Can CBD Oil Help Dogs with Behavior Issues?
Sales of CBD oil products for pets are up 400% in the last couple of years and continue to grow. Many dog owners are using these products in an attempt to address behavior issues in their dogs. But, is CBD oil an effective way to treat behavior issues in dogs? Let’s explore this question further.
Currently there are no FDA approved CBD drugs for treating moderate to severe anxiety or aggression disorders in dogs, even with a prescription from a veterinarian. But how about CBD oil that is commonly available over-the-counter without a prescription? The short version of that answer is that the jury is still out on the effectiveness of using CBD oil products that are sold over-the-counter for mild anxiety and aggression in dogs.
“I’ve observed that many dog owners feel peer pressure from fellow dog owners to try CBD oil…”
The FDA has guidelines for monitoring the efficacy of human supplements that are sold over-the-counter. However, when it comes to dogs, this oversight is much more casual, including their oversight of CBD oil for use in pets. As of the writing of this article, there are no significant scientifically sound and valid studies that show CBD oil effectively treats fear, anxiety or phobias in dogs.
The manufacturers of CBD oil also claim that it treats a whole host of physical ailments in addition to behavioral issues in dogs. Two studies were done recently, Gamble et al (2018) and McGrath et al (2019), to test whether CBD could reduce epileptic seizures and reduce pain in dogs. Both studies showed problematic, and dangerous, changes in liver function. McGrath’s study showed no difference from placebo control groups, i.e., it didn’t work.
Is CBD oil a miracle drug that addresses behavior issues and physical issues all in one treatment? I’m afraid it’s time to tap the brakes a little here.
Dog owners are not hearing the results of a 2018 study by Brutlag and Hommerdang that showed CBD oil increased anxiety and aggression in dogs. I could never comfortably recommend CBD containing products until we have more complete information on how they affect dogs physically and from a behavior perspective.
My current position on CBD products is that they most likely don’t impede the progress of a behavior treatment plan. But they probably don’t help either. From a physical perspective, I am unable to say if they are safe or not. We simply don’t have any real solid studies to stand on.
There are some (but not many) over-the-counter calming supplements that have been proven to work in dogs with mild anxiety and aggression issues. Check with a certified dog behavior consultant or knowledgeable veterinarian for recommendations. In addition to over-the-counter supplements, there are many prescription drugs that are proven and safe for treating behavior issues in most dogs – and in most cases, they are less expensive than over-the-counter supplements. Work with your certified dog behavior consultant and veterinarian to see if any of these are right for your dog.
I’ve observed that many dog owners feel peer pressure from fellow dog owners to try CBD oil in an effort to address any and all behavioral and physical issues their dog is having. For now, it is probably a more reasonable course to use established over-the-counter supplements and prescription medications until we know more.
Can CBD Oil Help With Territorial Aggression in Dogs
I am currently making my way through Pets on the Couch by veterinarian and animal behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman. It has been a treasure trove of information and is a resource I wish I'd had on hand before now. I've met several pets with the conditions outlined in the book and never thought that many of them could have links to common psychological issues in humans and the cures could be close to the same. One part recently stood out to me as it was only mentioned in passing. Dr. Dodman shared a story of a territorial aggressive getting into his or her human's stash and suddenly becoming a very friendly dog greeting ever visitor at the door.
As many of us with rescue dogs are aware when you rescue a dog your rescue their baggage, and many come with behavioral issues that have to be corrected. Riley had severe separation anxiety and I had to work to desensitize him to my coming and going. Desensitization can work with many issues dogs face, even territorial aggression, but it may not be enough. Other methods such as having guests give the dog an extra tasty treat like a hot dog or liver snack could work or having your guests play an extra fun game to make the dog look forward to the arrival of people, but not all dogs respond and further steps might be required. Could CBD oil be that further step?
CBD or Cannibidiol makes up 40% of the marijuana plant but doesn't have any of the psychoactive effects of THC and it has been shown to reduce aggression in dogs as well as having many other benefits. Before we progress into the meat of this post I'd like to offer a couple thoughts on behavioral issues in rescued dogs. Many come from bad situations where they were neglected or abused but most do not. If you read the back of most dog's intact sheet you will find they were simply owned by inexperienced pet owners who were either ill informed on how to care for a dog or unprepared. Most of a dogs learning happens between the ages of 3 and 12 weeks and while it makes for a good story that your rescue is afraid of men because he or she could have been abused by a man the far more likely case is that they never met a man during their 3 and 12 week learning phase and it is safer to treat anything unfamiliar as a threat. Think of most dog aggression as a false positive of an observed threat in nature is a lot more beneficial to survival than a false negative.
CBD oil has many listed benefits. This article points out ten and while I am normally skeptical of anything with this many benefits it is confirmed by PetMD. You might also notice that CBD has been shown to help with seizures and epilepsy. This is relevant to the discussion of aggression as many forms of behavioral aggression in dogs are linked to seizures and clinical trials in humans has shown that CBD oil can help reduce the seizures in people suffering from a rare genetic form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome.
If you're wondering what a behavioral seizure looks like in a dog you have probably seen it manifest itself as tail chasing, fly biting, or trancing. I recently observed a territorial aggressive Bulldog trancing and as soon as it was over he charged at my leg. Since I knew this reaction was likely I was prepared to move out of the way and quickly calmed him and reassured him with my voice and treats. Remember dog's main motivation is to seek positive experiences while avoiding negative ones. This is also the essence of most behavioral issues and many of them can be common instincts run wild. This very much the case with territorial aggression as letting a stranger into your territory in the wild more often than not is not a good idea. If the dog was not desensitized to strangers during their 3 to 12 week learning period as a puppy then they are very likely to develop territorial aggression and while desensitizing and socialization can happen in adult dogs it is much harder. CBD oil or any medication designed for behavioral correction shouldn't be viewed as a cure all and should be paired with training methods designed to correct the behavior without the need for treatment in the future.
If you have a territorial aggressive dog or an aggressive dog of any kind and would like to try CBD oil as an aid in correcting the behavior it can be purchased on Amazon or at many local tobacco retailers.