It is no surprise that Americans love their pets. More than three in five Americans (62%) have at least one pet in their household, and nearly all pet owners (95%) consider their pets to be members of the family, (2011 Harris Poll). The pet products industry calls this the “humanization of pets”.

Pet healthcare spending has now outgrown human healthcare and it seems that pet owners are more willing than ever to keep their furry friends healthy and comfortable at all costs. According to Pet Life Today, “a 2011 study found that 68% of dog owners said that they would maintain spending on pet health regardless of any downturn in the economy. To put this statistic in perspective, spending on Mother’s Day declined by 10% when the economy slowed down, leading some observers to question whether dogs had become more recession-proof than mothers.”

To keep their pets comfortable, owners are increasingly turning to CBD (cannabidiol) in attempts to ease pain, inflammation, anxiety, seizures, and many other ailments. Brightfield Group estimates that CBD oil for dogs and other pets could balloon to a $1.16 billion industry in the U.S. by 2022.

Despite this sudden boom in CBD oil for pets, it is very important to keep in mind that there are very few studies on CBD’s effects on dogs, or any other pet. Most of the studies that have been conducted were on rats and humans.

As with anything in life, it is the pet parent’s responsibility to make sure that their fur baby is getting the best product available. Cost, quality, the condition you are aiming to treat, and strength of product all need to be taken into consideration.

What Types of CBD Pet Products Are Out There?

CBD for pets comes in a variety of forms including edibles, topical creams and oils. There are chewable treats, bones, oils and powders that can be added to food or placed under the tongue, and lotions and balms that can be rubbed directly on the skin.

Dog treats seem to be the most popular. While the effects may take a little bit longer than tinctures delivered under the tongue, a treat allows for accurate dosing and dogs love treats!

How Does CBD Work in Animals?

It’s not quite clear. Researchers, like Dr. Stephanie McGrath who is located at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University, have been trying to determine the benefits – and the risks – of dispensing CBD to pets for several years now. Dogs, like humans, do have an endocannabinoid system, but it is unclear if CBD interacts the same way.

A 2018 study found that CBD can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis. The following year, McGrath published a study showing that CBD may help reduce the number of seizures experienced by epileptic dogs. But although these studies were well-designed and peer-reviewed, they’re still small and very preliminary.

“All we’ve basically done is give this drug to these dogs and said, okay this is what we’re seeing,” said McGrath. “But whether or not the blood levels achieved are adequate enough to treat certain diseases, we don’t yet know.”

McGrath continued, “If CBD works, then I think it would hit the mark of being both effective and not carrying a lot of side effects. So that’s kind of what we’re hoping for.”

CBD oil for dogs

Can CBD Hurt My Pet?

Dogs possess a larger number of cannabinoid receptors than humans, making them potentially more susceptible to the toxic effects of the drug than their human counterparts. This makes it challenging to determine proper dosing. Veterinarians have warned against giving CBD to pets with known liver disease because CBD is metabolized by the liver.

While CBD may help pets who are suffering from certain maladies, THC – the psychoactive element of marijuana – is poisonous to animals.

According to San Francisco Veterinarian Dr. Dorrie Black, “There’s nothing about (cannabis) that actual drug itself that will kill them. It doesn’t cause any organ failure. It doesn’t cause liver failure (or) renal failure.” Black continued, “What can happen is that the drug can sedate a dog so fully that it will inhale its own vomit, which can be lethal.”

For that reason, Black cautions pet owners to play it safe.

How Much CBD Oil Should I Give My Dog?

Dogs are sensitive to new foods, and CBD is no different. Each brand should show you a recommended dose, based on your pets size. However, it’s best to start with only 1/3 of that dose. If your pet is responding well to the CBD, you can increase it until you reach the recommended dose. If the CBD makes your pet sick, anxious, or lethargic, stop the dosage and consult your veterinarian.

Bottom Line

The ASPCA has recently provided information and advice on CBD for dogs. “Like with any product, you should consult with your veterinarian to determine if CBD products are right for your pet, and what the proper dosage should be. There’s a lot of information online that can be misleading, and consulting with a professional should always be your first step. That’s especially important if your pet is on other medications. Mixing medications and substances can affect animals’ livers. Just like with any medication or pet product, you want to be careful of overdosing your pet and be sure to keep any CBD products safely up and out of paws’ reach.”

Dr. McGrath reassures pet parents that, “We haven’t found anything that’s super alarming about CBD, but on the flip side, we still know very little about it and it’s really important for owners to know that and use it with caution until we have more information.”