Can CBD help with managing dog behavior, and if so, which cbd is the best for dogs?

The American Kennel Club describes aggression in dogs as any threat to harm an individual, whether this individual is human or another animal(1).

There are different forms of aggression, and it is essential to determine the cause to deal with the issue at hand appropriately. 

Aggression may be due to guarding territory or protecting a family member, resource guarding, fear, frustration, prey drive, or pain.

Knowing why a dog is aggressive is key to figuring out the best plan for stopping this frightening behavior. 

Meanwhile, reactivity is commonly confused with aggression. Reactive dogs overreact to certain things or situations, and triggers may include men with beards or hats or small children.

Leash-reactive dogs tend to growl, bark, or lunge toward things that make them nervous or fearful.

Genetics, the lack of proper socialization, or a combination of both can cause reactivity, and fear is typically the driving force. 

Fear is a common cause of aggression. A dog that is scared chooses to run from which it is afraid. 

When a dog is trapped and cannot flee from the inciting cause, it fights to preserve itself. 

Fearful dogs may not give additional warnings other than their body language. The bites themselves are typically quick snaps and may occur when the person is leaving and has his back turned.

Destructive behavior, on the other hand, is typical with separation anxiety(2). The damage caused is usually around entry and exit points, like doorways and windows. 

Dogs in a state of heightened anxiety may also be at risk of harming themselves. Attempts to break out of dog crates, windows, and even doors can result in painful injuries.

How CBD Works for Dog Behavior

CBD affects the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which includes receptors throughout the body. The purpose of this complex network is to maintain homeostasis (balance) among bodily functions and processes. 

The ECS affects every part of the body, which is why it is believed that cannabis products can help with a wide range of medical conditions, from anxiety to inflammation.

This system is a bridge between the body and the mind. As CBD oil affects the endocannabinoid receptors in the dog’s body, it also helps to calm the mind. When the dog is relaxed, there is no need to display aggressive behaviors. 

CBD for Anxiety, Pain, and Inflammation

Probably the biggest misconception is that CBD is useful in managing a dog’s anxiety. However, CBD may indirectly help reduce anxiety by reducing the pain and inflammation that caused anxiety.

According to the authors of a 2017 study published in the PLOS One Journal, many conditions in dogs share striking similarities with their human counterparts(3).

Interestingly, the first scientific research conducted on CBD oil use in pets is the 2017 Cornell University study, where CBD oil was given to dogs with osteoarthritis two times a day(4)

In the said study, some of the conditions thought to be relieved by the consumption of hemp-based CBD dog treats and products were: joint pain, inflammation, anxiety and phobia, digestive system issue, and pruritus (itching)(5).

Overall, CBD is regarded as safe in dogs and cats, as noted by researchers of a study (6). 

However, a 2018 scientific report published by the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association indicated that, when given at the recommended doses, CBD caused an elevation in a principal liver value on bloodwork, called alkaline phosphatase (ALP)(7).

An extensive study using clinically-applicable doses is needed to evaluate the long-term effects of CBD on the canine liver and gastrointestinal function.

Conclusion

Many cases of aggression, reactivity, and fear in dogs are rooted in anxiety. Meanwhile, CBD oil is showing great promise in reducing anxiety in both humans and dogs. 

Studies have shown that CBD oil may help reduce a dog’s anxiety levels by reducing the probable cause of anxiety, like pain and inflammation.

Veterinarians are not legally allowed to prescribe or even recommend cannabis products, like CBD, to their veterinary clients(8). 

On the federal level, CBD remains categorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the same as heroin.

However, veterinarians can enter into discussions with the dog owners concerning the appropriate medical use of cannabis products. 

Before giving CBD to pets, consult with a veterinarian who has experience with CBD for advice.


  1. Rakosky E. (2016, Aug 30). What Is Aggression? Reactivity vs. Aggression. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/reactivity-vs-aggression/.
  2. Kriss R. (2019, May 14). Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Dog Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/treating-dog-anxiety/.
  3. Freundt-Revilla J, Kegler K, Baumgärtner W, Tipold A (2017) Spatial distribution of cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) in normal canine central and peripheral nervous system. PLoS ONE 12(7): e0181064.
  4. Gamble LJ, Boesch JM, Frye CW, et al. Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Front Vet Sci. 2018;5:165. Published 2018 Jul 23. DOI:10.3389/fvets.2018.00165.
  5. Kogan LR, Hellyer PW, Robinson NG. Consumers’ perceptions of hemp products for animals. J Am Holist Vet Med Assoc. (2016) 42:40–8.
  6. Deabold KA, Schwark WS, Wolf L, Wakshlag JJ. Single-Dose Pharmacokinetics and Preliminary Safety Assessment with Use of CBD-Rich Hemp Nutraceutical in Healthy Dogs and Cats. Animals (Basel). 2019;9(10):832. Published 2019 Oct 19. DOI:10.3390/ani9100832.
  7. McGrath S et al. A Report of Adverse Effects Associated With the Administration of Cannabidiol in Healthy Dogs. Retrieved from https://www.ahvma.org/wp-content/uploads/AHVMA-2018-V52-CannabisAdverseEffects.pdf
  8. Veterinary Medical Board (VMB). (2020, Jan 1). Guidelines for the Discussion of Cannabis Use on Veterinary Patients. Retrieved from https://www.vmb.ca.gov/meetings/materials/042019_mdcitem6.pdf
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