Research into the human health benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant continues with pace. As a result, its popularity in the UK continues to grow. An estimated six million Brits have taken cannabidiol (CBD) over the past year, making the product more popular than Vitamin C supplements.
Thanks to this uptake in consumption, many humans have begun to wonder if cannabidiol can benefit their pets too. If you’re a dog owner, you’ll understand the frustration and sadness caused by seeing your four-legged friend suffering. Many dog owners are now turning to CBD to help relieve the symptoms caused by common canine complaints such as joint pain and anxiety.
While CBD may be beneficial to dogs, it is worth remembering that at the time of this article’s publication, no CBD products have been authorised for use in animals in the UK. CBD oil has not been approved by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, so technically it is illegal to administer CBD to a pet without a prescription. However, if you are considering trying CBD oil with your dog or other pet, your vet can prescribe a human CBD product.
Dogs and the ECS
In every human body, there is a network of receptors that regulate a variety of processes, including eating, sleeping, relaxation, and cognition. This network is known as the endocannabinoid system or ECS. Cannabinoids such as CBD regulate this system, keeping the body in balance in a process call homeostasis. As well as being present in the human body, many animals also have an ECS. CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in dogs helping to maintain a healthy, natural internal balance.
New studies into the benefits of CBD for humans are published almost weekly. Scientific evidence is beginning to emerge that backs up the anecdotal stories people have been sharing for some time. Problems such as joint and muscle pain, anxiety, sleep and more are all reported to be solved by supplementing with CBD. These reported health benefits can also be useful to dogs, as they share a similar ECS to humans.
CBD for dogs with joint pain
While it not entirely understood just yet, researchers have found that CBD can act similarly to a class of drugs known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen. Since CBD shares some of the same properties as these drugs, it makes sense that it would be useful for the treatment of chronic issues such as arthritis and joint pain.
One of the most common inflammatory conditions in dogs is osteoarthritis, often known simply as arthritis. Nearly 25 per cent of all dogs will experience arthritis in their lifetimes, and the condition is most common in older dogs. Symptoms often affect the legs, hips, and back, and make normal, everyday activities painful.
When given the appropriate dose, research suggests CBD oil can significantly reduce the pain. In a study led by Dr Joe Wakshlag of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2018, researchers gave dogs doses ranging from 2 to 8 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. The results showed that nearly 80 per cent of the participants showed a reduction in pain and improved mobility.
Older dogs also feel the effects of ageing in the joints and hips. Over time, it gets harder for them to jump, run, or even stand for any length of time. With inflamed joints, a dog will take longer to get up or lay down, be reluctant to go on walks, start limping, or even sleep more than usual.
Just like arthritis, CBD oil has shown some promise in the relief of joint pain. Current research suggests CBD can block certain pain receptors in the body and keep them from reaching the brain, which can lead to increased mobility.
CBD for dogs with anxiety
Watching a dog suffer from stress can be heartbreaking, as they are unable to communicate the underlying causes. Dogs can suffer from a variety of symptoms caused by stress and anxiety. For companion dogs and puppies, separation anxiety is particularly difficult. Dogs often express anxiety through excessive barking, extreme panting, and sometimes destructive behaviour.
Many canines experience fear around fireworks and thunderstorms. Loud, sudden noises can lead to shaking and pacing. When this happens, dog owners feel helplessness and distress because nothing they do seems to get their pet to relax and settle down. It is a scary and worrying time for both dogs and their owners.
Current evidence suggests that CBD works with certain enzymes and receptors in the ECS to boost the amount of two chemicals known as dopamine and serotonin. The increased production of these compounds has shown decreased symptoms of anxiety in humans as well as dogs.
Again, studies into the anxiolytic effects of CBD have mostly centred on the human body, but given that dogs also have an ECS like humans, it’s likely that these benefits are transferable to our pets.
Side effects of CBD on dogs
Again, to understand the side effects of CBD when administered to our pets, we need to turn to human studies, as extensive research into CBD and dogs is yet to be completed. Side effects of CBD are rare, but can sometimes include dry mouth, drowsiness, and vomiting. If your dog suddenly increases its water consumption or shows symptoms of drowsiness, consult your vet immediately. CBD can also cause some dogs to be sick, thanks to the added oil or ‘carrier oil’ also present in a product prepared for humans. Again, your vet can help you understand the problems leading to an adverse reaction, perhaps suggesting a different dose or method of consumption.
In the same way that cannabidiol has few side effects for humans, CBD oil is well tolerated and generally safe for dogs. However, another common substance in cannabis, THC, can be toxic for dogs. THC is the substance that is responsible for the ‘high’ in cannabis. Products for sale on the high street will generally be free of THC, or have trace amounts, but it is again worth remembering that you should speak with your vet before administering CBD to your dog.
CBD oil can be a natural and potentially safer alternative to prescription medication. Instead of helplessly watching a dog suffer from pain, many pet owners are turning to CBD oil to get their dogs back to normal.