If you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably heard of the recent boom in CBD supplements for dogs. A study in 2018 indicated that almost 80% of participants have given their dogs cannabis-derived treats at least once. According to a study in Colorado, 93% of people who tried CBD dog treats reported better performance than standard care. However, much like any other new dog wellness product, there are a lot of rumors and myths surrounding CBD. In this article, we’ll discuss how CBD can help your dog and how to safely get the most out of it.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound belonging to the cannabinoid family. First and foremost, it’s important to distinguish CBD from delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces what is known as the “high”. CBD, on the other hand, has no reported psychoactive properties and is therefore easily considered for its therapeutic effects. Most CBD oils and derivatives are extracted from hemp and not cannabis, which contains less than 3% THC content making it legal to extract and sell under the 2018 Agricultural Bill.
How CBD Works
In order to understand how CBD affects the body, it’s important to first understand the endocannabinoid system. The system consists of receptors and compounds (endocannabinoids) that attach themselves to these receptors and activate them. Most mammal bodies produce endogenous cannabinoids on a regular basis. The most well-studied receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are found in canines, as well as, humans. When activated these receptors modulate a lot of vital body functions, thus they are considered as potential targets for an array of different diseases.
CB1 receptors are found mainly in the central nervous system where they regulate movement, coordination, mood, appetite, and neuropathic pain. On the other hand, CB2 receptors are found peripherally and thus govern inflammation and pain. Recent studies also indicate that other receptors throughout the body play a role in CBD’s therapeutic effects.
New developments in CBD research show that CBD does not directly block the receptors, but instead binds to a secondary site on the receptor influencing its potential to bind with endogenous cannabinoids, preventing their breakdown, in what is known as allosteric non-competitive antagonism. This could explain why CBD exhibits a therapeutic capacity without the negative side effects associated with other compounds like THC.
Will CBD Make My Dog High?
No, CBD will definitely not make your dog high. Although CBD can be extracted from the same plant as marijuana, it does not possess any psychoactive properties. Furthermore, most CBD products available today are from a hemp origin that is naturally extremely low in THC content. That being said, CBD is likely to have a calming effect on your dog, making them relaxed but still coherent.
How Does CBD Help My Dog?
Because CBD affects receptors all over the body, it is currently used to treat different diseases that affect dogs. Although the compound is not studied and tried in lab settings enough to earn FDA approval, the one thing all studies agree on is that CBD has a very good safety profile, in humans and in dogs, more so than a lot of FDA approved drugs. That and the fact that it possesses no psychotropic effect is why it is legal in all US states. The downside of this is that there is no strict regulation for product potency and CBD content. Therefore, you must thoroughly research the best CBD dog treats before giving them to your furry companion.
One of the most widely studied therapeutic indications of CBD is as an anticonvulsant. In fact, the FDA recently approved a new drug called Epidolex as a safe and effective treatment for epileptic seizures. Extensive pharmacological studies report a significant reduction of the incidence of seizures in most patients receiving CBD than the placebo.
Because FDA approved CBD for human consumption, but not for animals, it is still illegal for a veterinarian to indicate CBD for your dog. That is why it is important for dog owners to be cautious while dosing CBD oil for dogs or treats.
The cannabinoid receptors mentioned earlier act as modulators for neurotransmitters that are responsible for pain transmission. That is why antagonizing its effects with CBD will slow down transmission of pain and significantly reduce it. They also affect many other receptors and channels that are part of the cycle responsible for pain sensation.
CBD proved to successfully reduce pro-inflammatory mechanisms in lab conditions, thus making it an effective anti-inflammatory. This is significant for dogs who have chronic autoimmune diseases like osteoarthritis (OA). On one hand, CBD can significantly reduce chronic pain associated with inflammatory diseases. On the other hand, CBD can regulate the immune system and prevents it from hurting your dog.
Stress & Anxiety Relief
Preliminary studies on CBD’s potential as an anxiolytic and hypnotic have shown potential in reliving stress and anxiety in humans. That and the fact that we share the receptors responsible for CBD’s anxiolytic effects with canines led to its use for dogs with social anxiety.
Humans use CBD to control vomiting and nausea. Many cancer patients receiving chemotherapy rely on CBD to suppress their treatment’s side effects. CBD’s anti-emetic effects rely on its ability to indirectly activate a subtype of serotonin receptors (5-HT 1A) in the gut and brain responsible for vomiting and regulating appetite. Like us humans, dogs also possess a very similar serotonin system in the gut and the brain, thus CBD Is used, nowadays, to suppress vomiting in canines.
Cancer is sadly very common in dogs. However, there is not a proportional amount of research in anti-cancer agents for animals. That is why some dog owners opt to try CBD as an adjuvant therapy for both dogs diagnosed with cancer and as a precautionary measure. Studies have shown the efficacy of using CBD as an anticancer in some cases. Although effective, it’s not advisable to use CBD alone when facing cancer as it still under investigation and cannot be prescribed and monitored officially by a veterinarian.
Reported Side Effects
There is very little evidence of any side effects related to CBD use. However, you must still be on the lookout for any adverse reactions appearing on your dog. Some side effects reported by dog owners are:
- Dry mouth: CBD can reduce saliva production in dogs causing dry mouth. You can observe this side effect as an increase in your dog’s thirst and drinking frequency.
- Low blood pressure: Although very small, this side effect can still manifest as an observable light-headedness in your dog.
- Sleepiness: When taken in relatively large doses, CBD can cause drowsiness and make your dog appear to be tired. If that happens you can try to reduce the dose given.
Drug Interactions with CBD
One of the most important things to consider when giving your dog CBD is its drug-drug interactions. Enzymes called CYP450 in the liver are responsible for CBD’s metabolism. This enzyme is very important in breaking down a lot of drugs, and therefore overwhelming it with CBD can cause an increase in the levels of other drugs metabolized by CYP450 in the blood.
CBD Dosage for Dogs
Because CBD is not under regulation by the FDA it is very difficult to standardize the proper dosage for every indication. The bright side is that throughout all the available data, CBD has proven to be a relatively safe drug with very little side effects that are not fatal (unless it is an allergic reaction to a large dose).
Another challenge in dosing CBD is that there is a large degree of variability between the brands in CBD content. That is why you should thoroughly research the best CBD oil for dogs, to ensure a consistent CBD content. Make sure that whatever brand you choose is lab tested and certified for the amount of CBD in each product and that it’s free of any toxic additives.
Most CBD sellers will include a recommended dose that is usually in the ballpark of 0.5 mg/kg (2.2 lb) as an average dose, up to 2mg/kg for a strong dose, and a maximum dose of 5 mg/kg. Your aim should be to take as little as your dog needs for the effects to kick in with minimal side effects. Therefore, it is best to start small and increase until you reach that threshold.