used in further research. The initial study determined that CBD was well-tolerated in healthy dogs, with oil formulations or tinctures showing the best bioavailability.

Common side effects of CBD in dogs include diarrhea, drowsiness, and elevated alkaline phosphatase (ALP), a liver enzyme, with chronic usage. It is important to understand that with any potential drug interaction, CBD may change the effectiveness of other drugs or medication your dog may be on. This can occur by changing the concentration of those substances in your dog’s bloodstream or affecting how these are absorbed by him.

The research is moving forward, but so are the concerns about unproven medical claims, interactivity with other drugs, and unknown quality and ingredients in products sold as CBD. Many CBD manufacturers have been issued warnings for publishing false claims or for inaccurate representation of what’s in their products.

In 2020, the FDA tested 56 CBD oil tinctures and found that 25 of them had more than 120% of the CBD indicated on the level.

Pet poison hotlines indicate that dogs who show signs of marijuana toxicity after taking CBD have more than likely been exposed to THC. This can happen with CBD that was contaminated from THC, or worse, synthetic cannabinoids.

Many CBD manufacturers have been investigated for their claims, including some of the most popular sellers on the market today.


How Does CBD Affect Dogs?

All mammals have an endocannabinoid system, which is a cell-signaling system in the body with receptors throughout the body, including brain, nervous system, major organs, and even our gastrointestinal tract. The endocannabinoid system is involved in processes including pain, mood, memory, appetite, sleep, and many more. Endocannabinoids help transmit nerve impulses to the brain to trigger effects on the body. Endocannabinoid receptors can also be affected by foreign substances that act like a endocannabinoid. Cannabinoids can be found in the different species of cannabis plant, but also in ginseng, black pepper, cloves, broccoli, cacao, kava and many more plants.

The cannabinoids from CBD resemble the body’s natural endocannabinoids, so they are able to act on functions within the body. The science is still very much in its infancy as to how exactly it works and what long-term consequences are, if any.

Dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than humans do, and are more susceptible to toxic effects of THC and synthetic cannabinoids.


Provided your CBD oil is derived from hemp, it is legal in all 50 states. Some CBD oils are derived from marijuana plants and is therefore considered a marijuana-derived product. These CBD oils are illegal in states where marijuana is not legalized. Any oil containing over 0.3% THC is considered marijuana. CBD oils must not contain THC levels higher than that amount. Some companies sell pure hemp oil (that does not contain CBD) claiming it has the same benefits as CBD. Next we explain how that differs from CBD.


Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil for Dogs: Not the Same Thing

Hemp oil is derived from the seeds of hemp plants and does not contain cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is used as a base in many cannabis tinctures, including CBD oil. Most hemp oil is processed from industrially grown hemp plants.

CBD oil is sourced from the leaves, flowers, and stalks of the hemp plant. Hemp-derived CBD is considered safe for pets and legal in all 50 states. CBD that is derived from marijuana plants is illegal and should not be given to dogs.

Neither hemp nor CBD oil should contain more than 0.3% THC or it is considered marijuana.

You can read more about the differences between hemp and CBD oil here.


 Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

 Cannabis is a genus within the plant family Cannabaceae. Within the Cannabis genus are three species of plants: Cannibis sativa, Cannibis indica, and Cannibis ruderalis. 

 

Cannabis grown as hemp
Cannabis grown as marijuana
  • Cultivated primarily for fibers and seeds used for derivative and industrial products
  • Taller plants grown in bulk outdoors, optimized for fast growth and higher stalk yield
  • Lower concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Hemp/Hemp-derived products containing no more than 0.3% THC were legalized under Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018
  • CBD sourced from hemp requires more of the plant to produce as hemp plants have less resin
  • Cultivated (usually indoors) for recreational, medicinal, and therapeutic use
  • Smaller plants cultivated indoor under controlled conditions to maximize budding flowers
  • Higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Controlled substance, still illegal in most states, remains illegal under Federal law (Controlled Substance Act)
  • Marijuana plants have more resin and therefore require less of the plant to produce CBD
  • CBD oil sourced from marijuana may have enough THC to cause intoxicating effects

 


What Are Possible Side Effects of CBD in Dogs?

CBD is not a regulated drug so there is no established recommended dosage for dogs. Documented side effects include:

  • Diarrhea, drowsiness, decrease in saliva production
  • Increase in certain liver enzymes with long-term use

It is not known how CBD might interact with any other medications or supplements your dog is taking, but it could certainly change the rate of metabolism for these substances.


What Research Exists on Effects of CBD in Dogs?

While trials in humans and in dogs continue, the research is still very much in its infancy. It is not still known exactly how CBD treats seizures or other conditions. Many of the tests done on laboratory animals don’t yield findings that explain how humans or dogs will respond. The articles touted by many cannabis advocates that make claims about how a lab rat’s tumor responded to CBD may not necessarily be a good indicator that CBD will cure every ailment your dog has.

Until science can confirm and validate the claims made by its proponents, it’s best to consider the possibilities of CBD  relieving symptoms of issues and illnesses like cancer, rather than expecting it to cure them. A study completed in 2018 showed that CBD did cause a significant decrease in pain and increased activity among dogs in the study. This research is promising but still in very early stages.

One of the most well-known trials is part of the research being conducted at Colorado State University. Presently, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital is conducting ongoing research about the use of cannabidiol to treat dogs with epilepsy.  The results of these trials indicate so far (as of February 2020) that CBD is well-tolerated in healthy dogs, has a half-life of 2-4 hours within their systems, and has the most bioavailability when given in an oil tincture. Colorado State has also completed clinical trials on the efficacy of CBD for treating epilepsy and what the correct dosages should be for dogs.


Full Spectrum vs. Isolate CBD for Dogs

Among CBD products on the market today, there are three major categories. These are:

  • Full Spectrum CBD
  • Isolate CBD
  • Broad Spectrum CBD

Full spectrum CBD is extracted in a way that preserves most of the other cannabinoids and beneficial compounds in the cannabis plant. Full-spectrum might include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but a CBD oil sold for dogs should only have trace amounts of it.

Isolate CBD is a product distilled to isolate only CBD/cannabidiol. This product is completely isolated from any other compounds and comes in a crystal-like powder that can then be mixed into carrier oils or incorporated into powders.

Broad spectrum is created by formulating a product that has CBD isolate added in with only specific compounds from the cannabis plant or by an extraction method that removes THC and quite a few other compounds completely.

You can read more about the differences between these products and how quickly they are absorbed by your dog here.


CBD Dosage For Dogs

 Remember that CBD is not a regulated veterinary drug, and there are no established dosage amounts for dogs. Dosage for dogs will vary.

The true effective therapeutic dose of CBD oil for any condition is still not known. It’s still illegal for many veterinarians to prescribe or outright recommend CBD oil as a treatment for your dog, but you should still inform them that you are planning to give your dog CDB so they can assess whether or not it will affect or counteract any medications your dog is already taking.

We’ve done more in-depth research on this topic. Read more about it here.


How To Choose CBD For Your Dog:

Due to the unregulated market, there are a lot of inferior products out there. You want a high-quality product for your dog and you want to know exactly what’s in it. Here are some guidelines:

  • Choose a product that is specifically made for dogs because some CBD products have ingredients that are poisonous to dogs, such as theobromine,  xylitol sweetener or carrier oils like grapeseed
  • Make sure you are getting actual CBD oil, not hemp oil with clever packaging.
  • The most popular and safe form of CBD is in an oil tincture. This has also been proven to be the most effective way for it to absorb, and for pets, the easiest way to ensure a precise dose.
  • CBD for dogs should not contain levels of THC above 0.3%, otherwise, it is considered marijuana, possibly illegal, and definitely unsafe for your dog.
  • High-quality CBD oil can be pricey. Don’t choose CBD for your dog based on price.
  • The manufacturer should have a current Certificate of Analysis (COA) readily available. This should reflect an analysis of their product and its content, conducted by an independent third-party laboratory. Reputable manufacturers will issue a COA for every batch of CBD oil they sell.
  • Avoid a company that does not prominently display a recent COA for their CBD products.
  • Due to how industrial hemp is grown and processed, organic is best.
  • Tinctures are best for therapeutic purposes.

CBD treats are often processed, heated and it may be difficult to judge potency over time by administering CBD only in chews or treats. While these can be a good way to give your dog CBD as part of a wellness routine, if you are concerned about potency and dosage, use an oil tincture.

We’ve chosen a few popular manufacturers of CBD oil for dogs to review. You can read more about them here:


What is a COA or Certificate of Analysis?

 The COA is a certificate indicating that a laboratory independent of the manufacturer tested the CBD oil to make sure the percentages are correct and it’s free from foreign and toxic byproducts.

If the product you are looking at does not have a current (within the last year) COA readily available, move on. If you are buying a bottle of CBD in a store, many of them have a code you can scan on the bottle that will link you to the certificate online if you scan with your phone.

Choose a CBD manufacturer who can provide a current (within the past year) Certificate of Analysis (COA) that shows they have commissioned independent third-party testing. A COA will show information such as the percentage of CBD and THC, along with any contaminants. Some oils have far more THC in them than listed on the label.

Ensure the party who carried out the analysis is an accredited laboratory, not another manufacturer or cannabis company. Many of the third-party testing “companies” are part of the cannabis industry and you have no way of knowing if there is a conflict of interest.

The certificate should include:

  • A certificate ID
  • Indication showing date of the test, who completed it, and the party that requested it.
  • Cannabinoids with the total mg per unit showing how much THC and CBD
  • Terpenes
  • Microbials, Foreign Matter, Heavy metals, Pesticides

Reputable manufacturers will issue a COA for every batch of CBD oil they sell.