We all want to do the best for our pets, especially when it’s clear that they are suffering from illness. Pet owners looking for fresh alternatives to regular medication are turning to cannabidiol ( CBD) products, which are made from the hemp plant. But is it safe to give these to your pet, and if so, what exactly could CBD be useful for? And what CBD products are likely to be most effective? We’ll answer all of those questions and more in this comprehensive CBD for pets review. 

What is CBD?

CBD is a component of hemp, which has been shown to have health benefits, without the negative effects of a psychoactive cannabis “high”. CBD is a cannabinoid, one of several hemp and cannabis-based compounds that works with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Experts are confident that the bulk of CBD’s effects come through ECS interactions. The system, which Israeli scientists identified in the 1990s, is found in humans, domesticated pets and many other life forms. This indicates the ECS is of vital and long-held importance to our health. The ECS appears to influence both our physical and mental faculties. 

Keeping your pet safe with CBD 

Safety is the most important thing of all when giving CBD to your pet. There are so many CBD products on the market, but there are key differences between them. With humans, just about every hemp-based CBD product is safe for consumption and unlikely to cause side effects. This isn’t necessarily the case with pets, whose systems are more sensitive than ours. Notably, cats and dogs are at a greater risk of harm from delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in cannabis. This risk applies even when THC is taken in very small doses. 

For this reason, you shouldn’t give regular hemp-derived CBD products to your pets. These are made for humans only, and it’s unclear how safe the ingredients in these are. Indeed, that’s why a whole market has opened up for CBD pet products. These products are made with special veterinarian formulas that have been developed just for pets. In comparison with standard CBD products, pet edibles and oils may be more expensive per milligram of CBD. But it’s worth paying a little extra to ensure that CBD supplements help your pet, and that they don’t trigger various side effects. 

How could CBD help your pet?

CBD for pets benefits are wide-ranging – the compound can have a positive mental and physical effect. But do bear in mind that there is little clinical evidence supporting CBD’s medical use right now, and that the products are sold as supplements. That doesn’t mean CBD’s effects are overstated, just that the studies haven’t been carried out yet. This makes sense as cannabinoid science is only just emerging. 

However, if you have any queries or hesitancies about treating your pet with CBD, be sure to contact a vet who is fully up to speed with your pet’s health circumstances. 

CBD for pain

There is a similar problem with pets and painkillers as there is with humans and painkillers: opioid drugs. These have been the first-choice class of painkillers for many years. Nobody doubts the analgesic properties of these synthetic pharmaceutical drugs, which are based on opium. But there are serious concerns regarding the safety of opioids. Side effects, tolerance and a high overdose risks make for a nasty cocktail. It’s no wonder that human patients, and now pet owners are seeking alternatives.

CBD is an attractive option for pain. It’s not intoxicating, has few side effects (besides drowsiness in large amounts), and does not cause the same tolerance issues. Clearly CBD is much safer, but does it actually help with pain?

The science is incomplete, but CBD looks to have analgesic value. Studies have demonstrated how CBD interacts – indirectly or directly – with receptors involved with pain moderation (e.g. CB1 receptor, vanilloid receptor). New research also suggests that flavonoids are crucial to getting pain relief from cannabis, and this may apply to hemp, as well. Flavonoids are non-intoxicating and this evidence deserves further investigation. 

We perhaps haven’t reached the peak of CBD and cannabinoid therapy for pain yet. But the signs are good, and treatments will likely be refined considerably in the coming years.  

CBD for pets with seizures 

CBD has been researched extensively for epileptic seizures in humans, and huge progress has been made. Following clinical trials, the United States has now approved a CBD-based treatment for certain forms of epilepsy. There are fewer studies on pets, but CBD already holds a lot of promise.

Colorado State University has been hard at work, and released a study in 2019 highlighting the therapeutic effects of CBD on a small batch of dogs with epilepsy. Out of the 16 dogs in the investigation, nine were treated with CBD while the other seven took a placebo. Seizure frequency reduced in eight of the nine dogs, over a 12-week period. The CBD used was derived from hemp and had less than 0.3% THC, making it the same type of CBD legal across the US. 

This is an important step, and hopefully a bigger study will highlight much more about how CBD works for seizures, and what treatment is best for dogs. Idiopathic epilepsy affects more than 5 percent of dogs globally. 

CBD for pets with anxiety 

Anxiety is very scary for pets. There are all sorts of things that can send them into a state of panic. Short-term factors include fireworks and other loud noises, unexpected guests and especially children. Anything out of the ordinary may be enough to throw off a sensitive pet. In the long run, moving home or the death of an owner could cause prolonged anxiety. Obviously, pets can’t tell us they are anxious! But excessive and compulsive grooming, hiding, aggressiveness and any behavior that’s unusual for your pet could hint at anxiety or stress. The good news is that CBD may help, and that the benefits could even be noticeable from the first dose.

CBD is thought of as calming and soothing. The research looking at CBD and anxiety gives us a good idea as to why. Scientists have shown that CBD operates in a traditional anti-anxiety mechanism, as a serotonin 1A receptor agonist. CBD also helps promote neurotransmitter balance, by regulating GABA receptors. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Studies suggest that anxiety is exacerbated when the brain is an over-excited state, hence the need for more GABA. Pets have similar systems to us, and would likely benefit from CBD for anxiety in the same way that we do. 

CBD for pets with arthritis and inflammation

Older dogs are prone to getting arthritis, either due to wear and tear in their joints, or due to bigger problems in their immune systems. Joint issues are typically a sign of osteoarthritis; a dysfunctional immune system is more likely due to rheumatoid arthritis. But CBD may help with both. 

Several studies have found that CBD and other cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory properties. These are critical to slowing or stopping joint tissue destruction. Protecting the tissues helps to reduce bone exposure, and overall pain. 

Treating rheumatoid, an autoimmune disease, requires immune system regulation. Researchers have long been baffled as to how to achieve this. The immune system is notorious for its volatility, and triggering breakouts of inflammation all over the body. However, CBD and cannabinoids may deliver unique relief, by pushing immunomodulatory signals through the ECS. 

Some have suggested that CBD is capable of this therapeutic effect because it strengthens the lining of the gut. There is a minority view among researchers that a leaky gut is the cause of many health issues, including autoimmune diseases.

CBD for lethargy in old age 

This doesn’t exactly come under CBD for pets research, but there are lots of anecdotes about how CBD can make an aging dog or cat more spritely and energetic. As our pets age, they lose their agility somewhat, just like we do. This may be due to issues like pain or inflammation, but it’s often just a case of father time catching up with them. 

Lab-tested CBD is teeming with health benefits – full-spectrum CBD oil products for pets may be even better. CBD regulates the ECS, which is beneficial for mood, the immune system, appetite, and pain levels. Keeping your pet topped up with CBD is a great way of delivering all these benefits. The advantages of CBD for this purpose may not be easily quantifiable. But for many owners, simply seeing their pets with more energy and verve is all that matters. 

CBD products for pets 

Getting your pet to take their medication without drama must be the biggest hassle for owners. All of us with a four-legged friend knows how difficult it is to get them to sit still for a few seconds, while attempting to force a medicine – that they probably don’t even like! – into their mouths. If this scenario doesn’t ring a bell, you’re one of the lucky ones!

Before we get into the products available, let’s focus on some general qualities that CBD brands share. Nearly all of them have tried to solve the taste problem by manufacturing delicious CBD-infused treats for pets. These successfully mask the pungent, earthy hemp flavor, in favor of pet favorites, such as chicken, bacon and salmon.

Furthermore, most companies offer some recommended dosages. These are typically not that precise, but suggesting how much “small”, “medium” and “large” dogs should take is a good starting point for owners. With this information to hand, it’s fairly easy to find out what dosage is most effective for any particular pet. And remember these recommendations are just that – recommendations. It’s perfectly okay to be flexible with the dose, which usually isn’t the case with prescription drugs.

CBD oils and drops

Classic CBD tinctures are also made for pets. These are sold in a range of dosages, and owners have plenty of flavors to choose from. Oils are efficient. Measuring out the right dose is easy, and there is a standardized consistency of CBD throughout the bottle. If you have your pet on a strict treatment plan, drops are a good bet. 

CBD oil can be administered directly, dripping the drops straight into your pet’s mouth. However, this could be problematic if they won’t stay still for long enough! In this event, try stirring the oil into your pet’s – preferably wet – food, or even into their water. As many pet owners will be well aware, when treating your pet, obscuring the fact that it’s medicine often works wonders. 

CBD edibles and chews

Edibles and chews are perfect as they are essentially unrecognizable from regular pet treats. Your dog or cat will love the products made from leading brands, including CBD Genesis and Koi CBD. Pet edibles come in packs, with each treat having a set CBD dose that is stated clearly on the label. Advice on how to give these to your pet normally consists of a certain amount per day, depending on their size.

There aren’t really any downsides to CBD edibles and soft chews. The formulas used are generated with your pet in mind, as is obvious by how much they enjoy them! The only problem you could encounter is if your pet doesn’t like treats!

CBD pet sprays 

CBD sprays are a versatile pet product, and can be used to treat your pet in a number of ways. With a bit of luck, you may be able to administer the spray orally, but no worries if you can’t! These sprays are also perfect for adding to pet food, without ruining the flavor. CBD sprays blend in nicely, and your pet should lap them up. 

Again, companies have made finding the right CBD for pets dosage really simple with sprays. Bottles are generally designed to emit the same amount of CBD with each spray, indicating how many milligrams it contains on the label. Tips on how many sprays to add to a meal, and whether to give them at regular intervals throughout the day, or all at once, may also be offered. Brands must be careful about making medical claims about their products, but are permitted to mention how to use them.

Final thoughts

The future of CBD as a medicine for pets looks positive. In this post alone, we’ve discussed how CBD may be effective for:

  • Chronic pain
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis and inflammation
  • Sluggishness and lethargy in old age

CBD products are far from a gimmick, as critics may suggest. The rise of CBD treatment for humans and pets is rooted in ground-breaking science. While much about the exact interactions of CBD in humans, cats and dogs is still unknown, we can see from anecdotal evidence and small trials that the non-intoxicating cannabinoid is useful.

This could potentially make CBD a more viable treatment for some conditions than existing medications. For example, tramadol is a painkiller often prescribed to both humans and pets. The drug may work for pain relief, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Tramadol is also highly addictive and causes side effects, such as headaches, nausea, low energy and dizziness. It’s possible that when weighing up the benefits and downsides (or lack of them) of CBD with tramadol and other drugs, that the former is a better treatment. Of course, CBD’s therapeutic value should always be looked at on a case by case basis.