CBD for Dogs & Cats:
Can It Help? September 2021

Many dog and cat owners use CBD products to improve the lives of their pets. Although more research is needed, studies suggest that CBD can have many health benefits in cats and dogs.

Gleb Oleinik January 19, 2021 Affiliate Disclosure Some links are specifically formatted for which we may receive a commission on resulting sales or clicks from affiliate partners (“Affiliate Links”).

Evidence Based
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Checked for Accuracy

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Strength of
Evidence

Both scientific studies and veterinarian surveys have found that CBD may significantly improve certain conditions in cats and dogs such as osteoarthritis, seizures, and anxiety.
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Effect
Magnitude

CBD may have many health benefits for dogs and cats. However, most of the current evidence comes from veterinarian surveys and a small number of studies on dogs. Although, research in cats and dogs is growing.
Results Consistency icon

Results
Consistency

CBD may have many health benefits for dogs and cats. However, most of the current evidence comes from veterinarian surveys and a small number of studies on dogs. Although, research in cats and dogs is growing.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is used by millions of people worldwide to support their health. But did you know that it can help pets too?

Dogs, cats, and most other animals have an endocannabinoid system just like us, which means they can react to and benefit from CBD. They can also suffer from many similar health issues such as arthritis, anxiety, chronic pain, and inflammation – all of which hemp CBD has some potential relief in humans.

Although research looking at the effects of CBD in dogs and cats is still in its infancy, evidence from rodent studies and veterinarian surveys suggests that CBD has a myriad of potential health benefits for our four-legged friends.

Here’s an evidence-based look at the use of CBD for dogs and cats.

Pet Health Overview

Our furry companions can suffer from many of the same conditions that we do.

For dogs, common health problems include arthritis, cataracts, ear infections, anxiety, diarrhea, osteoporosis, seizures, and cancer.

Cats are similar, with kidney disease, anxiety, osteoporosis, gum disease, and cancer is the most common health issues.

CBD is already used to help with these and many other conditions in humans and there’s growing evidence that it can provide the same benefit for pets.

Can CBD Help Your Pets?

Studies in mice and rats suggest that CBD can have many potential benefits. Since dogs and cats are also mammals, that means CBD can likely help them as well.

Evidence from rodent studies suggests that CBD may:

  • Have antidepressant and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects ¹
  • Reduce arthritis pain and inflammation ²
  • Have anticancer effects ³
  • Reduce nausea ⁴
  • Lower inflammation in asthma ⁵
  • Relieve epileptic seizures ⁶
  • Support healthy bones by promoting healing and regeneration ⁷
  • Help with inflammatory skin conditions ⁸
  • Help with sleep ⁹
  • Protect against neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease ¹⁰

 

CBD works in multiple ways including through both endocannabinoid and non-endocannabinoid systems.

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

Most of CBD’s effects come from its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of naturally produced cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and the special enzymes that build and break them down.

This system regulates brain and immune functions, pain, stress, metabolism, reproduction, digestion, and other essential processes to maintain homeostasis: a healthy state of internal balance. ¹¹

The ECS is found in nearly all animals, including humans, dogs, cats, and other mammals. They can also be found in non-mammals such as birds, fish, reptiles, and even simple organisms such as sea urchins.

Research suggests that this system developed some 500 million years ago, highlighting its pivotal role in the overall health of many animals. ¹²

Although we know much less about the ECS in dogs and cats compared to humans, researchers believe it functions in essentially the same way in all animals.

For example, studies have shown that dogs have CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids just like humans and other mammals. ¹³

CBD has one major effect on the ECS: it reduces the breakdown of anandamide, one of the two main endocannabinoids found in dogs, cats, and humans. ¹⁴

By preventing anandamide breakdown, these endocannabinoids can linger in the body for longer and improve ECS stimulation.

Other CBD Mechanisms

Aside from the ECS, CBD can interact with many other receptors and molecules. CBD has been shown to:

  • Activate serotonin receptors, which play a role in depression, anxiety, and other conditions ¹⁵ ¹⁶
  • Interact with PPAR receptors, involved in a wide variety of functions ¹⁷
  • Activate glycine receptors involved in inflammation and pain ¹⁸
  • Suppress (NF)-κB, a major pro-inflammatory pathway ¹⁹
  • Interact with TRP channels, which regulate pain and inflammation ²⁰

What Does the Research Say?

Although most of the animal research on CBD has focused on rodents — mice and rats — there is a growing number of studies in CBD for dogs and cats.

One placebo-controlled 2020 study looked at the effects of CBD in 20 dogs with osteoarthritis. They were given one of four treatments daily for 4 weeks: 20 mg or 50 mg dose of pure CBD, 20 mg of a special liposomal CBD formulation with increased absorption, or a placebo.

Whereas the 20 mg CBD dose and placebo had no effect, the 50 mg pure CBD and 20 mg liposomal CBD treatments showed improvements in pain and mobility. This was observed by the pet owners and further confirmed through a veterinarian examination. ²¹

A similar 2018 study looked at the effects of CBD in dogs with osteoarthritis. They were given CBD oil (2 mg/kg) or a placebo twice daily for 4 weeks.  Researchers found that CBD decreased pain and improved activity without any side effects. ²²

Another 2020 study found that full-spectrum CBD oil given to 37 dogs with osteoarthritis significantly improved their pain and decreased or eliminated the need for prescription painkillers after 90 days. ²³

Aside from osteoarthritis, studies have also investigated the use of CBD to treat epilepsy and seizures in dogs.

A 2019 study compared the effects of CBD or a placebo treatment alongside standard medication in 26 dogs with treatment-resistant epilepsy. They were given CBD oil (2.5 mg/kg) or a placebo twice daily for 12 weeks. ²⁴

Dogs in the CBD group experienced a 33% reduction in seizure frequency, although two animals were withdrawn from the study after experiencing ataxia, a side effect that causes lack of muscle control and coordination. No other adverse behavioral effects were reported by the other dog owners.

In a 2019 survey of 2130 veterinarians, researchers found that the three most common conditions where vets considered using CBD were pain, anxiety, and seizures. ²⁵

Based on first-hand experiences and pet owner reports, vets also noted that CBD was most effective for chronic pain (rated very helpful by 34% and somewhat helpful by 56% of vets) and acute pain (rated very helpful by 23%, somewhat helpful by 60%).

Additionally, over 75% of vets said that CBD was helpful for anxiety and seizures.

A similar 2016 study surveying 632 cat and dog owners found that: ²⁶

  • Most pet owners used CBD for seizures, cancer, anxiety, and arthritis.
  • Dog owners reported that CBD had notable benefits for many conditions. In particular, 63.4% of owners noted that CBD moderately or significantly improved their dog’s pain, 50.5% said the same for sleep issues and 49.3% for anxiety.
  • Similarly, 66% of cat owners found that CBD moderately or significantly improved pain, 56.3% noted the same for inflammation and 44% for sleep.
  • 88.8% of pet owners rated CBD products as very safe.
  • 62.5% of pet owners felt that CBD worked better than standard medication and therapy.

 

In summary, although more scientific research is needed — especially in cats — the available evidence suggests that CBD has many potential health benefits in dogs and cats.

Tips on Using CBD for Dogs and Cats

You can maximize the beneficial effects of CBD for dogs and cats by following several recommendations.

First and foremost, it’s best to choose products made with full or broad-spectrum CBD extract rather than pure CBD.

These types of extracts are made from the whole hemp plant, which means they contain multiple phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and other active ingredients that work in synergy with CBD. ²⁷

As a result, whole-plant CBD products make the most of the science behind the cannabis entourage effect to provide greater benefits.

We also recommend applying CBD oil directly to your pet’s gums instead of putting it in their food or giving them CBD-infused treats. Just like in people, this method helps overcome the low oral absorption of CBD and greatly increases its effectiveness. ²⁸

While CBD treats are still helpful, they work better in addition to, rather than as a replacement for, CBD oil. Furthermore, some prefer products with no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and opt for broad-spectrum CBD oil or CBD isolate.

How Much CBD Should I Give to My Dog or Cat?

There’s no established dosage of CBD for dogs and cats due to a current lack of research. Furthermore, CBD oils are not recommended as veterinary medicine – we highly suggest you check with your veterinarian prior to dosing your dog or cat with a tincture.

Besides, CBD affects every person and pet differently because of differences in body weight, genetics, the specific health issue and its severity, and other factors.

We recommend following the same advice people get from health experts: “start low and go slow.” ²⁹

You can begin with a dose of 0.5 mg of CBD per 1 kg of body weight. So if your pet weighs 6 kg, you’d start them with a 3 mg dose and observe the effects over the next 1-2 hours.

If it’s not enough, you can give your pet slightly more next time, and continue raising the amount of CBD until you find the amount that works best for your four-legged companion.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Research has shown that CBD is generally safe and well-tolerated in both dogs and cats.

In one study, researchers gave 6 dogs and 8 cats a 2 mg per kg dose of CBD twice daily for 12 weeks in the form of dog treats and CBD-infused fish oil.

The researchers found no negative effects from the use of CBD.

One cat did develop elevated liver enzyme levels, but the veterinarians found no clinical or behavior changes otherwise. The researchers also were not able to confirm that the increased liver enzymes were caused by the CBD. Instead, it may have been caused by some other underlying illness.

Researchers, however, did note that dogs seemed to absorb CBD better than cats.

Overall, the team concluded that “hemp-based CBD appears to be relatively safe in healthy populations of dogs and cats.” ³⁰

Still, CBD can cause potential side effects that are similar to those reported from human research.

According to two veterinarian and pet owner surveys, sedation/lack of energy and increased appetite are the two most common side effects of CBD use in dogs and cats. ²⁴

Other reported side effects include dry mouth, nausea, and vomiting, but these are rare.

Another thing to be aware of is that dogs and cats may be more sensitive to THC, the main psychotropic component of cannabis, than humans. Dogs, in particular, are at a higher risk of intoxication because they have more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than we do. ³¹

Since full-spectrum hemp extracts contain a small amount (<0.3%) of THC, you should start dogs and cats with a very small dose of full-spectrum CBD products and observe the effects closely.

Conclusion

CBD for dogs and cats may be just as beneficial as it is for humans.

Although research in dogs and cats is still fairly limited, early studies and veterinarian surveys have shown that CBD can help dogs and cats with many common problems, including osteoarthritis (joint pain), chronic pain, separation anxiety, and seizures.

For best results, use a full-spectrum CBD oil rather than treats and apply it directly to your pet’s gums. Make sure to start your dog or cat with a small dose of CBD and raise it as needed until you achieve the desired results.

We also recommend only purchasing from companies that run their products through third party lab testing and provide a Certificate of Analysis (CoA). This will that the cannabis plant and CBD extract is free of contaminants, such as heavy metals.

If you’d like more information on third party tested pet products, we recommend our Top CBD Oil for Dogs.


Gleb Oleinik

Gleb Oleinik is a freelance CBD & cannabis writer from Vancouver, Canada. He’s read thousands of studies about cannabinoids and other beneficial natural compounds, helping him translate complex science into plain language. He’s also written third-party lab test reports of CBD products and knows the industry inside and out. When he’s not writing, Gleb likes to spend his time in the gym and out in nature.