It’s not a panacea for a dog’s anxiety, but it does feel that way at times.

We have been using CBD on our dogs for about three years. There is Axel, who has just turned six, and Otter, who is about to turn four. Axel is the reason we chose CBD (cannabidiol). We adopted him when he was about a year old. Everything was fine for the first two or three months, but when he started jumping on the table and sniffing food, we settled on a dog trainer … which eventually led to more problems.

The first incident happened when the trainer came into our apartment without knocking – Axel approached him without warning. He jumped up and actually bit the trainer. It wasn’t a bad bite or anything, but he ripped open his jacket. At first we were shocked because it had never happened before. He was always so cute. We were kind of in denial and thought it was an isolated incident because the coach had come into the house unannounced. We thought we could handle it. But as time went on, we realized that this wasn’t an isolated incident. After that it happened more and more. He nibbled, growled, and shivered when around strangers. Once a man passed us and Axel pounced on him. It became a lot harder to deal with than we originally expected and it caused us a lot of anxiety and tension. While we understand that there are many reasons for fear in dogs, we actually had conversations about how high our threshold would be – when would it be too dangerous?

We looked for solutions

In the end, we took Axel to a behavior specialist. We tried to do click training and we tried to train him as much as possible by taking him on bike rides and long walks. It didn’t help. We finally turned to our vet. Because Alex had a mixture of fear and protective instinct, the vet prescribed the antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine). (This SSRI was approved by the FDA for canine anxiety. Like humans, it increases levels of the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin.) We started it on 20 mg, but seeing no results we went up to 30 mg. The dog had a higher dose of Prozac than me! Since we didn’t feel like it was going to help much, we eventually took it off when we moved to a house out of town. What was the reason to keep going when it didn’t do anything?

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We decided to try something new

There were fewer suggestions for Axel when we moved. We now have a large garden. We don’t have a lot of neighbors and people don’t walk in front of the house all the time which drove him crazy. Even so, he is always attentive, his ears are always up and he is always watching what’s going on. A friend in New York told me about a store near her that sold CBD products for animals. I came over and they explained some of their products and how to use them. (Unlike marijuana, CBD won’t get you high, and much like Prozac, it affects the body’s serotonin system. The body also has unique CBD receptors that work against anxiety. Although CBD is made from a variety of cannabis plants, CBD mostly lacks the psychoactive component THC. Still, there are a few things you should know about CBD before trying it.)

CBD to the rescue

At this point, we started with CBD treats. We picked the treats because they gave faster results. They were on demand rather than having to accumulate like the oil in the system. We used them sparingly because we found it harder to get them back then. The effect was subtle at first, but then I noticed that they really worked. Unfortunately it was too difficult to drive back and forth to get the goodies in New York so we stopped getting them. Then about a year ago I went to a local pet show and there was a seller from Your CBD Store, the largest hemp retailer in the United States. They had dog treats and oils, and I bought a few from each. (It is important that you do your research as vets are legally not allowed to recommend CBD for pets as there are no formal studies.)

Treats gave us better results

Ken Hild Photography / Courtesy Kristina KingWith the oil alone, we couldn’t find much difference in Axel’s behavior. We gave him the oil with every meal and switched from half a dropper to a full dropper – it still didn’t really help. The only time we saw a significant change was in the goodies. Whenever guests come by, we let him greet them in the front yard because people who walk through the front door are very releasing for him. We always have a plastic basket mouth on it. Before CBD, he was usually fine outside after the introduction, but he was always busy rubbing his face on anyone trying to snout off and still seemed very careful with guests.

But he is very relaxed with the goodies. Once you get past the situation behind the front door, he’s a lot more relaxed. He will just lie with us or our guests and cuddle. He is so cute with us and our family. We still keep the mouth of the basket with him when the guests are over because we don’t want to risk him choking or biting someone. While the CBD was a great addition, I don’t think we’ll ever get around to letting it go without the snout with anyone outside of the family. It’s just an extra tool in the bag of tricks to help manage his fear and help him get around people.

An added bonus for our second dog

We also started giving the treats to our other dog, Otter, to help with his motion sickness. His fear of cars makes him sick. The goodies make him more relaxed in the car so that he can sleep and then not get sick. It used to be that he drooled on short trips in the car, and now he’s just better. Overall, he felt more comfortable because the longer car journeys are no longer as bad as they used to be. CBD has helped us a lot, even though it hasn’t cured our dogs’ problems.

Editor’s Note: CBD Safety Considerations

Although there is no scientific dosage information for dogs, there are potential side effects for humans such as dry mouth and drowsiness. Discuss the use of CBD with your pet’s vet before trying, especially if your dog is on other medications. Be sure to follow the dosage recommendations for the products, starting with the minimum recommended amount, and monitor how your pet is reacting, increasing gradually as needed. And rely on quality. Choose an organic product that is transparent with its ingredient list, including the amount of CBD in the product. Third-party test results can tell you how much CBD your pet is actually consuming, and analysis found that some online products contained less CBD than advertised, but others contained much more. That said, you should avoid CBD products sold at your local gas station – just one of the red flags that a CBD product is counterfeit. Whether you can legally buy the products depends on the laws and regulations of the state. So check them out before buying.

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