CBD oil and anxiety – can it be used as a treatment in dogs?

One of the most common behavioural issues we observe in dogs is anxiety. Despite this, treatment often becomes complex. Traditional therapies can be intensive and expensive for owners, and may require the use of antidepressants. In recent times, the use of CBD oil has received significant attention as a potential natural alternative to managing anxiety in dogs. In this blog, we dive deeper into this topic.

For many years, there was a lack of robust research supporting the use of CBD oil for dogs with anxiety. However, in recent years, new studies are emerging that have shed light on the mechanisms of CBD in the stressed or anxious brain, and highlighted the potential of CBD as an adjunct anxiety treatment in dogs.

Pets and humans share a similar Endocannabinoid System (ECS) which regulates everything from mood to immune and gastrointestinal. When CBD interacts with the ECS and other chemical signals in the brain, it can produce anxiety-relieving effects by modulating the body’s fear and anxiety responses. Similarly, CBD oil may reduce the expression of anxiety in dogs such as barking, whining, noise phobias, separation anxiety, pacing, and other signs of distress or discomfort.

What we know about CBD and anxiety management

The existing research on using CBD to treat anxiety and stress is promising, but much more is required. To date, most studies have focused on humans and rats. However, new results from a randomised, placebo-controlled, blinded study have been released, and the findings are promising.

This research team aimed to understand the impact of being left alone and traveling in a car on measures of canine stress, and establish whether a single dose of a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-free CBD distillate could positively influence any measures of stress.

In the study, a population of dogs were either left alone in a familiar room (n = 21) or underwent a short car journey (n = 19). A range of physiological and behavioral measures were collected pre, during and post-test. The researchers found significant changes in several stress-related measures (serum cortisol, mean ear temperature, heart rate, heart rate variability, whining and a stressed/anxious behavioral factor) were observed from baseline to test, with the car journey test paradigm eliciting a more pronounced stress response overall. The study concluded that a single dose of 4 mg/kg CBD 2 hours prior to exposure to these events attenuates some indicators of acute canine stress, which is likely to improve canine emotional wellbeing.

The mitigating effect of CBD treatment varied by measure and test, with some indicating a significant reduction in canine stress compared to the placebo group. The authors of the paper recommended that further research is required to fully understand the effect of CBD at other dosages, formulations, and whether cumulative administration improves efficacy.

When it comes to the broader evidence base, CBD is thought to work in similar ways across mammals.

  • 2019 study found that 80 percent of human subjects with clinically diagnosed anxiety experienced reductions in anxiety levels when supplementing with CBD.
  • 2015 review article found that CBD was an effective treatment for generalized and social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. CBD helped reduce behavioral measures of anxiety as well as physiological signs such as resting heart rate.

Prescribing CBD as a medical treatment for anxiety

While the research base on the outcomes and side effects of using CBD oil for pet anxiety are still emerging, studies are underway to help fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Given this, we recommend considering CBD oil as an adjunct treatment option or when traditional therapies have been ineffective in managing a dog’s anxiety. 

When it comes to dosage, investigations in dogs have shown CBD to be safe in doses as high as 10-20mg/kg/day.

We recommend a “Start Low and Go Slow” approach. More about prescribing protocols can be found in the Vet Portal including starting dose range and titration guide lines.

Please contact us on [email protected] or (02) 8294 9303 if you would like more information on how CBD can be used to manage anxiety. We’re here to help. 

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