Health & Wellness

CBD, Dogs, and Separation Anxiety

By Mary Sauer
Michael Mroczek/Unsplash

If you have a pet who gets anxious while you’re away, you know just how hard it can be to find the perfect solution for separation anxiety in dogs. It’s a common condition affecting an estimated 20 to 40 percent of pets and can present mild to severe symptoms.

While separation anxiety is most commonly caused by being left alone, there are other triggers for this difficult behavioral disorder. Moving to a new home can cause nervousness is dogs and so can a change in the family dynamic like a divorce or a family member leaving for college.

Whether you’re headed to the office for a day or headed out of town for a week, a dog in distress isn’t a problem you should ignore—all pets deserve to feel calm whenever possible.

What are the symptoms of separation anxiety?

Sometimes the symptoms of separation anxiety look an awful lot like a pet causing trouble. The truth is, these symptoms are the only way your dog can communicate that your absence is causing them to feel nervous or afraid. These symptoms often vary from pet to pet but the tell-tale sign your dog is experiencing anxiety while you’re away is if their symptoms lessen when you return home.

Some pets may become destructive in your home, tearing up furniture, scratching at the doors, or urinating on the carpet while you are away. Others may become so nervous they hurt themselves with attempts to escape. They may pace the entire time you are gone or pant and drool excessively. Stomach problems, including diarrhea and loss of appetite, are also symptoms of separation anxiety.

How is separation anxiety treated in dogs?

If your dog has mild separation anxiety, their veterinarian will likely suggest that you begin by trying to teach them new behaviors and a new emotional response to being alone. This is called conditioning and often includes creating a pleasant emotional response to separation by leaving a treat or toy for your pet. Many pet owners have some success by beginning with leaving for a short period of time and slowly working their way up from there.

Just like humans, daily rigorous exercise is a great way to help lessen the symptoms of anxiety. More severe cases of separation anxiety may require your dog to see a specialist. In some cases, prescription medication is used to lessen the symptoms of their anxiety. These medications may have side effects like drowsiness, dry mouth, increased appetite, and more.

Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil for Separation Anxiety in Dogs

While there isn’t formal research that has been conducted to evaluate the use of cannabidiol for treating separation anxiety in dogs, there are plenty of products marketed for just that. It is understandable if you feel hesitant about this alternative treatment or feel hesitant about unsupported claims.

So far, the research concerning the use of cannabidiol in dogs has looked at its usefulness as an alternative treatment for osteoarthritis. For instance, a 2018 study published by Frontiers of Veterinary Science found CBD oil to provide a significant decrease in pain symptoms. What does that mean for dogs with anxiety? One worthwhile piece of evidence provided by this study is the fact that the use of cannabidiol oil did not result in negative side effects in the dog, making it a potentially safe alternative treatment for canines.

Outside of the safety of cannabidiol for dogs, we also know that it has been deemed an effective method for reducing anxiety in humans. In a 2015 literature review published in Neurotherapeutics, we see that cannabidiol has been known to reduce anxiety in a variety of anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and even symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is believed that it is a fair assumption to believe that this also applies to dogs. This is because dogs have an endocannabinoid system, the system that responds to cannabidiol oil and ultimately influences the nervous system as explained by the American Animal Hospital Association in their publication Trends.

Finding CBD Oil for Your Pet

When buying CBD oil, a hemp-derived product that is free of THC will prevent your dog from experiencing the psychoactive effects commonly associated with marijuana-derived products. These products are also legal in all states, while marijuana-derived products containing THC are only legal in states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana.

If you are considering using cannabidiol oil for your pet suffering from separation anxiety, talking with your pet’s veterinarian is a good first step towards making a well-informed decision. If they have suggested CBD oil in the past, they may be able to suggest a specific manufacturer and they can also help you determine the best dosage for your pet.

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