Just like for humans, anxiety can be a crippling condition for pets.
And as a pet owner, watching your furry friend deal with the symptoms of anxiety can be heartbreaking, too.
Luckily, research shows that CBD, a natural compound from hemp, can offer fast, natural relief from anxiety and its symptoms without producing any unwanted side effects.
If you’re thinking about using CBD to treat anxiety, you’re in the right place.
I’ll take an in-depth look at anxiety, what it is, the symptoms it produces, and some traditional treatment options for dogs suffering from this condition.
Finally, I’ll specifically explore CBD and how it can work as a natural anti anxiety medication for dogs.
Before I get stuck into the details about CBD and how it works, it’s important to have a solid understanding of anxiety.
Below is a quick guide to anxiety and how it can affect your dog.
What is Anxiety?
Much like humans, all dogs deal with anxiety during their life.
After all, anxiety, fear, and stress are all completely natural responses to stimulus.
However, some dogs will deal with profound or constant anxiety that can have a detrimental effect on their life.
Although we often think of a dog’s life as simple, they are actually just as prone to anxiety disorders as humans.
Separation anxiety in dogs is extremely common.
In fact, statistics show that up to 17% of all dogs deal with this condition.
However, dog’s can experience many other types of anxiety, too.
Dogs that have been physically or mentally abused, for example, are prone to experience anxiety and have specific phobias and fears.
Because dogs are very in tune with their environment, sudden environmental changes can also cause them anxiety.
For example, moving into a new home can stress dogs, as can the arrival of a new family member or the presence of strangers or strange animals.
Old dogs can also experience anxiety, especially in response to Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (or CDS), which affects a dog’s memory, learning, perception, and awareness.
What are the Symptoms of Dog Anxiety?
Anxiety can affect dogs in many different ways.
Different types of anxiety will cause different responses in different dogs, making for a condition that is particularly hard to diagnose.
Some obvious signs of anxiety include:
- Whining or whimpering
Dogs with separation anxiety, for example, are also known to express destructive behaviour as well as urinate and/or defecate in the house, despite being toilet trained.
Other, more subtle symptoms of anxiety, can include:
- Dilated pupils
- Anti-social behaviour (like moving away from other dogs or people)
- Displacement behaviour (like yawning, lip licking, shaking)
Dogs with anxiety may also have difficulty learning or focusing and may be overly sensitive to external stimuli.
It is not uncommon for anxious dogs to be mislabelled as “hyper,” “stubborn,” or “dominant.”
Traditional Anxiety Treatments
There is no “one size fits all” approach to treating anxiety in dogs.
Vets and behavioural specialists will usually assess your dog and the specific anxiety he/she is dealing with and come up with a personalized treatment plan.
The first step to dealing with anxiety in most cases involves behavioural training.
The aim of this is to redirect bad behavior to good behaviour and usually involves consistent training by all members of the household.
Unfortunately, for some dogs behavioural training just isn’t enough.
This is often the case for dogs dealing with specific anxieties to storms, having visitors, or travelling in the car.
In these cases, vets will usually prescribe short-term anti anxiety medication first.
Dogs dealing with daily anxiety may then be prescribed daily anti anxiety medications, too.
There are 3 main anti anxiety medications for dogs:
- Benzodiazepines, or BZs, like Valium, Xanax, or Ativan
- Tricyclic antidepressants, or TCAs, such as Elavil or Tryptanol
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, like ProZac or Paxil
These drugs can produce a variety of side effects, including:
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Drowsiness, sleepiness, and sedation
- Affected learning and memory
- Increased urination
- Stomach upset
- Increased aggression and anxiety
Apart from producing side effects, some dogs simply may not respond to treatment with these drugs.
Can CBD Help Control Anxiety?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, has a wide variety of medicinal benefits, and research shows it can work as a powerful anti anxiety supplement.
In 2015, a team of Spanish and US researchers reviewed the existing literature on CBD and its role in treating anxiety.
The literature in the review included both studies conducted on lab animals (mice and rats) as well as roughly 15 clinical trials conducted on humans.
Both sets of studies showed that CBD produced unique anti anxiety effects and could help control generalized and stress-induced anxiety as well as obsessive behaviours.
When CBD enters the body it is mediated by the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
The ECS is a natural biological system present in all mammals, meaning that dogs and cats respond to CBD in much the same way as humans.
Unfortunately, researchers haven’t yet discovered exactly how CBD works to reduce anxiety.
Some research suggests that CBD can stimulate specific serotonin receptors in the brain (known as 5-HT1A receptors), just like SSRIs like ProZac or Paxil.
By temporarily blocking the absorption of serotonin, CBD can increase serotonin levels in the brain.
Just like SSRIs, CBD may also boost signalling by serotonin receptors.
This temporary boost of the serotonin system can be very beneficial, helping reduce anxiety and fear, as well as improving mood.
Research also shows that CBD can promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a key role in the formation of memories and controlling cognition.
Studies have shown that CBD can help promote the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus.
This is important because, at least in humans, patients with depression and anxiety often have smaller hippocampuses.
By promoting the growth of new brain cells in this area, CBD may help control anxiety and its symptoms.
Best of all, CBD is not a pharmaceutical, meaning it won’t interfere with any other medications.
In fact, some studies have shown that CBD can enhance the effectiveness of other medications, such as pain killers.
Using CBD to Control Anxiety in Dogs:
Unfortunately, few studies have specifically looked at CBD and how it can help treat anxiety in dogs.
Dogs and humans will respond to CBD in similar ways.
The only difference, of course, is that dogs are more sensitive to cannabinoids like CBD, and hence require smaller doses than humans.
Below I’ll share some basic tips to CBD dosage for dogs with anxiety, as well as some CBD success stories.
CBD Dosage for Dogs With Anxiety
As with any medication or supplement, getting the right dose of CBD is important.
However, it’s also important to note that CBD is non-toxic and considered incapable of causing an overdose.
It is also renowned as a very well-tolerated medicine that doesn’t produce side effects.
But always follow these basic dosage guidelines and monitor your dog’s response to CBD when first starting treatment.
When using CBD oil, average doses usually range from a few drops taken each day.
These drops should be administered under your dog’s tongue for the fastest onset, but can also be mixed with food.
Remember that CBD oil is quite bitter, so your dog usually won’t be too keen to take it.
If you struggle to administer CBD oil to your dog, you may want to use CBD capsules or treats, which help mask the taste of the bitter oil.
Remember, the exact dosage will vary depending on your dog, their size and breed, the type of anxiety they deal with, as well as the strength of the CBD product you use.
For more details, check out my dosage page here.
Have People Successfully Used CBD to Treat Anxiety in Dogs?
I first began using CBD on my dog Rosie a few years ago.
However, Rosie wasn’t dealing with anxiety.
Instead, I used CBD oil, capsules, and treats to help her deal with symptoms of hip dysplasia and cancer.
However, CBD definitely helps pets with anxiety.
For example, some use CBD for anxiety related to external stimulus (like loud noises), as well as more specific phobias.
Pet owners who give testimonials consistently find that their dogs are calmer when using CBD, as well as more responsive to training or behavioral therapies.
Below I will quickly highlight a few really good testimonials from pet owners.
However if you wanted to review a full case study, I’ve actually prepared one called Reese The Dobermann.
Reese is my sister-in-law’s Doberman Pinscher who suffered from anxiety, but saw amazing results with CBD.
The first quick testimonial I want to cover comes from Hank the Great Dane.
The Great Dane is a breed which is known for anxiety issues, and Hank certainly had some of those.
His owners report that they were skeptical at first, but after just 3 weeks, they were starting to see some great results.
They noticed that Hank is much more relaxed, less nervous, and his separation anxiety is way down. They’re very thankful to have started using CBD oil.
Next we have Lou.
Lou is an older pug who suffered from extreme anxiety after moving houses.
When his owners left him alone in the new home, he couldn’t calm down. They discovered CBD treats and started giving them to Lou, and miraculously he has completely calmed down.
Last we have Julie.
Julie’s owner wrote in to tell her success story regarding anxiety and traveling in the car.
On long 4 hour drives Julie experienced extreme anxiety in the car. She needed to be forced into the car, and she often cried a lot. This was hard on her, and was a dangerous distraction for the driver.
Her owner started giving her CBD dog treats before going on these long rides, and she’s happy to report that Julie is way more calm, and is no longer crying in the car! Such a relief!
These 3 testimonials are great because they cover different aspects of anxiety in dogs.
First we had Hank the Great Dane, which is a breed that tends to suffer from separation anxiety a lot. Next we had Lou the pug who struggled with an environmental change that lead to anxiety issues. Lastly we had Julie who suffered from anxiety due to traveling in the car.
3 different but very common issues, and CBD helped them all!
The Best CBD for Stress and Anxiety
If your dog deals with anxiety, I strongly recommend giving CBD a try.
I currently recommend 2 types of CBD products: HolistaPet and King Kanine.
I highly recommend both of these products for their quality, reliability, and ease-of-use.
HolistaPet offers CBD oil, treats, and they’re best known for their capsules. You can visit their website here: www.HolistaPet.com
I had great results with CBD when treating Rosie, and both of these brands have a ton of positive reviews from other users specifically using CBD on dogs with anxiety.
As of right now, this is one of my top recommended brands.