beagle dog looking at owner holding cbd cannabis leaf

Hemp and CBD Oil For Dogs

Last Updated 27 FEBRUARY 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Brittany Ward BVSc

The use of Hemp and Cannabis Oil Products for dogs and cats is becoming increasingly popular in Australia! As there are advances in evidence for their benefits in human medicine and greater legalisation of there use, pet parents are starting to consider them for management of arthritis, anxiety, cancer and epilepsy in their pets as well.


What Is Hemp vs Cannabis vs Marijuana?

These three terms are often used interchangeably, and it can get quite confusing. Cannabis refers to material from any plant in the genus Cannabaceae, which contains 170 species of plant. When we refer to Hemp or Marijuana, these are plants from the distinct species Cannabis sativa.

There are two main active components of the plant Cannabis sativa that we are concerned with when it comes to Hemp Medicinal Products. This is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), with THC being psychoactive to cause the commonly associated "high". The CBD component can be separated from THC and can have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Hemp and Marijuana are distinguished by their THC content, with Hemp containing less than 0.3% and Marijuana containing more than 0.3% THC.

What Forms Do Cannabis Products For Dogs & Cats Come In?

hemp seed oil for pets on a table

There are three common forms that Cannabis Products come in, in the pet industry: Hemp Oil, Hemp Seed Oil and Cannabis Oil/CBD Oil.

  • Hemp Seed Oil is extracted from the seeds of the plant itself and contains very low levels of THC.
  • Hemp Oil may refer to Hemp Seed Oil or an oil extracted from multiple components of the plant. It is also usually low in THC.
  • Cannabis Oil is derived directly from the Cannabis sativa plant and contains high levels of both THC and CBD, while CBD oil has been extracted to contain only the non-toxic CBD active.

When using CBD Oil in pets, it is important to use pharmaceutical grade products that have been consistency tested and labelled with an active ingredient concentration. These products are considered scheduled medications in Australia. As of 2021 Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil became a Schedule 4 medication, meaning that Veterinarians may prescribe it for therapeutic uses in animals, as long as the Cannabinoid content is less than 2%.

Benefits of Hemp Products For Pets

husky dog smelling cbd oil for pets

Many veterinarians will prefer to recommend alternative medications over Hemp or CBD Oil products. This is because there is limited research into the safety, long term effects and medication reactions of these products. Your vet may prefer to reach for well researched products that have been in use for a long time with known results and interactions. This is especially true of cats, where there are only two to three studies into the safety of Cannabinoid products.

In the pet industry, we tend to extrapolate the potential benefits from research in humans, while more research in pets becomes available. The most commonly reported benefits of Hemp and CBD oil in pets are for arthritis, anxiety, seizures, skin care and cancer.

1. Arthritis

When it comes to dogs, there have been a number of studies into the benefits of Hemp and CBD oil for arthritis pain. Osteoarthritis affects 1 in 5 adult dogs and is a progressive disease, so it is something vets and pet parents alike are seeking relief options for. CBD shares its metabolic pathway with many of the Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) available on the market, which is how it is able to provide benefits for pain relief. Multiple studies have shown increased activity and a decrease in pain following treatment with CBD oil.

There is currently no evidence into whether Hemp and Cannabis Oil provides pain relief in cats. However, there is anecdotal evidence from in clinic use, and we can assume based on research in humans and dogs that it most likely is beneficial for joint pain in cats.

Recommended Hemp Products for Joints:

2. Anxiety

dog and cat staring out of window

Anxiety is another reason why pet parents might seek out hemp products and CBD oil for their pets. Many pets suffer from anxiety, with cats being particularly susceptible to changes in their routine and environment, and many dogs experiencing separation anxiety. However, this is an area significantly lacking in research for CBD oil use in pets.

Cannabinoid receptors (CB1) which are found in both dogs and cats, are located densely in the nervous and hormonal systems. Therefore, they may have an influence on serotonin and dopamine; the happy hormones. These two hormones play a critical role in mood regulation, and their elevation can create a feeling of calm. In humans CBD oil has been shown to reduce anxiety through this pathway, so it has been thought to potentially have the same effect in animals.

Recommended Hemp Products for Anxiety For Dogs:

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3. Seizures and Cognitive Disorders

Seizures can be absolutely terrifying, so it's understandable owners are seeking additional ways to treat them. While this area has shown promise in humans, there are very few studies into the benefits of CBD for animals with seizures. The results of present studies in dogs have given mixed results as to efficacy.

The Endocannabinoid system plays a key role in seizure activity within the brain. It is believed that CBD reduces seizures through its antioxidant properties as well as binding with Cannabinoid receptors.

MCT Oil, a common carrier for CBD oil in pets, has been shown to benefit pets experiencing seizures, which could also influence the results seen by owners. Due to the lack of evidence, many veterinarians will prefer to prescribe well known anti-epileptic medications.

4. Skin

orange cat scratching head in grass

As mentioned above, Hemp Oil and CBD oil have anti-inflammatory properties. This may benefit joints, and with Cannabinoid receptors in the skin, it can also provide anti-inflammatory effects to pets with sensitive and itchy skin.

Hemp oil has also been proven to be high in omega fatty acids, which are heavily involved in the skin barrier, coat health and provide further anti-inflammatory properties to help relieve the itch and irritations associated with allergies in pets.

Recommended Hemp Products for Itchy Skin For Dogs:

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Recommended Hemp Products for Itchy Skin For Cats:

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6. Cancer

There have been several studies into the potential benefits of Hemp and CBD Oil for managing specific cancers. While these studies have shown promise for slowing cancer growth and spread, they cannot yet be applied diffusely to all cancers.

It should be noted that Hemp and CBD oil cannot cure cancer, they just have some anti-cancer (anti-neoplastic) properties, so should be used in conjunction with veterinary recommended treatments.

It's also worth keeping in mind that we know these products have high levels of omega fatty acids, which also have known anti-inflammatory and anti-neoplastic effects. Other omega supplements such as Fish Oil, Flaxseed Oil and Sunflower Oil might be safer options for providing these benefits.

In cats, there are no studies into the effects of CBD oil on cancers, however, we can infer from dog studies that they are likely to be of some benefit.

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Are Hemp and Cannabis Products Safe for Pets?

Dogs and cats, comparative to humans, have a lot more Cannabinoid receptors, which makes them highly susceptible to the potential toxic effects of Cannabis. Receptors have been recorded in the salivary glands, hair follicles, skin and hippocampus of the brain. THC is also highly lipid soluble and easily stored in fatty tissues of the liver, brain and kidneys before it is eliminated.

While research is not sufficient into the topic to be certain, many studies have shown that Hemp and CBD oil products are relatively safe in dogs. They are more likely to result in mild side effects, such as diarrhoea, sedation, reddening of the skin, especially around the ears, or discharge from the eyes.

It is also important to note that multiple safety trials in dogs have reported elevations in the liver enzyme Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP) although no associated symptoms were observed. Side effects reported in cats include head shaking and increased licking.

Hemp and Cannabis products should not be used in pregnant or lactating animals as they have shown to cause infertility and pregnancy loss in mice and sheep, while cats have been proven to have a high number of Cannabinoid receptors in the reproductive tract. Further study is required, but avoidance is recommended.

What If My Pet Accidentally Ingests Cannabis?

Pets may come into contact with Marijuana in the home by ingesting the product directly, or, more commonly, in edibles such as baked goods, chocolates or candies. Cannabis in this form contains high levels of THC and can be highly toxic to pets, although rarely fatal. Our main concern is for the secondary complications resulting from THC toxicity. If your pet has consumed Marijuana or is showing the below symptoms, you should take your pet to the veterinarian immediately for treatment.

    Symptoms of Cannabis Toxicity in Pets:

  • Wobbly gait or Uncoordinated
  • Hyperactivity or Sleepiness
  • Disorientation or Vocalising
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Drooling and/or Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Low Respiratory Rate
  • Bradycardia (Slow heart rate) or Tachycardia (Fast heart rate)
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Increased or Decreased Body Temperature

When To Use CBD Oil:

Because of the general lack of evidence supporting the safety and the efficacy of CBD oil in pets, most vets will prescribe CBD oil as a last resort treatment. They will prefer to use well known medications that are backed by science and are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). However, each veterinarian will have their own preferred protocol.

Your vet may require your pet to be on a supplement or registered medication first, as well as want to perform initial blood tests and follow up blood tests to ensure there are no side effects from using CBD Oil.

Further Reading

Your Guide to Pet Supplements

Why Does My Dog Have Sensitive and Itchy Skin?

Causes of Itching in Cats

Daily Habits For Pet Health

See Alternative Health Products For Dogs & Cats


CBD Vets Australia

VSB QLD The Use of Cannabis Products

Cannabidiol Displays Antiepileptiform and Antiseizure Properties In Vitro and In Vivo

Marijuana Intoxication in Dogs and Cats VCA Hospitals

Walkerville Vet Dog CBD Oil Australia

Perth Cat Hospital Cannabidiol and Cats

Use of Cannabis in the Treatment of Animals

Cannabis for Pet Pain VIN

CBD Use in Pets VIN

Promising Research on the use of CBD to Treat Canine Cancers

Ditch The Itch With Hemp Oil

Cannabinoid Receptor Expression in Skin

Cannabidiol in Canine Epilepsy

CBD for Dogs and CBD for Cats PetMD

Cannabis Therapy in Veterinary Medicine

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