Cannabis Products in Dogs

Cannabis products have recently become widely available to US populations for both recreational and medicinal use. This occurrence has raised a number of important questions regarding the effects of cannabis in dogs. Some questions are related to the accidental exposure of dogs to recreational products while others have focused on the intentional use of cannabinoids for the treatment of disease. 

The accidental exposure of dogs to recreational products results in toxicity at low doses of recreational products. Dogs, especially younger ones, are thought to have many times the human sensitivity to THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Dogs ingesting THC containing products rarely die, but often require medical care for delayed onset ataxia, urinary incontinence, hypothermia, vomiting and blood pressure abnormalities. The toxic effects of THC in dogs also extend to synthetic THC like molecules. 

The intentional use of CBD (cannabidiol) products has often been a source of discussion. It is generally thought that CBD has fewer risks and less toxicity than THC in dogs. In humans, the FDA has approved a CBD containing product. Human clinical trials have demonstrated that CBD may be useful for treating pain associated with osteoarthritis and refractory epilepsy. Because of promising clinical trials in humans, some people have wondered if CBD could be useful for treating arthritis, Seizure Disorders or anxiety in dogs. There are some important reasons why giving CBD product to dogs might be a bad idea:


  1. Clinical Trials: Many products that are not harmful and not toxic also lack efficacy or depend upon placebo effects for their benefits. Placebo effects are profound in people but are unlikely to improve your pet’s quality of life. Generally speaking, double blinded, peer reviewed clinical trials are needed to prove efficacy in animals. As of September 2019, only 2 such trials have been performed in dogs (none in cats). One study showed mild subjective improvement in the arthritis pain of some dogs that were already under treatment for arthritis with medications and fish oil. The other clinical trial failed to demonstrate any improvement in epileptic dogs given CBD. No studies have examined the treatment of any anxiety or behavioral disorder in dogs.
  2. Purity Concerns: The only FDA approved product is currently prohibitively expensive for use in dogs. Non-FDA approved products may or may not contain CBD, THC or other compounds such as cortisol like steroids in unregulated doses. There is an over the counter product (Vet CBD) that credibly claims to have a 20:1 ratio of CBD to THC that is verified by independent third-party testing.
  3. Legality Concerns: Federal regulations do not currently allow for the use of any cannabis product in animals.


Certainly, dogs can, and do, have a variety of illnesses associated with arthritic pain, epilepsy, poor appetite, glaucoma, anxiety, and nighttime awakening. Happily, we have safe and effective, FDA approved medications for these diseases of dogs and cats. If your canine or feline companion is suffering from one of these conditions, please contact a World of Animals’ veterinarian rather than administering an unknown amount of an unregulated supplement. Accurate diagnosis and proven treatments usually result in better medical outcomes for all pet diseases. 


Halleck Wrigley V.M.D.