CBD seems to be everywhere these days.
The floodgates were opened in 2018 when Congress passed the so-called “Farm Bill” that legalized some forms of CBD – the ones produced from hemp (and not marijuana plants) and which contain no more than 0.3% THC (the psychoactive component of pot).
So CBD stores have now popped up in seemingly every town and neighborhood, not to mention those ubiquitous online ads. CBD products are available at supermarkets, drug stores, and gas stations. They’re even sold by many veterinarians.
Vets? Why would vets sell CBD? Because the substance can be an effective treatment for a wide range of canine ailments ranging from pain and anxiety to epilepsy and cancer.
There’s a big difference, though, between CBD and the medications that your dog’s doctor might prescribe. The Federal Drug Administration approves and monitors all drugs given to animals, but there’s virtually no regulation or oversight of CBD products at any level.
In fact, the crazy patchwork of state and federal laws related to CBD makes it nearly impossible to know exactly what you – and your pet – are getting when you purchase CBD oil, gummies or tinctures.
When purchasing CBD, the best way to protect your best friend is to follow a three-step process.
- Consult with your dog’s veterinarian to make sure CBD is a suitable treatment.
- Only purchase from trusted producers and vendors.
- Seek out trustworthy sources and authorities which fully review and evaluate CBD products.
We’re here to help with that final step. Here are the best CBD oils you can give your furry companions.
The Best CBD Oils for Dogs in 2020: Our Top Picks
1. Royal CBD
Consider the products generally sold at your local CBD store or vet’s office. Now, imagine the exact opposite – and you’ll have a picture of the high-quality oils, gummies and other capsules and cream that Royal CBD offers. These aren’t off-brand or generic products; they’re not low-quality CBD or oil imported from China. Royal CBD produces its own ultra-premium CBD products, and while they’re somewhat more expensive than the no-name stuff sold at stores down the street, they’re the real deal.
Royal grows its own organic hemp in Colorado using ethical farming practices, using a strain bred for maximum CBD levels. They produce full-spectrum CBD to maximize the entourage effect (but always with less than 0.3% THC content) that’s extracted with supercritical CO2, blended with MCT carrier oil, and tested by a third-party before sale. That’s just about everything you could ask for in a top-quality CBD oil. It has no flavorings, so you’re free to easily mix it with your dog’s favorite food.
Royal CBD has a strong reputation for products aimed at the human market, but the company also offers three high-quality formula strengths for dogs: 125mg, 250mg, and 500mg, which contain approximately 4.2mg/ml, 8.5mg/ml and 17mg/ml of CBD, respectively. Dosing can be a bit complicated until you get used to it, and we have some guidelines in our buying guide below. Consulting your vet first, though, might be the best idea.
This is the best canine CBD on the market.
2. Gold Bee
There’s good news and bad news about Gold Bee CBD. Here’s the good news: it’s almost as good as Royal CBD, prepared as an artisan product in small batches. It’s organic, ethically-sourced from California and Colorado hemp, supercritical CO2-extracted, and full-spectrum (with less than 0.3% THC) for a complete entourage effect. The CBD is third-party tested, bottled, inspected, and shipped from the same facility where it’s extracted. Gold Bee makes an unquestionably high-end product.
Now, here’s the bad news: it’s usually very difficult to find. Since this unflavored CBD oil is manufactured in small, individual batches, it sells out quickly and Gold Bee doesn’t yet have the capacity to produce it in large enough quantities to meet the demand. Their lowest potency option is 250mg, which may be too high a concentration (8.5mg/ml) for small pets, but the 250mg and higher potency products should be fine for larger ones. It’s an excellent product if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on it.
3. Nuleaf Naturals
Nuleaf Naturals is one of the CBD providers with a specific product labeled for “pets.” To be honest, we can’t see anything that distinguishes the pet CBD from their other offerings; in fact, they say this product is “great for your human, too!” It’s sold in 240mg, 725mg, and 1450mg potencies, and we don’t think many vets would recommend the highest level’s 30mg/ml content for a normal dog.
This is pretty good stuff, though. It’s 100% organic full-spectrum hemp oil with less than 0.3% THC, CO2 extracted and grown without pesticides or chemicals on farms in Colorado. The product has been third-party tested and the analysis is easily available online before you order.
Nuleaf Naturals CBD isn’t quite as good as our two top-ranked products, and it’s quite expensive, but we wouldn’t hesitate to give it to our dogs.
The best choice for pet owners on a budget, CBDistillery also offers a product labeled for pet use. Its lower price is due to several important factors. First, this oil is produced from hemp plant parts like stalks, stems, seeds and leaves, not the whole plant that’s used by Royal, Gold Bee, and Nuleaf. Second, it’s extracted from the plant parts by cold pressing rather than CO2 extraction, which is fine – it’s just not going to produce an end product that’s quite as high-quality as is created with CO2 extraction.
On the bright side, the CBDistillery pet oil is full-spectrum oil. However, while it’s said to contain less than 0.3% THC, the third-party lab analysis we saw online showed that it was just a touch over 0.3%. We believe the “for pets” designation is because this CBD oil is sold in just two lower-level strengths, 150mg and 600mg. By contrast, the “human” version (which seems to be the same in every other way) is sold in strengths up to 5000mg.
You get what you pay for, so this CBD isn’t at the same level as our first three choices. For the price, though it’s a perfectly acceptable option – particularly if you’re giving your dog CBD for general wellness and minor pain, rather than to treat a more serious illness.
5. Medterra CBD
Medterra not only sells CBD oil for pets, but CBD pet chews as well. The oil is priced in the same approximate range as the CBDistillery oil but is a whole-plant product created via CO2 extraction. The reason it’s priced lower is that it’s a CBD isolate, meaning that all of the THC, and all of the cannabinoids and other substances that would otherwise contribute to an entourage effect, are missing.
There are definitely some who think “pure” CBD with 0% THC and without the other substances are superior, but some of the pain-relieving power of CBD comes from those other ingredients. The choice is up to you (and your vet). The Medterra oil is sold in a choice of three strengths (150mg, 300mg, and 750mg), and is available in chicken, beef, and unflavored varieties.
Best CBD Oil for Dogs Buying Guide
There are literally thousands of CBD products on the market, and many of them are specifically marketed for use with dogs. No government agency regulates or tests those products – so it’s a tough landscape to navigate when trying to choose the right one for your pet.
That makes it difficult to understand what you should be buying, at least until you know a little more about where CBD comes from, how it differs from marijuana, why it’s used to treat health and medical issues – and perhaps most importantly of all, how to choose the right CBD product to give to your dog.
Where CBD Comes From
CBD stands for cannabidiol, and yes, CBD does come from the cannabis plant. But there’s much more to the story than that.
The cannabis plant contains a number of natural active compounds known as cannabinoids. (In truth, the plant only contains precursors for those compounds, but that’s a complicated story we don’t need to get into here.)
The two most important and best-known cannabinoids are THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD. When ingested, they interact with cannabinoid receptors that are a part of the body’s endocannabinoid system and are largely responsible for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
There are two very different types of cannabis plants grown widely today, marijuana and hemp. You certainly know all about marijuana and its psychoactive properties. Hemp, however, is primarily used for industrial use – these days, its most important use is for the production of CBD oil – and it is deliberately bred to contain almost no THC, the compound that gives pot its intoxicating effects. The law says hemp can’t have more than 0.3% THC content, nowhere near enough to get you high.
Both marijuana and hemp contain CBD, so in theory, the CBD you buy online or in the store could come either from either type of cannabis plant. In reality, though, CBD products available for sale are supposed to come from the hemp plant, since the U.S. Farm Bill legalized only hemp-derived CBD (admittedly, with very confusing language).
If it turns out that you’ve purchased CBD oil or tincture that comes from cannabis, it originated with a sketchy CBD producer or vendor, a medical dispensary that has clearly labeled it as marijuana-derived, or a dealer (the non-legal type).
CBD vs. Weed
First (and crucial) things first: you never want to give your dog pot, in any form. THC probably won’t kill him, but since dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains than people, they’ll get higher than we do – and they won’t know what’s happening. They’ll be likely to recover, but they can get quite sick and will often require veterinary care.
The good news is that there’s no reason to give your pet cannabis if he’s suffering from pain or a debilitating disease. Most of the medical benefit of marijuana is actually provided by the CBD it contains, not the THC. So treating your puppy with CBD oil, naturally with your vet’s approval, will treat his symptoms or pain without the risk of giving him THC-loaded weed.
Better yet, CBD is not dangerous for dogs unless they’re given too much. We’ll look at dosages shortly, but even if you mistakenly give your pet more CBD than he should consume, there should be no long-term effects.
How Can CBD Help Your Dog?
You’ve undoubtedly heard and seen all of the positive news stories about the therapeutic effects of CBD. It’s been shown to help humans deal with pain and anxiety, insomnia and inflammation, even diseases like epilepsy and cancer.
CBD oil and other forms of the cannabinoid can provide much the same benefits for canines. In fact, some of its pain-relieving effects are particularly beneficial for older dogs and large breeds which are most susceptible to developing arthritis. CBD can not only help them feel better but improve their mobility as well.
Research, to date, has been very limited on the effects of CBD on canines. For that reason, many of the conclusions drawn by medical and veterinary experts have been extrapolated from human test results, focusing on body functions that are similar in people and dogs. Other conclusions are based on a wide accumulation of anecdotal evidence.
But there’s little doubt that CBD can provide enormous relief to canines suffering from medical problems. Here’s a closer look at some of the medical benefits of treating dogs with proper doses of CBD.
- Pain and Inflammation: It’s not just canine arthritis pain which can be relieved with cannabidiol. CBD lowers the inflammation which is often a major cause of pain in dogs, while also enhancing the work of neurotransmitters that prevent the brain from recognizing pain.
- Anxiety and Mood Disorders: We’re still waiting for large-scale studies on the ways CBD can help relieve anxiety in pets, but smaller ones indicate that it works and anecdotal results support that conclusion. It’s already known that CBD helps ease human anxiety, most likely because it adjusts serotonin levels in the brain.
- Epilepsy: Only one CBD medication has been approved by the U.S. government so far, and it’s for the treatment of two different forms of epilepsy in humans. But epilepsy and seizures are the most common neurological problems suffered by canines, and one study on treating the condition in dogs with CBD has shown promise. (4)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: IBD is a common problem for older dogs (and cats). No major research has yet been done on whether CBD is an effective treatment for the disease, but its anti-inflammatory properties help humans suffering from IBD and other gastrointestinal issues, and anecdotal evidence suggests that it can help dogs as well.
- Cancer: There’s no conclusive evidence of any sort suggesting that CBD can help fight cancer. One of the most promising indications, however, is from studies involving canines; early findings imply that cannabidiol may be able to cause apoptosis – the actual death of cancer cells.
That should give you plenty of reasons to speak with your dog’s vet about treating symptoms and illnesses with CBD.
The Different Forms of CBD Oil
Any dog owner who’s had to give medication to his pet knows how difficult that can be. Fortunately, CBD oil is packaged in a number of different ways which makes it relatively simple to administer.
- Capsules: Dogs already habituated to taking meds in this form may not object to receiving their dose of CBD oil in a capsule, whether it’s hidden in food or (if you’re very lucky) gobbled up just like a treat.
- Treats: Here’s an easier way to do it; a large selection of CBD-infused dog treats are now available online and at pet stores. You can find these treats in varying dosages, sizes, and flavors.
- Tinctures: These liquids are dropped under your dog’s tongue, not the easiest of tasks. However, they allow for exact dosing and the fastest results, since they’re absorbed right into the bloodstream.
- Topical applications: Rubbed right onto the dog’s skin, these are often the best way to treat the pain and mobility problems caused by arthritis.
Choosing CBD Oil for Your Dog
You certainly understand by now that the CBD industry is in its infancy and that the lack of effective regulation means you have to be very careful in choosing the right product for your pet. In short, just saying “CBD” on the label isn’t enough. You should be looking for several other key factors that assure the product’s effectiveness.
- Hemp CBD vs. Cannabis CBD: We’ve already touched on this. CBD oil extracted from the marijuana plant can be harmful to your dog, so be sure the label specifies that you’re getting hemp CBD.
- Broad-Spectrum CBD: First, a brief explanation. The cannabis plant contains many more cannabinoids than just THC and CBD, as well as other organic compounds called terpenes. Many of these substances provide their own health benefits, and they work together to increase the effectiveness of CBD in what’s known as the “entourage effect.”
Broad-spectrum CBD is refined to remove all of the THC that could hurt your dog and make him high while leaving all of the cannabinoids and terpenes intact. You could also give your pup CBD isolate, which is pure CBD, but it has had the other beneficial ingredients removed. Full-spectrum CBD still contains THC and should be avoided (in most cases – remember, there’s no regulation of this stuff).
One important note: some producers call their broad-spectrum CBD “full-spectrum,” even though it does not contain excessive levels of THC. Always check before buying.
- CO2 or Cold Press Extraction: There are three ways that CBD can be extracted from a plant. Cold press extraction relies primarily on pressure, and the two other methods are chemical; one uses carbon dioxide in the process, while the other uses cheaper solvents like butane or propane. The latter solvents leave residue in the CBD that can be poisonous to canines. Choosing a product produced by CO2 or cold press extraction isn’t just preferable, it’s crucial. (Some producers do use olive oil or ethanol as solvents. They’re not poisonous, but they’ll remove some of the beneficial components of the CBD.)
- Organic: This makes CBD more expensive, but it’s the best way to be sure it doesn’t contain pesticides or other toxins that can harm your dog.
- No additives: Even if additives are just “essential oils,” most can still hurt your dog. A few CBD additives like frankincense may help with your pet’s health condition, but be sure to ask your vet first.
CBD oil should always come with a certificate of analysis (COA) from an outside lab. That’s always a good sign in itself. However, it also lets you check the THC content (legally it shouldn’t be above 0.3%, but that doesn’t mean it always will be), the amount of CBD content (to make sure it matches the advertised content on the bottle), and whether it contains other cannabinoids and terpenes (so it will provide maximum health benefits).
CBD Oil Dosing for Dogs
You’ve done all the research and found the best CBD oil for your dog. Now – how much do you give him?
Most quality CBD products designed for canine use will have dosage guidelines on their labels. Your best bet is to decide on dosage in consultation with your veterinarian, but there are some basic rules of thumb you can follow.
- Always start with a very small dose, and increase gradually if necessary and indicated. Dogs have many more cannabinoid receptors than we do, so CBD will hit them much harder than it would hit us.
- Proper dosages are largely dependent on a dog’s size. A big dog will usually need more than a small one for the same result, and you may find specific weight/dosage information on the CBD oil’s label.
- Recommended dosages often start at 1-2 milligrams of CBD oil for every 10 pounds of weight, but that can get complicated since products are often sold in formulas with different strengths. For example, a 75mg formula usually has 2.5mg of CBD per milliliter of oil, while a 300mg formula has 10mg of CBD per milliliter. (See what we mean about complicated?) You can find calculators online to help, but once again, the best bet is to talk to your vet, or at the very least use the label guidelines – and start slowly.