CBD Oil For Arthritis Relief in Dogs: Studies, Legality, and What to Consider Before Purchasing

My sweet Lily is 11 years old, and she will be 12 in only three months. She suffers from arthritis in her back legs as well as in her front paws. This, coupled with her age, makes it seem only natural that she has slowed down. However, she lags behind on walks whereas her biological sister charges ahead. I can’t explain why Roxy is in better health than Lily despite the fact that Roxy wasn’t even getting routine exercise before we adopted her. But, Roxy is still quite lively. She wants to play fetch 24/7, and even though she falls sometimes when she plays, she gets right back up, none the worse for wear. She gets to eat more food than Lily because she keeps her weight off better. Roxy has arthritis, too, but perhaps it isn’t as severe as Lily’s. Regardless, I would love to see Lily regain that pep in her step. I would love to see her able to keep up on walks. I can only assume that Lily walks so slow because her arthritis makes even low-impact exercise hard on her. She is currently on a couple supplements (Dasuquin and fish oil) and also gets two different types of medication (carprofen and gabapentin) to help reduce pain and inflammation. But it just doesn’t seem like enough. That’s why I’ve decided to look into CBD oil. I have heard that it can help with arthritis pain, and one of our family friends tried it with her senior dog and said her dog’s behavior was like night and day. Her dog went from being lethargic with no appetite to hungry and energetic. Online reviews for CBD pet products relate similar positive experiences. So, I must say, I am quite interested in what CBD oil could potentially do for Lily. However, before I purchase any product I’m unfamiliar with, I like to learn more about it so I can feel confident when giving it to my dogs. Since I’m putting in the effort to research this anyway, I figured I would share it in an article for anyone else who may be curious about using CBD oil to manage arthritis pain in dogs.

CBD Oil and Canine Arthritis

In July 2018, a study was released that looked at the safety and efficacy of CBD oil as a treatment for canine osteoarthritis. Sixteen dogs completed a four-week trial during which they were given 2 mg of CBD oil per kg of body weight every 12 hours. A veterinarian examined the dogs before the trial, after two weeks of the trial, and at the end of the trial. Pain scores were decreased at both the two week and four week examinations as compared to the initial examination. Researchers found that CBD oil had a half life, with its effects lasting only about four to five hours. These results suggested that a dosage of 2 mg per kg of body weight would be most effective if given twice per day. No side effects were observed by the dogs’ owners throughout the course of the trial.

A study released this past March is also showing promising results. Thirty-two dogs suffering from arthritis pain were given CBD oil for a period of 90 days. Thirty of them showed improvements in pain support by the end of the 90 days. Twenty-three of these dogs were taking a drug called gabapentin, which is meant to help reduce pain; of these, 10 were able to quit the drug entirely, and 11 were able to reduce their dosage. In this study, the dose of CBD oil given was slowly increased in order to provide maximum efficacy without causing sedation (which is stated to be the most common side effect). By the end of the trial, most dogs needed a dose between 1-2mg per kg of body weight, though overall, dosage varied by individual, with some dogs benefiting from doses as low as 0.3 mg/kg and others requiring doses as high as 4.12 mg/kg. These findings suggest that determining dosage will require careful observation of the individual’s response to CBD oil.

The results from these studies are certainly promising, but in the scientific world, they still aren’t enough to draw reliable conclusions. Not only were the test groups relatively small, but both studies pointed out potential flaws in their methods (such as the March 2020 study not having a control group) and both indicate a need for further research. Still, these studies are invaluable considering the growing popularity of CBD products; scores of people are already using CBD for their pets and themselves.

The Legality of CBD Oil

Because of the somewhat controversial nature of the cannabis plant, there have not been many studies performed on how CBD oil might positively affect dogs until recently. This is because hemp was considered a Schedule I drug until the Agriculture and Improvement Act of 2018 removed it from Schedule I status. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a Schedule I drug has “. . . no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.” Seeing as CBD oil contains less than 0.3% THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets people high, it arguably does not belong in the Schedule I category. It is a good thing it has been removed, especially because it may provide health benefits for both animals and people. Thanks to the Agriculture and Improvement Act of 2018, it is now much easier for researchers to study CBD oil and determine how we might use this substance in veterinary medicine.

However, the legality of selling CBD oil is still a bit murky. Based on FDA regulations, it is illegal to sell CBD oil as a dietary supplement. It is also illegal for it to be sold in a food product, including those meant for animals. While many believe in its potential health benefits, CBD is not permitted for medical use outside of a few FDA approved prescription drugs. Currently, the FDA has not approved the use of cannabis in in any pet products, including those that don’t contain THC or CBD, such as hemp seed oil. In fact, they even caution against buying cannabis products marketed for pets. However, many companies are still manufacturing and selling CBD oils and edibles for pets.

Despite it being illegal to sell CBD oil as a dietary supplement, food product, or medication, it is legal to buy CBD oil in many states, according to PBS. You will have to do research on your own state to learn more about the laws affecting CBD products, but the danger of prosecution on an individual level is low.

How to Choose a CBD Product for Your Pet

Despite the fact that there isn’t a lot of scientific research available regarding CBD products for dogs, there is a hell of a lot of “anecdotal evidence,” which is to say, many people have tried it and reported positive results. Because of this, CBD’s popularity continues to rise, and others are becoming more and more interested in trying it, regardless of the lack of research.

Ask Questions

But it’s still important to take care when choosing CBD products. As responsible pet owners, we should take the time to find out more about the products we are interested in. Here are some questions you should be asking when researching products:

  • Where is the product and its ingredients coming from?
  • What safety measures are in place at the manufacturing facilities?
  • Is the manufacturer employing third party testing to prove any claims made about the product (such as CBD concentration and the absence of toxins)?
    • Are these analyses available for the public to view? (They should be.)

Check Ingredients

Some CBD products made for human use can also be safely used on your pet. However, you’ll want to check the ingredient list first. Google anything you don’t recognize to see if it is safe for your dog. CBD products that have artificial flavoring are less likely to be the best option for your pet, especially when the label isn’t specific and just lists “natural and artificial flavors.” For products marketed toward dogs, flavoring is (obviously) less of a concern since it was chosen with dogs in mind.

Strength

When shopping for CBD oil, you may notice that they have measurements printed clearly on the front, most commonly 300 mg, 600 mg, up to 2000 mg. What this is referring to is the strength of the product; a bottle that says 300 mg means it has, in total, 300 mg of active cannabinoids within; in one full dropper (1 mL), you would be getting 10 mg of active cannabinoids.

So how do you choose which strength is right for your dog? Unfortunately, figuring that out seems to be a matter of trial and error since research hasn’t come to a conclusion on that yet. The 2020 study I referenced earlier used CBD oil at a strength of 1,000 mg and did not find any side effects. However, the 2018 study used a CBD oil that offered 10mg of active cannabinoids per mL, which translates to 300 mg strength. Personally, I would start small with the strength, see how my dog reacts, and move to a higher strength if I’m not satisfied with the results.

Dosage

Most CBD oil products will list a recommended dosage. However, if you’re buying a product marketed for humans, the dosage may not be the same as what you’d see on a product meant for dogs. At the same time, it seems that the guidelines for dosage are just that: guidelines. What the earlier studies suggested is that dosage will depend on how your dog reacts. However, they did state that most dogs seemed to benefit from about 1-2mg of CBD per kg of body weight.

So, Lily weighs about 75lbs, which is equal to 34kg. If we multiply 34kg by two, we get 68mg. In a bottle of 1000mg strength, one 30mL serving offers about 33mg of CBD. This means Lily would need to get two 30mL servings (60mL). However, it’s important to remember that the studies mentioned that dosage could vary by individual. Some dogs needed up to about 4mg per kg of body weight (so multiply our final answer for Lily by two!) whereas others needed as little as 0.3mg/kg. Therefore, it seems best to start small. Give your dog little bit of the oil on their food and see what happens; increase the dose until you see the results you’re looking for.

A note about purchasing on Amazon

Amazon prohibits the sale of CBD oil. However, sellers are still doing it. The Washington Post bought and tested 13 bottles of product marketed as hemp seed oil, and 11 of them tested positive for CBD. Hemp seed oil is fundamentally different from CBD oil, and is not supposed to contain any CBD at all. It is problematic for sellers to be selling CBD products under this guise because it means that as a buyer, you don’t really know what you’re getting. Therefore, Amazon is probably not the best place to get CDB oil. However, if you still want to purchase CBD oil from Amazon, I would recommend visiting manufacturer websites for the specific products you are interested in. This way, you may be able to find out which have CBD in them and which do not, as well as gain insight into whether or not the manufacturer is trustworthy.

Should You Use CBD Oil for Your Dog?

According to “Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine: Cannabinoid Therapies for Animals,” CBD oil has a number of uses, including “. . .the reduction of anxiety; relief of pain; improvement of mobility in animals with osteoarthritis; reduction in tumor size; improved appetite; improved control of type 2 diabetes, inflammatory conditions, and digestive issues; and improved control of epileptic seizures” (Hartsel et al 122). This article would never end if I were to research every single use of CBD oil, but I still wanted to mention somewhere that arthritis isn’t the only health issue you can treat with it. So far, the research on CBD oil’s efficacy in treating arthritis looks pretty promising: the majority of dogs in both studies experienced a reduction in pain. However, the lack of research done on CBD oil means that we can’t be 100% certain about any long term effects of usage. So, there is some amount of risk in using CBD products on our pets. You can certainly talk to your veterinarian about CBD oil, but a 2019 study showed that only 45.5% of veterinarians feel comfortable discussing the subject with their clients. The last time I asked my vet about CBD oil, he told me that he was not even allowed to discuss it with me due to legality issues. Though CBD is no longer a Schedule I drug, the confusing laws and small pool of research surrounding it may deter veterinarians from considering it as a viable treatment option for pets. In the end, it’s up to you to decide if trying CBD oil is a good choice for your dog.

Sources

Drug Scheduling.United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD).U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Gamble, Lauri-Jo et al. “Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs.Frontiers in Veterinary Science, vol. 5, no. 165, 28 July 2018.

Greene, Jay. “Amazon prohibits CBD sales, but it’s still easy to buy on the site.The Washington Post, 19 Dec. 2019.

Hartsel, Joshua A. et al. “Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine: Cannabinoid Therapies for Animals.Neutraceuticals in Veterinary Medicine, pp. 121-55.

Is CBD legal? Here’s what you need to know, according to science.PBS News Hour, 12 July 2019.

Kogan, Lori et al. “The Use of Cannabidiol-Rich Hemp Oil Extract to Treat Canine Osteoarthritis-Related Pain: A Pilot Study.American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Journal, vol. 58, Mar. 2020.

—–. “US Veterinarians’ Knowledge, Experience, and Perception Regarding the Use of Cannabidiol for Canine Medical Conditions.Frontiers in Veterinary Science, vol. 5, no. 338, 10 Jan. 2019.

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