Hemp products and CBD oil for dogs: Everything you need to know
Published on 30 Sep 2021
Have you ever considered using hemp products or CBD oil for your dog? The last few years have seen a huge increase in interest in treating human medical conditions with cannabis-based products such as CBD oil. Additionally, there has been a large growth in the use of hemp for human food, human health and material production and manufacturing.
Hemp is an environmentally friendly crop with seemingly boundless potential, so it is unsurprising that it has opportunities for use for our canine companions as well. Using CBD oil for dogs, and hemp products for dog food and supplements, is an interesting topic and a developing field.
Cannabis has been valued by people for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, with the first recorded mention of its use in 2800BC in China. Starting around a hundred years ago, many countries began to actively prohibit and punish the production and use of cannabis plants. This has held back research, but in the last decade or so attitudes have changed significantly in favour of exploring the medicinal and other uses of cannabis, and there is now a great interest in evaluating the useful properties in these plants for both people and for dogs.
This article aims to explain the current knowledge about CBD oil and hemp for dogs, and what we know about possibilities for using them to enhance our dogs' wellbeing.
Remember, if you have any specific questions about your pet's health, or are considering medical treatments for them, it is always important to discuss these with your vet.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is an active ingredient derived from the hemp plant. Hemp is a variety of the plant cannabis sativa, the same as its more notorious cousin, marijuana. The difference between hemp and marijuana varieties is that hemp plants must have less than 0.3% THC content by weight when dried. THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, and this is the psychoactive chemical which causes the 'high' feeling when people consume marijuana.
Compounds found in cannabis plants are referred to as cannabinoids, and CBD and THC are the most well known of these. There have been over one hundred different cannabinoids identified, which bind to cannabinoid receptors in animal bodies. Additionally, several "endocannabinoids" have been discovered, which are cannabinoid substances produced naturally in the body.
CBD oil does not contain clinically significant amounts of THC and will not make you, or your dog, experience the symptoms of being "high". To be classified as CBD oil for therapeutic use in Australia, a product must contain 98% CBD and less than 2% other cannabinoids.
Likewise hemp seeds and hemp seed oil contains a negligible amount of THC which will not cause any noticeable effects in your pet. To be classified as hemp seed oil in Australia the oil must have less than 0.0075% CBD and less than 0.005% THC. Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil are a nutritious food source and a rich source of various nutrients including omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, linoleic acid and linolenic acid and proteins such as tryptophan and lysine.
How do CBD oil and hemp products affect dogs?
Cannabinoids interact with the cells in our bodies by binding to the cannabinoid receptors in our cells. Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body including on neurons in the brain and in the immune system.
The endocannabinoid system is an innate part of ours and our pets' bodies. The endocannabinoid system is involved in controlling and regulating various essential body functions including sleep, temperature control, learning and the brain adapting to change, eating, and inflammatory and immune responses. The endocannabinoid system helps the body to maintain homeostasis, which means the balance of the body systems.
When the endocannabinoid system is not operating optimally, it may be helpful to provide exogenous cannabinoids, such as those in hemp and CBD oil, to help the body return to homeostasis. Because the endocannabinoid system has effects over so many parts of the body, there are many conditions that cannabinoids can potentially benefit, including the treatment of anxiety, joint issues, pain and inflammation, and even epilepsy. There is a reasonable amount of research behind the use of CBD oil for some of these conditions in dogs, but as with most things in medicine there is scope for much further research.
CBD and hemp oil in dogs is best absorbed if given by mouth, and absorption is enhanced if it is given with a meal.
Potential Benefits of CBD and Hemp for Dogs
There is a growing interest in the use of CBD oil and hemp products in dogs. As these products are used more widely, the evidence base for their effects will grow. There are many veterinarians advocating for further clinical research into these substances. The following are some of the conditions where there may be potential benefits for using CBD oil and/or hemp products for dogs.
Anxiety is a huge problem for dogs, and can manifest in various different ways. Separation anxiety, storm and noise phobia, and anxiety in interactions with unfamiliar people and other dogs, are just come of the common problems in our dogs.
Anxiety can cause pets to become withdrawn, hyperactive, or destructive, and is often distressing for the owner as well as the pet. There is clinical evidence for CBD reducing anxiety in people but less research has been undertaken in dogs. Anecdotally CBD oil may reduce signs of anxiety such as whining, pacing and barking.
Hemp seeds are included as a component of various supplements which are aimed at improving canine anxiety such as Field Day Cool Calm & Collected. In this case the hemp protein is included for its tryptophan and vitamin E as there is evidence dietary supplementation of these compounds can improve anxiety.
Further research may help elucidate the effects of CBD oil and whole hemp products on canine behaviour and anxiety.
Arthritis or "degenerative joint disease" is an extremely common problem for our older pets. Like many conditions, it is best managed holistically, which can include a combination of approaches such as feed supplements, medications from your vet, and other therapies such as physiotherapy and hydrotherapy.
Nutritional supplements have been used successfully for arthritis for many years, many of them fish oil based. Such supplements often contain ingredients from a number of sources to combine more beneficial compounds and maximise their efficacy. Increasingly some of these supplements contain hemp seeds and hemp seed oil.
CBD oil has been shown to be beneficial for arthritic pain in a number of studies;
- Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs,
- Oral Transmucosal Cannabidiol Oil Formulation as Part of a Multimodal Analgesic Regimen and,
- A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of daily cannabidiol for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis pain.
This initial research is very promising as arthritis is such a big problem for our senior dogs.
As with arthritic pain, the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects of CBD are likely to be helpful for other painful conditions also. Such cases include palliative care of older pets or the management of pets with chronic pain. The use of CBD oil for dogs with acute or short term pain has not yet been thoroughly studied.
Medicinal CBD oil is increasingly accepted for use in people to help with control of epilepsy, and has been helpful for some particularly severe forms of epilepsy in children. Epilepsy is common in dogs, can be tricky to control, and can be highly distressing for dogs and their owners.
The most commonly used anti-seizure medication in dogs is over one hundred years old, and causes various side effects, so the search for better epilepsy medication is always on. Initial studies have shown reductions in seizures for epileptic dogs treated with CBD oil, and further research is ongoing.
Skin and coat
The nutritional profile of hemp seed with omega oils and other beneficial fatty acids and proteins, means that their incorporation into a dog's diet should potentially help improve the condition of the dog's skin and coat.
Possible Effects of CBD Oil/hemp products for Dogs
Any supplements or medications should be given to your dog in accordance with the label instructions. CBD and hemp products are generally considered to be very safe, however all animals react differently. The following side effects are some of those which have been reported for CBD oil (however some of them have been reported in people rather than dogs):
- Diarrhoea. According to CBD Vets Australia this is the commonest side effect seen in dogs on CBD oil.
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Decreased saliva production, which may increase thirst
- Decreased appetite
- Potentially transiently decreased blood pressure
- Sleepiness / drowsiness.
- Some dogs are very sensitive to fat of any kind, so dogs with a history of pancreatitis should be dosed with caution.
- CBD can potentially interact with other medications, so it is important your vet knows any medications your dog is taking
Many of these side effects are dose dependent, and have been reported for medically prescribed CBD oil, rather than hemp dietary supplements. For commercially formulated "over the counter" supplements you can give them to your dog at the appropriate dose, and monitor for any side effects.
Prescription medications such as CBD oil should always be given on your vet's advice. You should never give any medications prescribed for people to your dogs without explicit veterinary advice, and this is also true for herbal and 'natural' substances. Remember, if you do have any concerns about any aspect of your pet's health, you should discuss these with your vet.
Hemp products and CBD oil have great potential to be useful to our dogs' health and it will be fascinating to see the science develop as we gain greater knowledge in the years ahead.
Can dogs eat hemp seeds?
Yes, hemp seeds and hemp seed oil can be part of your dog's balanced diet. As with everything, moderation is key. Dogs are quite sensitive to fat so it is easiest to incorporate a supplement which contains hemp, an appropriately formulated hemp oil product or dog treats and follow the directions on how much to feed according to your dog's weight.
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