Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating component of the hemp/cannabis plant that has generated significant interest among dog owners for it’s beneficial effects on Osteoarthritis pain, Separation Anxiety and canine seizures–But how CBD exerts its therapeutic impact on a molecular level is still being unraveled.

What is known, is that how CBD is consumed, or its method of delivery, matters…A LOT!

Currently, Cannabidiol (CBD) comes in many forms that you can give your dog–from treats to tinctures to topicals–but which delivery method is most clinically effective to help heal & comfort your dog?

CBD dosage for dogs by weight

Absorption Is Key

To a large extent, the therapeutic effects provided by CBD oil can only be realized if the cannabidiol is presented to specific receptors found throughout the dog’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS). These cellular receptors are present to varying degrees in the canine brain, central nervous system & body organs and tissues.

So before CBD can have any influence over your dog’s biological systems to correct disease processes, it first needs to be absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. And exposure to these ECS receptors depends on the adequate and timely ‘absorption’ of CBD into the bloodstream.

Unfortunately, cannabinoid extracts are ‘oil-based’ so by their very nature are highly hydrophobic, meaning they have a low affinity for water–and are, therefore, very difficult to absorb into blood, plasma and body tissues.

How CBD Is Absorbed Depends On The Route Of Administration

Whether CBD oil is ingested as a edible treat, situated under the tongue as a sublingual tincture or applied topically to your dog’s skin plays an important role in the eventual uptake, distribution, and elimination of the compound. The method of administration or how it is consumed can therefore influence how effective cannabinoid treatments will be at eliciting their natural homeostatic healing effects.

Canine Endocannabinoid System Infographic. CBD receptors in dogs
Primary types of Cannabidiol (CBD) receptor sites found in dogs are CB1 & CB2.

When we talk about the absorption of CBD, we’re referring to its transfer from the site of administration to the bloodstream, where it can then be transported throughout the body to interact with or influence cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) and non-cannabinoid receptors like Serotonin Receptor (5-HT1A) and Vanilloid Receptor (TRPV-1); each receptor type confering different aspects of health and well being to your dog.

Rates of CBD Absorption Vary Depending On The Route Of Administration

Sublingual application is the preferred method of CBD delivery for canine patients.


Sublingual CBD Application – Sublingual dosing means that you are administering CBD through tissues beneath the tongue.

Through this method of administration, the cannabinoids come into close contact with blood rich tissues in the mouth and are immediately absorbed into the bloodstream. Sublingual CBD application is considered a better choice of dosing dogs than oral ingestion of edible treats (or topicals placed on the skin) for a couple of reasons:

    • In the presence of digestive enzymes and stomach acids, it’s possible that oral edible dog treats can lose 20-90% of the original CBD mg dose, resulting in a much lower bio-availability of active cannabinoid ingredients to help your dog.
    • Sublingual oils are designed for CBD to be absorbed directly into the blood, by-passing digestive processes and avoiding the First-Pass phenomenon in the liver, thereby preserving the cannabinoid content and avoiding any conflict with other drugs metabolised by the liver’s P-450 enzyme system.
    • Sublingual CBD application is more easily adapted for delivery to dogs because canine patients need only a small amount of CBD to deliver a ‘therapeutic effect’. A dropper bottle dispensing single measured drop(s) based on your dog’s weight is infinitely more precise and easily tolerated when a dog is having difficulty eating or swallowing.

Sublingual dosing is also the quickest form of relief for dogs. Sublingual application has a quick ‘onset of action’, delivering the effects of cannabidiol in as little as a few minutes with the duration lasting from 6-8 hours. Ideal for canine patients whose conditions require them to rely on fast-acting therapeutic effects, such as those suffering from chronic pain or epileptic seizures.

It is much more difficult to measure & monitor the actual effective dose needed to treat your pet with oral, food based, edible applications.

Edible CBD Treats – On the other hand, edible CBD treats have lower absorption in the intestinal tact, are difficult to measure exact dosing, can potentially interfere with liver metabolism of other medications and have a longer onset of action (one to two hours), making them less clinically effective.

Topical CBD – Topical rubs are one of the more common kinds of cannabis based CBD products. They can be used effectively for skin or joint issues and as antiseptic ointment but will not be absorbed into the bloodstream. The presence of plant terpenes or non-intoxicating acid cannabinoids (THCA and CBDA) seem to increase skin permeation, but still not enough to get it into the blood. On the down-side, large concentrations of terpenes in topical products may irritate a dog’s skin.

So a liquid sublingual CBD tincture is a safer, more therapeutically effective, cost-saving way to deliver cannabidiol in a precise, measured dose to help heal your dog. It is recommended to give your dog the proper starting CBD dose based on body weight, 30 minutes prior to meals and at least 4 hours away from all other medications.

CBD Dosage for dogs
CBD dosage for dogs is measured in mg’s per kg body weight. Start low, go slow & monitor your dogs progress.


Avoiding Drug Interactions & Accidental Injestion of THC

The first priority with any cannnabinoid treatment for dogs is to avoid possible interference between CBD and any prescription drug therapies. CBD is processed by the same liver enzymes as 60% of prescription medications, so avoiding interactions between these compounds will make each compound function as intended.

A more recent problem with the legalization of medical marijuana and the expansion into other methods of consumption of high-THC cannabis based products like edibles meant for human consumption are the accidental injestion of THC by pets. At high levels THC can cause Ataxia in dogs that can lead to very serious side-effects so please be aware that dogs do not have the same positive reaction to Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC), as our canine counterparts.

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Curtis Barnes

Curtis has been passionate about the welfare of animals since his first dog rescue as a teenager growing up in Oregon.

After studying Sports Medicine & Biology at the University of Oregon, Curtis went on to excel in a career of Clinical Nutrition sales, later owning a healthcare company serving private-practice physicians.

Known for his expansive knowledge on natural health and alternative medicine, many physician friends came to expect they would receive an extended medical education when he detailed the latest clinical food-science-research.

Curtis believes that natural plant-based therapies can be applied to veterinary care which led him to study the science of Cannabinoid Medicine.

His expertise in Functional Medicine led him to formulate a unique hemp-based canine care product, Canine Support Formula, fulfilling a dream to combine natural pet-care strategies with the new therapeutic potential of medical cannabis.

In reverence for his own dog, Curtis has dedicated his company, K9 Medibles, to improving the health and longevity of all dogs. With a soft-spot for older, senior dogs, he affectionately calls every dog a “pup”.

As a Native Oregonian, Curtis loves the beautiful scenery & outdoor activities of hiking and biking in his home State.

To learn more about Curtis and how he can help your dog, visit

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