It’s time we address the elephant in the room: while we love the effect that CBD has on our pets, sometimes getting it into their mouths and onto their gums is akin to wrestling an alligator. We are asked all the time if you can just put the CBD oil directly on a treat, or if there is an easier way to administer CBD.

Before you can figure out the easiest way to get CBD into your pet’s system, there are a few things to understand.

What is bioavailability?

Administering and dosing CBD is all a matter of bioavailability. In layman’s terms, bioavailability refers to the amount of time, and at what rate, something is absorbed into your bloodstream. This is important because bioavailability effects how much to give in one dose, and how quickly your pet can feel the effects.

The bioavailability of CBD is largely dependent on a few factors: 1. If the tincture you are using is a full spectrum hemp extract (CBD), and 2. How the CBD is consumed.

Aren’t all ways of administering CBD the same?

Administering CBD to dogs and cats can happen in a few different ways, but first it is important to understand the differences between capsules, tinctures, and treats. Some companies sell capsules, while some stick with tinctures and treats, and while it may seem that it is all the same, but the difference lies in how quickly the body can access the medicine (i.e. the bioavailability).

Capsules will take longer to show any effect, because they must go all the way through the digestive tract and the body must breakdown the outer layer of the pill. Treats, while still an effective way to get finicky pets to take the full spectrum hemp extract (CBD), also have to go through the digestive tract, which means that they are absorbed slowly as well.  Tinctures, however, can be absorbed quickly through a variety of methods, and no matter your method of absorption, it is still more effective than many traditional oral medications.

Absorption rates of CBD vs. traditional prescriptions

Unlike many traditional oral medications, research has proven that CBD is effectively and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. A study conducted by the Department of Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel concluded that: “CBD was observed to have a large volume of distribution [in dogs studied].”

In a study conducted by the Department of Veterinary Medical Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy, dogs were found to have a substantial amount of receptors in their endocannabinoid system, specifically in the spine, which allows dogs to more effectively use CBD. That means that when administered into the gums, ear, or with food, it is absorbed in the system effectively. This is far better than many medications, which have to be broken down by several of the body’s systems in order to take effect.

How to administer CBD into the gums

The best way to administer CBD is sublingually. When we say sublingually, we refer to administering a tincture on the gums. In humans, sublingual refers to administering under the tongue, however, the salivary glands in a dog are farther back in the mouth and therefore with a dog or cat, sublingual refers to administering on the gums where it can reach the glands in the back of the mouth. This method works best because the medicine is absorbed through the mucous membrane (transmucosal) in the mouth and the full spectrum hemp extract (CBD) then goes directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive tract altogether.  This also minimizes the number of active compounds, or cannabinoids, that are lost or killed off in the digestive tract.

When administered on the gums, you should see an effect within 20-30 minutes. To administer on the gums, lift the flap of the lip and apply the tincture directly onto the gums.

How to administer CBD into the ear

You can administer CBD directly onto the hairless area of the pet’s ear flap for quick absorption, because it goes through the layers of skin and enters the blood stream through the vessels in the ear flap. This is called transdermal application. While we always recommend administering on the gums first, the ear flap may be a good alternative for an aggressive pet, or a pet who becomes particularly agitated when you are administering their dose.

When administered on the ear, you should see an effect within 30-45 minutes. To administer, rub the tincture directly onto the hairless part of the ear (not inside of the ear canal). Do not wipe off.

How to administer CBD with food

One of the go-to methods for most people is to put CBD oil on their pet’s food or treats. While this is an effective way to get it into their system, it may take upwards of 45 minutes for the effects to show, which is why we always recommend administering to the gums or ear flap first. CBD infused treats are a great supplement to using CBD tinctures, but you may not see effects as quickly as you would with a tincture.

To administer in food, take the dose needed and add to a treat or to the food and make sure that they consume the full amount. Your dog will also benefit from a raw or freeze-dried diet, which you can read more about here.

Don’t forget to micro-dose

You may have read about micro-dosing in the past, specifically as it refers to LSD. But, while LSD and CBD are two totally different animals, they share one thing in common: micro-dosing, or giving smaller doses over the course of a few hours, has longer lasting effects than giving large doses once or twice a day. In fact, the half-life of CBD taken orally by a dog is about 4-6 hours, according to a recent study. Taking it way back to high school science class, that means that the medicine peaks around 2 hours and is gone from the system totally by 4-6 hours.

Enter: Micro dosing! When you split your dog’s (or even your own) dose of full spectrum hemp extract (CBD) up into smaller doses throughout the day, the medicine stays in the body longer and doesn’t wear off like it would with one daily dose. This is especially helpful for dealing with anxiety, aches and pains, and seizures. You can read more about micro-dosing, and dosing in general in our post here.

Remember: whether you dose once a day or multiple times, make sure to fully wipe off your dropper before putting it back into the bottle. While we love puppy kisses, doggy drool can actually cause a full spectrum hemp extract (CBD) tincture to become less effective as the bacteria in the saliva can break down the formula.

About Angela Ardolino
Angela Ardolino is passionate about animals and has dedicated her life to providing all-natural relief to pets of all ages and breeds. Ardolino has worked with animals for over 20 years and operates Fire Flake Farm, a rescue farm in Lutz, FL. A medical cannabis expert, Ardolino holds a degree in the therapeutic uses of cannabis from the University of Vermont School of Medicine and is the founder of CBD Dog Health. Combining her background in broadcast journalism and her passion for pets, Ardolino is the host of a pet-centric podcast, “It’s a Dog’s Life” on Cannabis Radio. Additionally, she is the owner of Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and spa. Ardolino has five dogs and up to 10 residing on her farm who she is fostering or boarding. Visit and to learn more.


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