CBD For Dogs – A Beginners Guide

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If, like me, you have older dogs who suffer from chronic pain, there’s a high chance you’ve had to give them daily doses of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS).

These drugs help enormously, but there are often unpleasant side-effects, and, with prolonged use, the possibility of damage to essential organs, such as the liver and kidneys. 

Many of us are waiting for the availability at some stage, of a more natural alternative to keep our hound’s pain levels down. They deserve the best quality of life, for as long as possible.

Jinks at beach

Products which include CBD are being talked about more and more, and they are gaining popularity as a viable treatment for various medical conditions in humans, and in dogs. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of misinformation, suspicion and fear around CBD due to its association with cannabis and marijuana. 

I’m the first to admit that I thought CBD was a fad, or something that I would never seriously consider for my hound family. But I kept coming across research papers, or anecdotal accounts of CBD working wonders for various ailments. I decided it was time to educate myself a little, because I always want to have access to the best therapies for my dogs.

CBD For Beginners

High quality research studies continue to contribute to our knowledge of CBD oil as a medical treatment. The National Institutes of Health clinical trials database shows more than 160 trials involving CBD that are either active or recruiting. 

Common questions that need to be answered are;

  • Are these products legal, safe, and effective for treating medical conditions in humans and animals? 
  • Is the packaging displaying correct information regarding the dosing, component concentrations, potential side-effects and correct use of the product?
Dog in window

Until the FDA approves CBD for use in medical treatments for humans and animals, there are major concerns around the quality of the products currently being produced and sold to consumers, with the promise of improved symptoms for various health issues. We need to be wary of unapproved products currently on the market, which claim to have health benefits for both humans and our pets.

Under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, products for which therapeutic claims are made must be approved by the FDA in order to be legally manufactured and marketed. In July 2019, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) submitted comments to the FDA urging the agency to provide regulatory clarity about expectations for the labeling, safety, and use of CBD products.

We, as dog lovers, always want the best for our hounds. It’s not an option to stand by and let them suffer if we think we can obtain the best treatment possible. Many vets are being asked about the benefits of CBD products, and some holistic vets have already used CBD with good effect.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a term used, often wrongly, to denote Marijuana. Cannabis, strictly speaking, is a plant, Cannabis Sativa. This plant has over 540 substances. Over 100 of these substances are known as Cannabinoids. 

Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the dominant cannabinoids of the plant.

THC is the substance in marijuana that causes people to become euphoric and ‘high’.

CBD does not, by itself, alter a person’s mental state.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana refers to parts of the Cannabis sativa plant that contain substantial amounts of THC. Marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC by dry weight.


What is Hemp?

Hemp is the part of the plant that contains 0.3% or less THC content by dry weight.

So, marijuana contains much more THC than hemp, while hemp has a lot of CBD.

What is Dry Weight (Dry Matter Basis)?

The dry weight of a material is calculated by, first, removing all the water.

So – if 20% of that material is actually just water, that means you will be left 

with 80% of the original material in dry weight.

So, let’s say that the material, before removal of the water, contains 10% concentration of a certain substance.

Once you remove the water, you will still have 10% concentration of the certain substance, but in less material since the 20% of water has gone.

This will effectively increase the concentration of the certain substance.

So, in this example: the original material is reduced by 20% or 1/5th.

The certain substance concentration is increased by the same amount.

So – 20% of 10 = 2.

That means that the concentration of the certain substance in dry weight = 12%

Therefore, if a material is classified as having 12% of certain substance in dry weight, you know it’s less than that in the original, wet material.

What is CBD?

bottle of drops

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the two main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not result in euphoria, or a ‘high’. Furthermore, CBD has no proven potential for abuse.

Although there are many ways to extract CBD from hemp, some methods are much safer than others. One of the issues of unregulated production of CBD is, you will never reliably know how each product is manufactured, or how the CBD was extracted from the plant. It’s essential to know this information, since the method of extraction affects the purity and efficacy of the final product.

CBD is known for having health benefits for humans, and is used widely in the field of medicine. There are many research studies being carried out on CBD, both for human use and companion animal use. 

Is CBD Legal?

In December, 2018, The Farm Bill was passed. This federally legalized the production of industrial hemp for extraction of CBD.

Despite this, CBD is not legal in all 50 states. States have different laws at this time, and not all processes of CBD extraction are legal. Until the process is regulated, and FDA approval is obtained for CBD products, the legal status will be difficult to change in some states.

As already mentioned, under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, products for which therapeutic claims are made must be approved by the FDA in order to be legally manufactured and marketed.

Legal scale

In January 2021, the USDA published the final rule regulating the production of hemp in the U.S. The document sets out requirements for the ‘Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program’. This means that there will be licensing requirements and  procedures for testing the THC concentration levels for hemp. Once there can be regulated growth of hemp of known chemical consistency, the CBD products made from that hemp will be of known chemical consistency. This will go a long way toward enabling transparency and regulation around testing, use, dosing and labeling of products.

Do Vets Recommend CBD For Dogs?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “under current federal and state law, veterinarians may not administer, dispense, prescribe or recommend cannabis or its products for animals.” 

Both the AVMA and the AKC Canine Health Foundation strongly encourage further research and testing of CBD.


What Is CBD Used For?

Some of the conditions which are known to improve with CBD are; osteoarthritis pain, chronic pain syndromes, anxiety, seizures and epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, inflammatory bowel conditions and tumor size reduction.

Anxiety in dogs can be caused by many stressors, including;

  • Loud noises
  • Storms, lightning and thunder
  • Separation anxiety
  • Unfamiliar people and places
  • Other pets 
  • Car rides

Is CBD Regulated?

No, not yet.

Regulation of a therapeutic product is absolutely necessary, and takes the guesswork out of whether or not the product is a viable option for you or your dog.

  • How do you know if you are purchasing a good quality product?
  • How do you know if you are giving the correct dose?
labrador retriever

More high quality research is required with appropriate clinical trials, before the FDA will approve CBD as a medical therapy. Until that time, these products are not regulated.

Some products currently available on the market are labelled inaccurately with respect to both the identity and amount of active ingredient found within the product.

In a 2017 analysis of 84 CBD products sold online found that 26% contained substantially less CBD than the label indicated, and 43% contained substantially more.

Final Thoughts

Who wouldn’t want a natural product to help their hound family? That said, what vet wouldn’t want to have as many options as possible for treating their patients?

It’s vital that the appropriate research and testing is done, though. How can we ever know what doses, frequencies and concentrations should be administered to our dogs without thorough testing and high quality clinical trials?

Without FDA approval for these products, consumers are at the mercy of manufacturers who don’t have to comply with any rules and regulations. There are multiple instances throughout human history, where unregulated drugs, foods and potions have been given, with devastating consequences.

If you’re really interested in learning more about this research, there are many journal articles you can look at. It’s pretty dry reading though, so if you’re not inclined to wade through papers, just wait for the experts to do their jobs and finish testing CBD, for all of us.

Your vet will certainly know if, and when, this promising natural product is approved for use.

Some science, if you want to read more…

The Current State of Cannabis Research in Veterinary Medicine

Cannabis Use and Pets

Preliminary Investigation of the Safety of Escalating Cannabinoid Doses in Healthy Dogs

The Use of Cannabidiol-Rich Hemp Oil Extract to Treat Canine Osteoarthritis-Related Pain: A Pilot Study

Evaluation of the Effect of Cannabidiol on Naturally Occurring Osteoarthritis-Associated Pain: A Pilot Study in Dogs

Randomized, placebo-controlled, 28-day safety and pharmacokinetics evaluation of repeated oral cannabidiol administration in healthy dogs

Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs

US Veterinarians’ Knowledge, Experience, and Perception Regarding the Use of Cannabidiol for Canine Medical Conditions

Can CBD Oil Help Dogs With Epilepsy?

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