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Debunking CBD for Dogs

Published: August 2020 | Updated: June 2023

I’m sure you’ve heard about cannabidiol, i.e., CBD. These days, it seems like hemp-based products are all the rage, being touted for benefits ranging from decreased anxiety to increased flexibility. 

When I first heard about CBD and how it could help my dog, I had a lot of questions

  • Why is this suddenly so popular? 
  • Is CBD safe for my dog? 
  • Will it make me (or my pet) high? 
  • How could one substance possibly help so many different ailments? 

So I did a little reading about the basics because I thought that if CBD was the real deal, my dog would probably need some in her life.

Here’s what I learned and why you might consider CBD for your dog too. 

Use in Different Cultures Through History

First, let’s address the elephant in the room. You are probably familiar with cannabis in some respect, which, despite its modern day reputation, has been used as medicine in many different cultures for thousands of years.

Cannabis, known as "Da Ma" in Chinese, has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is mentioned in one of the oldest complete medical textbooks, "Shen Nung Ben Cao Jing" (The Classic of Herbal Medicine), attributed to the mythical emperor Shen Nung who is said to have lived around 2800 BC.

In TCM, every part of the cannabis plant was used for different purposes. The seeds, known as "Huo Ma Ren," were used to nourish and calm the body, treat constipation due to their high fiber content, and were seen as beneficial for the skin and hair because of their essential fatty acid content.

The leaves were used to clear heat (you may have heard of heating and cooling medicines in TCM) and eliminate toxins. They were also used in combination with other herbs to address problems such as menstrual pain and wounds.

The flowers, known as "Ma Fen," were used in small amounts to promote a free flow of qi and blood, and were believed to have a calming effect on the spirit, useful for conditions like anxiety and insomnia.

The stalk was used to make fiber for clothing and paper, demonstrating the versatility of the plant beyond its medicinal uses.

However, it's crucial to note that TCM practitioners did not traditionally use cannabis in the same way it's often used recreationally today. The psychoactive component of cannabis, THC, was not the focus in TCM, and the medicinal preparations from ancient times likely had varying and generally lower levels of THC compared to many strains of cannabis seen today.

The Endocannabinoid System

All animals (including us!) naturally contain receptors that interact with cannabinoids, the chemicals found in cannabis. These cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, including the brain, nervous system, immune system, and organs. The body also produces substances called endocannabinoids that interact with these receptors. 

This body system is called the endocannabinoid system, and while no one knows every in-and-out of the system, we do know that the endocannabinoid system is heavily involved in regulating homeostasis in EVERY tissue in the body. 

In other words, it helps keep the cells in a happy state of “just right” so they can do their best job. Think: “High on life,” but not actually “high.”  

Endocannabinoids can act differently in different tissues, which is why the benefits of cannabinoids are so widespread. 

What is CBD? 

Ok, so we know that the body produces its own endocannabinoids to stimulate these receptors. Well, cannabis plants produce phytocannabinoids, chemicals that can also affect our natural receptors. 

THC is one of the most well known and psychoactive phytocannabinoids, but there are other non-psychoactive cannabinoids with healing properties, such as CBD.

The cool thing about CBD is that it will not make you or your dog high. See, CBD acts on the receptors in a different way than THC, so you have nothing to worry about on that front!

There’s a lot of detailed information about the specifics of CBD, but for the purposes of this blog, just remember: CBD works because it targets the body’s natural endocannabinoid system, but in a safe way that will not make you or your dog high. 

As a side note, even though it doesn’t produce a high, it doesn’t mean it won’t help your dog remain calm through other natural avenues. 

Most CBD products originate from hemp plants, which are part of the cannabis family, but contain less than 0.3% THC.

What Does CBD Do For Dogs?

There is actually research about the health benefits of CBD use in dogs that goes back several decades! 

While more research is needed regarding phytocannabinoid oil for dogs, science believes that CBD is helpful for dogs with many conditions, including:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Cognitive decline
  • Seizures and Nervous System Dysfunction
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain and Inflammation in any capacity 
  • Cancer

And the really neat part is that in every research study, CBD for dogs has proven to be a safe supplement with zero side effects when used at the correct dosage. Plus, your dog can’t overdose on CBD. The worst-case scenario is that they could experience some diarrhea if they take too much. 

An Effective Alternative to NSAIDs

Recent research at Colorado State University preliminarily showed that CBD decreased the frequency of seizures in 89% of dogs in a clinical trial.  And another recent study found that CBD helped increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis. 

The reason that these studies, and many more with similar results, are exciting is that CBD use is an alternative treatment to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which have some pretty nasty long-term side effects for your furry friend. 

Getting to Know the Side Effects of NSAIDs

The most common side effects of NSAIDs in dogs include vomiting, loss of appetite, depression, and diarrhea. More severe side effects may include gastrointestinal ulcers, liver or kidney dysfunction, and bleeding disorders. Some dogs may also exhibit behavioral changes such as restlessness or aggression.

Take Home Message

You can bet that more information about CBD is coming your way, both on this blog and in the news. For now, hopefully this helps debunk some of the information out there about CBD for dogs.

Remember, high quality CBD is safe for dogs when administered at the correct dosage and concentration. Do your research about the best CBD for dogs and choose one that has been tested and verified by veterinarians.  

Read More: 

Preliminary Data from CBD Clinical Trials 'Promising'

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

The Impact of Feeding Cannabidiol (CBD) Containing Treats on Canine Response to a Noise-Induced Fear Response Test

A Single Dose of Cannabidiol (CBD) Positively Influences Measures of Stress in Dogs During Separation and Car Travel 

Cannabis Sativa L. May Reduce Aggressive Behaviour Towards Humans in Shelter Dogs