6 Things You Need to Know About CBD for Your Dog

. 4 min read

From oils vowing to help you unwind to body creams promising pain relief, products containing CBD—or cannabidiol, the compound in marijuana that’s relaxing but not mind-altering—have been soaring in popularity for people...and now for pups too!

“It’s a clear trend—pet owners are seeking CBD products and looking for alternatives to traditional medications because they’re worried about side effects with pharmaceuticals,” says Ernie Ward, DVM, CVFT, author of Chow Hound and founder of DogGone Healthy, a nutritional and behavioral care practice in Calabash, NC. For example, he says, people are turning to CBD to help their dogs deal with chronic pain to avoid side effects of traditional anti-inflammatories, like kidney and liver damage and failure.

While there isn’t substantial clinical evidence supporting the benefits of CBD for canines quite yet, some research has suggested positive findings. A study from Colorado State University, for example, found that 89 percent of dogs with epilepsy had less frequent seizures after receiving CBD (though it should be noted that the study had a small sample size). And several more clinical studies kicked off last year.

“There are all types of salves, lotions, creams, but I tend to go for oral options,” says Ward, who prefers oils over other vehicles for CBD delivery. “Oils are more stable and more reliable for getting the proper dosage.” But choosing the right CBD oil for your pet and how much to give them isn’t as easy as picking out a new treat or toy. For the biggest benefits, you should treat selecting them with the same thoughtfulness as if you’re putting them on new meds. Read on for tips about pup ailments CBD oils might help withpp

Consider Your Dog’s Condition

CBD oil companies claim their products help with a whole host of medical and emotional issues, like chronic pain, anxiety, and arthritis. But some promises, at least at this point, seem too good to be true. “One of the problems we’re seeing is that the laws around CBD are confusing,” says Ward. “We’re in this limbo with cannabinoid products: It’s not regulated yet, and I do see a lot of products making claims that are dubious and unsubstantiated.” Some brands boast that they help with allergies and skin irritations, for example, and Ward hasn’t seen any evidence to support those benefits. So before you start dosing your dog, talk to your vet about your pup’s ailments and whether CBD might be a beneficial alternative to traditional treatments.

Go to the Source

Choosing which CBD oil to give your dog unfortunately isn’t as easy as picking up a national brand over the counter at a drugstore. For one thing, the options available to you can vary depending on where you live; if you live in a state where marijuana is legalized, such as California or Colorado, you’ll likely have better choices, says Ward. Some brands based in states with legalized marijuana won’t ship to people in other states for fear of being prosecuted since, again, the laws around CBD products are unclear. To ensure you’re buying a worthwhile oil, he suggests contacting the company and asking them about their extracting and processing, storing, and shipping practices. “These can all impact the end product,” Ward says. “Reputable companies are going to very forthcoming with that information.”

Give It With Food

The best time to give your dog their dose of CBD is at breakfast and/or dinnertime. Here’s why: “Mixing it with fat can help mask the flavor, and the fat also helps with absorption,” explains Ward. You can either drop the oil directly in their mouth and then feed them or put the oil right on their food.

Dial in Your Dose

Just as you give your pup the proper dose of prescription medications, you’ll also want to find the just-right dosage of CBD oil for the biggest benefits. It’s not always clear from the start. “I see some 80-pound dogs who are on a 40-pound-dog dosage and vice versa,” says Ward. “There’s incredible variation—you really need to work with your vet.” This is another area where you’ll really want to be paying attention to the quality of the product you’re purchasing: With some lower-quality oils, your dog might be getting mostly coconut oil and not nearly the dose of CBD you think they are.

How often you administer the oil to your pup needs to be determined too—it could be once or twice a day, depending on their condition and how they respond to it, says Ward. And just as certain people don’t respond well to various medications, not all dogs will feel the benefit from CBD oil. Some might experience nausea or lethargy, says Ward, and some might not exhibit any downsides but just not reap any benefits either.

Think About Pairing Up

While CBD might be a good choice for reducing or totally alleviating your dog’s medical ailments, it might be even more effective if you match it with another alternative treatment or a traditional medicine. With his furry patients, Ward likes to experiment with combining CBD oil with other alternatives like omega-3 fatty acids and turmeric paste, both of which have been shown to help conditions including kidney disease and arthritis.

Be Open to Adjustments

Just because a certain dose is working to alleviate your dog’s pain or anxiety now doesn’t mean it will be enough a year down the road. With chronic medical issues like ongoing pain (which are what he says CBD is best for, as opposed to acute conditions), Ward says you might have to gradually up the dose or add a prescription drug back into the mix. “I’ve found a lot of these dogs with chronic arthritis, for instance, we transition to CBD with omega-3s, and that might be enough for two or three years—but then the disease will overwhelm the CBD and we’ll have to add the prescription back in,” he says. “It’s all about continually thinking about your options and whether you might need to change treatments.”