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Pet parents across the globe are keen to explore every avenue to ensure the health and wellbeing of their furry friends. As the acceptance of CBD for human use grows, so does the interest in its potential benefits for our canine companions.
But as with anything new, there are questions arising surrounding its use. Namely, can CBD make dogs more anxious?
The short answer is no, but this requires a bit of explanation.
What is CBD?
Derived from the hemp plant, CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound that has various therapeutic effects, ranging from pain relief to anxiety reduction. It has made its way into a variety of products, including oils, edibles, and topicals - not just for human consumption, but also for use in pets.
Evidence and early studies show promise for the ability of CBD to reduce anxiety in dogs. Yet, some pet parents have reported that CBD seems to make their dog more anxious, contrary to the calming effects one might expect.
The key point, and what we'll be exploring, is that there are different kinds of products all being marketed under the general name "CBD," but because of varying ingredients, they also have varying effects on the wellbeing of animals.
Remember, when it comes to your pet's health, no one-size-fits-all solution exists. It's always best to consult with a veterinarian to understand the full implications of any treatment or supplement you are considering.
Scientific Evidence: How CBD can Affect Anxiety in Dogs
For an evidence-based answer, we turn to a recent study published in the journal Psychopharmacology titled "Effects of THC/CBD on subjective anxiety and emotional Stroop task in healthy humans: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study" (Hutten, et al. 2022).
The study aimed to examine the effects of CBD, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and a combination of both on state anxiety. While the study was conducted on humans, the findings can provide some insights into how CBD might affect dogs, given the similarities in the endocannabinoid systems and CBD reactions of mammals.
The researchers found that both THC and a combination of THC and CBD increased self-rated state anxiety compared to a placebo. However, the anxiety induced by the combination of THC and CBD was significantly lower than that induced by THC alone. Interestingly—and most relevant to whether it can cause anxiety in dogs—CBD by itself did not significantly change anxiety ratings.
The study also found that the effects of the THC/CBD combination on anxiety were moderated by baseline state and trait anxiety. CBD completely counteracted THC-induced anxiety when baseline anxiety was low, partly counteracted it when baseline anxiety was medium, and did not counteract it when baseline anxiety was high. Similarly, CBD only counteracted THC-induced anxiety when trait anxiety was low.
The researchers concluded that a combination of THC and CBD might induce less self-rated state anxiety compared to THC-only cannabis in healthy volunteers, and that CBD by itself could not increase self-rated anxiety.
The science shows that CBD itself cannot increase anxiety in dogs, but CBD in combination with THC can increase anxiety in dogs. THC can be found in many 'CBD' products that are 'full spectrum'. The 'full' means that the product contains all of the cannabinoids extracted from hemp, including THC.
'Broad spectrum' products, on the other hand, contain all of the cannabinoids found in hemp except THC.
This means that while broad spectrum products cannot increase anxiety in dogs, full spectrum products containing THC certainly can increase a dog's anxiety levels.
A recent study showed that 4mg/kg given before stressful events (2x the high dose of Relievet CBD Oil for Dogs) decreased car ride and separation anxiety in 100% of participating dogs. The amount your dog will need may vary, and it’s best to only use a 4mg/kg dose once daily.
What Do Pet Parents Say?
A survey conducted by the Colorado State University asked over one thousand respondents what their experience was like using hemp based products for their dogs. The survey results were published in an article by The Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. The survey results showed that 643 out of 852 people who had purchased hemp based products for their dogs said they observed panic reactions as one of the side effects. That's more than 75% of dogs who experienced panic reactions as a result of hemp based products—but there's more than meets the eye.
The survey was conducted in late 2017, and there were very few—if any—products that used broad spectrum hemp extract, which does not contain detectable amounts of THC. The survey did not even ask whether the products used contained THC or not, since it was very unlikely that any of them did not.
Luckily, today, safer products exist that have all of the amazing benefits of CBD without any of the anxiety-inducing risk of THC; broad spectrum CBD products.
How Does CBD Work in a Dog's System?
The ECS (Endo-Cannabinoid System) is involved in a myriad of processes including mood regulation, immune response, sleep, and pain. It's comprised of endocannabinoids (naturally produced compounds similar to cannabinoids), receptors, and enzymes. The two key types of receptors are CB1, primarily located in the central nervous system (brain and nerves of the spinal cord), and CB2, found in peripheral organs and cells associated with the immune system.
CBD's exact mechanisms of action are not yet fully understood. But it is believed that CBD does not directly bind to these receptors like other cannabinoids do. Instead, it works by inhibiting the breakdown of the body's own endocannabinoids, thereby increasing their availability and enhancing their effects. This indirect action allows CBD to help regulate various physiological functions, from inflammation to anxiety, without directly intervening in the body's natural functions.
The way CBD impacts each individual dog can be influenced by various factors, including the dog's weight, dosage given, and the individual dog's health status. This complexity makes it challenging to predict exactly how CBD might affect a particular animal.
Understanding these fundamentals of how CBD works within your dog's body will help inform the discussion with your vet on whether it could potentially increase anxiety in certain situations.
Choosing the Right CBD for Dog Anxiety
The market is saturated with CBD products for pets, but not all are created equal.
Low-quality CBD products may contain contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, or solvents. They might also have inconsistent CBD concentrations or contain THC. Ingesting these contaminants or THC can lead to various adverse reactions, including increased anxiety.
Look for CBD products that are USDA Certified Organic, since that means the USDA has certified every step of their manufacturing process between the seeds in the ground and the product arriving on your doorstep. That way, you can know the product is free from contaminants, and that the manufacturer truly uses broad spectrum extract, rather than a combination of isolates which will not have the same effect.
It’s easy to find out if a product is USDA Certified Organic by looking up the company’s name in the USDA Organic Integrity Database. Any manufacturer making organic products will show up there.
Moreover, some products are labeled as 'hempseed oil' rather than CBD oil. While CBD is extracted from hemp, not all hempseed oils contain CBD. It's essential to read labels carefully, and to check the lab results for the product to verify the amount of CBD it contains.
Before buying a CBD product for your pet, research the manufacturer. Look for companies that use organic hemp extract, employ third-party testing for purity and potency, and are transparent about their production methods. Taking these measures will help ensure the safety and efficacy of the CBD oil you use for your dog.
Remember, when using CBD for your dog, it's important to consult with a knowledgeable veterinarian who can guide you on dosage and help you choose a high-quality CBD product. This can significantly influence whether CBD may alleviate or potentially exacerbate your dog's anxiety.