How Does CBD Oil Help Dogs With Itchy Skin?

  • CBD’s pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties (1) makes it a popular alternative for pet owners to use for soothing their dog’s itchy skin.
  • A dog’s itchy skin is caused by external factors or underlying diseases, such as allergies, infections, or parasites(2).
    When a dog experiences an allergic reaction or infection, its immune system sends antibodies to address the invading allergen or microorganism, resulting in inflammation(3).
  • CBD works jointly with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for activating CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties. All mammals, including dogs, possess the ECS(4).
  • A study published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research showed how targeting a dog’s ECS might protect against the effects of allergic inflammatory diseases(5).
  • However, studies have yet to verify the ability of CBD to alleviate skin itchiness in dogs.
    Dog owners must seek the advice of a veterinarian before administering CBD oil to dogs with itchy skin.

Why Dog Owners Are Turning to CBD Oil for Dogs With Itchy Skin

CBD oil’s documented pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties (6) have made it a popular remedy for pet owners to use on dogs experiencing itchy skin.

Like humans, dogs also experience skin problems, like itchy skin. The official medical term for the itchiness experienced by dogs is pruritus, and the MSD Veterinary Manual defines it as an irritable feeling that prompts dogs to scratch their skin(7).

Pooches with pruritus are observed to scratch, rub, bite, or lick the affected area, causing them discomfort.

The itchiness may not only be confined to one specific area, as dogs can experience itchiness all over their body.

Itchy skin afflicting pet dogs is only one sign of a possible underlying medical condition, the MSD Veterinary Manual warns.

Many factors can cause itchy skin in dogs. Common causes include parasites, infections, and dog allergies.

Dog allergies are also commonly observed in veterinary practice due to the myriad of external factors that can act as potential allergens(8).

Potential allergens can come from the environment, or parasites, like mites and fleas. These external factors can then trigger an allergic reaction.

Dust, pollen, mold, and dander (dead skin shed by animals), act as irritants to the furry animals, and may cause allergic dermatitis, or atopic dermatitis, a common type of dog allergy.

Dust and pollen, in particular, are most prevalent during springtime, and can also trigger seasonal allergies.

Other than itchy skin, dogs experiencing seasonal allergies can also have swollen eyes, a runny nose, and fits of sneezing.

Meanwhile, bites from parasites, like fleas and dust mites, can cause acute moist dermatitis or hot spots.

Hot spots usually appear as moist, red, inflamed, and itchy skin. They are usually self-inflicted by the pooches themselves as a reaction to the irritating dust mites and flea bites(9).

On the other hand, the MSD Veterinary Manual also cites fungal and bacterial infections as other possible causes of itchiness in dogs(10).

In addition to itching, dogs suffering from an infection may also experience hair loss, unpleasant odor, and fluid discharge.

A pooch with yeast or bacterial infection scratches, rubs, or licks its face and feet without control.

When dogs experience allergic reactions or infections, their immune system releases an inflammatory response to address the external entity, causing harm to its body(11).

The use of CBD oil may help alleviate the symptoms of allergies in dogs.

The dog’s immune system releases an abundant number of antibodies to attack the invader allergen or bacteria, triggering inflammation(12).

CBD’s documented anti-inflammatory properties (13) may be vital in alleviating itchy skin in dogs with skin allergies or infections.

The anti-inflammatory effects of CBD occur due to its interactions with the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS is a system that regulates various bodily processes and is present in all mammals, including dogs(14).

However, studies on the effects of CBD on dogs with itchy skin are lacking. To date, there is limited evidence to support that CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects may help alleviate itching sensations in the dog’s body.

However, one significant study published in the American Journal of veterinary research found ECS as a potential target in mitigating the effects of allergic inflammatory diseases in various animals(15).

In the study, researchers used skin samples from five dogs with atopic dermatitis and five dogs with healthy skin.

The researchers found that targeting the ECS can protect dogs’ bodies against the effects of inflammation caused by skin allergies.

Various dog owners have also reported positive feedback in using CBD as an alternative option in helping to relieve dogs of itchy skin.

Still, pet owners must consult with a veterinarian before administering CBD oil to their dogs.

Dog allergies and infections are worrying diseases that can become severe when left untreated.

How CBD Oil Works to Help Dogs With Itchy Skin

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is critical in understanding how CBD oil works for dogs that experience itchy skin.

The ECS is a biological system that plays an essential role in regulating the various bodily processes of all mammals, including dogs(16).

In particular, the ECS helps regulate pain, memory, mood, sleep, metabolism, and immune response(17).

It is composed of endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes.

CB1 and CB2 receptors are the ECS’ two primary receptors.

CB1 receptors are commonly situated in the brain and nervous system. However, they also exist in tissues and the endocrine gland.

Meanwhile, CB2 receptors are most abundant in the immune system.

Endocannabinoids, on the other hand, are neurotransmitters that function as signals. When endocannabinoids bind with receptors, a specific action can be triggered.

One study linked CB2 receptors to various immune events, particularly inflammation(18).

CB2 receptors hindered bodily inflammation by limiting the number of signals that could trigger immune responses, including allergic reactions.

One study published in The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics found that using CBD to activate CB2 receptors suppressed the effects of allergic contact dermatitis(19).

Areas of the skin affected with allergic contact dermatitis can also turn red and itchy skin(20).

One study linked atopic dermatitis (itchy skin allergies in dogs) as the cause of long-term itching in dogs(21).

Researchers from Switzerland have also illustrated how CBD’s interaction with CB2 receptors may indirectly contribute to its anti-inflammatory actions(22).

However, research has yet to investigate whether CBD is effective in soothing dogs’ itchy skin.

CBD or cannabidiol is a phytocannabinoid, a type of cannabinoid found naturally occurring in the Cannabis sativa plant.

CBD is only one of the hundreds of phytocannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant.  

Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is another popular example. 

However, unlike its famous counterpart, CBD is non-psychoactive. Hence, CBD does not possess the psychoactive properties that cause THC users to experience a euphoric ‘high’ effect.

CBD is an extract from the hemp plant, one of the varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. Hemp plants contain less than 0.3% THC.

As a result, hemp extracts, like CBD, retain the cannabis plant’s medicinal properties without the disadvantageous psychoactive effects that worry dog owners.

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Dogs With Itchy Skin

Pros

  • CBD may provide relief to dogs with itchy skin because of its interactions with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which all mammals have(23).
  • Due to CBD’s relationship with the ECS, administering CBD to dogs can also boost the pooches’ skin health, as phytocannabinoids, including CBD, help promote homeostasis (processes that keep the body stable)(24).
  • A study concluded that CBD has an excellent safety record for both animals and humans(25).
    In particular, various human and animal research reviewed in the study suggests that CBD is non-toxic and does not affect appetite, heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure.
    The study also states that controlled administration of CBD may be safe for both humans and animals.
  • A report on the adverse effects of CBD administration on healthy canines found that healthy adult dogs tolerated CBD oil well(26).
  • Another study investigating cannabinoid therapies on animals suggests that providing dogs omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can be beneficial for the pooches since they cannot produce these fatty acids naturally(27).
    The European Food Information Council cites the ability of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to regulate the body’s blood pressure and inflammatory responses(28).
    Full-spectrum CBD oil’s ingredients include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
  • CBD is gaining traction in the United States. As a result, a variety of CBD products are now readily available for dog owners.
    CBD tincture, oil drops, and sprays allow for easy administration.
    Meanwhile, topical balms, creams, and salves let dog owners apply CBD oil onto a targeted area of the pooch’s skin.
    CBD dog treats are also a convenient way of administering CBD to pet dogs.

Cons

  • There is yet to be a study on the effects of CBD administered to dogs suffering from itchy skin. Limited scientific evidence supports the ability of CBD to alleviate itchiness experienced by dogs.
  • CBD is known to interact negatively with other drugs taken alongside it. A study on cannabinoid therapies for animals suggests that the same may happen for dogs(29).
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved CBD use for animals(30).
    Dog owners should first seek advice from a veterinarian before administering CBD oil to dogs with itchy skin.
  • The same report detailing the adverse effects of CBD administration on healthy pooches notes that while the canine subjects had no significant negative side effects, most of the dogs experienced diarrhea(31).
    The American Kennel Club’s chief veterinary officer, Dr. Jerry Klein, also lists low blood pressure, dry mouth, and drowsiness as possible side effects of CBD(32).

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Options for Dogs With Itchy Skin

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Karen Moriello states that in veterinary practice, itchiness in a dog’s skin is commonly treated with antihistamines(33).

However, antihistamines’ success rate in treating dogs’ itchy skin is highly inconsistent. 

Dr. Moriello also states that current available veterinary research does not recommend using antihistamines to provide relief to itchiness experienced by dogs.

However, Moriello cites essential oils as an alternative treatment for dogs that experience itchy skin.

Lavender oil, peppermint, thyme, orange, and chamomile are among the most popular essential oils dog owners use to help alleviate the itchiness and discomfort experienced by their pet animals.

A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science explains how skin diseases are accompanied by impaired skin barriers, resulting in dry and irritated skin(34).

A crippled skin barrier is more vulnerable to irritants, allergens, and microorganisms, like bacteria and fungi, which contribute to the development of inflammation.

Non-profit organization, Project CBD, explains that commercial skincare products contain chemicals that can further irritate the skin(35).

The non-profit organization then illustrates how plant-based oils have been used for centuries by many cultures and are a natural option for promoting skin health.

The program director of integrative medicine at Sibley Memorial Hospital, Harpreet Gujral, also explains that while essential oils may not work for everyone, there is no harm in trying the products as long as they are used safely(36).

CBD is also a plant extract, as it is derived from the hemp plant. Certain CBD products also contain essential oils, like lavender and orange oils.

Carrier oils, such as coconut oil, have also been used to help treat dogs’ skin conditions, like hot spots and itchy, dry skin(37).

One particular study detailed the effectiveness of topical formulations of argan oil (a carrier oil) and CBD in reducing the symptoms of various kinds of dermatitis (skin irritation), including dry skin and skin inflammations caused by insect bites(38).

However, pet owners should be aware that CBD is not a miracle cure for dogs’ allergies, infections, or skin problems.

How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Dogs With Itchy Skin

Dog owners should know what to look for when choosing the best CBD product to alleviate the itchiness experienced by their pet dogs.

When picking CBD products for dogs with itchy skin, consider the following:

  • Pet owners are recommended to choose full-spectrum CBD oil, as it contains the most active cannabinoid and natural extracts from the cannabis plant.
    Full-spectrum CBD oil also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that can be beneficial to dogs as these help regulate blood pressure and inflammatory responses(39).
  • The 2018 Farm Bill authorized industrial hemp production, as well as the distribution of CBD products in different states. However, it is still crucial to check the legal provisions of the state where the CBD product is going to be bought from and used.
  • Prioritize purchasing organic and non-GMO CBD products as these are suggestive of high quality.
  • Buy only from legitimate CBD brands and sellers with excellent ethical standards, validated manufacturing processes (cGMP), and a COA (certificate of analysis). Certified CBD brands and sellers should also possess third-party lab certificates of analysis for every batch of CBD oil produced.
  • High-quality CBD products are extracted using CO2 technology. This method is currently the safest and cleanest way to extract all ingredients from the hemp plant.
  • For maximum safety and effectiveness, remember to check reviews and feedback on both the brand and the product. These reviews and feedback should serve as the basis of whether a product is of good quality or not.

CBD Dosage for Dogs

There is yet to be a standardized CBD dosage chart or guide for dogs experiencing itchy skin or allergies, as the FDA has not yet approved CBD use for animals(40).

The consensus among CBD users is to give pets a small initial dose and gradually increase until the desired effects are met.

However, the safest route is to simply follow the dosage instructions provided by the CBD company and manufacturer.

Legitimate CBD brands and companies have their specialized CBD dosage chart and guide.

They provide detailed dosage information for dog owners who wish to use CBD to alleviate the itchiness experienced by their pets.

Regular doses can help improve the pooch’s overall skin health. In contrast, “strong” doses are administered for dogs experiencing medical conditions like allergies.

Dog owners should seek the opinion of a veterinarian before administering CBD to their pet dogs. 

How Dogs With Itchy Skin Can Take CBD Oil

A variety of CBD products that can help dogs with itchy skin now exist on the market. 

Pet owners can administer CBD oil to their dogs either orally (taken by the mouth) or topically (applied on the skin).

Through the Mouth

CBD oil tinctures, oil drops, and sprays let dog owners apply CBD oil into the dog’s mouth, or mixed with their food.

CBD treats are also readily available for pets. CBD-infused dog treats are a convenient way of giving dogs CBD oil. Dog owners can simply feed the dog treats to their pooch and wait for the effects to take place.

On the Skin

It is also safe to apply CBD oil directly to the dog’s skin, which is affected by itchiness or hot spots.

Topical CBD products like creams, salves, balms, and sprays allow the dog owners to administer CBD onto the affected areas of the skin.

Most CBD brands recommend administering a low dose of CBD oil twice a day for maximum effectiveness.

Conclusion

Dog owners are using CBD oil as a natural, alternative option for soothing the itchy skin experienced by their pet animals.

Dogs’ itchy skin is often a sign of hidden diseases, such as dog allergies and infections.

CBD’s documented anti-inflammatory properties can help alleviate the itchiness experienced by dogs with allergies or infections.

However, limited scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of CBD in mitigating skin itchiness.

Dog owners must first seek advice from a veterinarian before administering CBD oil to their pet animals.


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  2. Moriello, Karen. (2018). Itching (Pruritus) in Dogs. Retrieved from: https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/itching-pruritus-in-dogs
  3. Galli, S. J., Tsai, M., & Piliponsky, A. M. (2008). The development of allergic inflammation. Nature, 454(7203), 445–454. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07204
  4. McPartland, J. M., Matias, I., Di Marzo, V., & Glass, M. (2006). Evolutionary origins of the endocannabinoid system. Gene, 370, 64–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gene.2005.11.004
  5. Campora, L., Miragliotta, V., Ricci, E., Cristino, L., Di Marzo, V., Albanese, F., Federica Della Valle, M., & Abramo, F. (2012). Cannabinoid receptor type 1 and 2 expression in the skin of healthy dogs and dogs with atopic dermatitis. American journal of veterinary research, 73(7), 988–995. https://doi.org/10.2460/ajvr.73.7.988
  6. Hammell, D. C. et al. op. cit.
  7. Moriello, Karen. op. cit.
  8. Dopierała, Marta & Andraszek, Katarzyna. (2019). THE MOST COMMON ALLERGIC DISEASES IN DOGS. Folia Pomeranae Universitatis Technologiae Stetinensis Agricultura, Alimentaria, Piscaria et Zootechnica. 348(49)1. 47-56. 10.21005/AAPZ2019.49.1.05.
  9. The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. (2018, October). Hot spots (acute moist dermatitis) in dogs. Retrieved from: https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/pet-health-hub/conditions/hot-spots-acute-moist-dermatitis-in-dogs
  10. Moriello, Karen. op. cit.
  11. Galli, S. J. et al. op. cit.
  12. Tizard, Ian. (2018). Immune System Responses in Dogs. Retrieved from: https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/immune-disorders-of-dogs/immune-system-responses-in-dogs
  13. Bruni, N., Della Pepa, C., Oliaro-Bosso, S., Pessione, E., Gastaldi, D., & Dosio, F. (2018). Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(10), 2478. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23102478
  14. UCLA Health. Human Endocannabinoid System. Retrieved from https://www.uclahealth.org/cannabis/human-endocannabinoid-system; McPartland JM, Matias I, Di Marzo V, Glass M. Evolutionary origins of the endocannabinoid system. Gene. 2006;370:64-74.doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gene.2005.11.004
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  17. Zou, S., & Kumar, U. (2018). Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(3), 833. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19030833
  18. Cabral, G. A., & Griffin-Thomas, L. (2009). Emerging role of the cannabinoid receptor CB2 in immune regulation: therapeutic prospects for neuroinflammation. Expert reviews in molecular medicine, 11, e3. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1462399409000957
  19. Petrosino, S., Verde, R., Vaia, M., Allarà, M., Iuvone, T., & Di Marzo, V. (2018). Anti-inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol, a Nonpsychotropic Cannabinoid, in Experimental Allergic Contact Dermatitis. The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, 365(3), 652–663. https://doi.org/10.1124/jpet.117.244368
  20. Oakley, Amanda. (2016). Allergic contact dermatitis. Retrieved from: https://dermnetnz.org/topics/allergic-contact-dermatitis/
  21. Harvey, N. D., Craigon, P. J., Shaw, S. C., Blott, S. C., & England, G. (2019). Behavioural Differences in Dogs with Atopic Dermatitis Suggest Stress Could Be a Significant Problem Associated with Chronic Pruritus. Animals : an open access journal from MDPI, 9(10), 813. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100813
  22. Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I., & Skrzydlewska, E. (2019). Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 9(1), 21. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9010021
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  24. Kunos, G., Osei-Hyiaman, D., Liu, J., Godlewski, G., & Bátkai, S. (2008). Endocannabinoids and the control of energy homeostasis. The Journal of biological chemistry, 283(48), 33021–33025. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.R800012200
  25. Bergamaschi, M. M., Queiroz, R. H., Zuardi, A. W., & Crippa, J. A. (2011). Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Current drug safety, 6(4), 237–249. https://doi.org/10.2174/157488611798280924
  26. McGrath S, Bartner L, Rao S, et al (2018) A report of adverse effects associated with the administration of cannabidiol in healthy dogs. J Am Holistic Vet Med Assoc. Fall 2018
  27. Hartsel, Joshua & Boyar, Kyle & Pham, Andrew & Silver, Robert & Makriyannis, Alexandros. (2019). Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine: Cannabinoid Therapies for Animals. 10.1007/978-3-030-04624-8_10 
  28. The European Food Information Council. (2019). The importance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Retrieved from: https://www.eufic.org/en/whats-in-food/article/the-importance-of-omega-3-and-omega-6-fatty-acids
  29. Hartsel, Joshua et al. op. cit.
  30. US FDA. (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd.
  31. McGrath S. et al. op. cit.
  32. Kriss R. (2019, Oct 27). The American Kennel Club. CBD Oil for Dogs: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/cbd-oil-dogs/
  33. Moriello, Karen. op. cit.
  34. Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. (2017). Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(1), 70. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19010070
  35. Misuraca, Melinda. (2019). HOW TO MAKE A CBD TOPICAL FOR HEALTHY SKIN. Retrieved from: https://www.projectcbd.org/make-cbd-topical
  36. Gujral, Harpreet. (n.d.) Aromatherapy: Do Essential Oils Really Work?. Retrieved from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/aromatherapy-do-essential-oils-really-work
  37. Reisan, Jan. (2017). Coconut Oil for Dogs: Is it Really Good for Them?. Retrieved from: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/is-coconut-oil-good-for-dogs/
  38. Shemanski M.E. Formulations of Argan Oil and Cannabidiol for Treating Inflammatory Disorders Including Arthritis. WO2017160923A1. 2017 Sep 21;
  39. The European Food Information Council. op. cit.
  40. 40. US FDA. op. cit.
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