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11 Questions Answered About CBD For Dogs

CBD has become increasingly popular for both humans and our pets. In fact, 63% of over two thousand vets surveyed in 2018 by the Veterinary Information Network said their patients' owners asked about CBD at least monthly (with 29% asked weekly and 8% asked daily). That was three years ago and likely has only increased with the continuing rise in popularity of CBD. But the world of CBD is still mysterious for most people. So here are 11 questions answered about CBD for dogs.

What Is CBD?

CBD or cannabidiol is one of more than 100 different active chemical compounds called "cannabinoids" found in the cannabis plant. The main cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol, with CBD being the second most prevalent ingredient in cannabis.

How Is CBD Different From THC?

Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and thus does not produce a "high." Its effects are much closer to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and Rimadyl. This is because it has benefits on important metabolic pathways that control several processes in the body, such as inflammatory responses and blood clotting. A report from the World Health Organization found that, so far, there are no indications that CBD leads to dependence or abuse and no public health related issues associated with its use.

How Does CBD Work?

Though there are still things to figure out, scientists have a general idea about how CBD works. To dive into that, we need to first go over the endocannabinoid system (ECS), found in all living vertebrates. (Note: the ECS is active even if you don't use cannabis.)

All living vertebrates have an ECS in their central and peripheral nervous system, which is a complex cell-signaling system. It was identified in the early 1990s and still isn't fully understood. But experts do know it plays a role in regulating many bodily processes such as sleep, mood, appetite, memory, reproduction and fertility. The ECS has molecules called endocannabinoids (or endogenous cannabinoids), which are similar to cannabinoids but produced by our bodies. They are produced as needed and help keep internal functions running properly. Your body also has endocannabinoid receptors throughout, which bind with endocannabinoids to signal to the ECS that it's time to take action. The results of binding depend on where the receptors were located and to what endocannabinoid it binds. For example, endocannabinoids might target receptors in spinal nerves to relieve pain or ones in immune cells to target inflammation.

While scientists don't know exactly how CBD interacts with the ECS, they know it does affect it and help the body. Many experts believe it prevents endocannabinoids from being broken down, so they have more effects on the body. Others believe CBD binds to receptors that haven't been discovered yet, prompting the ECS into helpful action.

What Is CBD Used For In Dogs?

Although the exact way that CBD works is still being debated, research shows that it can help with many issues in humans - and it's believed to be the same for dogs. For example, CBD may help alleviate separation anxiety, car sickness or fear of fireworks. CBD may also improve mobility and pain in senior dogs with arthritis. While there aren't many studies or reliable scientific data on the benefits of CBD for dogs, there is evidence suggesting it can treat several conditions and issues, including:

  1. Pain
  2. Arthritis
  3. Nausea
  4. Anxiety
  5. Cancer
  6. Inflammation
  7. Seizures
  8. Loss of appetite
  9. Heart health

How Does CBD Affect Dogs?

Every dog is unique and CBD may affect individuals differently. To know how CBD affects your particular dog, monitor them after giving CBD and watch for positive or negative reactions. Negative effects include excessive panting, lethargy, vomiting, dribbling urine, and loss of balance. Any of these could indicate your dog consumed too much and should be taken to the vet as soon as possible.

What Are The Side Effects Of CBD?

There's no scientific data on the side effects of CBD in dogs, but there is for humans. It's believed that these effects could occur in dogs as well, if not given the proper dosage. These include:

  • Dry mouth and decreased production of saliva (which could also present as increased thirst in dogs)
  • Drop in blood pressure and potential related light-headedness
  • Drowsiness

What Are The Risks Of Using CBD?

The risks and safety of CBD use for dogs has not been researched but, as with any medication or supplement, there is a potential risk of negative reaction. Because CBD use is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, no dosing chart has been established. So it's uncertain what the proper dosage for dogs is and what would be too much. It's best to discuss using CBD with your vet, start with small amounts and always monitor your dog for potential negative reactions.

How Do You Give CBD To Dogs?

There are many forms of CBD for pets, with the most common being oral or topical treatments. You can find both soft chews and hard treats, tinctures and oils, peanut butter, capsules, creams and beyond. 

How Much CBD Should You Give To Dogs?

As previously mentioned, there are no official dosing charts for CBD oil for dogs. If you do a quick internet search, you'll find suggestions for a normal dose ranging from 0.1, 0.2 to 0.25 milligrams per pound, with stronger doses at 0.5 mg per pound. So a 30 pound dog would either get 3 mg, 6 mg, 7.5 mg or 15 mg by these calculations.

Beyond the factor of weight, type of condition being treated can affect the dosage. For example, lower doses are typically for anxiety while higher doses are for severe health issues (like cancer or seizures).

And when using CBD oil, you'll need to do another calculation to figure out how many milligrams are in a milliliter. This will depend on how strong the CBD oil is and how many milliliters are in the dropper (most commonly one milliliter). Here are some common strengths of CBD oil and how they translate to milligrams:

  • 75 mg formula = 2.5 mg of CBD per ml of oil
  • 150 mg formula = 5 mg of CBD per ml of oil
  • 300 mg formula = 10 mg of CBD per ml of oil
  • 600 mg formula = 20 mg of CBD per ml of oil

That being said, the product you buy will be specifically for dogs and should have dosing recommendations. These may differ from product to product as the concentration of CBD will vary from product to product. As aforementioned, every dog will respond differently so start with small amounts, monitor your pet's reaction and adjust accordingly. If you need to increase the dosage, make sure to do so slowly. 

How Do I Choose The Right CBD Product For My Dog?

Because CBD is not regulated by the FDA, there are a lot of products on the market and some are more effective than others. When shopping, look on the website for certificates of analysis and any other evidence of third-party testing. This will indicate if the quality of the products are as advertised and whether they are free of THC, pesticides, heavy metals, herbicides and other additives. In addition, look for organic CBD products and avoid tying to save money, as more expensive products are typically better.

Do Vets Recommend CBD Use For Dogs?

Many vets are unwilling to recommend CBD because of the lack of research and regulation. In addition, some states in the U.S. will penalize them for even talking about it, sometimes with license suspension. But other states, such as California, give vets more freedom and protect them from penalty. Despite this, it's recommended you discuss giving your dog CBD before doing so. Just know that your vet may not be able or willing to give a professional opinion recommendation. But that doesn't mean CBD at the proper dosage won't have benefits for your dog.

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