The Surprising Benefits and Risks of CBD Oil for Dogs

. 4 min read

You may have heard of pet parents using CBD oil for dogs to alleviate all sorts of ailments and in some cases calm their hyper or defiant dog. Sometimes referred to as “weed treats” for dogs,pot for pups is a growing trend: In the last three years, several companies including Canna-Pet, Canna Companion, Austin + Kat, Therabis, and Treatibles have started selling cannabis-infused treats for dogs. According to cannabis industry analytics firm MJ Freeway, sales of cannabis pet products nationwide have doubled from 2014 to 2016 alone.

What is CBD Oil for Dogs?

CBD, the abbreviation used for cannabidiol, doesn’t actually get your pup high. First, you have to understand the difference between marijuana and hemp: “What we call marijuana has high levels of THC, the compound that produces a euphoric feeling, and low levels of fiber and seed oil," explains Dr. Robert Silver, DVM, president of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association. "What’s known as hemp has low levels of THC and high levels of fiber, seed oil, and a compound called cannabidiol, CBD.”

Benefits of CBD for Dogs

CBD oil for dogs and cannabis doggy treats are made with hemp (which is why they won’t get your pup stoned). In fact, CBD is marketed by cannabis treat companies as the silver bullet for issues such as pain, joint problems, digestive issues, and even mood and anxiety issues.

Currently, there’s little to no medical literature to support these claims, notes Silver. “We only know what pet owners are reporting,” he says. “People find that it helps their pets with issues like pain, limping, and anxiety or behavioral problems. Some even say their dogs seem happier and that it helps older dogs have a better appetite.”

Potential Risks of CBD for Dogs

According to Silver, problems for dogs related to cannabis treats or CBD oil are rare. “We have data showing that out of 3 million administrations of hemp products to pets, there were maybe three adverse reactions,” he says. “In general, it’s pretty safe.”

Where things get dangerous is when pets accidentally ingest THC-containing marijuana, whether by getting into their owners’ stashes or snatching a pot-laced brownie from the kitchen counter. A 2012 study found that the number of dogs treated for marijuana overdoses at two Colorado veterinary hospitals quadrupled in five years after the legalization of medical marijuana in the state. THC is a toxin for dogs and in some cases it can be deadly. If your dog has ingested THC, call your vet and you may need to make your dog throw up.

Do Vets Say CBD is Safe for Dogs?

The American Veterinary Medical Association does not have an official stance on the use of CBD for pets but the association has noted that “with pet owners already using the drug as medicine, veterinarians need to join the debate.” The Food and Drug Administration has not approved cannabis for pets. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has noted in a letter: “marijuana needs to be further studied to assess the safety and effectiveness for medical use in animals.”

Veterinarians are not permitted to write prescriptions for cannabis products, and in states where marijuana is illegal, it’s unlikely they’ll even discuss the idea with you. California is the only state to have passed legislation permitting vets to discuss the use of medical marijuana with pet owners. Elsewhere in the country, this remains illegal (or a gray area at best). In 2016, a proposed state law to legalize medical marijuana for pets with chronic illnesses in Nevada was shot down, while legislation is pending in New York Because of this sticky situation, most people purchase cannabis treats online, though more pet stores are beginning to sell them.

Is CBD Oil for Dogs Legal?

No matter where you buy CBD oil or “weed” treats for your dog, the laws surrounding their legality are murky. According to the DEA, cannabis treats are federally illegal. However, the DEA hasn’t been strictly enforcing the law so far, which is how so many companies have been getting away with selling them Plus, proponents of the products argue that they should be legal since they are derived from hemp, which contains less than 1 percent of THC.

The bottom line? Regardless of where you live, the legal status and safety of cannabis-infused dog treats is uncertain, so talk to your vet (if possible) before feeding them to your pup. Alternatively, you could try a different herbal approach: According to Silver, turmeric has potent pain-relieving and anti-cancer properties for dogs, and it can help with mental issues such as dementia. He also recommends milk thistle, a plant that can help stave off liver disease.

The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.



Abigail Libers

Abigail Libers is a writer and editor living in New York. Her articles have appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Refinery29, and more. She's the step-mom of a wheaten terrier named Oliver.