By LeeWEpstein

May 10, 2021


In recent years, a new trend has grown in popularity in the health and wellness industry – hemp products. While most of the focus is on the potential health benefits that hemp can offer humans, it can also help to improve your pets’ health. 

Pets can benefit greatly from both hemp and CBD oil, with the potential to treat a variety of issues including pain, anxiety, and heart conditions, as well as providing more general health benefits.

There’s an important distinction to bear in mind, however, between hemp oil and CBD oil. While CBD oil and hemp oil are both derived from the hemp plant, hemp oil generally refers to oil made from hemp seeds, while CBD oil is extracted from the rest of the plant (flowers, leaves, stalks, etc.)

This creates a significant difference between the two, as hemp seeds contain less CBD, which means hemp oil has lower CBD content and higher concentrations of other beneficial compounds than CBD oil.

So what can hemp oil do for your pets, and how does it differ from other CBD products? Here’s everything you need to know.

What are the differences between Hemp and CBD oil?

While hemp oil and CBD oil are similar in a number of ways since they’re both derived from members of the Cannabis Sativa family of plants, there are some important differences to bear in mind.

Hemp oil

Hemp oil is derived from the hemp plant and comes in two forms: whole plant (full spectrum) and hemp seed (broad spectrum). This guide deals specifically with hemp seed oil, which contains much lower amounts of CBD and higher concentrations of secondary cannabinoids and additional compounds like terpenes which provide health benefits of their own.

CBD oil

CBD oil can be derived from either hemp or cannabis plants and contains higher concentrations of CBD than hemp seed oil. Furthermore, CBD oil derived from cannabis is also likely to have high amounts of THC – the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana its high. Hemp only has trace amounts of THC, however, so hemp-derived CBD oil is very unlikely to be intoxicating.

Can dogs take CBD oil derived from cannabis?

Like CBD, THC has potential health benefits for both humans and animals. However, whereas CBD is largely considered safe for human and animal consumption, THC can be dangerous to animals.

Small amounts may be beneficial, but too much can be toxic for animals; what’s more, it’s extremely hard to dose THC accurately. Because of this, you should avoid giving CBD oil derived from cannabis to your dog.

Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil for Dogs

Key differences

Hemp is non-psychoactive

While CBD oil may contain THC in varying amounts depending on its source, hemp seed oil has zero THC content and is therefore completely non-psychoactive. This makes it much safer to give to dogs, as it won’t cause an intoxicating effect.

Hemp oil has lower CBD concentrations

Since it’s derived from hemp seeds which have a lower CBD content, the concentration of CBD within hemp oil is much lower than in CBD oil. This has advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand,  it promotes the benefits of other compounds in the oil, such as terpenes, by providing them in higher concentrations than in CBD oil.

On the other hand, it also lessens the potential health benefits from CBD since there’s less present in the oil. If you’re deciding which of the two to give to your dog, it’s therefore, a good idea to work out which effects are your priority.

Hemp is full of proteins and amino acids

Most hemp oil is nutritionally rich, providing essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6, as well as Omega-9, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), and numerous beneficial proteins and amino acids. This means that hemp oil can act as a dietary supplement for your dog at the same time as providing the potential medicinal effects of hemp’s low CBD content.

What is best for your dog: hemp or CBD oil?

Hemp oil and CBD oil can provide very different benefits to pets thanks to the difference in the chemical compounds they contain. Hemp oil is rich in amino acids, proteins, and fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6, which provide a number of nutritional benefits to your dog to promote its physical health. These compounds will also promote healthy skin and a healthy coat.

In contrast, CBD oil has higher cannabidiol content, which leads to more of a medicinal than nutritional effect. In particular, CBD can help to reduce your dog’s anxiety and nervousness, alleviate pain, and reduce inflammation.

Since both oils provide distinct benefits, neither one is necessarily better than the other – it all depends on what you want for your dog.

Why your dog should take hemp oil

Healthy coat and skin

Hemp oil is rich in Omega-3, Omega-6, amino acids, and a host of other proteins and fatty acids which all help to promote healthy skin and fur. If your dog needs a nutritional boost for a shiny coat of fur and fewer skin problems, hemp oil can provide just what they need.

Combat heart and liver disease

One of the amino acids in hemp oil is arginine, which has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, meaning hemp oil may help stave off heart disease. 

Hemp oil also contains antioxidants such as tocopherol, which can help reduce oxidative stress in various parts of the body, including the liver. In reducing oxidative damage, hemp oil can therefore help prevent liver disease.

Prevents and controls inflammation and swelling

The Omega-3, Omega-6, and GLA found in hemp oil work together to produce an anti-inflammatory effect, which can help to provide pain relief for your dog. This is especially helpful for older dogs who may suffer more joint pain or other chronic pains.

Boosts immune system

Hemp oil can both, directly and indirectly, boost your dog’s immune system. The nutritional benefits of the various fatty acids, amino acids, and proteins in hemp oil can help to directly boost your dog’s immune system by encouraging healthy white blood cell production.

It may also help indirectly boost the immune system by promoting healthy sleeping and eating patterns, which can have an impact on immune function.

Dry skin

If applied topically, hemp oil can help improve your dog’s dry skin. It moisturizes the skin without clogging any pores, helping to hydrate it without causing further irritation or affecting the natural oil production of your dog’s skin. In particular, the linolenic acid in hemp oil can help to improve skin structure and moisture retention.

Why your dog should take CBD oil

Combats anxiety and nervousness – separation anxiety, noise phobias, etc.

One of the most highly reported properties of CBD is its potential as an anxiolytic – meaning it can help to reduce anxiety. For example, a study from 2016 found that CBD reduced anxiety symptoms in both healthy volunteers and patients with diagnosed anxiety disorders.

This property can also be seen in pets – helping to reduce separation anxiety, noise phobias (from fireworks, thunder, loud aircraft, etc.), and other anxiety-based conditions.

Can relieve pain

CBD has been noted to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties thanks to its interaction with the body’s ECS (endocannabinoid) which maintains homeostasis and regulates various bodily functions.  As a result, it may be effective in reducing your dog’s joint pain or other chronic pain.

Manage seizures and epilepsy

In humans, CBD has been shown to be an effective treatment for epilepsy, halving seizures for around 39% of patients in one study. This benefit applies to dogs too – if they suffer from seizures and/or epilepsy, then CBD oil may help to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.

Stimulates appetite and prevents nausea

CBD has been shown to relieve nausea and promote a healthy appetite, particularly in studies of cancer patients treated with CBD. These anti-nausea and appetite-stimulating effects have also been seen in animals, meaning your dog may benefit from taking CBD to reduce nausea and improve appetite too.

Can help fight cancer

Studies have shown that CBD may help to fight cancer in a number of ways – for example, by aiding tumor cell lysis (the process where a cancer cell’s membrane is ruptured to destroy it). Dogs treated with CBD may therefore experience a lower risk of cancer development since tumor growth is inhibited.

However, CBD is generally used alongside conventional cancer treatments – it isn’t intended as replacement therapy, and should instead be used as a supplemental treatment.

What CBD oil should your dog take?

As well as the distinction between hemp and CBD oil, there are also different subcategories of CBD. First, you should consider whether the CBD is hemp-derived or marijuana-derived, as marijuana-derived CBD is likely to have a higher THC content and could therefore be dangerous to dogs. You should also consider whether CBD is full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolated.

Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil for Dogs

Full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum vs. isolates

CBD comes in three broad categories:

  • Full-spectrum – These CBD products contain all the naturally occurring compounds from the cannabis plant they’re extracted from, including CBD, terpenes, and if derived from marijuana, THC.
  • Broad Spectrum – These CBD products remove any THC content, but leave other compounds intact.
  • CBD isolates – These products are essentially pure CBD – all other compounds are removed.

For your dog, broad-spectrum CBD is probably the best option. THC can be harmful to dogs, so removing it can make the CBD product safer; however, isolating pure CBD means your dog won’t benefit from other helpful compounds in the CBD oil like terpenes which can augment the medicinal properties of the oil.

Broad-spectrum CBD offers the best of both worlds – removing any possible risk from THC while keeping the additional health benefits of secondary compounds.

Are hemp and CBD oil safe?

Hemp oil and CBD oil are both generally seen as safe for consumption by both humans and animals, as long as the proper process is observed when producing them. However, excess quantities or low-quality products may produce side effects.

How is CBD oil for dogs made?

The most common method of producing CBD oil is to use a solvent to extract CBD oil from plant material. However, the solvents used are often toxic to dogs – for example, propane, butane, or petroleum-based products. 

Since traces of solvent residue can remain in the product, solvent-extracted CBD can be harmful to your dog. An alternative is to use non-toxic solvents like ethanol or olive oil; however, these may damage hemp plant waxes, which leads to a lower-quality product and weaker effects. 

Most dog owners opt instead for CO2-extracted CBD oil for their dogs instead. This process is more expensive, but there’s no risk of toxic contamination as the oil is extracted using pressure from CO2 rather than a solvent.

Potential side effects

While hemp oil and CBD oil are generally safe, they can still produce unwanted side effects in some situations. The biggest factor is another medication – hemp oil can decrease liver enzyme production which may increase risk factors from other medication, and CBD may also produce adverse interactions with prescription medicine, particularly as it may act as a blood thinner.

High doses may also cause side effects including nausea, vomiting, a dry mouth, or stomach pain. It’s therefore advisable to start from a low dose and work upwards – a good benchmark is to use 1-6mg of CBD or hemp oil per 10lbs of your dog’s body weight and work upwards until you begin to see the benefits you want.  

Checklist for buying CBD and hemp oil

There are a few things you should consider when researching and buying CBD oil or hemp oil for your dog to ensure your pet gets the most out of it and doesn’t suffer any unpleasant side effects.

CO2 extraction

As mentioned above, CO2 extraction is the preferred method of producing CBD and hemp oils for dogs. Solvent-extracted oils may contain harmful solvent residues, and even safe solvents may reduce the efficacy of the product. CO2 extracted oils may be more expensive due to the costlier processes involved, but it’s worth it to get a purer, safer oil for your dog.

Certificate of Analysis

Every CBD and hemp oil should come with a COA – a Certificate of Analysis giving detailed information on the batch the product is from. COAs show important information such as:

  • THC levels – full-spectrum CBD products should have no more than 0.3% THC if you intend to treat your dog with them.
  • CBD concentration – make sure this matches up with the CBD content stated on the product label – you don’t want to accidentally under- or over-dose.
  • Contaminants – the oil may contain traces of contaminants like solvent residues, heavy metals, or other compounds. Make sure you know there’s nothing harmful in the oil before using it on your dog.

The bottom line: should you give your dog hemp or CBD oil?

Overall, hemp and CBD oil can both provide a variety of benefits for your dog. However, there’s no definitive “better” option – it largely comes down to which health benefits you want to prioritize.

Whichever you choose, make sure you pick a CO2-extracted option, check the COA to make sure it doesn’t contain any nasty surprises, and work upwards from a small starting dose. If you get it right, then it might not be long before your dog is enjoying the benefits.

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