CBD is in the news a lot lately as a supplement that can be helpful for people – but what about CBD and dogs?

The idea of giving something based on cannabis to your dog might be disturbing (and might disturb the same people who will cheerfully give a cat catnip). However, CBD does not come from marijuana, but from a related hemp plant, and it contains very little THC – which is the substance that actually gets you high. Therefore, hemp oil cannot and will not get your dog high or addicted, unless the dog gets a major overdose (for example, from getting into hemp oil unsupervised – CBD should be kept out of the reach of pets and children). Hemp oil is not medical marijuana – although studies are being done on the use of marijuana in dogs, as yet, there are no specific medical benefits listed for either marijuana or hemp oil.

However, hemp oil as a food supplement for dogs does have some advantages. It contains a great ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, which dogs need to get from their diet, and which can help balance the diet, especially if your dog is eating commercial dog food or a diet primarily of red meat. It also has a nice array of amino acids. In fact, hemp oil is considered a superfood for dogs. These fatty acids help support a healthy skin and coat – so hemp oil can make your dog’s coat shinier and reduce the risk of skin conditions such as eczema or dandruff. There’s also some evidence that hemp oil is good for your dog’s joints, especially for older dogs. Hemp also appears to have a positive effect on mood – although it won’t get Fido high, it can help him relax.

CBD appears to interact with dogs in much the way it interacts with humans – we have the same endocannabinoid system, and while hemp oil in dogs has not been as heavily studied, it seems likely that it works in the same way. It is possible that it has a longer duration in dogs than in humans, due to some slight differences in receptors – which again should make one cautious with dosage.

Hemp oil should be added to your dog’s food – again, be careful of the dosage. A teaspoon for every pound of food is one measure, but be particularly careful with small dogs. Also, hemp oil should never be cooked. It breaks down very quickly when cooked and not only will your dog get no benefit, but it could make your dog sick. Also, hemp oil should generally not be fed if your dog’s diet is entirely poultry-based because it can cause a fat imbalance (chicken already has linoleic acid). Hemp oil can also be given to your dogs topically. This can sometimes be helpful for skin and coat issues.

Be wary of commercially-produced dog foods or dog treats that claim to already contain hemp seed oil, and make sure you buy the oil from a reputable manufacturer. In some cases, hemp seed oil products contain very little actual hemp oil. Make sure you are buying hemp oil, not cannabis CBD, which can cause THC toxicity in dogs (i.e., it can make your dog both high and sick – and there have been numerous incidents of dogs getting sick after they got into their owner’s pot, some of which have died). The best source of hemp oil is a reputable company that produces hemp seed oil supplements for both humans and animals.

In short – hemp oil is not a “medicine” (and is not marijuana), but it is a superfood that has benefits to your dog, especially if you are worried about your dog having a balanced diet. For many dogs, it can be a good substitute for fish oil (which can give some dogs diarrhea). The primary observed benefit is improvement in skin health and coat quality. So, it might be worth trying some hemp oil for your dog – or even for yourself.