Many dog owners in Australia are using CBD with their dogs without fully understanding the risks involved. While CBD has excellent health benefits and calming properties for canines, administering it to your dog before understanding its side effects, safety, and potential for harm is unwise. It can even be dangerous if you give your dog the wrong product. Dogs can experience side effects from CBD, such as dry mouth, lethargy, and behavioural changes. But they can also become poisoned from CBD products in specific scenarios, such as if they are inadvertently given THC (which is toxic in dogs), are intolerant of cannabinoids, or are dosed incorrectly. Therefore, safety should be paramount when giving anything to your dog, particularly CBD. Let’s explore the side effects of CBD in dogs to be aware of more severe risk factors and how to keep your pup safe while still enjoying the benefits.
- 1 Can Dogs Use CBD?
- 2 Is CBD Safe for Dogs?
- 3 Risk Factors for Using CBD in Dogs
- 4 Side Effects of CBD in Dogs
- 5 Serious Side Effects in Dogs
- 6 Conclusion
Can Dogs Use CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is the primary therapeutic cannabinoid found in hemp (or cannabis). When used correctly, pure CBD is very safe for dogs. It is non-toxic, doesn’t have any addictive properties, and is very well tolerated. Like humans, dogs can absorb CBD via their endocannabinoid system, which confers various health benefits. This system is present in dogs and humans, and it helps balance, support, and improve a dog’s bodily processes, such as immunity and metabolism. CBD can help dogs with pain relief, inflammation, stress, and even sleep via the enzymatic pathways of this system. Initial studies and trials on CBD for dogs have shown positive results. For example, a veterinary study in 2021 simulated the effects of CBD on dogs’ blood to analyse its metabolic effects on the cells. It noted that powerful anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting effects were triggered when CBD was introduced to the test blood sample compared to the control group.
How Can Dogs Be Given CBD?
CBD can be given to dogs orally via CBD oil, dog food or treats, or topicals (applied to the skin) if preferred. Only products specifically formulated for canines should be used with dogs as they contain no THC. Before using CBD with your dog, check in with your vet. They’ll guide you on the risks involved, how much dosage is appropriate, and whether CBD’s worth using instead of other options. In addition, they can help identify existing medications that shouldn’t be mixed with CBD in your dog. CBD elevates P450 enzymes in the liver that can cause problems when taken with other drugs. It also hasn’t been approved by veterinary bodies or the government in Australia for use in animals. Despite this, many pet owners provide it to their dogs to help treat various health conditions and boost overall well-being.
Will CBD Get My Dog High?
CBD is not psychoactive or psychotropic. It mildly interacts with the CB1 receptors in dogs’ brains and CNS, offering mild calming effects. It won’t get your dog high and is non-intoxicating. This is also the same in humans, where CBD has no consciousness-altering properties and, in most people, is scarcely noticeable from a subjective experience standpoint. On the contrary, your dog should display improved mood and calmness plus better behaviour when using CBD consistently.
Is CBD Safe for Dogs?
Pure CBD is well-tolerated by dogs and offers several health benefits when safely cleared by your veterinarian. It needs to be dosed correctly using a high-quality product that contains 0% THC to ensure safety or carries risks. Most studies on the therapeutic effects of CBD in canines have commented on its high tolerance levels and lack of any side effects. For example, a 2018 study dosed dogs at 2mg/kg of CBD twice per day to treat osteoarthritis. No side effects were seen across the subject dogs, although symptoms of osteoarthritis showed marked improvements. In a separate 2023 study, the side effects of CBD for dogs were described as ‘mild or unremarkable’ and rarely present across clinical studies.
Many other studies show the same pattern, remarking on the safety of CBD in canines but focussing on its veterinary applications. In these studies, very pure CBD products were used, which cleared any risk of THC toxicity in subject dogs. Despite these positive signals, several known risk factors are involved in using CBD with dogs. Let’s take a look at when CBD products can cause health risks or be dangerous for dogs.
Risk Factors for Using CBD in Dogs
Never use CBD with your dog before getting approval from your vet and confirming the right product to use. Dosing them without doing this is very risky and could harm their health. Let’s look at some of the risk factors of using CBD in your dog and how to avoid these risks.
A safety precaution you need to take when using CBD with your dog is avoiding adverse interactions with any existing medications already in use. Many drugs dogs use, like de-wormers, are metabolised via the liver. Similarly, CBD is broken down before passing into the blood via the liver. If CBD is taken at the same time as one of these medications, it can create significant health risks due to excessively taxing the liver organ. Always confirm with your vet before trying CBD if your dog is already using other medications or supplements. This could include NSAIDs, de-wormer medications, heart medication and corticosteroids for inflammation. CBD may not be worth using with your dog due to the risks involved if it’s using another drug.
Every dog responds differently to cannabinoids like CBD because they each have unique genetics and physiologies. Factors like your dog’s age, weight, existing health conditions, tolerance to CBD and metabolism all play a part in determining how sensitive they might be to CBD, plus its potential side effects. In most cases, dogs will respond well to CBD and rarely encounter sensitivities issues. Some dogs will react much more strongly, however. This can be good in some scenarios as they will need less CBD or lower-strength products to see the effects. In other cases, however, they may become overwhelmed or be at higher risk of side effects. There’s no way to gauge how sensitive your dog will be until they try CBD, so starting with tiny test doses is essential.
Immunocompromised or Liver Compromised Conditions
Just like in people, it’s not advisable to use CBD with a dog that has underlying immune conditions or organ problems. In particular, dogs with liver or kidney issues should avoid using it. CBD is metabolised through these organs, so it can cause adverse effects if used in dogs that fit this profile.
Using the correct dosages with your dog is a significant factor in the safe use of CBD, in addition to the success your pup will see when you’re using it for its health. Excessive quantities of CBD can be detrimental for many reasons, particularly if your dog has allergies or sensitivities. Higher doses than necessary increase side effect risks and are less likely to be tolerable amongst dogs who have little experience with CBD. On the other hand, too little CBD will lead to sluggish results or little to show for using it. Finding a mid-ground and balanced approach to dosing your dog will provide strong effectiveness while maintaining safety. Always plan out your dogs’ dosages before starting with CBD and the frequency plus method you’ll use to dose. Also, consider the advantages of using CBD oil or liquid products versus dry food due to ease of dose measurement and control.
THC Dangers & Contamination
THC is the other prominent cannabinoid found in hemp. It is toxic to dogs and psychoactive. They are susceptible to it. While THC can get you high and cause euphoria, it is poisonous to dogs and should never be given to them. Unlike CBD, it has no therapeutic benefits in canines. CBD products for dogs should always be produced from industrial hemp, which is specifically bred to contain minimal quantities of THC. They must also be even further refined and formulated for pets to have 0% THC. Any amount of THC can be toxic to your dog.
A critical safety risk is CBD product contamination from THC. This can often occur by accident, where CBD and THC products are produced in the exact location. It’s easy for THC to contaminate products for dogs that have shared the same vat, refinement equipment or packing areas. It’s also possible a product was produced from hemp plants that weren’t industrially bred and sourced. That is, the plants had moderate to high levels of THC, not all of which can feasibly be removed from the final product. Always ensure you buy CBD from a trusted source for your dog that you know contains no THC, whether from contamination or other reasons.
Hemp plants are highly absorbent of soil nutrients, but this can include absorbing toxins and metals. These toxins can quickly enter the plant and your dog’s product if grown in poor quality or contaminated soil. Beware of any poorly produced or cheap CBD product for dogs, as the risks of it containing contaminants or toxic materials are significant. Sourcing organic products can help to minimise this risk. Organic hemp plants use little or no pesticides and are usually grown in better conditions than GMO or mass-scale agricultural farms.
Unlike contaminants, which are usually accidentally added to your dog’s CBD product, additives are chemical additions to products like flavourings and sweeteners, which are intentionally included. These are very common in human CBD products, as they’re used to help mask the flavour of CBD or hemp oil and make it easier to take. Many products also use preservatives like sulphites to extend shelf life. But these can also have detrimental health effects on your dog. Similarly, artificial flavours or colours are often employed to boost the appearance or taste of CBD products for dogs. Often, they have risks for your pet. For example, many preservatives are toxic and can impact dog hormones or metabolic health. Similarly, essential oils added to CBD products are toxic to dogs but might be used to improve the smell or appearance of CBD. Avoid additives and ensure your product is natural, free from preservatives, plus specially produced for dogs.
Outside of accidental contamination or additives being mixed into your dog’s CBD product, mislabelling is a crucial risk for product safety. Whether intentional or accidental, mislabelling of CBD products for dogs is very common. It will mean the information provided on ingredients, cannabinoids and chemical content in the CBD product is incorrect or misleading. For example, many CBD products contain THC, and they are advertised as 0% THC or THC-free. In other cases, they may mislead consumers on the types of strengths of cannabinoids the product contain (usually to inflate the quantity of CBD) to sell more product. For humans, this usually means the product will be weaker or less effective, but dogs are exposed to higher risk due to THC being toxic to them. Usually, they also have greater contaminant sensitivities.
The majority of CBD products for dogs online are mislabelled in one way or another, based on several comprehensive studies on CBD product quality. Certificates of analysis from a 3rd party lab will help to clear up any incorrect labelling information. Because they’re from independent sources, these are trustworthy and can be relied on for accurate, factual data on cannabinoid content. Always look for lab certification or a certificate of analysis with your dog’s product to confirm its purity, safety and 0% THC content.
Side Effects of CBD in Dogs
There is some potential for CBD to cause side effects in dogs. This is rare, and the side effects are typically mild. You can minimise the risk of side effects by starting with low dosages to gauge your dog’s reaction to CBD and increasing the dosage over time. When starting, continually monitor your dog for any behavioural changes or signs of side effects.
Stomach Problems and Diarrhoea
Dogs are susceptible to changes in diet and may see gut irritation or diarrhoea issues when giving them a new dietary product. Many dogs are picky with food due to natural intolerances or sensitivities in the gastrointestinal system. An upset stomach when dosing your dog with CBD is a common occurrence. It’s usually more than likely caused by carrier oils, additives or contaminants as opposed to CBD itself in dogs, which is generally well tolerated. Try a few different products or dosage levels if this occurs to understand what could be irritating. If symptoms persist, check in with your vet. Usually, symptoms pass and work themselves out.
CBD is known for its stress-relieving and sleepiness-inducing properties in humans and animals. This quality makes it effective in aiding with sleep and calming users before bedtime. But it can also cause daytime tiredness or lethargy if not tolerated well. It’s a common side effect dogs can experience. You may see your dog sleeping a lot more or behaving more sluggish in some cases when using CBD. This can be normal when starting but shouldn’t persist. It might be time to check dosages or revisit your product if it does. Lethargy is often caused by too much CBD being given to the dog.
Appetite & Thirst Changes
A commonly reported side effect of CBD in dogs is shifts in appetite, thirst and urination. Each can result from the complex interaction of endocannabinoids in a dog’s digestive and hunger hormone signalling system. Some dogs see reduced appetite or thirst, while others may become hungrier. It varies based on the pet’s unique response to CBD and physiology. If issues persist, however, it could indicate a more severe problem such as diabetes or compromised kidneys leading to excessive CBD effects. Check with your vet if this is the case, as they may need to assess the response better.
Barking and scratching are normal behaviours in dogs. Still, if they become excessive or are accompanied by issues like yelping, biting, mood shifts or other uncharacteristic behaviours, it could indicate a side effect of CBD. Behavioural changes can occur when taking CBD and are usually mild but should be evaluated by a vet if more serious shifts are observed. In particular, heightened aggression or substantial changes in mood are not typical, and any persistent symptoms may require cessation of CBD use.
Dry Mouth or Eyes
Because CBD acts on the cannabinoid receptors in the saliva and tear glands, a dog’s mouth and eyes can become dry. This side effect is also pervasive in humans when using cannabinoid products. It can be counteracted by using eye drops for your dog and keeping up their hydration and chewable snacks to promote saliva production. Most dogs get over this side effect quickly.
Serious Side Effects in Dogs
Sometimes, a dog may present with more serious side effects, such as an allergic reaction or severe illness. These must always be reacted to by stopping all CBD usage with the do and taking them to the vet for treatment. Don’t risk your dog’s health or attempt to treat them yourself.
Some dogs can be allergic to CBD or other cannabinoids and encounter allergic reactions when dosed with it. This can show up as itching, hives, trouble breathing and swelling or redness. The symptoms are similar to human allergic reactions from bees or other allergens. A severe allergic attack can also occur, resulting in anaphylaxis. The throat or eyes may swell, which can cause issues in breathing and seeing. For allergies, when using a CBD product with your dog, ensure you get veterinary attention immediately. Usually, they aren’t life-threatening unless the case is severe, but it’s worth staying on the safe side.
If you suspect your dog’s been poisoned with THC, take them to the vet and get emergency treatment as soon as possible. THC poisoning can display in similar ways to allergies, causing vomiting in your dog, wobbles, dizziness, seizures, issues walking or acute lethargy. Again, it’s usually non-life threatening, but it can vary depending on the amount of THC consumed. Usually, it passes within 1-2 days but needs treatment.
Seizures or Collapse
Seizures in dogs when using CBD can be a sign of toxins like THC or other serious health issues. Immediate veterinary attention is essential for diagnosing the cause and providing treatment. Similarly, a collapse or loss of consciousness in your dog when giving them CBD is an emergency.
We don’t yet have all the information on how safe CBD is for dogs, but studies to date have primarily indicated it is well tolerated, and side effects are rare. If you’re giving your dog CBD or thinking about it, consider the safety tips we provided. These include not mixing it with other medications, dosing in a careful and planned manner, sourcing products that are organic and 0% THC, staying clear of products with additives or artificial sweeteners, plus buying high-quality lab-tested offerings. Each of these factors will help to mitigate the risks of using CBD in your dog and the likelihood the product you give them contains THC or other contaminants. Constantly monitor for the common side effects of CBD in dogs, like behavioural changes or lethargy. If these worsen or display allergic reactions or toxicity symptoms, get your dog to the vet immediately. Your vet should also be the first point of call before trying CBD with your dog to help assess safety.