Getting started with CBD for dogs.
You’ve heard all about how CBD can help your dog live a healthier, happier, and calmer life and now you are ready to give it a go… but, you may be a bit confused and overwhelmed by all the information out there about CBD for dogs.
Don’t worry, I got you. My name is Garrick Cline and I am the owner of Mellow Mammals. We are a pet-focused CBD brand that has been leading the way since 2018. I live and breathe this stuff and will try my best to break down the overcomplicated world of using CBD for dogs, so you have a thorough understanding and can make an informed decision for your pup.
Let’s get started…
Talk with your veterinarian first.
The first step on the CBD journey for your dog should be to talk with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian has your dog's best interest in mind and only wants what’s best for them. They will base their professional recommendations on any examinations and test results they gather, as well as, have a thorough conversation with you as the pet parent. Be as open and honest with them as you can be so they can truly understand your particular concerns, questions, and plans. During this meeting, bring up using CBD for your dog.
Many veterinarians will be unfamiliar with CBD use for dogs, so don’t be surprised if yours is not very educated about it. CBD exploded on the scene a few years ago, but the research side has not had the time to keep up with the demand side. Also, because the FDA has not declared it a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) ingredient or decided on how or if it can be used, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) will not allow veterinarians to recommend it to their patients, as of the time of this article.
This is all the more reason to talk with your veterinarian about using CBD for dogs!
The more patients that ask about using CBD for their dogs, the more reasons veterinarians will have to learn all they can about using CBD with other dogs. Once they take it upon themselves to learn all they can about using CBD for animal health, they will learn how a high-quality CBD product from a reputable company can indeed help an animal live a healthier, happier, and calmer life in a more natural way than prescription medications will tend to offer. Then they will start to put pressure on the AVMA which will, in turn, put pressure on congress and the FDA to make the proper changes to the industry and allow CBD to be recommended as a viable solution for their patients. This will lead to many more discoveries and much more research in the CBD pet space.
You’re probably asking, “Garrick, I don’t know about CBD for dogs… how am I going to talk to my veterinarian about it if they don’t know about it either?”
That’s a great question! Let’s get you up to snuff on the basics first.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in the cannabis sativa plant. It is one of over 104 known cannabinoids that are present in the cannabis plant. CBD is considered a major cannabinoid just like delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) because both are so prevalent in the plant.
THC is the compound that is known to produce a “high” and is the only cannabinoid that does this. CBD is psychoactive because it affects the brain but is not intoxicating and will not produce a high. CBD tends to counteract the effects of THC.
CBD can be derived from cannabis or hemp, a cousin plant to cannabis. Hemp is defined as the cannabis sativa plant with less than 0.3% THC content by dry weight, (this definition is from the 2018 farm bill language). Any legal CBD product that is purchased online or in a store was more than likely derived from hemp.
CBD indirectly modulates an internal bodily system that can regulate physiological functions such as coordination, mobility, discomfort, appetite, mood, and other emotions. CBD can do this because it is chemically similar to a compound that is already naturally produced by the body.
How is this possible, you ask… Well, let me throw some more knowledge your way.
How does CBD work?
All mammals have a system in their bodies called the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system (EOS) was first discovered in the ’90s when a team of scientists was researching the effects THC has on the brain and they found a receptor that THC directly binds to. They called that receptor the CB1 receptor. Later, they found another receptor in the body and named that one the CB2 receptor. It was first thought that CBD would directly bind to the CB2 receptor, but it was later discovered it does not. The actual pathway for CBD to affect the EOS is still under investigation as of this writing.
Now that they discovered more than one receptor that worked in tandem and created a system, the researchers called it the endocannabinoid system. Over the years, researchers have discovered so much more about the purpose of the EOS and why phytocannabinoids from the hemp plant interact with it.
Right now you may be thinking, “Why do we have this system in the first place?”
Well, the discovery of the EOS is arguably one of the most important medical discoveries ever, because the function of the EOS is to maintain homeostasis within all other bodily systems! In other words, you can think of the EOS as the operating system for the body. The CB1 receptors are mainly located in the brain and central nervous system and the CB2 receptors are located everywhere else. This system is throughout the body, from the skin to the bones and everything in between, there are cannabinoid receptors everywhere.
This is because our bodies are under constant attack and must continually adjust to maintain high-functioning internal systems and protect themselves from harm. The environment, temperature, air quality, viruses, bacteria, illness, injury, level of physical activity, nutritional intake… all of these and even more factors play a role in how the body's various systems perform and how healthy the body can be. The EOS maintains these systems and adjusts things up or down when needed to maintain a sense of balance or homeostasis.
Ok cool. This system is pretty important… but, how does CBD factor in?
I’m glad you asked! Those same researchers that discovered the EOS looked at why THC and CBD interacted with this system and discovered something amazing!
The body naturally produces cannabinoids. Pretty cool, right?!? The body produces an endocannabinoid called Anandamide that binds to the CB1 receptor and an endocannabinoid called 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) that binds to the CB2 receptor. The interesting thing is that THC is chemically similar to Anandamide and CBD is chemically similar to 2-AG and that’s why these phytocannabinoids can interact with the EOS and why adding CBD can be so beneficial.
CBD can help supplement the EOS and therefore help the body maintain homeostasis. But, because sometimes there can be deficiencies in the EOS that can throw things all out of whack in the body, it’s thought that supplementing with CBD can keep things running smoother for your pup.
So, the million dollar question…
Can CBD Make My Dog Feel Better?
The short answer is, yes. The more accurate and complicated answer is... maybe.
Dogs, just like people, are complicated and no two are exactly alike. This will play a role in the effectiveness of CBD use for your particular dog and how much CBD to give your dog... It is complicated and can take a little patience and time to work through.
You see, CBD works with the body and because each body is different, the effects can be different, or nonexistent. A dog’s weight, level of exercise, diet, environment, metabolism, and temperament can all play a role in the effectiveness of CBD. This is because CBD is not a medication and does not work in the same manner as a prescription drug will.
As we discussed earlier, CBD works to help an existing system in the body, the EOS and is not masking symptoms as a medication can do, its efficacy is a bit more of a challenge to quantify and it can work differently with different dogs.
Let’s say you’re wanting to use CBD to calm your dog down during thunderstorms, fireworks, or family gatherings… all very common reasons to use CBD for dogs. Several factors can play a role in the efficacy of CBD for your dog in these situations. For example, some dog breeds are naturally skittish and their “normal” or balance point may be a bit higher than other dogs. Because CBD is not a medication and will not override the EOS, but rather help it balance, this type of dog may not experience a huge calming sensation after taking CBD.
This is the case for our dog, Buddy. He’s the reason we started Mellow Mammals and is now our Chief Tasting Officer, but he would make a terrible brand representative! We, as his pet parents, know him and his quirks… so, we can tell a difference when he is taking CBD versus when he’s not, whereas someone that doesn’t know him may not think CBD works at all with him.
This is important to know and understand and good luck finding a CBD brand that will tell you this… but, CBD does not always work.
How effective is CBD?
Many factors go into the effectiveness of a CBD product for dogs and some are beyond the scope of this article… I am long-winded enough. But, you need to understand that CBD for dogs will take some work, patience, and dedication on your part for your dog to experience the most success.
The actual CBD product you get could play a role… for example, an oil tincture that is applied directly in the mouth of your dog will absorb much faster than a treat that has to process through the digestive system before being introduced into the bloodstream by the liver. So, CBD oil will work faster than a CBD treat, but the CBD treat will last longer than the CBD oil will. Typically, CBD oil is the way to go though, because it provides you with a way to control the exact amount of CBD you are giving your dog. A CBD treat may have inconsistencies in the amount of CBD per treat and that can be an unreliable dosing mechanism for your dog, resulting in inconsistent results.
The type of CBD product can also make a difference for your dog. CBD products can be created with or without THC in them. A CBD product that contains THC is called a “full-spectrum” product, and one that does not contain THC can be called an “isolate” or “broad-spectrum” product. It is our stance that you should avoid full-spectrum products for pets because dogs especially are highly sensitive to the effects of THC. THC poisoning is the leading call reason for animal poison control. Even a small amount of THC can harm your dog, so… we remove it from all of our products just to be extra cautious.
What is in the CBD product can make a HUGE difference in the effectiveness and SAFETY of the CBD product for your dog. There are certain ingredients, terpenes, and sweeteners that are safe for a human but could be bad for a dog. Sweeteners such as xylitol and terpenes like linalool can be dangerous for your dog if ingested. Reading the product label is a must for any pet parent wanting to use CBD for their dog. This has become a real problem in the CBD space because every human CBD brand on the market also sells products for dogs… usually, this means they take a human product and slap a new label on it for pets. This can lead to potentially harmful CBD pet products being sold and used and that is bad for your dog, you, and the CBD market.
Many other factors can play a role in the effectiveness of a CBD product… things like your dog’s weight, metabolism, level of exercise, diet, age, and home environment can all affect how well CBD works for your pup. But, probably the most important factor is how much CBD your dog gets.
The dosing recommendations can play a big role in how effective a CBD product is. Most brands will have simple, but general dosing information on the product label, and most of the time, these are wrong.
Wait… what do you mean, they are wrong?!?
Perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic, I have been accused of that in the past... But, a general dosing guideline is never going to be as accurate as using a formula and a diary and taking your time to get it right.
How do I know how much CBD to give my dog?
Determining the proper amount of CBD for your particular dog can be a bit of a hassle, but it is worth the time and energy to get it right. If for no other reason than the fact that CBD products are not cheap and using more CBD than is needed will only mean you are purchasing more CBD before you needed to and wasting money.
There are other problems with giving your dog more CBD than they need besides wasting money… Too much CBD can lead to side effects and can keep the product from working well. The idea that more is better doesn’t apply to CBD because it works on a bell curve in the body. As we discussed earlier, CBD helps the EOS maintain balance. So, any added CBD ingested after that balance point has been achieved is just product wasted.
We recommend starting with a particular amount and sticking with it for a few doses, then adjusting by a set amount until the desired results are achieved or side effects become noticeable. (Our recommended starting dose is 0.2mg per pound of body weight.)
Here’s how to determine your dog’s starting dose:
Start by multiplying your dog’s weight by 0.2. This number will be your dog’s starting dose of CBD for your dog. Now you know how much to give your dog and we recommend you stay with that dose for a day or two and see how your dog responds. If you feel like your dog needs more CBD, you can adjust the dose by a set amount each time until you determine your dog’s ideal dose.
This is a good method and allows you to find the ideal amount for your dog so that you will not be wasting the CBD product or wasting your money. We recommend using a diary to keep track of the amount of CBD, what time you give it, the effects noticed and any adjustments made. Our brand created a dosing card that helps with this.
What can CBD help with?
CBD is being researched to potentially help with a wide range of issues that your dog may be dealing with. Some pet parents use CBD to help calm their dog, ease anxiety, help with seizures, help with joint pain and inflammation, allergy symptoms, and much more. I am not a medical professional nor a researcher and I am making no claim that CBD can help with any of these situations, CBD has not been shown to cure or prevent any disease in dogs as of this writing. What I am saying is that pet parents say these are the reasons they are trying CBD for dogs.
Again, we advise you to talk with your veterinarian about why you want to use CBD for your dog and what you are expecting as a result. Having them in the loop will give them data and allow them to monitor for any potential side effects.
Are there side effects?
Why, yes… there are some you need to be aware of. Unlike most medications that have a laundry list of potential side effects, CBD is relatively safe to use. However, there are things to watch out for when using CBD for dogs.
The most important thing to know about using CBD for dogs is that CBD will affect how the liver processes other medications. CBD uses the same pathways as other medications in the liver and will alter how effective they are. This is not always a bad thing though… sometimes, CBD can make a medication work better, so the dose would need to be adjusted down. Other times, CBD can make a medication less effective and the dose would need to be adjusted accordingly. This is another reason to keep your veterinarian in the loop, so they can monitor these types of things.
Other side effects may include drowsiness, lethargy, dry mouth, loose stools, diarrhea, increased appetite, and a possible increase in liver enzymes. When you notice any of these side effects, either your dose is too high or your dog is very sensitive or allergic to CBD. If you think it is the dosage, you can back it off a little and see if the side effects go away.
The good thing about CBD is that side effects tend to go away upon stopping CBD use for dogs. So, long-term side effects are not a thing with CBD use or are not known at this time.
At this point, you may feel a little overwhelmed and concerned about using CBD for dogs… that’s completely understandable. It is a lot to take in… and this article only touches on the surface of most of this stuff!
But, fear not little camper… here are some things for you to do to make sure you are getting the best possible products for your pooch.
How do I know the CBD product is safe?
There are some things that you can do and check on to ensure that the CBD product that you chose for your dog is safe and top quality.
- Do not buy on Amazon, eBay, or from a convenience store. CBD cannot be legally sold on Amazon or eBay, so most of these products will have no CBD in them at all and the ones that do may come from China. As for the convenience store… they buy cheap products. You do not want to use cheap CBD.
- Make sure it is made from organically grown hemp from the United States. Hemp that is grown outside of the United States will not have the regulatory compliance that hemp grown here will have. You want CBD products that are derived from organically grown hemp because the hemp plant is a bio-accumulator. This means it absorbs toxins, heavy metals, and pesticides from the planted soil. You do not want any of these ending up in your dog’s CBD products!
- Always look for the test results! A reputable CBD brand will test all of its products at a third-party laboratory to prove safety and efficacy and will make these results easy for you to find. If you have to hunt around a brand's website or email them for the test results, keep looking for a better CBD brand. Also, make sure the brand tests for more than just potency. You want to see that the CBD brand is testing for heavy metals, pesticides, mycotoxins, potency, and terpene profile so you know that the product is safe for your dog to consume. (A dirty secret of the CBD space is that most brands only test for potency. Mellow Mammals completes full-panel testing at a DEA-certified, independent laboratory on every new batch of products created.)
- Look for a QR code on the product label. If the product doesn’t have a QR code on the label that will take you directly to the test results page for that product… then, keep looking. This is a must-have on a product label to show that safety is important to the brand and to prove to the consumer that the product has been tested and is safe for their dog to consume.
- Go to the brand's social media pages. Do a little research on the brand you are thinking about using for your dog. What message are they putting out there? They do not have to be super active, we are a small brand and do not have the team to be as active as we would like to be… But, you should be able to get a “feel” for what they stand for. Are they all about the next sale or are they more interested in providing information to you?
- If the brand is making bold health claims, move on. The FDA has made a clear stance that CBD brands are not to be making health claims about CBD. This does not stop some brands from making serious health claims that could lead dog parents down the wrong path. If a brand is saying that CBD can cure anything… they are more interested in taking your money and cutting corners to do it. They are in it for the profits and will put out a shabby product as well. (This is another reason to avoid Amazon and eBay.)
- Make sure the brand is pet focused. As was discussed earlier, almost every brand out there will sell a product for pets… but, it is most likely a human product with a different label slapped on. Make sure you are dealing with a brand that has your dog’s best interest in mind… not their profit margin. This was important to us when we launched Mellow Mammals. We are “pets before profits” and look for every opportunity to walk that walk.
- Do not shop on price! Cheap CBD will mean corners are being cut in the production and testing process. This means safety and efficacy concerns for the products and health concerns for your dog. Organic farming, proper extraction, and full-panel testing are all expensive… if a product is vastly cheaper than others, there is a reason. CBD extract from China, no product testing, and shabby extraction resulting in poor quality CBD… are just a few of the potential hazards of a cheap product. A high-quality product will cost more, but the brand should be able to back up the higher prices with full-panel testing, high-quality ingredients, and top-of-the-line packaging.
Research is your friend when it comes to finding a reputable CBD brand for your dog. Take your time and do not fall for the marketing BS that is out there. Call and talk to someone with the brand you are thinking about using. Ask them questions and challenge them a little. You will know very quickly where their hearts are at.
CBD for dogs can be a little confusing, but can also provide your pooch with a better quality of life. I know I threw a lot at you with this article… but, hopefully, you found some value and are now a little more educated about CBD use for dogs.
Should you have comments, or questions or just want to chat… reach out to me at email@example.com. When you get a chance, check out our products on the world wide web at www.mellowmammals.com. I am also a co-host for a CBD podcast called CBDMythbusters, so check us out wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
Thank you for reading and remember, “the world has enough bad in it… let’s be the good.”
Garrick Cline - Founder