Will CBD Work to Calm an Anxious Dog?

Jessica McKeil July 7, 2020 0 comments

Just like humans, many dogs suffer from anxiety. Do you know how to calm an anxious dog, and will CBD help?

Does your canine companion have problems with anxiety? Anxiety in animals may not always present as it does in humans. You may notice your own dog becomes aggressive, agitated, or fearful when stress hits. Like many pet owners, you may find yourself desperate — wondering how to calm an anxious dog without creating more trauma.

With the rise in popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) for humans, there is also curiosity about possible applications for pets. After all, other medications designed for humans (like Benadryl and Dramamine) are safe for canine applications. Could CBD prove as valuable for pets as it has been for their owners?

What Does the Research Tell us About Dogs and CBD?

Market forecasters expect CBD for pets to account for seven percent of all CBD products sold in the coming years. However, the focus of the research thus far has been on therapeutic applications for humans — not for dogs.

Certain areas of CBD research have already successfully navigated animal studies, but these were on specially bred lab rats and mice. The few studies looking at the therapeutic applications of CBD for canines have limits in scope, with most occurring in the last five years. The research of veterinary applications for CBD is playing catch-up with how pet owners are already using the cannabinoid.

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In the 2018 fall issue of the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, a team of veterinarians published “A Report of Adverse Effects Associated With the Administration of Cannabidiol in Healthy Dogs.” The team tested various products, including CBD capsules, CBD infused oils and CBD topicals on healthy beagles over six weeks.

At various points during the trial they assessed “blood counts, chemistry panels, urinalysis, and bile acids” of the animals. This was to determine what biological impacts CBD was having on the beagles. The research strongly suggests dogs tolerate CBD very well. The one catch was that many canines experienced mild to moderate diarrhea throughout the study.

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cbd for pets represented by dog laying on a mat

More Research on Canine CBD

Also published in 2018, in Frontiers of Veterinary Sciences, was a study on CBD for the treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs. The paper, “Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs” was a random, placebo-controlled, veterinarian, and owner blinded, cross-over study. Dogs participating in the research received either 2 mg/kg or 8 mg/kg of CBD daily.

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After four weeks of analysis, both veterinarians and dog owners reported no adverse reactions to treatment with CBD oil. The authors explained, “Clinically, canine brief pain inventory and Hudson activity scores showed a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity (p < 0.01) with CBD oil.” Furthermore, “Veterinary assessment showed decreased pain during CBD treatment (p < 0.02).” The researchers concluded 2 mg/kg per day was an effective dose for pain relief associated with canine osteoarthritis.

More recently, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published a study in 2019 on CBD oil’s capacity to reduce seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. In the placebo-controlled study, researchers divided twenty six dogs into two groups. One receiving a daily dose of CBD oil, and the other a placebo.

While the results demonstrated a significant and measurable reduction in seizures for the group receiving CBD, “the proportion of responders was similar between groups.” More research must occur soon to explore these inconclusive results.

As an owner of an anxious dog, you’ll note the absence of scientific study on CBD for anxious dogs. Well-controlled veterinary studies haven’t yet examined how to calm an anxious dog with CBD.

What do Veterinarians Think About Cannabinoid Therapy for Dogs?

Veterinarians can’t agree about CBD for pets. On the one hand, the national and state-based regulatory bodies overseeing veterinary medicine remains against the use of CBD. Generally, these organizations cite the lack of well-controlled studies. In some places, where cannabis-derived substances are not yet legal, they also cite legality as a primary concern.

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On the other hand, there are many places (especially in legal states), where CBD is a frequent topic of discussion between vets and their clients. Although the industry remains cautious about veterinary use of CBD, that doesn’t mean individual vets haven’t taken matters into their own hands.

As per a 2019 survey, “U.S. Veterinarians’ Knowledge, Experience, and Perception Regarding the Use of Cannabidiol for Canine Medical Conditions,” roughly twelve percent of vets “sometimes” recommend CBD, and five percent “frequently” recommend it.

In a related question, the survey asked veterinarians whether or not they had clinical experience with CBD. This could include either client reports or direct observations. In response to this inquiry, a majority of fifty six percent of vets responded yes. This answer suggests many pet-owners agree with the use of CBD for their dogs, even if their vets are hesitant to recommend it.

How to Calm an Anxious Dog with CBD Safety?

There are no studies on CBD specifically for dogs with anxiety. However, the pet industry is already marketing a variety of CBD-infused products to treat anxiety in pets. Generally, the limited research on CBD for dogs indicates the cannabinoid is generally safe and well-tolerated among our canine companions. But we don’t know the specifics about stress and anxiety.

To keep their furry friends safe, pet owners will want to keep a few suggestions in mind as they seek plant-based cannabinoid medicine for their beloved family pet:

  1. Stick with Hemp-Sourced CBD: CBD is non-intoxicating and well-tolerated in dogs, but THC is not. THC is incredibly toxic and sometimes deadly for dogs. Therefore pet owners will want to source only hemp-based products to avoid any contamination with THC.
  2. Start Low and Increase Slowly: Just like with humans, the golden rule is slow and steady titration to avoid an adverse reaction. The same rule holds for dogs. At this point, most dosage guidelines are guesswork based on personal experiences. But, the general rule of thumb is to base dose on your dog’s weight. During the first few days, give your dog the lowest recommended dose based on weight, and increase slowly every few days until you see the desired therapeutic results.
  3. Monitor Closely for Adverse Reactions: During treatment, monitor your dog carefully. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to keep a close eye on how your dog reacts. Changes in activity, energy, appetite, and mood are all indicators about how well your dog tolerates the treatment. Cease treatment immediately should your dog exhibit an adverse reaction.
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HOW TO CALM AN ANXIOUS DOG pictured as a happy dog runs in the woods

Key Takeaways on how to Calm Anxiety in Dogs with CBD

A quick Google search on how to calm an anxious dog with CBD quickly returns hundreds (if not thousands) of dog-owner success stories. Reading through story after story about how CBD calmed anxiety in dogs is inspiring many dog-owners to try CBD with their own canine companions. But does it work and is it safe?

What are the key takeaways on how to calm an anxious dog with CBD? Pet owners should know that well-controlled research on CBD for anxiety in dogs has yet to occur. While the national veterinary organizations are hesitant to recommend CBD officially, individual vets are discussing it with clients much more frequently.

Speak with your vet first, it may be surprising how supportive they are. Second, look for high-quality hemp-derived CBD to ensure you are giving your pup the best medicine. Third, titrate to the desired dose very slowly to avoid an adverse reaction.

Author avatar

Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications. She is lucky enough to live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada where the cannabis industry is exploding. When not writing, she spends much of her time exploring in the coastal forests.