Is CBD Actually Safe For Pets? Vets Weigh In

As a longtime CBD user and journalist, I’ve seen a zillion different applications of cannabidiol for health and wellness — and not just for humans!

Many of us, regardless of our personal experience with CBD, have heard plenty of amazing stories about pet parents using CBD to ease pain and inflammation in their older dogs, particularly those with cancer. All signs have seemed to point to CBD being a natural remedy for canine companions, right?

Black pug wearing clothes shot by Charles Deluvio

But when I brought home my first puppy Stella just last year, I started approaching everything dog-related with a more paranoid critical eye. I’ve scrutinized every ingredient in her dog food, researched toys and games for hours on end to ensure their safety, read every single Amazon review of her shampoo brand, interrogated her groomer on every facet of their procedures (kidding, kidding… they were nice, friendly questions), and paid well over a thousand dollars to make sure she got a cutting edge type of laparoscopic spay to ensure a safer, less painful, less invasive surgery when she needed to get fixed. Am I an overbearing helicopter (dog) mom? Perhaps. Is she safe and healthy? You bet! (I know. I’m insane. Why do you think I take CBD?)

So when the time came for me to consider CBD for my own dog, I knew I would need research and veterinarian approval to move forward before introducing anything new into her diet. I chatted with her amazing vets at Coastal Animal Hospital in Leucadia, CA to get their perspective and their interpretation of a new study on CBD for dogs from Cornell. Here’s what we went over. 

Is CBD Safe For Dogs?

Short answer: potentially. Long answer: research is limited, but it doesn’t seem particularly harmful yet. “Based on a recently published paper on the safety and efficacy of CBD in dogs, CBD overall does appear to be safe and well tolerated, however, it is not completely benign,” said Dr. Brian Evans, DVM from Coastal Animal Hospital. “The paper found that there was a significant increase in liver values when given to dogs.” Essentially this means the liver has to work hard, which isn’t ideal.

In the study, the liver returned to normal once the dogs’ bodies had processed the CBD and they stopped receiving it, but the cause — why the “liver values” increased in the first place — is unknown so far. 

What Ailments Can It Treat?

It’s early to tell. As mentioned, there’s only one paper so far, and it’s not all encompassing. “This paper evaluated the effects of CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Evans. “The paper found that the owners noticed improvement in their dog, but the veterinarians did not notice any difference when they evaluated the dogs,” he said. “However, based on the paper, there is reason to believe that it could be effective as an adjunct treatment and not a sole agent for pain control.”

So there’s a bit of evidence that it may improve symptoms of arthritis, which is great news! As for the other woes, Dr. Evans said to wait for more research. “We don't know how effective CBD will be for other diseases, pain, etc. until a controlled study like this is performed.”

How Much Can You Give Your Dog?

As with humans, there’s no particular formula yet, so you’ll want to start low and go slow. According to the published study, the dogs received approximately one milligram per pound of bodyweight every 12 hours. However, “the way the drug is metabolized requires the drug to be given every six to eight hours to be effective,” said Dr. Evans. He also noted that this dose may be too low, because “there is wide variability in how some dogs process the drug.” Just like with humans, all bodies are different.

A very limited study in 1988 — on only six dogs — showed that there was “limited bioavailability” with dogs taking CBD, meaning they didn’t absorb much of the medicine.

Can You Give It To Puppies?

The vets at Coastal Animal advised against it, particularly if it’s not 100 percent necessary. A bit of separation anxiety can be quelled with the help of an animal behaviorist or trainer, so maybe hold off on the CBD until they’re a bit older since it can take a toll on the liver. 

“I can't make any recommendations to give this to puppies,” said Dr. Evans. “Considering it caused the liver values to elevate, we need to be cautious with young animals.”

What About Cats?

Not yet! Cats are TBD for now. Not only is there no data yet, but “Cats are very different in how they respond to most drugs when compared to humans or dogs,” said Dr. Evans, “so I do not recommend this for cats until we are sure it is not going to do any damage to their internal organs.”

As always, veterinarians will have you exercise the most caution until they know something is safe. After all, dogs can’t tell us they’re not feeling well! Work with your veterinarian, do your research, and keep your eyes peeled for new studies!

Written by Dominique Astorino

Wellness Expert and Svn Space Podcast Host and Contributing Editor Dominique holds bylines at POPSUGAR, Brit+Co, SHAPE, Svn Space and Huffington Post Wellness covering everything from health, fitness, and nutrition to crystals and CBD.

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