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Is cbd safe for dogs?

Updated: Feb 19

With all the talk about CBD these days, it's natural to wonder, if it's safe for me, can I give it to my dog too?


First of all, what is CBD?


CBD is short for Cannabidiol, which is one of the chemical compounds known as Cannabinoids that are found in the Cannabis plant. Probably the most well-known Cannabinoid is THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the compound responsible for the "high" users experience when taking Cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, has no psychoactive properties. For the full breakdown of what exactly CBD is and how it works, check out our blog "All About CBD".


If you already know all about the benefits of CBD and maybe even take it yourself, you might wonder if it would have the same therapeutic properties for your dog as is does for you, and if it's safe to give your dog.


Is CBD Safe for Dogs?

Numerous studies have proven that CBD itself is incredibly safe for dogs. Like humans, dogs have Endocannabinoid systems, which are recently discovered internal systems, akin to the circulatory or nervous system, which regulate a large number of the body's daily functions such as pain, hunger, temperature, stress, mood etc. This system is found naturally in all animals including vertebrates and invertebrates.


The Endocannabinoid System in Dogs

The body already creates its own cannabinoids called endocannabinoids, natural equivalents of the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis. Endo(cannabinoid) refers to within, aka produced within the body, where as Phyto(cannabinoid) means derived from plants. The phytocannabinoids found in cannabis react within the body the same way the endocannabinoids do by interacting with or bonding to receptors known as Cannabinoid Receptors (along with other non-cannabinoid receptors). These actions trigger internal processes using the Endocannabinoid System which then reacts and regulates the body to restore balance otherwise known as the state of Homeostasis. Dogs have more of the cannabinoid receptor CB1 in their brains than humans which means they are more susceptible to the mind-altering effects of THC. This is why proper dosage amounts are such an important part of treating your dog with cannabis safely.


What can CBD Treat in Dogs?

Because the Endocannabinoid System is integral in so many different internal functions, CBD has many benefits for dogs suffering from a range of ailments and medical conditions. Currently the most common reason dogs are administered CBD is to treat anxiety, but CBD can greatly benefit dogs suffering from other things such as seizures, chronic pain and inflammation, arthritis, appetite loss, nausea, and insomnia. Promising research is being conducted regarding cannabis for canine cancers, both to treat tumors directly, as well as manage symptoms that come from conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.


Will CBD Get My Dog High?

CBD is non-psychoactive, which means your dog will not feel "high" from it, but even THC which does cause psychoactivity, and is included in Full Spectrum CBD, is not fatally toxic to dogs as some people may try to argue. In fact, even a dosage of THC 1000% higher than the amount it would take to make a dog feel "high" is still not fatal. The issue usually lies with what the THC was consumed with.


Rise is Cannabis related Emergency Vet Visits

There has been a rise lately in emergency vet visits related to cannabis ingestion by dogs, and in states where Cannabis is legal those numbers have increased 4x. However, it is important to note that the majority of those visits, if not all, are due to dogs getting into cannabis products accidentally, vs. being properly dosed for a medical condition.


Extra Ingredients in THC products for humans

The trouble is that the cannabis industry works hard to make their products extremely palatable, and only the best behaved of dogs can resist something that smells like a treat when inadvertently left unattended by their owner. The most dangerous issue is that many of the ingredients that are used to mask the weedy flavor of cannabis in pre-prepared edibles for humans are in fact highly toxic to dogs. Chocolate is the number one culprit and found in the most popular edible, cannabis brownies. Other problem ingredients include caffeine, raisins and a sugar free sweetener called Xylitol which is extremely toxic to dogs even in minuscule quantities.


Extra Ingredients in CBD OILS for humans

Even CBD oil can cause a dog to get sick if the ingredients are not meant for dogs. When it comes to CBD there is not Human CBD and Dog CBD. It's not as if they are coming from different plants, one being safe for dogs and one not, CBD is CBD. The issue is, some human CBD oils contain extra ingredients such as essential oils and sweeteners used for flavoring or other health benefits. However, many essential oils such as citrus and peppermint are poisonous to dogs and will cause a toxic reactions including muscle weakness, mouth irritation, skin rashes, vomiting and even collapse. It is important to never give your dogs a CBD oil with any of these extra ingredients.


So while a dog may get sick after consuming an edible cannabis product or a CBD oil meant solely for humans, the CBD or THC is rarely, if ever, the true cause.


CBD Side Effects in Dogs

CBD oil itself, as mentioned previously is safe for dogs to consume, even those that contain THC, but dosing is certainly an important factor. CBD in excess may cause lethargy, changes in appetite and mood, and dry mouth, the same side effects a human might experience taking CBD oil. Another side effect that dogs may experience is digestive issues, which may be attributed to the carrier oil that the CBD is mixed with.


THC Side Effects to watch out for in Dogs

THC as we mentioned is on its own NOT fatally toxic to dogs. However, in excessively high doses may cause more acute side effects, the most serious being Ataxia, a condition where the dog becomes wobbly on its feet as though it is drunk, or may even stand entirely rigid and rock back and forth as though they are trying to move but can't. They may drool and look frightened. This is what amounts to basically the dog version of a "bad trip". Treatment for cannabis related ataxia revolves mostly around keeping the dog comfortable and hydrated until the symptoms resolve, usually within a few hours. The biggest concern for dogs suffering from Ataxia after consuming too much THC is depressed respiratory function, so if you ever believe your dog may be suffering a serious Ataxia attack, check in with your vet to see if they should be monitored by professionals until it passes.


Dosing Levels are Key

This underlines again why dosing is of utmost importance, which is why The Healing Project provides diagnosis-specific custom cannabis dosing plans for your dog. Click here to schedule your free one-on-one phone consultation to discuss your dogs specific condition and create a plan to help you move forward in healing your furry friend safely with the medicinal science of Cannabis.


Mixing medications with Cannabis

One important thing to consider is whether or not your dog is already taking other medications prescribed by the veterinarian. The issue here comes from the way CBD interacts with certain enzymes in the body. Research has shown that CBD can inhibit the liver enzymes known as Cytochrome P450, which are involved in the metabolization and breakdown of other pharmaceuticals as they pass through the liver. This means that they may be neutralized too soon or not soon enough leading to reduced or excessive levels of the medication entering the bloodstream and negatively affecting the way the medication functions.


The grapefruit effect

In medicine this is commonly referred to as the "Grapefruit Effect" as grapefruit also interacts with Cytochrome P450 in the same way as CBD does. Many human medications will come with warnings to avoid grapefruit products while taking that particular drug. It's safe to assume if a drug can not be taken with grapefruit it should also not be taken with CBD, however most dog medications will most likely not come with the same warnings so it is important to let your veterinarian know if you plan to add cannabis to your dog's treatment plan. Be advised that they may not be open to discussing cannabis with you for a couple of reasons, which we explore further in our blog "Why Vets Won't Talk Cannabis".


CBD Liver Damage?

This brings us to the concern that CBD may damage the liver. There have been some conflicting studies regarding Cannabis and elevated liver enzymes, although most findings have centered on excessive THC levels, vs. properly doses CBD levels. The enzyme in question is Alkaline Phosphatase or ALP. It has not been verified yet what effects these raised enzyme levels could have in the body if any, but if you are concerned about liver function, Milk Thistle has been shown to protect liver function and even help with liver repair by initiating liver cell regeneration. It may be worth considering adding a milk thistle supplement to your dog's regimen if your dog is taking any medications that are processed by the liver. As with any supplement, we recommend consulting your veterinarian before administering to your dog. You may also want to have baseline blood tests conducted prior to dosing your dog with cannabis so you can consult the test in the future to compare and easily spot any changes.


How much cbd is in your CBD oil?

On the opposite spectrum, another possible issue with treating your dog with CBD is the actual levels of CBD in some products. Since CBD is not yet regulated by the FDA, CBD oil manufacturers do not legally have to certify how much CBD is actually in their products and some may not even contain any CBD at all. It's important to trust the source you are getting your CBD from.


What is your dog taking their CBD with?

The final thing to consider when dosing your dog with cannabis is how they are ingesting it. If you are putting the drops onto a treat to make it more palatable for your dog, be sure to take into account how many treats they may need to take each day and factor that into your dog's balanced diet. Too much of anything can be harmful so always check the nutritional values of your dog's treats to make sure they are not getting too much of a certain vitamin, or mineral, and that their protein, carbs, and fat levels are properly balanced.


So is cbd safe for dogs?

To recap, CBD itself has been shown to be extremely safe overall to give to your dog, but there are still some things to consider and precautions to take. It's important to inform your vet before mixing cannabis with other medications, monitor your dog closely after administering any cannabis product, be sure to get your CBD from a trusted source, know what's in your CBD and make sure you are following a safe dosing schedule.


Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding treating your dog with cannabis or click here if you would like to work with The Healing Project to create a diagnosis-specific cannabis dosing plan to help heal your dog.


No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, veterinarian or other qualified clinician and is for informational purposes only.