On September 14, 2018, the UK Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) published a statement on cannabidiol containing medicinal products. According to the report, CBD-containing veterinary products are drugs and should be regulated as such.

In this article, we decided to shed some light on the use of CBD in animals: medical conditions treatment, dosage, and the effects of various product forms.

What is CBD?

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a derivative of the Cannabis Sativa plant. Unlike another THC derivative (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD has no psychoactive effects on the human or animal body and has no significant effect on the cognitive activity of the brain. Instead, this naturally occurring chemical can promote a relaxing and relaxing effect on the brain and body. Therefore, it is used in oils and food products.

CBD and THC share the same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. However, there is a slight difference in the way the atoms are arranged that determines the effect on the brain.

CBD can be extracted from two species of hemp: marijuana and hemp. Hemp plants contain less than 0.3% THC, therefore they are a source of CBD products for animals.

Why does CBD oil affect animals?

Every living thing with a spine has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that evolved 600 million years ago. The system was discovered in the 1990s and was initially thought to exist only in the brain and nerves. In 2008, researchers at Indiana University’s Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at Bloomington discovered cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, including our skin, immune cells, adipose tissue, bone, liver, pancreas, skeletal muscle, kidney, heart, blood vessels, and digestive tract.

Endocannabinoids are one of the most versatile signaling molecules known to date. The ECS creates homeostasis in the body as it is involved in many processes including pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, metabolism, sleep, immune and reproductive functions. When a system is dysfunctional or damaged, it causes a whole spectrum of disorders and diseases – for example, anxiety, stress, inflammation, nausea, arthritis, epilepsy, and cancer.

CBD and THC have a chemical structure similar to the body’s own ECS, which allows them to interact with cannabinoid receptors.

The endocannabinoid system in animals: how does it work?

According to several studies, the ECS is found in non-human species, even in primitive creatures such as syringes and flatworms. In 2012, the University of Pisa conducted a study on dogs. Two types of cannabinoid receptors have been found to be present in the skin of both healthy dogs and those with atopic dermatitis. Another study dates back to 2018. The University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover stated that the ECS is involved in immunomodulation. Regardless of the species, the endocannabinoid system consists of three basic components:

  • Metabolic enzymes
  • Cannabinoid receptors
  • Endocannabinoids

The metabolic enzymes FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) and MAGL (monoacylglycerol lipase) have two purposes: they accelerate the synthesis of endocannabinoids and break them down when they do their job. The mechanism of the ECS differs from neurotransmission and hormonal processes. It quickly releases enzymes and stops the action of cannabinoids. In turn, neurotransmitters and hormones can both remain active and be stored in the body.

Cannabinoid receptors are found in cell membranes spread throughout the body. We can compare them to car ignition, which affects a whole host of body functions: pain perception, immune system, mood, sleep, and neurogenesis.
So far, we know two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found in the brain and spinal cord and are associated with the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are embedded in peripheral tissues and mainly affect inflammatory processes, the immune and digestive systems.

Endocannabinoids are fat-like molecules produced by our bodies that interact with and activate cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids are a subtype of cannabinoids to which phytocannabinoids also belong.

There are two types of cannabinoids: endogenous (endocannabinoids) and phytocannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids (e.g., Anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2AG)) are synthesized when the body needs to be kept in balance and then broken down by metabolic enzymes.

Unfortunately, a complex system like the ECS can break down, leading to clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). The condition contributes to the progression of diseases and other dysfunctions such as migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

Moreover, dysfunction of the ECS causes confusion at the molecular level. When metabolic enzymes fail to release or are released inappropriately, endocannabinoids begin to target the wrong cells or deactivate ineffectively.

In this case, we can introduce plant-derived cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) and restore homeostasis. Phytocannabinoids are usually extracted from Cannabis Sativa and contain the following ingredients:

  • CBD (cannabidiol)
  • THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)
  • CBC (kanabichromen)
  • CBL (cannabicycol)
  • CBN (cannabinol)


THC and CBD are the most abundant. Despite their similar chemical structure, the psychoactive effects of these phytocannabinoids are different.

THC binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, which causes an elation or a feeling of euphoria. Other side effects include increased heart rate, problems with coordination, red eyes, dry mouth, slower reaction and memory loss. Large amounts of THC can cause long-term adverse psychiatric effects.

CBD is considered safe to treat animals as it does not bind to CB1 receptors and cannot act on the brain. The hemp-derived CBD oil is absorbed into your pet’s bloodstream and begins to regulate its physiological processes. This phytocannabinoid is usually well tolerated even in high doses of CBD. In 2017, the WHO conducted a study that suggests that any side effects that occur as a result of using CBD could be caused by drug-drug interactions between CBD and other drugs that a person or an animal may be taking.

How CBD Helps Heal Animals

The list of conditions that can be alleviated by including CBD in the treatment process is not yet final. In this article, we focus on the most studied health problems.


You may notice that your pet is afraid of toys, gets angry when you go out, or is hiding from everyone in the house. If this behavior is typical, it is a clear sign of anxiety.

We can distinguish between situational and behavioral fears.

Situational anxiety occurs when an animal responds to immediate factors such as strangers, another dog’s barking, or fireworks.

Behavioral anxiety is triggered by past experiences. For example, an animal remembers separation from its previous owner or cruel treatment. This type of anxiety is more complex and includes several subtypes: separation anxiety, rescue / former refuge, disease-induced anxiety, and general (generalized) anxiety.

  • Separation anxiety. Symptoms can occur when the people to whom the pet is attached leave it for a while. Such animals are upset and often anxious because they don’t know if the person will come back.
  • Rescue / Former Shelter anxiety is when animals have memories of leaving and spending time in the shelter.
  • Anxiety is caused by a number of conditions. These include thyrotoxicosis, hypothyroidism, encephalitis, pre-diabetes, and loss of vision or hearing.
  • General anxiety includes cases in which the cause of the anxiety cannot be clearly identified. Symptoms can be subtle and normal behavior. For example, some pet owners describe their furry friend as consistently “scared”, “unhappy”, or “never happy”. These animals show no exacerbated signs of fear in certain situations, but most of the time show low energy levels that indicate anxiety. If you notice excessive anxiety or fearful expectations for six months or more, your pet must go to the vet.

Signs of anxiety

Anxiety manifests itself through body language and unusual or destructive behavior. Here are some examples of anxiety signals.

Tremor or trembling

An animal’s body can tremble in a variety of situations, from cold to kidney disease. However, tense muscles and, as a result, tremors can also be attributed to separation anxiety in animals.

Reluctance to go outside

If your pet refuses to go outside, something has happened that has caused unpleasant emotions or fear. For example, he was attacked by another animal or stepped on something sharp that caused pain.

Passing urine or faeces in the wrong places

After episodes of anxiety, bouts of diarrhea or urination may occur. This is especially true if your pet is well trained and is always doing business in the right places.

A whine or bark

When your pet is whining or barking a lot, you can take it as a signal that it will not be able to relax and calm down. It is common for animals to feel bored or lonely.

Excessive licking or drooling

Too much stimulation leads to excessive production of saliva. This often happens when animals panic or feel a dangerous situation.


Cat infections

Our cats are exposed to pathogenic bacteria every day. In most cases, their immune system is able to resist the infection. When the immune system is weak, the bacteria find a way to multiply and spread throughout the cat’s body.

Common types of pathogenic bacteria in cats include:

  • Campylobacter
  • Salmonella
  • Clostridia
  • Streptococcus
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Bordetella
  • Chlamydophila

The source of the bacteria is usually contaminated water, faeces or undercooked food. Bacterial infections are more common in kittens and older cats because their immune systems are not as strong as in prime adult cats.

Sick cats usually have digestive disorders (diarrhea or vomiting), fever, and are unable to play. Cats hide their disease very well, so it’s important to keep an eye on them. The vet should examine even subtle changes in their behavior.

Cats can also be carriers of bacteria or parasites. In this case, you can catch germs from them, even if they do not show symptoms of the disease.

Common feline zoonoses include:

  • Bacterial infections – cat scratch disease, pastaurella multocida, salmonella poisoning.
  • Parasitic infections – fleas, scabies, roundworms and hookworms.
  • Fungal infections – dermatophytosis.
  • Protozoan infections – cryptosporidium, giardiasis, toxoplasmosis.
  • Viral infections – rabies.

To prevent infections, be very hygienic when handling cat food (especially raw meat) and cleaning the litter box.

Dog infections

Dogs are no less susceptible to infections than cats. Common types of pathogenic bacteria in dogs include:

  • Salmonella
  • Streptococcus
  • Leptospirosis
  • Campylobacter
  • Helicobacter
  • Bordetella
  • Clostridia
  • E coli

As in the case of cat infections, the source of these bacteria is also found in contaminated water, dairy products, faeces and undercooked meat. Puppies and older dogs also have a higher risk of infection.

Dogs can also carry infections without getting sick. These infections include:

  • Bacterial – campylobacteriosis, brucellosis, capnocytophage, ehrlichiosis, etc.
  • Parasitic – dog tapeworm, hookworm, roundworm, cryptosporidiosis, echinococcosis, giardiasis, etc.
  • Viral – rabies

CBD and bacteria

According to Mark Blaskovich, senior research specialist at the Center for Superbug Solutions at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Australia, CBD has already been tested against a wide variety of bacteria. Including those that have become resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics. This research is especially important because the World Health Organization recognizes that antibiotic resistance is dangerously high.

During the research, researchers tested CBD’s ability to kill bacteria. Working in test tubes and animal models has proven that CBD has a similar potency to conventional antibiotics in each case. Scientists have tested CBD against certain strains of streptococci that cause streptococci and staphylococci which cause skin infections.

Scientists have looked at how quickly CBD can kill bacteria. It turned out to be quite quick and lasted up to three hours. The common antibiotics Vancomycin (Vancocin) and daptomycin eliminate the bacteria in six or even eight hours.

CBD also helps antibiotics, which destroy the biofilm, the layer of “sludge” around the bacteria. It allows CBD to facilitate the penetration of antibiotics and kill bacteria. Finally, laboratory studies have shown that CBD causes resistance less frequently than antibiotics.


Traditional treatments for acute and chronic pain include a range of medications, such as NSAIDs, steroids, opioids, and antihistamines. All of these chemicals have many side effects that must be treated with other drugs. Here are the most common side effects:

  • NSAIDs: diarrhea, vomiting, intestinal bleeding, ulcers, lethargy, liver and kidney failure.
  • Steroids: thirst and urination, urinary tract infections, vomiting, increased hunger, panting, skin problems, muscle weakness and decreased overall immunity.
  • Opioids: sensitivity to pain, breathing problems, constipation and confusion.
  • Antihistamines: diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting, confusion, lethargy, irregular heartbeat, hyperactivity.

CBD is considered an alternative to traditional drugs. The “magic” of CBD is that it can either upregulate or downregulate neural transmissions. In this way, the body’s homeostasis moves towards a healthy state. The CBD effect is often compared to the acupuncture effect.

Several studies showing CBD’s effectiveness in treating pain:

  • In 2016, Colorado State University completed a clinical trial that showed CBD to be safe for healthy dogs.
  • In 2018, Cornell University conducted a study on dogs suffering from chronic pain. The researchers concluded that 2 mg / kg of CBD administered twice daily reduces the pain associated with osteoarthritis in dogs.
  • Another placebo-controlled clinical trial by Liberty Leaf also demonstrated CBD’s effective ability to treat pain. Dogs with osteoarthritis that received 0.3 mg of CBD per kg for four weeks per day experienced a reduction in pain and an improvement in functional performance.

There is also some evidence that CBD is used by pain practitioners. For example, Dr. Michael Petty, a faculty member of the Canine Rehabilitation Institute in Wellington, Florida and owner of the Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital in Canton, Michigan. He has encouraged many of his customers to use CBD to treat osteoarthritis and other chronic conditions in their pets. The results have been mixed, as is the case with proven treatments such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory therapy (NSAIDs). However, customers who found CBD working reported reduced pain, improved sleep patterns, increased appetite, and improved attitudes in their pets.

Dr. Petty also admits that there is a quality control problem in the CBD market. Practitioners want to know which company has the best product, what the concentration is, and what quality control and testing have been carried out for contamination with hazardous heavy metals and pesticides. However, this information is not easy to come by even for medical professionals. For example, Dr. Petty contacted several of the more popular companies selling CBD products to get the necessary quality and testing information, but none of them ever called him back. The only credible source of information is the FDA tests of several CBD products showing that some of the products they tested did not contain CBD at all.

Wound healing

The antiseptic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD oil also promote healing. Animals can suffer from wounds of a different nature:

  • Abrasive injuries result from friction applied approximately parallel to the outer surface of the skin. In animal practice, these wounds are commonly seen as the result of road accidents. For example, when an animal is trapped between the road surface and a moving vehicle. Chafing wounds can also be seen as a result of poorly fitting dressings and dressings.
  • Spongy wounds are formed when the skin is detached from underlying tissues, usually the limbs. In a road accident, mechanical separation occurs. Physiological cleavage occurs when the skin is severed from the subcutaneous tissue, causing damage to the local blood supply and ischemia.
  • Avulsion injuries refer to the forcible separation of tissues from their attachments. These injuries occur as a result of wounds bitten by a dog or road accidents in which the skin and subcutaneous tissue are torn off the lower jaw, resulting in the exposure of the bone.
  • Cut injuries are a combination of scalp injuries and abrasions and are often seen after road traffic accidents, with wounds usually located on the patient’s distal limb.
  • In practice, incision wounds are most often presented as intentional surgical wounds, but can also be caused by trauma by a sharp object moving in a plane parallel to the skin surface. These wounds usually have clean, regular edges.
  • Stab wounds are caused by a sharp object, such as a stick or metal railing, moving in a plane perpendicular to the skin surface. Penetrating wounds are those that only have an entrance wound, while perforated injuries are those that have both an entrance and exit wound.
  • Burns are classified according to the depth and area of ​​the affected skin. The first degree – only the cuticle. The second degree – the epidermis and part of the dermis. Third degree – epidermis, dermis, and a variable proportion of subcutaneous tissue.
  • Firearm damage is complex. The basal wound is a perforated or penetrating trauma, but as the bullet follows its trajectory, extensive damage to the underlying tissue occurs.

In 2018, scientists from the Department of Oral Medicine of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) and the Department of Pharmacology of the Ribeirão Preto Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo conducted a study on the effects of cannabidiol on the healing of oral wounds. process in rats. Animals received intraperitoneal injections of CBD at doses of 0 (control), 5 and 10 mg / kg daily for one week. The microscopic findings revealed that on day 3 after the injury, the CBD-treated lesions showed significantly lower rates of inflammation than those in the control group. Research confirms the effect of CBD on the ECS. The animal’s ECS is involved in the healing process. CBD oil can speed up this by encouraging your pet’s body to produce more cannabinoids.


Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in both animals and humans. There are many different types of animal cancer and the symptoms are often similar to those in humans (eg, abnormal swelling, weight loss, lethargy / reluctance to exercise, etc.). Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in companion animals such as cats and dogs, the latter being more susceptible to the disease. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), cancer causes nearly 50% of deaths in animals over the age of 10. Here are the areas of the body most affected by cancer:

  • Skin. Skin cancers are common, but thankfully most are benign and are treated successfully if detected early.
  • Nipple. Females may suffer from breast cancer. However, in about 50% of cases, the tumors are malignant.
  • Testicles. The overall incidence of testicular tumors in males is low as most pets are castrated at a young age. However, it is common among intact pets and older (over ten years old) pets.
  • Head and neck. Symptoms of such tumors include abnormal growth of gum cells, bad odor, bleeding, panting, and facial swelling.
  • Brain. The only clinical signs of brain cancer are extreme behavioral changes and seizures. The location, size and severity of the tumor are determined by CAT (computed axial tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans.
  • Lymph nodes. A lump can be seen when an animal’s lymph nodes are swollen and become 3 to 10 times larger than their standard size. This type of cancer is very aggressive as it spreads quickly to other organs.
  • Bones. The most affected species are larger breeds and those that are more than seven years old. Usually the leg bones suffer the most. Symptoms include bone or joint pain, anorexia, and inflammation.
  • Stomach. The diagnosis of abdominal cancer is not easy. Primary warning symptoms include drooling, vomiting, decreased activity and appetite, black stool, and weight loss.
  • Bladder. Symptoms include bleeding and urinary obstruction. Note that this cancer grows slowly and you may not see symptoms for 3 to 6 months.

Cancer symptoms

The symptoms of the disease vary depending on the organ affected by the tumor. However, there are a number of symptoms that a veterinarian should investigate immediately:

  • Lumps and bumps under the dog’s skin
  • Unusual smells from the mouth, ears or other parts of the body
  • Abnormal discharge from the eyes, mouth, ears or anus
  • Non-healing wounds or ulcers
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Change in appetite (both increase and decrease)
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Coughing or panting
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Change in bathroom habits
  • Evidence of Pain

Cancer in cats and dogs

Now we would like to focus on the common types of cancer in cats and dogs.

The three most common types of cancer in cats are:

  • Feline leukemia and feline leukemia virus. The virus is transmitted from one cat to another through saliva, nasal secretions, faeces and milk through various forms of contact, from friendly grooming to unfriendly biting. In most environments, the feline leukemia virus can be “killed” (rendered harmless) using soap and disinfectants.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma. The bumps can appear in many places, but are most commonly seen in and around the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and areas with little hair. The main cause of SCC is excessive exposure to sunlight, as well as exposure to cigarette smoke. In advanced cases, SCC tumors can cause tissue death and bone destruction, leading to pain, discomfort, and even death.
  • Feline breast cancer. Feline breast cancer (FMC) is the third most common cancer in cats. As with breast cancer in women, FMC is highly metastatic and can spread to the lungs, the lining of the lungs and chest (pleura), the liver, regional lymph nodes, and other parts of the body.

Common types of cancer in dogs:

  • Canine infectious venereal tumor. This type of cancer is spread by covering, licking, or other direct contact. The tumor usually affects the genitals, and in some cases the urethra becomes blocked, making it difficult for a sick animal to pass urine. Cancer can also be in the mouth and nose, causing nosebleeds, swelling of the face, and discharge from the nostrils.
  • Osteosarcoma of dogs. OSA is a cancer that develops in the bones. It is often invasive and metastasizing: studies have shown that OSA affects the lungs approximately 17% of the time. Fortunately, this type of cancer is relatively rare in small pets.
  • Canine hemangiosarcoma. HSA is cancer that originates in the cells that make up the blood vessels. It is most common in the spleen, skin, and right atrium of the heart. HSA is highly metastatic, and vets estimate that more than 80% of all other cases were metastatic at diagnosis.
  • Canine mast cell tumors. It is the most common skin cancer in dogs. Mastocytomas develop most often in dogs between seven and a half to nine years of age, but can sometimes also be found in dogs between four and six months of age. Most often, mast cells are found on the skin on the hind legs, in the area between the neck and abdomen (torso) or around the genitals. These cells contain a variety of biologically active substances, including histamine, heparin, serotonin, and prostaglandins, and cause allergy-related symptoms: redness, itching, swelling, drop in blood pressure, tearing, nausea, wheezing, etc.

How CBD can help

CBD cannot be considered the only cancer treatment, but it is a great tool for relieving and managing various types of pain during treatment.

  • May relieve symptoms caused by cancer. By stimulating the ECS system, CBD can reduce inflammation, pain, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and nausea.
  • It can limit the spread of cancer cells. While research into CBD for dogs is in its early days, research by Michael P. Barnes, Honorary Professor of Neurological Rehabilitation at Newcastle University, shows that CBD may even help stop harmful cell growth in tumors.

Various forms of CBD for animals

CBD supplements for pets are produced in the following forms:

  • Oil tinctures
  • Capsules
  • Steamed treats.

Oil tinctures come in glass dropper bottles which are convenient for measuring the exact dose. There are several ways to give your pet an oil tincture.

  • You can squeeze it directly into the dog’s mouth. Try to do this under the tongue so that the oil can be absorbed directly into the animal’s bloodstream. If your pet doesn’t allow it, wipe the product on the back of the tongue. Then, it’s important to give some food to make sure your furry friend has swallowed the supplement.
  • Squeeze the product onto your favorite snack. It should be remembered that the treat should be soft so that it absorbs the tincture. For example, dog muffins, a scoop of canned salmon, sardine puree, boiled chicken and even plain yogurt.
  • Add CBD oil to your main meal. This approach will work if you are on a regimen and are feeding your pet twice a day. This way you will make sure that all the food on your plate is eaten with the supplement.

The capsules purportedly contain full-spectrum CBD, terpenes, and flavonoids mixed with natural hemp. Manufacturing companies emphasize the advantage of capsules over tinctures and suggest that they are more convenient to use. The optimal dose is already calculated and you don’t need to measure it every time.

What’s more, you can often find the statement that CBD capsules are great for older dogs who suffer from pain, inflammation and arthritis. However, there is no argument as to exactly how capsules are better than oil tinctures.

Steamed treats aren’t the only CBD gummies alternative as many of you might think. The product comes in a variety of forms and flavors, such as roasted peanut butter bites, bacon biscuits and chews.

Which form gives the maximum therapeutic effect?

CBD oil in tincture is the most effective form of the entire range of CBD products for pets. There are several reasons for supporting this claim.

  • The concentration of CBD in the tincture is higher than in capsules and treats. The tincture also provides the benefits of natural oil for the overall CBD effect.
  • CBD capsules have an outer layer of vegetarian ingredients. It prevents the gel inside from reacting as quickly as an oil gushing under the tongue.
  • CBD-containing delicacies are processed at high temperatures and the effects of the cannabinoids weaken. So you never know how many of them are left.

Correct dosage of supplements is a major concern when it comes to CBD consumption, both in humans and animals. So far, there are no regulated dosage recommendations or even generally accepted guidelines. This makes each manufacturing company entitled to independently determine the amount of CBD in a treat or capsule. So remember that every time you give your pet a capsule or treat, you are relying on the manufacturer’s calculations.

CBD dosage for animals

To determine the optimal dose, consider several indicators:

  • Your dog’s weight
  • The number of milligrams per dose
  • The concentration of CBD active ingredients in the product.

Step 1 – measure the weight of the animal in kilograms;

Step 2 – Multiply the weight in kg by the dose of the product;

Step 3 – Take the package and check the concentration (how much CBD is in each milliliter);

Step 4 – Divide the dose of the product by the number of concentrations.

If you experience undesirable side effects such as vomiting, confusion, over-sedation, or excitement, stop taking CBD immediately and consult your veterinarian.

At the end

Research into the effects of CBD on animals is still in its infancy. However, existing clinical studies and anecdotal evidence from pet owners suggest that CBD can supplement treatment for even the most severe medical conditions.