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CBD oil for dogs: Guide for Australian pet owners

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In humans and dogs alike, the therapeutic applications of CBD oils are still being explored. But the compound appears to have many health benefits, including the treatment of osteoarthritis, stress, and old age. It’s also favoured as a general health supplement.

These benefits are all derived from the close relationship between cannabinoids and the human endocannabinoid system. This system regulates multiple physiological functions and maintains homeostasis, or collective bodily balance.

Aside from promising pioneer trials, there are many testimonials of people using CBD for anxiety symptoms, epileptic seizures, and inflammatory illnesses, as well as dermatological conditions. But is CBD oil safe for dogs according to science?

What is CBD oil?

cbd oil

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is one of the many naturally occurring chemical compounds known as cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. CBD is known for its many therapeutic effects and non-intoxicating nature. The well known “high” of cannabis is mainly induced by another cannabinoid called Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. CBD by itself does not cause any psychoactive effects, and has recently gained notoriety in the medical field due to a wide range of therapeutic properties.

CBD oil (isolate) is simply the isolated compound extracted from the cannabis plant, removing any other cannabinoids such as THC in the process. By removing the psychoactive components from the product, it should not induce the “high” or make your pet “stoned” when administering the CBD oil.

Benefits of giving your dog CBD

CBD oil for pets began when pet-owners noticed improvements, after dosing, in terminally-ill dogs, as well as elderly dogs with deteriorating health.

CBD treatment for humans showed promise in reduced pain[4] and anxiety[5], improved energy levels, and assisted in digestive issues. People soon considered how CBD used for pain could improve the quality of life in dogs suffering from chronic conditions.

Although it's still not widely prescribed by vets in Australia, many pet owners and clinical trials have already claimed significant improvements in their pet's response to CBD oil.

What does the research say?

Although limited, clinical studies for the use of medicinal cannabis on dogs have been conducted. The most promising use case for CBD oil is for the support of osteoarthritis in dogs. CBD has been suggested as a more promising alternative compared to common arthritis treatments such as glucosamine, green-lipped mussel (GLM), hydrotherapy and cold laser.

Recent double-blind placebo-controlled trials suggest dogs which received daily oral doses of CBD showed a decrease in pain and improved activity. [1][2]

In one of the studies, the dogs received 2mg/kg of CBD oil every 12 hours, over a 4 week period. The results indicated there was a significant decrease in pain and increase in daily activity. There were no visible side-effects reported by the owners, with the exception of an increase in alkaline phosphatase during treatment.

"The results indicated there was a significant decrease in pain and increase in daily activity"

It should be noted however that these trials have only been conducted on a small number of dogs, so more conclusive data may be required.

Evidence for using CBD for controlling seizures in dogs are also limited, but some studies have suggested it could be useful in reducing the seizure frequency[3]. However, the results also noted the improvements were only seen in dogs who were also given traditional anti-seizure medication at the same time.

Is hemp seed oil the same as CBD oil?

As the name suggests, hemp seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the plant. Therefore little to no cannabinoids such as CBD exists in the final product. Hemp seed oil is usually extracted using a cold pressing method to remove the oils from industrial hemp plant seeds.

Although the therapeutic properties of CBD may not be present, hemp seed oil is known to be packed full of nutritional benefits. Hemp seed oil is filled with omegas, antioxidants and healthy plant cholesterol which can help support inflammation, immune system and improve skin and coat quality.

It’s important to distinguish the difference between CBD oil and hemp seed oil when considering medication for your pet. Both have different uses, side effects and legality. Always check the product label for the active ingredients before administering any medication for your little friends.

Is CBD oil legal for pets in Australia?

We’ve already outlined the legality of CBD for human use in another article. For pet use in Australia, it’s a similar story. CBD is currently a schedule 4 drug, which means it will require a prescription from your vet.

As medical cannabis is still relatively new in the medical field, knowledge around cannabinoids is still limited. You may have trouble finding a vet who is familiar with CBD or are opened to prescribing it for your pets. However, as the numbers increase for human medicinal cannabis prescription, we are starting to notice more clinics and vets prescribing CBD oil for animals.

CBD oil for dogs: points to consider

two dogs

Dogs respond differently to certain cannabis compounds compared to humans. Additionally, some essential oils that are added to human-intended products can be toxic to dogs. It’s vital that the components are regulated and safe for canine consumption.

Lab tested results

If you’ve managed to get a valid prescription for your veterinarian, the sourced CBD products should be from a certified lab. You can rest assured the quality of CBD oil has been tested and verified.

If you do decide to source your CBD oil from “alternative” sources, you should always do your due diligence on the company and product.

CBD labels should be transparent about the product’s contents. Companies should also be willing and able to share information with you about the source of their plants. In addition to how they were grown.

CBD is conventionally removed from plants using chemical solvents. Solvent-less methods such as Supercritical CO2 Extraction, however, are often preferred. As the latter doesn't use chemicals to strip the plant of its natural material, there’s no risk of residual solvents. These can be carcinogenic or contain certain neurotoxins.

A third-party Certificate of Analysis or lab tested results is vital in your product choice as it impartially identifies the final product’s exact contents. Including minor cannabinoids, their concentrations and any residual chemicals.

Side effects of CBD oil in dogs

Trials using 2mg of CBD oil per kilogram of body weight showed no visible side effects in dogs being treated for osteoarthritis. [1]

There was, however, a slight increase in alkaline phosphatase enzymes in the liver during CBD treatment. This may interact with heart medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and other veterinary medications.

Higher concentrations of cannabidiol may cause diarrhoea and other mild side effects. However, overall, current studies suggest CBD appears to be as safe for dogs as it is for humans.

Cannabinoid content

cbd vs thc

As mentioned earlier, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive compound in cannabis and may cause unwanted reactions in dogs. It is important to ensure the CBD oil administered to your pets contains little to no THC content, as dogs are known to be extra sensitive to THC.

Once again, always check the labels or lab tested results for the CBD and THC content. Ideally Cannabidiol (CBD) should comprise 98% or more of the total cannabinoid content.

How to use CBD oil

CBD oil can either be applied directly into your pets mouth or simply by adding drops to their food.

For maximised absorption, drop the oil onto your finger and gently apply it to your dog's gums. You can also drop it underneath their tongue if they allow it. Although a bit messy, this allows the CBD to bypass their digestive system and absorb directly into their bloodstream.

CBD oil should be gradually introduced to your dogs and incorporated into routine for the most consistent long-term results. As dosage can vary depending on a variety of factors such as weight, age and severity of the condition, it is best to consult with your vet on the correct amount to administer your pet.

CBD for dogs: final thoughts

Pet owners across Australia are reporting positive developments after giving their dog CBD oil. They are attributing the improvements in their pets’ conditions to the incorporation of consistent CBD doses into their dogs’ daily diet.

CBD-rich cannabis oil is known to support some medical conditions and boost your pet’s overall wellbeing when taken regularly. However, medicinal cannabis is still a new contender in the Australian medical industry. Getting access to legal and lab certified CBD oil is still surrounded by red tape, with many researchers and vets still uncertain on the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

We are beginning to see a surge in medicinal cannabis prescriptions for humans in recent years, we can only hope the same will happen for animal prescriptions.

Rhonda Teoh | BudHerd

Rhonda Teoh | BudHerd

Rhonda is a pro-cannabis writer based in Melbourne. She is focused on researching and spreading the word on how cannabis can benefit the lives of everyday Australians.
  1. Gamble LJ, Boesch JM, Frye CW, Schwark WS, Mann S, Wolfe L, Brown H, Berthelsen ES, Wakshlag JJ. Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Front Vet Sci. 2018 Jul 23;5:165. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00165. PMID: 30083539; PMCID: PMC6065210.

  2. Brioschi FA, Di Cesare F, Gioeni D, et al. Oral Transmucosal Cannabidiol Oil Formulation as Part of a Multimodal Analgesic Regimen: Effects on Pain Relief and Quality of Life Improvement in Dogs Affected by Spontaneous Osteoarthritis. Animals : an Open Access Journal From MDPI. 2020 Aug;10(9). DOI: 10.3390/ani10091505.

  3. McGrath S, Bartner LR, Rao S, Packer RA, Gustafson DL. Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of oral cannabidiol administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2019 Jun 1;254(11):1301-1308. doi: 10.2460/javma.254.11.1301. PMID: 31067185.

  4. Iskedjian M, Bereza B, Gordon A, Piwko C, Einarson TR. Meta-analysis of cannabis based treatments for neuropathic and multiple sclerosis-related pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2007;23(1):17‐24. doi:10.1185/030079906x158066

  5. Bergamaschi, M., Queiroz, R., Chagas, M. et al. Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacol 36, 1219–1226 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2011.6

The statements made on this website are for information and educational purposes. BudHerd and its affiliates are not recommending anyone to use or cultivate cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes. Please consult with your doctor before using medicinal cannabis to learn about the associated negative side effects. Medicinal cannabis is regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia and more details about cannabis as a scheduled drug can be found on their website.