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Buying CBD Oil for Dogs in the UK: Laws, Products, and Tips

Does your furry friend suffer from seizures, chronic pain, or anxiety? It’s only normal that you want to pull out all the stops and find a way to make your dog — your best friend — feel better.

More and more people are experimenting with cannabidiol products for personal wellness reasons, and CBD products with a THC content of 0.02 per cent or less are legally available in the UK. Should you be giving CBD oil to your dog, though? Are pet-specific CBD products legal in Britain? What are the potential risks and benefits?

You’re on the right track if you’re asking yourself all these questions (and others). We’re here to equip you with answers.

Why Would You Buy CBD Oil for Your Dog?

Cannabidiol, the main non-psychoactive cannabinoid in Cannabis sativa (marijuana and industrial hemp), is classed as a novel food product in the UK and is available without a prescription. 

CBD products are increasingly popular among humans, so it’s no surprise that there’s been some buzz about cannabidiol in the veterinary world as well. Like people, dogs possess an extensive endocannabinoid system activated by cannabinoids, and research suggests that larger and larger numbers of US pet owners are exploring the possibility of giving CBD to their furry friends. 

The idea that CBD might help your dog with anxiety, cancer-related pain, other chronic pain, and (separation) anxiety explains why. 

This is a good time to remind dog owners that not everything you read on the internet is true — and even if what you read is true, you might not have the full story. Your veterinarian, who already knows your dog and understands your trusted canine’s health issues, should always be your first point of call when you’re looking for answers and health advice.

Understanding Your Dog’s Endocannabinoid System

If you regularly use CBD products, you probably already know that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vast network of signals and receptors that play a role in regulating functions like appetite, mood, pain, and inflammation. 

Dogs have an endocannabinoid system, including CB1 and CB2 receptors, too. Dogs’ CB1 receptors are mainly located in areas of the brain that control movement and coordination, while their CB2 receptors are concentrated in the spleen, immune cells, and tonsils. 

The canine endocannabinoid system is, in some ways, even more developed than the human ECS. However, its structure is broadly similar — just like its function.

Dog owners need to know that dogs are especially sensitive to THC, the psychoactive component in Cannabis sativa. Even exposure to low doses of THC can induce a condition called “static ataxia”, which can be life-threatening.

That’s an important consideration for people exploring CBD oil for their dogs. While the CBD products legally available in the UK don’t have a THC content of more than 0.02 per cent, even that little may be problematic for dogs. 

What Does Science Say About the Benefits and Risks of CBD Oil for Dogs?

Several (very) small scientific studies have been conducted to explore the potential benefits and risks of CBD in dogs. Some findings report that CBD may be promising in treating pain caused by osteoarthritis (a common affliction in dogs), while no strong data is available about CBD’s effect on anxiety in dogs.

It’s abundantly clear that more research needs to be done before it’s possible to make any definitive claims. However, preliminary findings report that dogs given CBD chews designed for veterinary use may experience the following side effects:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Inflamed earflaps

It is extremely important to remember that static ataxia can set in after a dog is exposed to THC! Cannabidiol products containing THC are hazardous for dogs.

Are CBD Products for Dogs Legal in the UK?

You may know that the Food Standards Agency has labelled CBD products for human consumption “novel foods”. CBD products may be considered medicine when used for medicinal purposes but not when used as a dietary component or general wellness supplement. 

The Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMR), the body in charge of veterinary medicine, takes an entirely different approach. It considers any veterinary products that contain CBD to be medicines. CBD products for animals must be authorised before they are allowed to appear on the UK market, and no veterinary CBD products currently have that authorisation.

Veterinarians may prescribe CBD products intended for human consumption under very specific circumstances, namely following the so-called “prescribing cascade”. This means that if no suitable veterinary medications are available for a dog’s condition, some vets may consider prescribing CBD. 

This process follows strict rules, and vets who don’t adhere to them can face severe penalties. In practice, that should mean that if your vet prescribes cannabidiol for your dog, there’s an extremely strong reason for doing so. It’s likely that vets would choose CBD isolate products, which are entirely THC-free, in this case.

What to Do If You’re Exploring CBD Oil for Your Dog

Some dog owners may be tempted to give their canine friends a drop or two of their own CBD oil to see if it helps with pain or anxiety. Others might consider ordering CBD chews or CBD capsules designed for dogs from other countries, such as the United States.

That’s understandable, but not a good idea. 

For starters, not all CBD products are labelled correctly, so more THC may be present than you think. Even if you buy CBD from a reputable manufacturer that supplies a certificate of analysis following third-party lab testing, giving CBD oil to your dog on your own isn’t advisable.

If you believe your dog may benefit from cannabidiol, talk to your veterinarian about that. The safety of CBD in pets simply hasn’t been studied enough to take this decision into your own hands.

Your vet may agree that your dog’s condition warrants a CBD prescription because no adequate alternatives are available. In this case, you should follow your vet’s dosage instructions carefully. These will be based on your dog’s body weight as well as other factors. 

Meanwhile, it’s also crucial to remember that THC is not safe for dogs! If you use full-spectrum CBD products, you would be advised to keep them out of your dog’s reach at all times.

CBD Oil for Dogs: A Final Word

Research into the effects of cannabidiol is still in its early stages. That’s true for humans, and it’s doubly true for animals. 

It’s not hard to find anecdotal evidence from other dog owners that CBD can help with anxiety and chronic pain, but that doesn’t mean you should give your dog CBD oil or other CBD products designed for dogs and available online from the US. 

Consulting your veterinarian is your best course of action. You’ll know CBD is a good choice for your dog if your vet gives you a prescription because veterinarians have to follow extremely strict rules before they’re allowed to prescribe CBD to canines.


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