cbd and dogs with separation anxiety (all you need to know)
if i knew about cbd when my dog had separation anxiety as a puppy some five years ago, i wonder how much easier life might have been.
my girlfriend and i got luna at six-and-a-half weeks of age and she slept all through the first night we got her. the following day was a completely different story though, and we quickly found out that our new fur baby had quite the case of separation anxiety. if you’re a pet parent whose dog experiences separation anxiety (it’s more common than you think), i’d bet you would love to help cure it, for both their sake and yours. what if cbd could contribute to solving that problem?
cbd oil’s calming properties may be helpful for dogs with separation anxiety and its displayed symptoms. for maximum benefit, be sure to give your dog a proper dose of cbd early enough for it to take full effect since dogs can usually pick up on the fact that you are leaving well ahead of time.
like humans, dogs have cannabinoid receptors all throughout their bodies that exhibit balancing and homeostatic responses when activated. this can go a long way towards alleviating your pup’s perceived need to yelp incessantly, dig away at your furniture, or worse, try to escape and/or hurt themselves in the process.
cbd for dogs with separation anxiety
dogs can get anxious just the same as we can. when that anxiety arises from a situation in which a dog has been removed from its closest companion(s) for one reason or another, it is known as separation anxiety. it often occurs for a dog with one person, but could be both of his or her parents if the bond is strong enough.
separation anxiety may be displayed by your pup on a scale that could range from minor sadness to full-blown panic, with potentially outright destructive behavior to go along with it. it could be caused by a lot of different sources, though all likely stem from some sort of change. a change in routine or environment such as moving, or a new family for an adopted or rescued dog could certainly cause separation anxiety, though a loss or absence of a family member is likely to be the biggest trigger of them all.
signs your dog has separation anxiety may start well before you leave the house. dogs are very good at honing in on various cues within sequences in their lives, such as getting ready to leave the house. for example, you may have keys hanging next to your front door that you grab before leaving. you may also put shoes on before grabbing those keys, and you may have other tasks that lead up to that as well, such as grabbing sunglasses or a hat, brushing your teeth, filling up your water bottle, etc.
the more regularly this occurs, the more your dog will associate one event with the one that precedes it until finally figuring out that you are getting ready to leave from the start of your routine. these cues then signal the beginning of you making your departure, and your dog will make that connection. this could lead to them exhibiting signs of separation anxiety ahead of time, and you are going to want to keep that in mind if you wish to try cbd to help with their separation anxiety. in other words, make sure to consider administering cbd to your dog earlier than you may have initially planned.
signs your dog is experiencing separation anxiety may include any combination of appearing sad (even more so than usual), barking (usually frantically), pacing around the house, or drooling. however, they may not be visible while you are present, and will likely become worse once you’re gone either way. this is another reason why you’ll want to give your pup cbd early enough that it has taken full effect before you leave, if possible.
when luna was a puppy, she barked like crazy as soon as we left, and several times engaged in other destructive behaviors such as chewing the corner of our kitchen table as well as the corner of a wall. other dogs may try to dig through carpets or upholstery (luna also tore up one of our couches), or try to escape. they also may put themselves in physical harm, should they try to escape out of a crate or break through a door or window. last but not least, dogs may pee or poop inside the house as another means of expressing their anxiety, and some may even go one step further and eat their poop afterwards.
isolation distress is another similar condition you should be aware of. often mistaken for separation anxiety, isolation distress occurs solely from a dog being left alone, and results in many of the same outward behaviors that dogs with separation anxiety exhibit. it is solely a dog-human issue, meaning another dog’s companionship within the pack will not make things better for a pup with isolation distress.
the big difference between the two lies in that dogs’ spirits who experience isolation distress can usually be lifted by the presence of any familiar human, whereas a dog who is experiencing separation anxiety towards a specific human will often remain that way until their special somebody returns, even if other people are around. either way, both separation anxiety and isolation distress are likely to come from similar mental processes, and cbd may be worth looking into as a possible solution for the problem.
giving your dog cbd for separation anxiety
much like ourselves, dogs who are stressed experience increased hormonal secretion of cortisol and adrenaline. when this happens, their primitive fight-or-flight mechanism is unnecessarily activated and anxiety results from their brain’s inability to make sense of the entire situation. think about it from your dog’s perspective: much of human life is foreign and complex. we set alarms to wake up, go to work at a place away from home all day, and then come back. all that time, your furbaby is at home awaiting your return with no comprehension of your life’s everyday demands.
it’s easy to see how such a situation could be overwhelming to dogs. after all, a dog is another species with a different evolutionary line than us and it cannot converse or reason like a human. by some measures, it might even be rather miraculous that only 20-40% of dogs have separation anxiety, and that the figure isn’t even higher! nonetheless, the buildup of these stress hormones can lead to chemical imbalances, which can result in even more stressed behaviors from your dog. poor pup ☹
enter cannabidiol: the compound better known as cbd may work on the systems behind your dog’s stress response in order to address the underlying processes behind their separation anxiety. before we jump into how cbd works and the best ways to give it to your fur baby, let’s touch on the basics really quickly.
- cbd comes from the cannabis plant, and it is only one of more than 100 phytocompounds found within the plant categorized as cannabinoids.
- of those 100+ cannabinoids, cbd is one of the two main compounds. it is nonpsychoactive, meaning cbd will not get your dog high!
- the other primary compound is thc, which brings the psychoactive component associated with “marijuana” smoking. if the cannabis plant has more than 0.3% thc, it is considered “marijuana”, while anything less than that amount classifies the plant as being hemp.
- cbd derived from american-grown hemp is legal, safe, and nontoxic for your dog.
simple enough, right? when you give your dog cbd, it goes to work on what is known as the endocannabinoid system (ecs). all animals have an ecs, meaning it is also present in your body (and any other animals within your family). the ecs plays a role in homeostasis within our bodies, which means it works with other systems and processes in order to address any imbalances that are present. of course, this can also apply to the stress response that comes from an imbalance in hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and could thus bring about a state of calmness that counteracts separation anxiety.
how much cbd should i give my dog for separation anxiety? and when?
cbd is measured in milligrams (mg). when looking into cbd for your dog’s separation anxiety, it’s important to pay attention to the total mg of cbd in a given dose, as well as the amount in its overall contents. dogs have no verbal means of communicating the effectiveness of a cbd dose, so you are going to be the one that has to pay attention to any signs of change in your pup.
with that being said, giving your dog cbd every day gives you a base structure to start with a smaller dosage and work your way up from there as needed. like with humans, cbd oil is completely safe to give dogs, even in high doses. generally speaking, smaller dogs will require less cbd than larger dogs to become effective, though just like us, dogs too have individual body chemistries that can widely affect their tolerance to cbd.
since dogs are very good at picking up on your routines, you are going to want to factor in enough time for the cbd to take effect before starting your routine, not just before you leave. this may mean first thing in the morning, as any means of your dog consuming cbd will likely be done orally, meaning it must be digested before it takes effect. humans usually feel the effects of oral consumption in somewhere between 30 minutes to two hours, so an hour (give or take) would likely be a good base line.
you may be inclined to look into specific cbd products for dogs, whether online or in a brick-and-mortar store. either way, be sure to pay attention to the overall potency of any cbd-infused products made specifically for animals, as they may end up containing an insignificantly small amount of actual cbd. these products are often relatively expensive as well, and worse, may make for an ineffective product unable to produce the results that your pup needs.
with that being said, if a low dose of cbd works effectively on your dog, these types of treats may be perfect. however, that could also enable you to use just a couple of drops of a concentrated cbd oil tincture just the same, whether mixed in with food or given directly in their mouth. it really depends on what your dog likes, and you may only find out by trying out a few different options. we got lucky with luna: she loves it all, and will happily take both olive oil and mct oil cbd drops, straight from the dropper like a champion (i’m not a proud pet parent, nor am i biased in any way, am i?), even if her mom disapproves.
while we’re at it, there are a few other crucial things to pay attention to as well when buying cbd for your dog, no matter what.
- always make sure your cbd oil comes from american-grown hemp.
- buy organic cbd for your pup, just the same as you would for yourself. cbd can absorb any nutrients within its soil, so you want to make sure your hemp was grown organically to ensure it is free of any pesticides and other harmful toxins such as lead or arsenic.
- make sure any cbd product you buy can provide third party lab test results. if you see cbd products in your local pet store, this might provide a bit of a hindrance at first, but you have two solutions: look online to see if that specific company displays their results, or choose another brand that does!
- cbd is not regulated by the fda. believe it or not, buying cbd online is the best way to ensure a quality product since it gives you the opportunity to fully vet the company you buy from! (no pun intended…)
- look for broad spectrum hemp extract as your source of cbd. this procedure retains all portions of the plant (except for thc), resulting in more wholesome and beneficial results than when cbd is isolated from the rest of the plant. this occurrence is known as the entourage effect.
what can i do in addition to giving my dog cbd to help with separation anxiety?
dogs are very good at picking up on your energy. if you are concerned, stressed, or anxious about their separation anxiety, they will also pick up on that, which only perpetuates the cycle. if possible, it is better to leave the house when your dog’s energy is as calm as possible, while the least ideal time to leave (if you can help it) would be if your dog is going berserk as you are walking out the door.
taking your dog on a long walk or hike, or doing something else such as a good play session to get some energy out of them whenever possible may help the situation, as long as you give your pup enough time to wind down should you rile him/her up while playing. or maybe saying bye to them 10 minutes before you actually leave can help, as giving them attention immediately before you walk out the door may stir up some unnecessary excitement.
from first-hand knowledge (and no, i am not an expert), the first thing for me was to recognize that separation anxiety is a psychological issue. dogs (canines) are not like humans (primates), and their brains run largely on logic, whereas ours have a far greater capacity to experience and integrate emotion into our worldviews and our beings.
we learned from ivan pavlov that dogs think in terms of associating a stimulus to a response. this is how your pup can know you’re getting ready to leave ahead of time, and we can utilize it in order to create environments that mimic leaving the house in broken down, step-by-step ways to set our dogs up for success. it may take a lot of time and energy on our ends, but breaking down our pre-departure routine into step-by-step pieces and then desensitizing them to each given step can ultimately help them work out the situation in their own heads and realize that it is okay for you to leave without them.
let’s use an example: say that you grab your sunglasses, walk to the front door, put on shoes, and then grab your keys before leaving the house. at a time when you have no intention of actually leaving, you could conduct experiments (while your dog is calm) where you walk over and grab your sunglasses; but instead of walking to the front door afterwards, you could just set the sunglasses right back down and see if/how your pup reacts.
such a small interaction may seem trivial, but doing it enough times will begin to break the association to the point where your dog is no longer concerned with the act of grabbing your sunglasses. then, maybe take just one step towards the door before turning to put your sunglasses back where they belong. take it step by step from there over a period of time until you can walk to the door without your pup being concerned. from there, you could grab your shoes and begin to put them on, immediately taking them off just like your sunglasses. same goes for the keys afterwards.
this may already be a long process, but once you’ve nailed it, you can simply start by opening the door and closing it. then you can leave for a second or two and stand just outside the door, gradually increasing your time away. some dogs may rapidly progress through this process, while others may still seem stuck on one step or another for a long time. it’s ultimately important to do everything you can to set your dog up for success, and while this may not work for everybody, it is something certainly worth considering or discussing with a dog trainer if your dog’s separation anxiety is extreme.
positive associations also go a long way towards helping anxiety. if you are looking to contain your dog’s environment to a crate or other enclosed area, taking the time to properly associate the space in a positive manner is great for your dog. you could do this with praise and treats, and/or by putting them into the space for a second before releasing them, making sure to do so while you are home. you can increase the time little by little, giving them lots of love through the process. also, make sure to use a different space for time out if you have one, in order to avoid negative associations.
disclaimer: in no way is any of this advice meant to be taken as that of a professional’s. we all love our pets, and any suggestions within this article should be taken as nothing more than one loving pet parent trying to help another. separation anxiety is tough for us as owners, and even tougher for our pet. on behalf of the entire zadaka fam, i wish you all the best in your journey towards curing your pet’s separation anxiety.