There’s a popular medicinal herb you can give your dog these days …
… and it’s called cannabis.
Dog owners are using it to help their pets with a wide range of ailments – from anxiety to arthritis to cancer.
Are dogs going to pot?
Not exactly. The cannabis dogs are taking is hemp, not marijuana.
For a long time, hemp was illegal in the US and other countries because it got lumped in with other forms of cannabis. Today, you can buy hempseed products in your local grocery store – not just soaps and lotions, but hempseed protein powders and drinks like hempseed milk.
But the hemp that has therapeutic benefits for your dog isn’t the kind lining the supermarket shelves.
We’re talking about whole herb cannabis.
So what’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?
Marijuana Vs Hemp
Marijuana and hemp both come from the plant Cannabis sativa (though marijuana also comes from another member of the Cannabis family, Cannabis indica).
The cannabis plant has over 60 chemicals called cannabinoids. The two main types of cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBDs are therapeutic cannabinoids, while THC is the cannabinoid that makes you high.
Marijuana’s THC content is usually between 10 and 15 percent; but hemp must have a THC content of 0.3 percent or less. At this level, cannabis has no intoxicating effect, for people or dogs.
Hemp is higher in CBD, the substance that provides the therapeutic effects.
How CBD Works
The cannabis plant contains a number of different chemicals, including CBD, phytocannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids. Humans and other mammals have specific cannabinoid receptor sites. These sites are primarily in the brain and central nervous system, and in peripheral organs, especially immune cells. They make up what’s called the endocannabinoid system.
Studies show that many cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory effects, and can help with pain, tumors, seizures, muscle spasms, skin conditions, appetite stimulation, aggression, anxiety and neurological disorders.
How CBD Hemp Can Help Your Dog
CBD hemp can help with both chronic and acute disease.
Among chronic conditions, it can help with arthritis, compromised immune systems, stress responses, aggression and digestive issues. There are also studies under way into CBD’s effects on Type 1 diabetes, organ diseases and cancer.
Veterinarians are also finding CBD hemp can be useful in treating acute ailments like sprains and strains, torn ligaments, bone breaks and even during post-operative care to reduce swelling, pain and stiffness.
If your dog’s taking conventional drugs for any of these conditions, CBD hemp may make it possible to use lower doses of the drugs to achieve therapeutic effects. Since conventional medicines do have side effects, this is a useful benefit of CBD.
Does It Work Fast?
As with any herbal medicine, for most ailments you may not see an immediate effect. You’ll need to be patient.
Your dog may feel some pain relief in a few hours but other symptoms like inflammation may take a few days to show improvement.
First of all, because of the low THC, CBD hemp won’t make your dog high.
The most common side effect of CBD is that your dog may get a little drowsy – about the same as if you gave him a Benadryl.
On rare occasions, side effects have included excessive itchiness or mild vomiting, but these sensitivities are few and far between. If your dog reacts with these symptoms, you should stop giving him cannabis.
If Your Dog Gets Into Marijuana
This article’s not about marijuana, but this is important information. With the legalization of marijuana in many places, poison control centers are hearing more and more about pets getting into their owners’ marijuana stash.
It may be hard to tell if your dog has the munchies (isn’t it a permanent condition in dogs?), but other side effects from marijuana can be quite severe, including lethargy, dilated pupils, drooling, being off balance, muscle twitching, vomiting, involuntary urination and even unconsciousness.
If this happens to your dog, take him to the vet immediately. He’ll need palliative support until the effects wear off.
Australian holistic veterinarian Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte says he’s been amazed at the success he’s had treating some dogs with cannabis. Here are a couple of cases he told us about.
- One is a senior Staffy who had a fast-growing tumor about 6 cm in diameter in her mammary gland. Chest x-rays showed there might be mestatasis. Dr Bassingthwaighte treated her with CBD oil and some other herbal medicines. The tumor shrank away to nothing over three months and she’s still going strong six months later, with no recurrence. She’d had multiple tumors surgically removed over the years, but it was the CBD oil that really helped her.
- The other case is a little old Jack Russell with a severe heart murmur and painful arthritis. He received a whole plant extract containing CBD and in this case also some THC, diluted in 10 ml of cold pressed hemp seed oil. After a month of this medicine he was much happier and more active, wanting to go for long walks, and his heart murmur was much less severe. Dr Bassingthwaighte says “I simply can’t explain the improved heart murmur. They normally don’t get better.”
Dr Bassingthwaighte suggests working with your holistic vet if you think cannabis would help your dog – it’s powerful medicine so at least let your vet know what you’re doing
Where To Buy CBD Hemp For Your Dog
The safest way to use CBD for your dog is to use a product that’s formulated for pets. There are several companies producing CBD hemp for dogs. Some of these are in oil or tincture form, while others actually make treats with CBD.
Here are some reputable suppliers of CBD products for dogs.
We asked herbalist Rita Hogan for her advice on dosing CBD oils.
Every dog is different. Rita recommends starting with a low dose and working up to the recommended level so that your dog gets the right dose for his individual needs.
Caution: The dosing advice below is for commercially produced CBD oil for dogs, not for homemade tinctures.
Rita recommends starting with 1 drop of CBD oil per 10 lbs of your dog’s body weight per day. Give this dose for about a week, then move up to 1 drop per 10 lbs of body weight twice per day.
Some companies sell their CBD in capsules. In this case, start with a quarter of the recommended dose and increase gradually until you see the benefits (again, without side effects).
As long as there are no side effects, you can increase the dose every 4 to 5 days until you see the therapeutic benefits.
Be sure to observe your dog’s response. The key is to find a dose where you don’t see side effects but you do see results. With continued use, you may need to increase the dose a little over time to achieve the therapeutic results.
If you prefer to buy the CBD treats offered by some companies, start with a quarter cookie and work up gradually from there. Don’t exceed the manufacturer’s maximum recommended dose for your dog’s size
Caution: make sure you store the treats where your pets can’t get into them, and make sure others don’t hand them out as they would regular treats!
You can use CBD hemp safely and effectively (as well as legally) to treat many canine health issues. And it won’t get your dog high!
Julia Henriques is Managing Editor of Dogs Naturally Magazine. A former international banker, she lives in Chicago with her partner Marc and two rescue Samoyeds. She volunteers on the board of Playing Again Sams (Wisconsin Samoyed Rescue).