The Side Effects of CBD on Dogs
With all the attention that CBD has been getting in the past few years, it’s only natural that pet owners have also become curious about the possible benefits and side effects that CBD might have on their pets. In fact, it’s a common sight nowadays to see CBD and hemp treats for dogs being sold online and for pet owners to share information about CBD products for dogs in their communities. But if we want our furry friends to get the best from these products, we need to understand what exactly CBD oil is and its possible side effects on dogs.
What is CBD Oil?
The first thing to know about CBD or cannabidiol is that it is a compound present in the cannabis Sativa L plant, and is the plant’s non-psychoactive component, in contrast to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive and mind-altering chemical in the same plant. CBD has the potential to augment any deficiencies that might occur in our body’s natural endocannabinoid system. Since all mammals have an endocannabinoid system, CBD can work in cats and dogs, as well as humans.
The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a biological system in the body that regulates certain processes. It has a subtle yet powerful network of neurotransmitters (also known as endocannabinoids), receptors, and enzymes that work together to regulate stress, sleep patterns, mood, immune function, and more. When this flow is interrupted, our bodies react by producing distress responses that can affect one’s quality of life.
CBD oil may be sourced from either of the two variants of the cannabis Sativa plant – marijuana or hemp. While both of these plants are good sources of CBD, most CBD products are derived from hemp since it has a higher amount of cannabidiol and a lower percentage of THC.
How Does CBD Benefit Dogs?
In humans, CBD has been found to exude healing effects that help with disturbances in mood, digestive, immune system, sleep, and other issues. Although there has been no definitive research yet if CBD does have the same range and depth of effects on dogs, there have been numerous anecdotal evidence and scientific research studies floating around that point to the positive effects of CBD, particularly hemp oil, for dogs.
Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder and the most common cause of seizures in dogs. Seizures occur when neurons become overactive, interrupting the normal electrical brain function. Through its interactions with the endocannabinoid receptors, CBD calms neurons and controls seizures.
In 2018, a clinical trial was carried out by Dr. Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist at Colorado State University who evaluated the use of CBD for dogs with epilepsy. Her findings were quite positive, showing that 89% of dogs who received CBD treatment had a decrease in seizure frequency.
A 2019 study for veterinary-specific use of CBD for seizures further corroborated this. After evaluating the seizure frequency of dogs that were treated with cannabidiol in conjunction with other drugs, a significant reduction was observed. The study further noted that there were no severe adverse effects on the dogs participating in the study.
Hemp oil for dogs is a particularly popular choice for people whose dogs suffer from cancer or osteoarthritis. A study by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University explored CBD oil effects on dogs regarding osteoarthritic pain management. The study revealed a significant decrease in pain and an increase in mobility during CBD treatment. No hemp side effects for dogs were observed.
Another study, this time by the Baylor College of Medicine, revealed similar results. Compared to the placebo group and the low CBD-treated group, the group of dogs who took higher doses of CBD saw significant improvement in their daily activities and overall quality of life.
One of the most difficult things that pet owners grapple with is not knowing exactly how their dogs feel because they can’t easily communicate that. Many dogs suffer from anxiety that even the most astute pet owners could miss.
Several factors may cause anxiety in pets, such as separation, loud noises, changes in the environment, territorial issues, age, and many others.
In rescue and shelter dogs particularly, anxiety is a major issue, and it’s important for pet owners to be on guard for any signs of anxiety. Usually, dogs manifest anxiety in a variety of ways – aggressive or destructive behavior, excessive barking, restlessness, urinating and defecating in the house, compulsive behaviors, excessive barking, and depression, among others.
Anxiety in dogs may be managed by training strategies, but veterinarians may recommend medications or natural therapies in severe cases. Studies are ongoing to determine CBD oil’s effects on anxiety management in dogs, but anecdotal evidence for its positive effects abounds. Pet owners have reported that the hemp treats or oils that they have been giving their anxious dogs have been successful in calming them.
Atopic dermatitis is a common itchy skin disease that occurs in dogs. Generally caused by an allergic reaction to certain substances, this skin disorder causes animals to rub, lick, bite or scratch the affected parts.
In a 2020 study by CannaPal Animal Therapeutics, a treatment using hemp-derived CBD was found to be effective in decreasing atopic dermatitis symptoms and lesions in dogs. This study is the first clinically validated evidence of CBD’s ability to provide skin health support for dogs.
CBD side effects in dogs?
More research is needed to fully explore the possible cacophony of CBD products and hemp treats for dog’s side effects. But so far, there have been only a few reported side effects of hemp oil for dogs. Here are some of them:
As discussed earlier, CBD is a useful tool in managing anxiety in dogs. However, this same calming effect may also cause slight drowsiness if a high dosage is administered.
One of the noted side effects of CBD oil in dogs is the occasional occurrence of gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea or vomiting. However, veterinarians say that it is not clear if this is due to the CBD itself or the other compounds in the products. It may also be due to drug interaction with other medications that dogs might be taking.
Elevated Liver Enzyme Values
Veterinarians with experience in using CBD in dogs reported a few cases of an elevation in alkaline phosphatase, which is one of the liver enzymes. While it is, again, unclear if this elevation is due to CBD itself or its interaction with other current medications, the good thing is that it is reversible once the administration of CBD treats or oils stops.
Research studies have shown that CBD decreases the production of saliva. In dogs, this will manifest as excessive thirst and will lead them to try and drink more water. A dry mouth can affect their teeth and gums and make swallowing difficult and painful for them.
Low Blood Pressure
As CBD causes the body to calm down, it may also cause a slower heart rate and low blood pressure. Even though the dip in blood pressure is small, it may appear in dogs as temporary lightheadedness.
Cannabis research for dogs still has a long way to go. Veterinary studies have only just begun, and pet owners currently have no choice but to rely on the scant available data and anecdotal evidence. And while these show that CBD and hemp dog treats side effects are deemed generally safe and effective for use, pet owners would do well to pay attention to the products they use.
CBD for pets is available in many forms, like hemp treats, oils, and creams. If you decide to try CBD for your dog, here are some guidelines to get you started:
- Look at the label. The main thing to consider when buying CBD or hemp dog products is that a lot of available products are not labeled accurately or manufactured properly.
It is important for pet owners to take the time and look at labels and use brands that have carried out lab testing with their products to ensure quality control and accurate dosing information. Such brands would also be more likely to provide a certificate that attests to the concentration of CBD and contents in their products.
- Start with a low dose. Different products have different dosing suggestions. Starting with a low dose lessens your dog’s chances of experiencing any of the hemp oil for dogs side effects mentioned above. It is wise to observe your pet’s reactions closely before increasing doses. Learn more about How Much CBD to Give Your Pet.
- Consult a veterinarian for guidance on everything such as dosing, possible hemp for dogs side effects, and maximizing the benefits of CBD and hemp products for your furry friend. Your vet would be able to help you decide on the best treatment mode.