Study: CBD could help to make dogs less aggressive

Published Feb 19, 2021 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Milan Krasula

We know that cannabinoids can do a world of good for people who need to chill out, but clinical evidence of clear benefits for household pets like cats or dogs is still quite difficult to come by. Luckily, we’ve got some of the world’s greatest minds working on figuring it all out, and the result is fantastic studies like the one we’re going to highlight here today. This research could hold the key to providing relief for millions of pets all over the world, in particular those that struggle with aggression.

Aggression in pets

It could be a small and seemingly innocent nip here, a deep under the breath growl there, or any other displays of aggression that tip you off to a potential problem with your dog, but no matter what, it’s a really easy trait to recognize especially once you’ve spent a fair amount of time building up a bond. It’s enough to make you jump, and it could even disturb you enough to go out of your way to avoid the neighbourhood kids, just in case; unfortunately, this type of behavior cannot be ignored.

Even if you think that you can manage to avoid every trigger possible, there are some things that simply lie outside of your control. It could be another animal in the home, children or friends who come over for a visit who end up targets, and though the act doesn’t always lead to devastating situations, more often than not, it can. Aggression is scary for both you and your dog, as well as a risky reaction, but it is sometimes controllable with the help of behavioural and medicinal treatments.

Unfortunately, not everyone has success with modern treatments for aggression in pets, but those without hope could soon have a new solution to try in the form of a CBD prescription. Aggressive behaviours may or may not include:

  • Growling
  • Biting
  • Scratching
  • Jumping
  • Barring teeth
  • Hair standing on end

The research

According to a brand-new study which was published in Nature’s Scientific Report, cannabis extract containing CBD can be incredibly effective for reducing aggression in dogs, which is typically aimed towards their human owners. The research focused on dogs with aggression in shelters, many of whom spend much of their lives in and out of temporary housing while existing in between on the street. Some were surrounded by abusive owners while others were clearly neglected just enough to destroy their trust in humans. All who were given CBD showed significant improvement.

How they figured it out

To test the theory, researchers started out with 24 dogs that were all housed at Muratella, a large dog shelter in Italy. They all exhibited symptoms of aggression, and to maintain a control group, only half of those selected were offered meat soaked with CBD extract over the course of 45 days. Aggression in the group being given CBD dramatically decreased while symptoms within those left untreated stayed the same.

Important notes

We need to know how effective the CBD extract could be for dogs, but the flip side is that we also want to understand any potential side effects. Despite concerns from researchers, all of the dogs stomached the CBD oil with ease, and none of them displayed symptoms of grogginess or sedation. Good news aside, they also noted that the CBD extract didn’t reduce all related behaviours, such as licking or scratching. Still, it seemed to leave the damaged pups in a much better, more adopt-able state of mind.

Should you use CBD for dogs?

CBD is really garnering a lot of attention now that so many people are using it to relieve an unbelievable number of symptoms and ailments, so it only makes sense that we’d eventually use this medicine for our pets, and many experts recommend it. However, it is still a very misunderstood science that, much like for people, requires patients, diligence, and experimentation to figure out what works and what doesn’t. So, while it might be a helpful tool, it really is an imprecise medicine, and that alone is enough to make some pet owners nervous about trying it.

How it’s done

CBD dog treats are popular and legal in most countries, making it easier than ever for pet owners to add a bit of the powerful cannabinoid to their pet's diet. It is also common especially now with the help of internet recipes, for people to make their own. Of course, if you don’t want to get to baking and shaping perfect little doggy treats, then there is always the option of adding pure CBD infused olive oil to your pup’s food. It’s just a bit messier and more challenging to measure how much they’re getting that way.

Survey reveals 9 out of 10 participants would recommend CBD for pets

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