The Facts About CBD for Dogs: Making an Informed Decision

Health & Wellness | Dog

Are you looking for a supplement that will help manage your dog's anxiety? How about something to improve your dog's mobility and relieve chronic pain? What about a boost to your cat's immune system or a skin and coat aid? Now what if we told you that CBD can help with all of that? Pretty amazing, right? 

October 17th has come and gone, and the end of Canadian cannabis prohibition has opened the door to more than just the recreational use of marijuana but also the therapeutic and medicinal benefits of cannabinoids for both us and our pets. We will get to see a whole new side to holistic healing for pets that just wasn’t available until now. The hype and fear surrounding the cannabis industry can muddy the waters and make it harder for us, as consumers, to make an informed choice on whether or not cannabis products are right for both us and our pets. Let’s break down some of the facts about CBD and its benefits to help you decide whether or not CBD products are the right choice for your pet.  

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The ECS is a molecular response system that works to promote full-body homeostasis, meaning balance. The two main types of receptors involved in the ECS, called Cannabinoid Receptors, are CB1 and CB2. These receptors are located on the surface of cells, primarily in the brain and immune system, respectively. The body naturally produces endocannabinoids, “endo” meaning within, that activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors to provide homeostasis is many systems of the body. Cannabinoids, extracted from the cannabis plant, can interact with the CB1 and 2 receptors either directly or indirectly to provide some of the same homeostatic conditions that are typically activated by the endocannabinoids.


What is CBD?

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid that is extracted from the cannabis plant and refined into an oil for consumption purposes. Unlike THC, another of over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, CBD has non-intoxicating properties (containing less than 0.3% THC), which means it does not produce a “high” feeling. CBD is praised for both it’s medicinal and therapeutic effects. 

How does it work?

CBD reacts indirectly with the CB receptors, unlike THC which activates quickly with the CB1 receptor. This is because CBD doesn’t “fit” the CB receptors, like a key in a lock. Instead, CBD interacts with other receptors, outside of the ECS, as well as inhibits the enzymes that are tasked with breaking down endocannabinoids after they’ve served their purpose. This inhibition allows the body to increase natural levels of endocannabinoids and the whole body positive effects of activating the CB receptors.

The majority of benefits from CBD products stem from its ability to activate or antagonize (blocking the receptor functions) many receptors in the body, including the ECS.


Benefits of CBD

There are many proven, and some still heavily researched, benefits to CBD products that may interest you. We’ve probed into a few of the most desirable benefits and the science behind them.

Pain Relief

Whatever the cause, many pets suffer from regular or recurring pain. Pain can be limiting, immobilizing and mentally grating, so finding a solution for your pet’s pain is essential for restoring a higher quality of life.

The Science

CBD works indirectly with a receptor, colloquially referred to as the “Vanilloid” receptor, that manages pain and pain perception, to reduce chronic pain and promote recovery. This science is still being researched but a 2018 study by Cornell University shows that CBD does help eliminate pain and improve mobility. 



Usually closely related to chronic pain, inflammation can be a result of injury, immune response or age related issues, and can be hard to reduce. Reducing inflammation with CBD can put the spring back in your old dog’s steps, or eliminate that itchy allergic reaction.

The Science

By stimulating a type of cell, called Regulatory T cells (or Tregs for short), CBD works to suppress inflammatory responses in the body. The Tregs are an immuno-suppressor, and help regulate the immune systems response capabilities. In the event of extreme inflammation or immune response, like an allergic reaction, your dog doesn't always have enough Tregs to balance the bodies natural immune response.



Anxiety problems in our pets are common, and many of us struggle to provide relief for our pets. Using CBD can reduce anxiety symptoms so that, in combination with a consistent training and socializing routine, your pet can learn to handle high-anxiety situations better.

The Science

Serotonin is a chemical produced by the body that acts a mood stabilizer. The serotonin receptors are activated by CBD, causing an increased anti-anxiety effect.



Side Effects

The great news is that CBD does not have any known adverse drug interactions, so you can rest assured that CBD is safe to use. The ECS is a total body system, so some symptoms may be caused by an underlying problem. CBD will act to resolve the underlying issue first, so immediate results can vary.

Increased sleep is sometimes noticed in pet's being treated for chronic pain and discomfort. Our pet's normally sleep quite a bit more than we do, so they may fall back into a more natural sleep cycle once the pain is gone.


Determining good quality vs. bad quality can seem daunting, but there are a few things that should be relatively easy to find out, that may indicate a better quality product. You want the best for your pets, so don't be afraid to do some homework on the brands that are available. Manufacturers should be open and honest with this critical information.

Extraction method

The process used to extract the oils from the plant are extremely important in determining quality and effectiveness. The best method of extraction is called CO2 extraction. This method leaves no solvents or chemicals, like ethanol, in the final product. Super-critical CO2 extraction allows the CO2 to replace a chemical solvent in the extraction process and then safely evaporate when the process is complete. 



A CBD isolate is made by extracting the oil from the plant, then, using a corrosive chemical, the CBD is separated from the other cannabinoids and plant material to form a purer form of CBD. In this case, purer doesn't always mean better. The chemicals used to separate the CBD, like methanol, ethanol or pentane, can be harmful, corrosive and not generally something we want to feed to our pets. 

Leaving the oil intact after extraction is what is called a full-spectrum CBD product. When the oil is pulled from the plant, it takes the CBD, but also the other cannabinoids that have therapeutic benefits too.  This is a much more desirable product with more health benefits that a CBD isolate by itself. 

Choosing the Right Supplement

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits and how CBD can have a positive effect on your pet’s overall health, what’s the next step? Well, now it’s time to start looking into what products are available to you, and what products are going to be available soon. CBD products will be sold in a variety of formats to make administration as simple and effective as possible. Treats will be an easy way to test the waters, but oils tinctures and capsules will likely be easy to find too. Choose the option that is best for you and your dog and don't be afraid to ask questions about how it's made. You want to know that you are giving your pet the best and safest products that you can. Let us know below if you’ve tried any CBD products for your pets!

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Posted by Krystn Janisse

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