CBD for Dogs & Cats [A Guide for Pet Parents]
You’ve heard great things about CBD (cannabidiol) for humans. But could this cannabis compound prove beneficial for pets, too?
Suffice it to say, CBD shows more promise than your prodigious dog on the first day of obedience school. As more research comes to light, we’re learning more about how CBD might help animals.
What CBD Can Do for Your Pet with America's Favorite Veterinarian - Best selling author and holistic animal specialist, Gary Richter, DVM, M.S. and Evelyn Jensen, kittenrescue.org share their experiences with how CBD has helped their fur friends.
Benefits & Uses of CBD for Pets
Pet owners want solutions for their animal companions’ aches, sniffles, and more. CBD may be able to bring about positive outcomes for a staggering array of animal health issues.
CBD May Help with These Wellness Woes
To date, scientific research supports CBD’s usefulness in addressing the following conditions in animals:(1)
- Limited mobility
- Behavioral problems
- Stress and anxiety
- Sleep troubles
- Itchy skin
- Poor appetite
This is why CBD is often incorporated into the care plan for pets with arthritis, epilepsy, cancer, allergies, problematic skin, anxiety, and other short- or long-term wellness concerns.
It’s also important to know that CBD is not psychoactive — it has no ability to intoxicate your cat or dog. Your pet cannot get high from CBD.
When to Use CBD for Your Pet
With realized benefits your pet exhibits from CBD, you can see how it could be a godsend in situations like:
- Transitioning to new environments
- Trips to the vet
- Introduction of a new pet/family member
- Schedule/routine changes (like you’re going back to work at the office)
- Parties or large gatherings
- Outings to the dog park
- Stormy weather
- Fireworks and other loud, shocking, reverberatory noises
How CBD Helps Your Pet
All animals, except insects, have what is known as an endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for controlling or helping to regulate several of your pet’s bodily functions — like sleep, immunity, hormones, etc.
Cannabinoids like CBD engage with the ECS to instigate a host of effects throughout your cat’s or dog’s mind and body. These effects can be the health and wellness boosts you’re seeking for your pet.
Is CBD Safe for Dogs & Cats?
CBD is generally safe for animals when taken appropriately. According to the World Health Organization, and backed by other animal studies, CBD has a favorable safety profile and is usually well tolerated by dogs and cats.(2)
The key is to only use CBD products made specifically for animals. CBD formulated for animals tends to have fewer ingredients. Pet CBD products omit harmful ingredients like THC, sugar, chocolate, etc., which can be toxic to animals.
It is important to also note that risk of adverse reactions goes up with higher doses of CBD. Speak with your veterinarian before you administer any new therapy for your fur babies, including CBD.
CBD & Pets: Side Effects & Precautions
Being the thoughtful caregiver you are, you’re probably interested in understanding any potential downsides to giving you pup or kit some CBD.
Side effects to CBD are usually rare, mild, and temporary. Allergic reactions are also exceedingly uncommon. That said, adverse responses can occur.
It can be difficult to tell if your pet is experiencing a negative reaction to CBD. But, be on the lookout for any of the following — they could be signs that your pet isn’t tolerating the CBD product well.(3)
- Head shaking
- Soft stool
Also remember that your pet could be exhibiting side effects to other ingredients in the product or displaying additional symptoms of its illness. When in doubt — connect with your vet.
Always touch base with your vet prior to embarking upon a CBD regimen. CBD is contraindicated for certain health conditions and can interfere with some medications.
Is CBD for Cats & Dogs Legal?
Cannabis legality in the US is messy. CBD derived from hemp and containing no more than 0.3% THC is legal at the federal level to make, sell, transport, buy, and use. However, it was left up to the states how to oversee these activities. And each state has implemented different rules.
With the exception of Epidiolex, a seizure medication, CBD is not an FDA-approved drug. CBD governance falls under the FDA’s Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) as a supplement. The FDA has a separate agency, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, that regulates food and drug for animals. The CVM plays no role in CBD oversight.
CBD for Pets & the Law
Further confusing the legal landscape is that the laws are for humans. There’s no explicit mention of animals in the federal laws. Most states defer to the federal regulations or say nothing at all about CBD for pets.(4)
Vets are bound by federal and state laws. When those laws are confusing or contradictory it puts your vet between a rock and a hard place. As part of the fallout from the confusing web of regulation, vets — in many states — aren’t allowed to administer or advise on cannabis products. This includes CBD.
Legislation is fluid, so it’s a good idea to check your state’s current laws for dos and don’ts.
Pet CBD Products & the Law
Despite CBD for pets living in a gray area of the law — or maybe because they’re in this zone of ambiguity — pet CBD products are easy to get your paws on. They are sold as supplements, which means they get the blessings of what legislation there is and/or squeak through the holes in the regulations.
Talking to Your Vet about CBD for Your Pet
Vets are asked about CBD for pets a lot. However, they may be reluctant to discuss the topic.
There are several reasons for this, including:(1)
- Risk of professional and/or legal penalties and revocation of their license
- Lack of knowledge on CBD
- Preference standard treatments
- Opposition to cannabis
So, don’t be alarmed if your vet is less than chatty about CBD, or isn’t rushing to recommend CBD, or whipping out pen and pad to write a script for it.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it up. You absolutely should. It’s always a good idea to keep your vet appraised of the issues your pet’s facing and courses of treatment you’re considering. And even though your vet’s hands may be tied when it comes to directly discussing or recommending CBD for your cat or dog, they may still be able to give you information or point you to high-quality resources.
What Type of CBD is Best for Dogs & Cats?
There’s no single, all-encompassing answer to this. Just as for humans, the “best” CBD product is subject to your pet’s needs (and preferences). That said, we can offer a crateful of advice to help you winnow down the options.
5 Tips to Finding the Best CBD for Your Pet
When shopping for CBD oil products for your pet, consider the following:
- Only buy a CBD product that’s designed for pets. Substances that are harmless to people are often harmful to animals. Pet CBD formulations tend to have fewer ingredients and are free of things like THC, sweeteners, caffeine, essential oils, and certain fruits and vegetables. This is important: THC can be toxic to dogs and cats — make sure you get a THC-less product for your pet.
- Remember bioavailability counts. The more bioavailable the CBD is, the easier it is for your pet’s body to absorb and utilize the CBD, the more potential the CBD has to help your pet. For improved bioavailability, look for nanotized CBD, which is CBD structured into tiny molecules.
- Read product labels and certificates of analysis (COA) for purity and potency. Product packaging and inserts should identify all ingredients and provide serving size and other information. The COA will confirm what cannabinoids are in the CBD product, how much of each cannabinoid there is, and if there are any contaminants (e.g., chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals).
- Choose cleaner, more natural CBD products. Avoid products that have fillers, binders, preservatives, artificial ingredients, or really anything your pet doesn't absolutely need. Make sure that the CBD is extracted from organic American hemp. And again, check the COA to validate product purity.
- Opt for brands, producers, and sellers with a golden reputation. You can assess this by the reviews, ratings, testimonials, and other social proof. Additionally, a reliable company will have a good standing in the business community, knowledgeable staff, and customer-friendly policies, processes, and support.
How to Give CBD to Your Pet
In case you haven’t noticed yet, CBD for dogs and cats comes in plenty of different formulations. There are CBD tinctures, CBD treats, CBD topical creams, and so on.
The first step in folding CBD into your pet’s care plan is picking the right CBD oil product. You want to get one that checks all the boxes. So, be sure to choose a CBD preparation:
- Suited to your pet’s wellness concerns. Getting a formulation and dosage that aligns Mr. Whisker’s or Miss Trixie’s issues ups the odds of desirable outcomes.
- You and your dog can stick with it. CBD only stands a chance of helping if your pet takes it!
The second step is determining whether your pet should take CBD daily or just on an as-needed basis. CBD used consistently may be a wise approach for a chronic problem (e.g., persistent pain) whereas ad hoc CBD may be better for occasional problems (e.g., thunderstorms).
Administering CBD to Your Cat or Dog
Start by reading the package and any product inserts. These will include directions for use.
For ingested CBD products, you’ll also find suggested serving sizes. Serving size is typically based on the weight of your pet. It’s OK to ease into your pet’s CBD routine slowly by administering a partial dose in the beginning and then — if needed — gradually adjusting upwards from there. Unless otherwise directed to do so by your vet, do not exceed the recommended amount of CBD.
Topical products should also come with guidance for usage. The main thing is to only apply the product externally.
If it makes sense to do so, you can include both ingested and topical CBD into your pet’s care protocol.
Tips & Tricks for Giving Your Pet Its CBD
But how do you actually get your pet to take its CBD? You can take the direct method or the sneak route:
- CBD softgels. Drop the pill down the back of your pet’s gullet, then gently hold its mouth shut as you blow down its nose and rub its throat. Alternately, hid it in a treat you know your pet will eat quickly.
- CBD tinctures and drops. If squirting the CBD straight into your pet’s mouth isn’t doable, add the drops to your pet’s food or water.
- CBD treats. Well, hopefully your pet finds the treat irresistible as is and no stealth moves are required! But, if not, try a different type/brand of treat or make your own CBD-infused pet treats.
- CBD topicals. You may need to tag-team this — get someone to help you gently restrain your pet while you apply topical CBD balms. Another option is to have your groomer use the topical (like CBD shampoos!) in the course of their work. You might need to cover the area with the topical CBD (or cone your pet) if your pet’s prone to scratching, licking, or chewing the affected area.
Does CBD Oil Work for Dogs & Cats?
Once you hit upon the right product and protocol, CBD can be extremely effective for your pet. Reports from pet parents at dog parks and cat cafés suggest that CBD is indeed alleviating what ails their pets.
But what’s the science saying? With around 23,000 published studies of the effects of CBD on humans and animals — we can deduce quite a bit. Obviously, we can’t ask the study animals if they feel better. So, results from animal research are a combination of data (e.g., from analyzing blood samples) and observational (e.g., evaluating an animal’s behavior before, during, and after the trial).
A 2021 review of several of these animal studies found that research data indicates that CBD is helpful for a number of mental and physical health conditions — like cancer, anxiety, skin issues, bone health, pain, and seizures.(5)
How Do You Know if Your Pet’s CBD is Working?
Unless you speak fluent woof or meow, it can be challenging to know if or how well CBD is helping your pet. You’re going to need to channel your inner bloodhound and sniff out clues your pet is sending you.
Keep a CBD Journal
This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. The idea is simply to record:
- What CBD products you are giving to your pet
- How much you gave your pet
- When you administered the CBD
- How your pet seemed to feel before the CBD
- How your pet seemed to feel after the CBD
Tracking your pet’s CBD usage over time can reveal trends. You'll start to perceive whether or not the CBD appears to be effective and well tolerated by your cat or dog. When you look back after a week or a month, comparing and contrasting the variables and observations — it's likely that you’ll be able to glean some “tell-tail” insights.
Right-Sizing Your Pet CBD Expectations
CBD isn’t a magic bullet. And there’s no one product that works for every animal, every time, under every circumstance. It’s critical that you go into this eyes-wide-open so you can better support your fur baby.
Here are some things you can anticipate as your pet uses CBD:
- Expect results to take time. While the effects of the CBD may kick in almost immediately, long-term health outcomes may take days or weeks to become apparent. Have patience and closely watch your pet. Take notice of any changes you see — no matter how subtle or insignificant they may seem. Over time, you’ll probably start to see trends. And if you’re recording your pet’s CBD journey, you’ll likely register more significant progress over time.
- You may have to experiment with different CBD products and routines. You may get lucky and the first thing your pet tries does the trick. If not — don’t worry. It’s totally normal to have to explore a variety of products and administration regimens. Depending upon your pet’s condition, certain formulations may be more effective.(6)
- Your pet’s needs may evolve. As your pet develops and ages, or as its health shifts, you may need to switch CBD products to keep pace with your pet’s needs. Environmental and lifestyle changes can also impact your pet’s CBD requirements.
- Products may change. Just something to be aware of. As brands change corporate hands or companies merge, products can get reformulated. When this happens, it may affect your pet’s success with it. So, be sure to read the label and COA each time you chuck that pet CBD oil into your cart.
CBD for Dogs & Cats — Paws Down a Great Natural Pet Care Option
Given that CBD’s been shown to help address everything from pain to anxiety to cancer — all wellness concerns pets frequently face — it’s no wonder pet owners are trying it. CBD can be a safe and effective component of your pet’s care routine.
CBD for dogs and cats is available in many forms. It may take a little research and experimentation to find the products and regimen that work best for your pet. Just be sure to get a high-quality CBD product that’s made specifically for pets.
FAQs Buzzin’ Through the Hive
Do vets recommend CBD for pets?
Yes and no. Many states forbid vets from discussing or prescribing CBD. Where vets are allowed to talk about CBD for cats and dogs they may or may not advise it for many reasons — often that have nothing to do with the merits of CBD for pet. You’ll have to dig deeper to understand how your vet in particular feels about CBD for your pet.
Is CBD oil safe for pets?
In general, if you use a product formulated specifically for animals, CBD is healthy for pets. These CBD oil products omit ingredients like THC, sugar, chocolate, etc., which can be harmful to pets.
Does CBD work for pets?
For many pets, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Each animal is different and has unique needs, though, so short- and long-term results will vary.
- Peters, A. (2019). Treating Your Dog with CBD. Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/cbd-for-dogs
- Son, K. (2021). Potential Side Effects of CBD Oil in Dogs and Solutions. Veterinarians.org. https://www.veterinarians.org/side-effects-of-cbd-oil-in-dogs
- Capuzzi, J. (2020). Study evaluates adverse effects of CBD in dogs and cats. Dvm360. https://www.dvm360.com/view/study-evaluates-adverse-effects-of-cbd-in-dogs-and-cats
- (2022). CBD in Pets. Dvm360. https://www.dvm360.com/cbd-in-pets
- Coile, C. (2021). Does CBD Work for Dogs? American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/does-cbd-work-for-dogs
- Bartner, LR, et al. (2018). Pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol administered by 3 delivery methods at 2 different dosages to healthy dogs. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6038832