While researching CBD for dogs for an article pitch, I came across a Texas dog treat bakery. They offered a free CBD-infused sample for my mom’s dog to try. This was a fine idea until my mom heard and nixed it over perceived risks of CBD for dogs. I asked the company what they tell customers when asked about the safety of CBD for dogs.
Suzy Adkisson-Spurlock, co-owner of La Barkeria Bakery, with her husband, provided an answer by email that was more than I was expecting. It showed true care for the well-being of her consumers and their owners. What she told Profiles in Legalization is published here as a guest contribution. It’s been lightly edited into a Q&A format for easier reading. –Aiden Hunt, Editor
Note: Guest contributions do not necessarily reflect the views of Profiles in Legalization.
- What is CBD?
- How does CBD work?
- Why do you recommend for CBD for dogs?
- What research have you found on CBD for dogs?
- What type of dog do you recommend CBD for?
- Are there side effects with CBD for dogs?
- What if dog owners are still hesitant about CBD?
- What experience have you had with customers who’ve tried CBD treats?
What is CBD?
CBD is Cannabidiol, one of many cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. CBD is available in isolate (CBD only), broad spectrum (CBD with other cannabinoids with no THC), and full spectrum (CBD with all the cannabinoids including THC within the legal limit).
At La Barkeria, we use full spectrum CBD because we believe in the entourage effect; all the cannabinoids work together to create a longer lasting more effective result.
How does CBD work?
CBD binds to various receptors throughout the body. CBD companies and old research talked about the CB1 (brain and the neurological system) and CB2 (digestive and immunity) receptors, which make up the Endocannabinoid System but we are finding CBD does not bind to CB1 actively and the endocannabinoid system is made up of a lot more than just CB1 or CB2.
The endocannabinoid system modulates the nervous and immune systems and other organ systems through a complex system of receptors and chemical signaling molecules to relieve pain and inflammation, modulate metabolism and neurologic function, promote healthy digestive processes, and support reproductive function. What we see from the endogenous cannabinoids is the reason we believe that exogenous cannabinoids can also activate and stimulate the same pathways.
Why do you recommend for CBD for dogs?
When we started La Barkeria, we wanted nothing to do with CBD. However, I would hear stories from potential customers that made us wonder if there was a way we could help people and their dogs more.
One customer told me a story of a dog that feared his own shadow. Every time he saw something or heard anything he didn’t expect, he would jump, flinch and yelp. Over time, these flinches started hurting the pup, creating muscular issues. The dog was in extreme pain and had severe anxiety.
The veterinarian put the dog on Xanax and Vicodin. I was shocked. I had no idea that these pharmaceutical drugs (that have a high propensity for addiction) were being used to treat family pets. I started researching and came across Dr. McGrath from Colorado State University. She was one of the first to do true research into the safety of CBD for dogs.
What research have you found on CBD for dogs?
Studies were very limited for years; however, the passing of the  farm bill opened the door to empirical scientific research. Is CBD safe for dogs? The simple answer is yes. However, there are nuances within that answer.
I reference three studies when I examine the safety of CBD:
- Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs
- Feeding Cannabidiol (CBD)-Containing Treats Did Not Affect Canine Daily Voluntary Activity
- A Report of Adverse Effects Associated With the Administration of Cannabidiol in Healthy Dogs
Recent studies show that CBD also binds to GPCR receptors and does not act on the CB1 as much as originally stated. This is how we are now certain that CBD doesn’t get our dog high; because CBD has a very low binding affinity to CB1 (the receptor found in the brain that binds to THC causing the euphoria from cannabis). This also explains the role CBD plays in cytokine health and immunity as it travels through the digestive system via the CB2 and GPCR receptors.
We know that the half life of CBD is approximately 4-6 hours and that most dogs tolerate it very well. A couple of studies have seen elevation of a liver enzyme, Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP), but it is unknown whether this is a positive or a negative or if it is pathological or therapeutic.
Currently, we steer dogs who have liver or kidney issues away from using CBD (as well as dogs that are currently on medication with grapefruit warnings).
What type of dog do you recommend CBD for?
At La Barkeria, we like to see CBD used for dogs that are growing older; dogs that have pain & inflammation from ailments like osteoarthritis, arthritis, or hip dysplasia; and dogs with situational anxiety like fireworks, car rides, thunderstorms, grooming and veterinary appointments.
It’s also helpful for dogs that have seizures, glaucoma, autoimmune disorders, digestive issues, post-surgery pain or cancer. We don’t believe that CBD is a cure all. However, when pet-parents can keep CBD usage focused, then they will see benefits for their dogs.
Are there side effects with CBD for dogs?
I am not saying that CBD is the answer to everything, but mammals have a natural pathway for CBD (thus tolerate it very well). Side effects of CBD are generally limited to the digestive system; like upset stomachs, diarrhea or vomiting.
I have seen research where they are giving dogs 30mg/kg; and they have the same set of side effects as studies giving dogs 2mg/kg. However, I have not come across a single study where a dog had to be removed from the study because of the side effects of the CBD. In all cases, the side effects known are self-limiting or minimal enough that it doesn’t cause exclusion from the study.
I know these side effects can sound troublesome. However, in each of the studies I listed above the research group investigated other causes for the side effects. Including the dogs being boarded with different food and treats then they normally received at home. Dogs changing dietary habits can be a source for GI issues.
The vomiting was seen in less than 5% of dogs (and in three years of selling CBD – we have only experienced this side effect with one dog). A spike in ALP can have a myriad of causes; including but not limited to inflammation in the dog. While we know the ALP is elevated, there does not seem to be any other effects on liver function. This may reflect enzyme induction via the liver.
What if dog owners are still hesitant about CBD?
Let’s be clear – I do not believe in talking anyone into using CBD for themselves or their dogs. I believe in CBD, and I have seen it help my rescue dogs (one with seizures and one with arthritis).
I believe that research is going to end up proving that certain dogs (i.e., specific breeds or dogs from specific geographic locations) are going to be more susceptible to CBD therapy. This will be based on gene expression of certain receptors. Of course, this is just my hypothesis. Currently, this is not the direction of CBD research. Studies are focused on how it works, why it works, and how much to give each animal.
What experience have you had with customers who’ve tried CBD treats?
An older woman walked into the market with a dog that was in obvious pain. He was unable to lift his head up. I spoke to the woman and asked her what was wrong. She said he is getting old and really struggling. The dog was about 35 pounds and a vizsla mix. I talked to her about CBD.
Because the dog was in obvious discomfort I asked her if I could give the dog a 10mg CBD treat. She said yes. We spoke for a few more minutes and she went on her way. About 90 minutes later she walked back, with her dog, and said what did you give him? I told her again. She said that was amazing.
The dog walked the full market for the first time and was able to lift his head. She proceeded to buy a bag of 10MG CBD treats and she would stop by the booth every 3 weeks until the dog passed during the lockdown.
Another quick one.
Max was a 12 year old Doberman. He came to the market with his mother about 30 months ago. Max was just diagnosed with bone cancer. He was given 3 months to live.
His mother refused to accept that and she was seeking out something that could help him. Her father was a vet and could not provide CBD but said that maybe she should seek it out. So, she stopped by the booth. We discussed it and she was open to trying it.
With dogs that have cancer, I tell the customer if they buy the treats I will also give them a tincture and then we work out a plan of attacking the cancer with high doses of CBD. So she bought the 10 MG treats and I gave her a 600MG tincture. She was to give one treat in the morning and one dropper in the evening.
She sent us the following;
“The CBD combination is soooo amazing and I credit your company for keeping him comfortable thus far! I truly believe in your products and I am so thankful for you. I have noticed his mass is getting slightly bigger, but it’s a very gradual, slow process. I’ve been using the oil/treats combo up to two or three times a day but he seems to be sustaining his normal happy self and maintaining well.”
Max passed 18 months after we met him. Max’s mom credits the CBD with giving him a great 18 more months and maintaining his quality of life. I know that is anecdotal and not empirical. But please know we believe in it and will work with anyone to get the right regiment in place to help their dog.
I am not and would not want to talk someone into trying CBD. That is not my role. I just want to make sure you have all the facts for if there ever comes a time where you want to try it.
Suzy Adkisson-Suprlock is the co-owner of La Barkeria Bakery, a dog treat company based in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area. In addition to premium handmade dog treats, La Barkeria sells CBD-infused treats.
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