Can CBD help your canine companion?

Can CBD help your canine companion?

By Prakash Janakiraman

With the exception of insects, the presence and regulatory role of endocannabinoid system in all animals has been confirmed by the scientific studies. Like humans, animals produce endocannabinoids, that act on specific receptors that are found throughout the body, and regulate various physiological roles. In diseased states, the activation of these receptors with phytocannabinoids could be helpful to treat the underlying problem. Cannabinoids, particularly cannabidiol (CBD), has the potential to treat various medical problems, in a non-toxic way.

You may wonder if you should consider giving CBD to your beloved dog, or family pet? Does it work? Is it really safe?

Yes, it works safely for various medical conditions!

THC may be harmful for pets, and it may also cause psychoactive effects. No study has ever reported CBD is harmful to pets, but rather it is beneficial in many ways. Not all, but most, of the edible canine cannabis treats are virtually THC-free, completely non-psychoactive and non-toxic to pets. These edible treats are derived from hemp, instead of marijuana, due to legal issues. These companies don’t make any therapeutic claims as veterinary cannabinoid use has not been legalized yet. Still, there are few issues to selling CBD-infused edible cannabis treats for pets. These edibles can safely treat inflammation, pain, cancer-related health problems, and can also be used for palliative care or end-of-life ailments.

Most pet owners don’t want to see their four-legged friends suffering with inoperable or late stage cancer, or with severe arthritis. These painful conditions can prevent pets from eating, and they tend to suffer muscle wasting. For years, canine diseases have typically been treated with synthetic veterinary drugs. As with humans’ pain medications, veterinary pain medications, like Rimadyl, may cause moderate to serious side effects. Certain drugs can cause liver and kidney damage; nonetheless, these drugs are still being prescribed by veterinarians as there is no way to legally prescribe CBD.


Maybe veterinarians are not ready to use CBD as medicine, but many pet owners are not willing to wait anymore. They’re purchasing CBD-laced edible treats to relieve their pet’s problems.

The feedback from pet owners has vouched for the use of CBD treats to soothe anxious dogs, particularly in cases of separation anxiety, thunderstorm fears, traveling in cars, anxiety during veterinary visits, and social anxiety in canines.

Pharmacokinetics of CBD in dogs

Due to legal restrictions, veterinary research studies to optimize safe and effective doses of CBD for various medical conditions are quite difficult to conduct. Additionally, these studies are expensive. The available pharmacological data on animals is scarce. Unlike humans, dogs metabolize cannabinoids in a different way.

In dogs, 2-AG and anandamide are the primary messenger cannabinoids. These chemicals activate CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and other regions, respectively. Being an agonist to these receptors, CBD weakly binds to these receptors for a longer duration, and evokes long-lasting therapeutic response without causing toxic effects.

After intravenous infusion, CBD distribution was reported to be rapid, followed by prolonged elimination with a terminal half-life of 9 hours. The total body clearance may take up to about 17 hours after administration. The oral bioavailability appears to be low (13-19%), which may be due to the first pass effect in the liver. With low bioavailability, the risk of developing systemic toxicity may be low in dogs.  

Once the effects wane, the dog’s liver metabolizes the cannabidiol and eliminate it via the urine or bile in a sustained and safe manner. This might be the possible reason for achieving immediate but prolonged therapeutic response in CBD-treated animals.

Claims that Support CBD Use in Pets

Like human use, veterinary marijuana use has caught the scientific community’s interest, and the interest of the general public lately; but unfortunately, cannabis still remains a Schedule I drug. This is why clinicians, medical and veterinary researchers have been fearful to conduct collaborative research studies.

Fortunately, encouraging research evidence is now surfacing that is helpful to gain public acceptance, and several independent organizations are demanding medical marijuana legalization across the globe. Marijuana advocates have petitioned the Drug Enforcement Administration to consider rescheduling marijuana, which has been unsuccessful thus far.


At this time, the number of human research studies that are underway to explore the potential medical benefits of cannabis are not appreciable. It may take at least half a decade to see promising veterinary cannabinoid research results. Until then, we need to rely on anecdotal evidence and testimonials of pet owners. It has been proven that animals share 70% biological homology with humans. So we have some grounds to believe that cannabis could be useful for treating canines.

To our surprise, we see favorable testimonials that support veterinary cannabinoid use, even on the AVMA website. The AVMA website has published testimonials of pet owners who endorsed cannabis use and who claim its use has dramatically improved the quality of life and mobility in animals that were previously unable to ambulate. More over, cannabis has improved appetite and reduced the reliance on conventional medications, particularly in animals that are intolerant to those drugs.

One study has found that the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids could prevent immune-mediated and inflammatory allergic disorders, including skin problems, in dogs. Another study has concluded that CBD has anticonvulsant and anti-epileptic properties with ‘high protective index’, compared to Phenytoin and Phenobarbital, the conventional anticonvulsant drugs.

A survey study conducted by AHVMA has reported that 61.8% to 95% of pet owners have endorsed the health benefits of CBD-laced treats, ranging from ‘moderate to excellent’. Some of the medical conditions that were relieved by these edible treats include pain, nervous system problems, inflammation, anxiety, nausea and/or vomiting, digestive system problems, tumors, seizures/convulsions, skin problems and phobias, including fireworks or thunderstorm phobias.

We are well aware that cannabinoids can alleviate rheumatoid pain in humans. However, dogs don’t suffer rheumatoid arthritis, but mostly suffer osteoarthritis (OA), a bone and joint disease that occurs as a result of joint(s) wear-and-tear. OA can cause neuropathic pain, for which cannabinoids can be helpful.


Both the research evidence and the testimonials of the pet owners appear to be encouraging.

  1. Julianna hated to see her beloved dachshunds suffer with painful disc problems and side effects, even after unsuccessful treatments with Tramadol and Rimadyl. She chose to treat her dogs with CBD-infused oil. After few weeks, the mood and mobility of the dogs improved without any notable side effects.
  2. One pet owner acknowledged the anti-convulsive benefit of CBD and his dog’s epileptic episodes have reduced to one per month after cannabis treatment.
  3. One California-based pet owner has said that CBD has significantly improved the health of his dog after an injury.
  4. David Bourgouin’s dog suffered traumatic injury between the chest and the leg. The injury caused a large cyst that limited the dog’s mobility and surgery was recommended by the veterinarian. Due to the high cost of surgery, David opted to treat his dog with CBD and the results were amazing. After a few weeks, the dog has been able to run without any signs of persistent pain.

The bottom line is this: the American Medical Association (AMA) has been urging the Federal Government to reschedule marijuana. Legalization would be helpful to conduct veterinary research studies, and to develop cannabinoid-based formulations. Like the AMA, the AVMA has called veterinarians for scientific debate on this issue, which is noteworthy.  

CBD is a nature’s gift, not just for humans, but also our pets too. With CBD, pet owners can treat their four-legged companion’s medical conditions without toxicity. Although CBD is not a cure-all medication, it can ease the pet’s discomfort, relieve debilitating pain and extend their lives. By opting for CBD, pet owners need not turn to euthanizing their pets to end their pets’ suffering.