The cannabis compound CBD has become big news in the last few years, helped along by some high-profile success stories and the relaxing of federal regulations. More people now want to know what CBD can do for them—and their furry friends.
That’s right: CBD’s potential benefits aren’t limited to humans. Dogs and cats are mammals just like us, and they have many of the same problems. Many studies have already shown the potential benefits of CBD in animals. If CBD can help humans, then it follows it may have some of the same effects for pets, which is why CBD now comes in a variety of pet-friendly forms.
In this guide, we take a look at CBD as a topic, including its origins and legal status. We’ll also take a closer look at the use of CBD for pets and give you our top picks for the best dog CBD on the market.
Our Top Picks: Summary
- Best Overall: Spruce
- Best Value: Medterra
- Best Flavors: Honest Paws
- Best Organic: NuLeaf Naturals
The Best CBD for Dogs: Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Spruce
Human-grade CBD oil balanced for dogs.
Why We Picked It
If you’re looking for the best dog CBD oil for quality, performance, and value, then Spruce’s Dog CBD oil could be the right choice for you.
Spruce’s CBD is a vegan and gluten-free full-spectrum oil with no flavorings. It’s derived from organic, US-grown hemp and features no additives.
Spruce’s Dog CBD oil retains the properties of its human-focused formulation with only a couple of changes. It exchanges the hemp seed oil with coconut oil for a milder taste and to reduce the likelihood of stomach disruption.
Spruce’s recommended dosage is 2-3 drops per 20lbs of your dog’s weight, given on food once or twice a day.
Spruce maintains a first purchase 30-day return policy for opened products. Beyond this, only unopened items can be returned for a refund.
Keep in Mind
Unflavored, but picky dogs may not like the hemp taste.
In a Nutshell
- No artificial additives
- Coconut oil for milder taste
Best Value: Medterra
Pet CBD oil offering quality at a reasonable cost.
Why We Picked It
For a great selection of affordable, quality products, it’s hard to beat Medterra.
Medterra’s pet CBD comes in a variety of products and formulations. Its line of tinctures is available in three flavors: beef, chicken, and unflavored, so you can experiment to find which your dog likes best. It also offers two varieties of chews: peanut butter-flavored chews formulated for joint support and bacon-flavored chews formulated for a calming effect. The former contains ingredients like glucosamine, MSM, and chondroitin alongside its CBD dose to support healthy joints, while the latter contains Valerian Root and L-Tryptophan for better relaxation.
All products contain Medterra’s zero percent THC, non-GMO, US-made CBD oil. Links to the results of third-party lab testing are available on Medterra’s site.
Medterra also offers a 30-day return policy, so unsatisfied customers can return their CBD oil for a full refund less shipping costs.
Keep in Mind
A few options to choose from, but no topical options formulated for pets.
In a Nutshell
- Variety of products and flavors
- 30-day return policy
Best Flavors: Honest Paws
Flavored CBD from a pet-focused brand.
Why We Picked It
As the name indicates, Honest Paws knows its pet CBD. Some dogs are fussy eaters and some owners will want to make sure their pet has the best experience possible. Either way, Honest Paws formula takes our Best Flavors category.
Honest Paws carries a range of CBD products, including unflavored tinctures. Its chews are available in several flavors, including peanut butter, turmeric, pumpkin spice, and creamy coconut. It also offers products like its Happy Tails CBD Blend, which is a spreadable peanut butter CBD blend, and targeted formulations like its Joint Support and Calming Aid chews.
These options mean it should be easy for owners to find the right product for their dog. Honest Paws CBD oil is lab-tested and non-GMO.
Purchases are covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re unsatisfied with your product.
Keep in Mind
Excellent range of products, but may be overwhelming for shoppers who want to keep it simple.
In a Nutshell
- Range of flavors
- Variety of products in different formats and formulations
- 30-day guarantee
Best Organic: NuLeaf Naturals
Organic CBD for peace of mind.
Why We Picked It
Some CBD buyers worry that non-organic CBD products may contain pesticides and other harsh chemicals that could offset the potential benefits of CBD. For these owners, we recommend NuLeaf Naturals as an organic CBD brand.
NuLeaf’s pet formulation has a dose tailored to dogs and cats, with dosage instructions included on the product. Otherwise, the CBD is identical to NuLeaf’s primary CBD range. There are three concentrations available: 240mg, 725mg, and 1450mg.
NuLeaf’s oil is a full-spectrum oil derived from USDA-certified organic hemp oil. It’s non-GMO, US-grown in Colorado and lab-tested for quality and purity. Its lab test results are available from the NuLeaf site. The oil is extracted by a twofold CO2 extraction process.
Keep in Mind
Unflavored oil, so dogs may not enjoy the hemp taste.
In a Nutshell
- Organic and non-GMO
How We Chose the Best CBD for Dogs
When selecting our top picks, we use several key categories to give you a well-rounded view of the product.
Here are the categories we use to rate CBD products:
Formulated for Pets
We don’t consider CBD products made for humans to be suitable for dogs. Dogs have dramatically different body weights and metabolisms, so they need tailored CBD formulations to match. That’s why all of our top picks are formulated for pets, not people.
The CBD market is still young and the quality of CBD oil out there varies a lot. When selecting our top picks, we look at the oil’s quality to establish where and how it was grown, such as whether it’s non-GMO, organic, and grown in the US.
Authentic brands have their CBD lab-tested by a third party so customers can be confident in the brand’s claims. We don’t take any CBD oil seriously if it isn’t lab-tested and we don’t make an exception for pet products. Our top picks are all independently lab-tested with publically accessible results.
CBD can be expensive and the cost can be even harder to swallow when it’s for a pet. We look at the price of each product to give you a sense of how expensive it is relative to the competition and whether it justifies its price with quality ingredients. This will help you find the right CBD for your pet without breaking the bank.
While dogs can’t speak for themselves, their owners can provide some sense of whether the CBD worked for their dog and what the experience was like. We look at customer satisfaction to see whether the CBD did its job and for certain common threads, such as whether dogs struggled with its taste.
What is CBD?
The cannabis plant comes in various forms and includes several compounds, with CBD being one of them. CBD is the nicer cousin of THC, the compound that causes the famous cannabis “high.” But CBD isn’t psychoactive in the same way and it has much subtler and more beneficial effects on the body.
Legal CBD is derived from hemp, an industrial variety of cannabis low in THC and high in CBD.
When absorbed into the body, CBD can act in concert with the endocannabinoid system to promote well-being and even ease the symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis and epilepsy.
Legal CBD products are available from a huge variety of vendors and in various forms, from tinctures to gummies to topical creams. As public awareness of CBD and its potential benefits have grown, this has led naturally to wanting to share those benefits with humanity’s furry friends. A range of vendors now sell CBD products aimed at cat and dog owners.
CBD Benefits for Dogs
CBD’s benefits come from its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, and this is as true for dogs as it is for humans—this system is something we have in common.
Here are some of the conditions that CBD may help to relieve.
Arthritis and Pain
Without going deep into the science, there’s evidence the cannabidiol can enhance the body’s ability to regulate pain. This may allow CBD to relieve the symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis, which can be difficult to manage in pets.
Some dogs are nervous by nature, while others, such as rehomed dogs, may experience anxiety that stems from previous traumas. This is why some owners use CBD to help ease anxiety in their pets. CBD can promote a general sense of well-being and relaxation in some users, and it may help nervous animals with problems like separation anxiety.
While CBD is not a cure for cancer (nor are any other supplements), there is evidence that CBD can help to tackle cancer’s aggressive symptoms and strengthen the body via promoting general wellness. Some early results even suggest that CBD may have an antitumor effect.
CBD’s potential for relieving the symptoms of severe epilepsy played a vital role in its transition from a scheduled substance of “no medical value” to its current status. To date, treatment for epilepsy remains the only FDA-approved marketable case for CBD, so the evidence for its efficacy is strong. Epilepsy can be a tough condition to manage in a pet, so CBD has the potential to provide owners and their pets with some relief.
As with any supplement (even those used by humans), you should always consult a professional before beginning a course. This is just as important for dog owners, who are at risk of self-diagnosing their pet by its symptoms, which could cause them to miss underlying problems. Non-veterinarians also lack the experience to evaluate the success of a treatment. You should never consider CBD a substitute for treatment prescribed by your vet. CBD can only work in concert with professional advice to alleviate existing conditions.
Is CBD Safe for Dogs?
Generally, CBD is safe to use, though it hasn’t been studied extensively for use by animals like cats and dogs. Its effects are subtle and side-effects are rare and usually mild when they do occur. Research on CBD’s long-term safety is still in its early days thanks to the complicated legal history of cannabis products. One of the benefits of CBD lies in its weaker side-effects when contrasted with powerful prescription medications like painkillers, which can have dramatic psychoactive effects and may be addictive.
Dog owners should pay special attention to the suggested dosage when administering CBD to a pet and should stick to products formulated for pets. THC can be toxic to dogs, so it’s vital to choose low-THC products.
Side Effects of CBD Oil
Cannabis may be famous for its high, but CBD lies on the opposite end of the spectrum from the THC compound that causes this high. CBD is low-impact with subtle effects on the body. Below, we look at a few rare side effects of some CBD use:
- Dry mouth: CBD may inhibit saliva production through interaction with the endocannabinoid system. Owners should watch out for signs of this, including a dry tongue and overdrinking.
- Digestion issues: CBD can interact negatively with bowel function, leading to problems like diarrhea in some cases. Watch out for changes to your dog’s toileting habits so you’ll know if there are any changes. Switching to a different brand could help to alleviate these side effects if they do occur.
- Appetite: CBD may stimulate the appetite, so dogs on CBD may try to overeat.
- Drowsiness: Some CBD products are designed to promote relaxation and calm, but in other products, this effect may be undesirable. A dog experiencing this side-effect may seem lethargic or quiet during times when their energy levels would normally be high.
Is CBD Legal?
CBD’s legal status has changed in recent years, which has left some potential buyers confused. Here’s what CBD’s legal status looks like as of 2021.
The 2018 “Farm Bill” made hemp-derived CBD products legally saleable at a federal level. As hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, there’s no risk of psychoactive effects from these products. With the Farm Bill, CBD moved out of the DEA’s purview and into the commercial space, which is regulated by the FDA.
Hemp-derived CBD is now widespread, though vendors can’t make claims about its effectiveness as a supplement. Laws governing cannabis products also still vary from state to state, so this federal legislation may not match your local laws.
If you’re looking for more info, be sure to check out our CBD Oils guide for more details.
How to Give CBD to Your Dog
As any pet owner knows, administering supplements and medications isn’t always easy. Luckily, there are a few methods you can use to give CBD to your dog, so you can tailor the experience to something they will accept. When administering CBD, pay careful attention to the dose to ensure you keep it within the vendor’s recommendations.
Common formats for pet CBD include:
Much like capsules and gummies for humans, dog treats such as chews provide a way to deliver a palatable and measured dose of CBD. Dog treats can come in various flavors, and all help to mask the natural taste of CBD, which some dogs may find objectionable. These have the benefit of familiarity, as most dogs are used to accepting treats.
Tinctures are liquids that can be administered with a dropper. For dogs, they can be placed directly into the mouth or dripped onto food to make them more palatable (and more suitable to less cooperative dogs).
Topical CBD oil is applied to a particular area of the body, so it’s absorbed by the skin rather than ingested. This makes it suitable for targeted pain relief or the easing of skin conditions. Topical creams can be much easier to administer to an animal, as it resembles familiar petting activities and doesn’t involve strange flavors. Take care when applying topicals to irritated areas, however, as you could cause sudden discomfort.
Considerations when Choosing CBD for Your Dog
To choose the right CBD product for your dog, there are a few considerations you’ll want to keep in mind. Here are a few key things to consider:
When administering a drug or taking a supplement, a larger body typically needs a larger dose. As dogs vary widely in size and breed, this is something owners need to consider when choosing CBD. Most CBD products for dogs will come with a dosage chart that should allow you to find the right dosage for your dog.
Dosage is one of the more complicated elements of CBD, as it varies by brand and product chosen. A capsule may contain the same amount of CBD as 10 drops of tincture or two treats. Products tend to list CBD concentration in milligrams and determine dosage by multiplying a standard factor by your dog’s weight (e.g. 0.25 mg X 40 pounds = 10 mg dosage).
If you’re not a math whiz, you can rest easy: most products contain simple dosage instructions that break things down by weight ranges, so you can find the dosage suited to your dog’s breed and weight. Some brands may sell the same product in different concentrations, so always check the dosage before administering it.
We look at a few different delivery methods of dog CBD above and you’ll need to think about these when choosing the right option for your dog. Some dogs will be good boys and girls and tolerate strange flavors and activities, such as placing tinctures directly into the mouth. Others will be fussy and dislike strange experiences and may do better with treats. For animals with skin conditions or chronic pain, topicals may offer a better alternative.
With so many CBD products on the market, it can be hard to know which brands to trust. By far one of the simplest checks is to see if the brand has its CBD lab-tested by a third party. These independent tests verify the manufacturer’s claims about its CBD and can provide peace of mind to consumers.
If you’ve found this guide useful, take a look at some of our other in-depth CBD guides: