Getting enough sleep is integral to a healthy body and mind for people and animals alike. While we can't be certain how wild animals manage their sleep, those that live with us (e.g., cats and dogs) may often need our help to overcome sleep problems.
For many reasons, pets could develop sleep problems, e.g., anxiety, pain, discomfort, or medical conditions. Young pets are particularly vulnerable and easily affected by things around them.
Puppies, for instance, can get affected by being separated from their mom. The ensuing separation anxiety can cause them sleepless nights unless they get assistance from their owner.
Because we all love dogs, you may have considered adopting a young pup to bring up on your own. Good plan, but the first few days can be problematic due to the changes around it. The new environment, strangers, and lifestyle may cause considerable stress and affect a puppy's sleep.
Veterinarians may prescribe sleeping aids such as sedatives. However, these are often misused and could do more harm than good. As a result, many pet owners are increasingly going for natural supplements because they are considered less harmful but equally effective.
One such natural supplement is cannabidiol (CBD), extracted from the cannabis plant. If you haven't heard of CBD, don't pull out your hair wondering what the hype is all about.
It turns out this cannabinoid compound has some pretty amazing health-impacting properties for humans and animals.
Does CBD help dogs sleep at night?
In recent years, CBD has become somewhat of the 'holy grail' of natural supplements. It's all the rave, and everyone (it seems) is using CBD to manage one health condition or another.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about CBD is that it works for both humans and animals.
Expectedly, much of what is known about this cannabis compound is anecdotal due to limited research. For years, cannabis has been a Schedule I substance in the United States and many other countries around the globe, so the scarcity of knowledge is understandable.
But the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp-derived cannabis compounds like CBD legal. This has opened avenues for research; hence we can now learn more about CBD and its health implications.
One of the most studied aspects of CBD is its sleep-promoting properties. A growing body of studies suggests that CBD is a powerful sleep aid that could help manage various sleep disorders.
But can these health-impacting properties be extended to non-human beings like dogs and cats? Well, going by word-of-mouth reports from pet owners, CBD can be used in pets to help manage various health conditions.
An American Pet Products Association survey revealed that roughly 39% of dog owners and 34% of cat owners use CBD-based products for their pets.
Further, this market is also projected to grow rapidly from 2022 through 2027 at a CAGR of 12%. In the U.S. alone, the sale of CBD pet products increased four-fold from $8 million to $32 million in 2017 and could be valued at $1.16 billion by the end of 2022.
Evidently, pet owners are getting value for money by using these products; otherwise, we wouldn't be reading such impressive numbers.
How CBD can help your dog sleep
The ability of CBD to influence various physiological processes, e.g., sleep, in pets and people, comes down to one thing – the endocannabinoid system.
All mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) comprising cannabinoid receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids. This system mediates many bodily functions, one of them being homeostasis, which is essentially body balance.
Diseases and health conditions often cause a lot of imbalances in the body, necessitating corrective measures. For example, stress stimulates cortisol production to prepare the body for "fight or flight."
However, too much cortisol in the system has harmful health effects, including poor sleep, weight gain, and high blood pressure.
To prevent these from happening, cortisol levels must revert to normal soon after the stressor is eliminated. This is where the ECS comes in.
A study showed that the ECS reduces stress response by:
- Promoting the return of the HPA axis to pre-stress levels
- Habituating stress response to repeated/ongoing stress
- Inhibiting stress-based processes like anxiety, fear, inflammation, and depressive behaviors
- Enhancing behaviors inhibited by the stress response, e.g., sleep and feeding
Cannabinoids essentially supercharge the ECS enabling it to be more efficient.
The body produces its own cannabinoids (i.e., endocannabinoids) to stimulate the ECS. However, an influx of phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids derived from plants) like THC and CBD can activate the ECS just as effectively.
Sleeplessness in dogs can have many causes – pain, anxiety, old age, discomfort, etc. So to improve sleep quality, it's logical to address the underlying cause of the problem.
Here's how CBD could help alleviate some of these precursors of sleep problems.
Reduce joint pain
CBD continues to gain traction as a potential remedy for chronic pain and inflammation. Clinical trials investigating CBD's effect on chronic pain yielded wide-ranging results from "placebo-equivalent to highly effective."
A good number of these studies were well-designed, placebo-controlled, and double-blinded.
Further, in patients with intractable pain occasioned by spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis (MS), limb amputation, and brachial plexus injury, it was noted that CBD treatment "significantly reduced pain."
A 2019 study on patients with fibromyalgia found that CBD treatment reduced pain by over 30% in more patients compared to placebo.
Another 2019 study established that topical CBD was "seemingly effective" in treating chronic pain due to kidney transplantation in patients with peripheral neuropathy.
However, most clinical studies often experiment with nabiximols – THC:CBD combinations mixed in a 1:1 ratio. These formulations have been noted to be effective in reducing chronic pain, with CBD typically improving THC's psychoactive and deleterious effects.
Because it's anti-inflammatory, CBD can help reduce inflammation caused by joint problems and arthritis. With studies indicating that CBD is an effective analgesic, CBD administration could help dogs with joint pain sleep much better at night.
Pets are easily scared by loud noises like firecrackers and thunderstorms. If they are not properly desensitized when young, such noises can be potentially traumatic for them. They can become anxious and sleep little, if at all.
CBD's anxiolytic properties have also been the subject of many studies. These properties are attributed to several mechanisms, such as its ability to activate 5-HT1A receptors and indirectly activate cannabinoid receptors by preventing the metabolism of anandamide – an endocannabinoid thought to stimulate mental wellness and a sense of happiness.
Even though CBD's anxiety-reducing properties are currently under investigation in human and animal studies, it is noteworthy that few of these studies used canines.
Moreover, a 2020 study on the anxiolytic effects of CBD on dog anxiety did not provide substantial supporting evidence.
Dog owners maintain that CBD works best with other anxiety medications like sedatives, so it's hard to tell which substance is actually responsible for reducing anxiety. They point out that even though CBD does help with the condition, it does not cure it completely.
Relieves inflammatory bowel disease
This is another well-researched topic with many studies highlighting CBD's anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.
In particular, CBD's anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to its ability to influence redox balance by activating the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. It is through the TRP channels that CBD regulates calcium ion homeostasis in inflammatory and immune cells to reduce inflammation.
Moreover, the calcium ions have been shown to activate transcription factors like NFAT that control the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The net effect of these processes mitigates inflammation.
Another animal study showed that a well-formulated combination of CBD and CBG could be anti-inflammatory. This was after a CBD:CBG formulation (with surfactant polyoxyl 35 castor oil) administered to guinea pigs with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammation significantly reduced neutrophils in the lungs.
However, a similar CBD:CBG formulation without the surfactant did not show significant effects on LPS-induced neutrophilia.
From the preceding, CBD may likely impact inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Indeed, studies indicate that this cannabinoid compound can prevent colitis and improve gut motility in IBD.
Help with seizures
Seizures are common in dogs, with the reasons behind them being infections in the brain. Canine distemper, toxoplasma, and neospora are the leading infectious diseases that affect dogs' brains.
Besides these, seizures in dogs are thought to be due to genetics. Some dog breeds like basset hounds, cocker spaniels, collies, and schnauzers are 2-3 times more likely to develop seizures than other breeds.
Seizures are the effect of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. While seeing your canine friend twitch and tremble uncontrollably can be heartbreaking, it's bearable if you can do something about it.
Seizures prevent dogs from sleeping continuously because they often have to repeatedly transition between sleeping and waking up.
Fortunately, human clinical trials show that CBD can help reduce seizures and possibly be used in seizure management. In fact, Epidiolex is a cannabis-based epilepsy drug approved by the FDA for use in treating a severe and rare form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome.
CBD's neuroprotective properties are linked to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. These enable it to modulate various pro-inflammatory cytokines noted to be involved in certain neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Huntington's diseases.
There is evidence that epileptic dogs subjected to CBD treatment experience reduced seizures. A similar effect has been observed in rodents.
Safety and CBD oil for dogs
If you're a pet owner, there's a good chance you've asked around whether it's a good idea to give your pet CBD oil. In its pure state, CBD appears to have no adverse side effects on dogs.
It is generally well-tolerated by humans, but some skepticism remains concerning its use in pets.
The thing is, animals process cannabis compounds differently than humans. For instance, in dogs, the effects of cannabis can last somewhere between 18 and 24 hours – 12 hours longer than in humans.
This is because dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains, meaning a small amount of cannabis can have 2-3 times the effects in dogs as it does in a person.
Further, dogs absorb and store THC in bile. This means THC is re-introduced into their system whenever they eat.
On the whole, research shows that CBD is generally safe for dogs. However, some dogs may exhibit mild side effects.
Can I give my puppy CBD oil?
Why not? As long as the oil does not contain THC, your puppy is perfectly okay.
This means any CBD product you give your pet should not be full spectrum because these contain trace amounts of THC (usually 0.3% or less). This underscores the importance of buying CBD products from approved vendors and manufacturers.
CBD dosage for puppies
CBD oil for pets often comes in 150 to 600mg bottles. However, the oil's potency varies depending on the cannabis strain, method of extraction, and dilution, among other factors.
There are two popular schools of thought on this matter: one recommends applying the "1-5 mg of CBD per pound" rule. Another suggests starting with 0.2mg of CBD per pound of weight.
Here is the thing; CBD does not have standardized dosing guidelines. For the most part, pet owners rely on the dosing instructions spelled out by the manufacturer.
Due to this challenge, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian when planning to introduce your pet to CBD.
Best CBD for puppies
Purchase CBD products for pets from approved vendors; we cannot emphasize this enough! In an unregulated market, the safety and quality of CBD products largely depend on the manufacturer's business practices.
Needless to say, there have been some damning revelations about most CBD products on the market. Some of these have not been tested, others overstate or understate their cannabinoid content, and some flat out have toxic substances like heavy metals, pesticide residue, and microbial contaminants.
These can hurt your pet, so it pays to be keen about where you get your CBD products.