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By Statler Willand
7th July 2022

ultimate guide to CBD oil for pets: health benefits

Reviewed by Dr. Ailsa Rutherford
Thursday 7th July 2022

The first thing we need to establish is that CBD oil, aka hemp oil, does not come from a marijuana plant, so don’t worry; it won’t make your pet high. CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant, one of the many species of the Cannabis sativa plant family. The marijuana plant is also part of this family, and one way to think of marijuana and hemp is that they are cousins. They are, however, genetically distinct, and they can be further distinguished by their use and chemical makeup.

Marijuana is used to describe a Cannabis sativa plant bred for its potent, resinous glands, which contain high amounts of THC (15-20%), known for its psychoactive properties. Hemp, on the other hand, describes a Cannabis sativa plant with only trace amounts of THC (< 0.3%). Marijuana has intoxicating amounts of THC, hence why marijuana is not safe and illegal. Unlike marijuana, hemp is low in THC (< 0.3%) and is therefore perfectly safe and legal.

What is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is derived from the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant, hence why it’s often called hemp oil. It is a natural botanical extract that is high in cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound of cannabis resin. CBD, one of the most common cannabinoids found in the hemp plant, is non-psychoactive and is believed to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates the body’s homeostasis or general state of balance. The ECS comprises millions of cannabinoid receptors located primarily throughout the brain, central nervous system and immune system that act in neural communication. CBD may positively influence such functions as mood, sleep, appetite, hormone regulation, sensitivity to pain, and immune response to chronic inflammation.

Difference Between the CBD (Hemp) Oil and Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil is obtained by pressing only the seeds of the hemp plant. When cold-pressed, the hemp seed oil appears greenish in colour with a delicious, nutty flavour.

As hemp seeds have no CBD, the oil extracted from hemp seeds, the hemp seed oil, doesn’t have any CBD. It does, however, offer spectacular nutrition: all essential amino acids (building blocks of protein), fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, without an excess of starches and sugars. As such, the hemp seed oil is an excellent dietary supplement to support and improve health.

For more information about the unique benefits of hemp seed oil for pets, the basis of all products in the current BUDDYPET range, take a look at our Hemp Seed Oil Fact Sheet and read GLA - hemp seed oil’s secret weapon to fight inflammation.

The Benefits of CBD Oil

CBD Oil for Pain Management

To date, a growing body of evidence supports the use of CBD oil for modulating anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, with chronic pain being the most widely cited condition. Clinical research among chronic pain patients and large population-based studies show that CBD / hemp oil is an effective mid-level analgesic.[1][2][3] CBD produces analgesic effects by altering signalling at multiple receptor systems. A study published in 2020, The Therapeutic Effectiveness of Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Using a Chronic Neuropathic Pain Model, provided evidence that phytochemical extracts of CBD oil can significantly improve mechanical pressure pain in animals with established chronic neuropathic hypersensitivity.[4]

CBD Oil for Dogs with Arthritis and Other Mobility Issues

Arthritis is defined as inflammation of the joint, and there are many types of arthritis, for example, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in dogs that occurs when the articular cartilage at the ends of bones wears down, leading to increased friction, inflammation, and pain.

Researchers at Cornell University found that dogs taking CBD for arthritis were more active and showed a decrease in pain. As CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory, it works to reduce inflammation in the joints and reduce the pain associated with it.

Holistic veterinarians often recommend CBD oil to help alleviate joint pain in senior dogs and dogs with hip dysplasia. Although it’s not a cure for all joint issues, CBD oil can help dogs stay active longer and feel better by easing inflammation caused by worn-down cartilage.

For more information about arthritis, please read Arthritis: Stages and Protocols for Dogs.

CBD Oil for Dogs with Seizures and Epilepsy

Epilepsy, one of the most common nervous system disorders, is a neurological condition characterised by recurrent seizures. Treatment for epilepsy includes anti-seizure medications. Common drug side effects are dizziness, nausea, fatigue, vertigo, and blurred vision, which are all too difficult for many dog patients to tolerate. As a result, many pet parents often seek alternative, natural forms of treatment such as CBD oil.

In collaboration with the Realm of Caring Foundation and other institutions, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers conducted an observational study to better understand CBD's impact on people with epilepsy.  The participant-reported data found that CBD may reduce the adverse effects of anti-seizure medications while improving other aspects of health and patients’ quality of life.

In a study conducted at Colorado State University, 89% of dogs that received CBD oil had a reduction in seizures. Human trials also saw success when CBD worked in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. One study even showed that seven out of eight patients saw noticeable improvement within four to five months.

Although scientists still don’t know exactly how CBD oil works for seizures, the following interactions have been observed which may explain the positive effects:

  • As endocannabinoids are neuroprotectants, they lower the risk of seizures caused by neurotoxicity. After a person ingests CBD, more cannabinoids are introduced to their system— which potentially improves the performance of the endocannabinoid system with their neuroprotective properties.
  • The endocannabinoid system modulates neuroexcitation, a process that may bring about seizures. Assisted by additional cannabinoids from CBD oil, a properly functioning endocannabinoid system may prevent the overexcitation of neurons.
  • CBD is also an anti-inflammatory. Since seizures can be triggered or exacerbated by brain inflammation, CBD may help in reducing seizure severity and/or frequency through attenuating neuroinflammation
CBD Oil for Anxiety and PTSD

In dogs, anxiety can present as the feeling and anticipation of future dangers from imagined or unknown origins. Separation anxiety can occur when the dog is left alone for an extended period. Once alone, the dog will feel so stressed and worried that it could start destroying everything inside, barking or crying, grooming itself excessively, and biting, causing self-trauma. Cats can also suffer anxiety and may hide, display aggression, or become agitated. Cats are known to be vocal with their owners if they are stressed. Pets need help from their owners to overcome their fears. This can be in the form of compassion, patience, and understanding to nurture the situation. Providing a relaxed surrounding and calming presence when stressful situations arise will help, but this may not be enough in some cases.

CBD oil is a proven natural treatment for pets with anxiety, low tolerance to stress, and PTSD. CBD works on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to relieve stress. The ECS is a network of thousands of receptors all over the body, including the brain and central nervous system. It regulates various functions such as sleep, mood, and pain. All animals have highly developed endocannabinoid systems, and treating symptoms with a plant-based solution such as CBD oil is increasingly popular with pet owners.

CBD also helps regulate the production of serotonin, the happy hormone that helps improve mood, social behaviour, sleep, and appetite.

For more information about anxiety symptoms and causes, read How to Spot Anxiety Symptoms in Dogs.

CBD for Inflammatory Skin Conditions and Allergies

There are very few studies on the effectiveness of the topical application of CBD oil to treat inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, or allergic skin reactions. However, in a 2019 study published in Clinical Therapeutics, CBD ointment helped clear skin and reduced itch in a small group of people suffering from atopic dermatitis.

As CBD oil is a natural anti-inflammatory agent, it helps the immune system to fight inflammation, reducing potential triggers of eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.

The endocannabinoid system is also found in the skin; hence CBD oil can also help manage the immune system’s response to allergens and provide the much-needed itch relief for your pet.

For more information about symptoms and causes of inflammatory skin conditions, please read Sensitive skin, Allergies, or Atopic Dermatitis? 

CBD Oil for Dogs with Dementia

While there is no definitive clinical research to prove CBD’s effectiveness for dogs with dementia, our understanding of how CBD affects the ECS suggests that it could be useful in mitigating some forms of neurodegeneration and accompanying symptoms.

A study published by the Department of Pharmacology at Wonkwang University School of Medicine concluded that CBD Oil could help support brain function and reverse cognitive deficits.[5]

CBD affects both GABA and serotonin receptors and has been shown to have anxiolytic properties. A review by Maroon and Bost discussed the neuroprotective benefits of CBD, which include decreasing the production of inflammatory cytokines, preserving cerebral circulation during ischemic events, and reducing neuroinflammation. CBD has been used in humans to reduce the signs of dementia in Alzheimer's disease patients. Decreased distress, agitation, aggression, and improvement in mood, appetite, and sleep quality were reported by caregivers whose patients were taking CBD oil. Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction could also similarly benefit from CBD.

CBD Oil for Cancer

Recent studies have shown that CBD oil may have direct anti-aging cancer effects in human and rodent models. As there is little data on the effects of CBD in canine cancer, investigators at Cornell University are studying what happens when the canine cancer cells are exposed to CBD alongside common chemotherapy drugs. Veterinary and Comparative Oncology recently published the results that offer hope for canine cancer patients. These results showed that CBD oil caused a significant decrease in cancer cell reproduction in every cell line studied. When combined with chemotherapy drugs, CBD also decreased cancer cell reproduction with greater effect than the chemo drug alone.

If your pet is undergoing cancer treatment, CBD oil can also help reduce nausea symptoms, which would make them feel more comfortable during their recovery.

Where to Buy CBD Oil in Australia?

Sadly, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority have not approved (legalised) the CBD oil yet. Currently, the only legal distribution of CBD products is by veterinarians under prescribing rights and for research purposes only. Any other supply of CBD products for use in animals in Australia is illegal, except for S4 CBD oil products (medical cannabis) approved and registered with TGA for off-label use.

But do not despair. Take a look at hemp seed oil. It comes from the same plant and also works as an anti-inflammatory, but on different pathways; hence is a good alternative to CBD oil for pets with mild anxiety and chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis and atopic dermatitis. Rich in fatty acids and antioxidants, hemp seed oil is also an excellent dietary supplement to support overall immune function, heart, brain, and heart health.

For seizures, cancer, and strong chronic pain, if you are looking for a natural solution, nothing is quite a match to CBD oil. So, talk to your vet about a prescription for a TGA-approved off-label product.



[1] Vigil, J.M.; Stith, S.S.; Adams, I.M.; Reeve, A.P. Associations between medical cannabis and prescription opioid use in chronic pain patients: A preliminary cohort study. PLoS ONE 2017, 12, e0187795.

[2] Li, X.; Vigil, J.M.; Stith, S.S.; Brockelman, F.; Keeling, K.; Hall, B. The effectiveness of self-directed medical cannabis treatment for pain. Complement. Ther. Med. 2019.

[3] Stith, S.S.; Vigil, J.M.; Brockelman, F.; Keeling, K.; Hall, B. Patient-reported symptom relief following medical cannabis consumption. Front. Pharmacol. 2018, 9, 916.

[4] The Therapeutic Effectiveness of Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Using a Chronic Neuropathic Pain Model. Vigil JM, Montera MA, Pentkowski NS, Diviant JP, Orozco J, Ortiz AL, Rael LJ, Westlund KN. The Therapeutic Effectiveness of Full Spectrum Hemp Oil Using a Chronic Neuropathic Pain Model. Life (Basel). 2020 May 18;10(5):69. doi: 10.3390/life10050069. PMID: 32443500; PMCID: PMC7281216.

[5] Xiong, Y.; Lim, C.-S. Understanding the Modulatory Effects of Cannabidiol on Alzheimer’s Disease. Brain Sci. 2021, 11, 1211. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11091211

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