CBD is not super well assimilated in dogs, with less than 20% bioavailability
CBD can start working in less than one hour
Fatty foods can increase how long CBD stays in the blood
Higher doses are not assimilated more quickly than lower doses
Pet treats are one of the most common ways to administer CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound isolated from hemp, and it can be found in many forms, from cookies, chews, oils, food toppers, and other topical products. Many pet's parents are familiar with its benefits for reducing anxiety, and improving joint mobility, and appreciate CBD's overall calming effects. Yet, little is known about how long it takes for CBD to work on dogs, and the science behind these processes is even less known. Here we attempt to fill this gap by providing you with simple, fact-based, and science-based information on what to expect when giving your dog CBD treats and when CBD dog treats may start kicking in.
Importantly, the quality of what you feed your furry friend with is key. We believe that the simplest dog cookies are the best dog treat since they will be easy to digest and will contain no harmful products. For example, our super simple and tasty CBD dog cookies contain only a handful of human-edible ingredients such as apple sauce and almond butter to maximize the health benefits for your pooch.
The Science Behind How Dogs Absorb CBD Products
How is Cannabidiol Absorbed?
For any drug to work, there is a route that has to be taken so that the active compounds can reach the bloodstream. CBD is no different. When you give your pet CBD products or anything to eat or drink, it has to be absorbed by the intestine, go through layers of tissues, travel through your pet's blood vessels, reach its destination, and bind to the appropriate receptors...that's a lot of traveling!
Generally, the most common way of absorption is via the small intestine. When a drug is awesome in how it is absorbed, it means that whether your dog eats it, drinks it, or receives it intravenously, the amount in circulation is similar. For the nerds, we can call this CBD bioavailability. A bioavailability of 100% means that whether you eat it or inject it, the amount in circulation is the same.
What is The Bioavailability of Cannabidiol?
CBD has a pretty low bioavailability, from 6% to 31% in humans (ref 1), and studies in dogs showed that the bioavailability is up to 19% when CBD was given orally (ref 2). This means that when you give a CBD dose to your petCBD to your dog, the large majority does not end up in the system. In and of itself this is not a new thing, but the next most important questions are about understanding what can help or block the absorption of CBD into the system.
Factors That Can Affect How Long It Takes For CBD Work
Several factors can determine how long it takes for CBD to work, and the two most important ones are: how CBD is administered, and whether CBD is administered with or without food. That's because nutrients and drugs need to have special characteristics to be absorbed in the mouth, rather than in the intestine; and they can mix with the food you eat, resulting in extra work for your body to extract and process nutrients and active molecules.
Is Oral Administration In Dogs The Best For CBD Absorption?
Some attempts were made to see whether forcing transmucosal absorption of CBD, aka directly through the tissue in your pet mouth, is better than when it's given orally, aka eating it. The results showed that absorption in the mouth weren't actually any better than when CBD was ingested, indicating that the favorite spot for CBD to be absorbed in dogs is the intestine (ref 3).
While there are attempts to improve how CBD is absorbed in humans and dogs, aka how quickly a therapeutic dose of CBD can kick in, a study from Bartner et al. (ref 4) demonstrated that microencapsulated CBD had a 30% less bioavailability than CBD infused oil and that CBD creams were the worst of them all. This is probably due to CBD being lipophilic, aka it doesn't pass well through the cell membranes, it gets stuck in the skin layers and gets absorbed very badly.
Does Food Change How CBD Treats Work in Dogs?
A well-known factor that can change how quickly any drug is absorbed is the presence of food in your tummy, cannabinoids are no exception. To this end, a study published in 2019 in the Research in Veterinary Science journal, evaluated how food changed the absorption of Bedrocan, a form of medicinal cannabis composed of 20% THC and 0.5% CBD, in dogs, and compared the concentration of THC and CBD in the bloodstream of dogs that ate food vs. dogs that didn't (ref 5). While no CBD was detected, THC took much longer to be absorbed and had almost a three times lower blood concentration than dogs who didn't eat (7.1 vs 24 ng/mL).Now...one disadvantage of this study is that they used a THC-based compound, and while THC and CBD are very similar molecules, they are not the same.
CBD is a lipophilic molecule, which means that it is attracted to and binds easily with fatty molecules. A meta-review published in theExpert Opinion on Drug Delivery journal in 2019 suggested that, based on observations across different trials, a high-fat diet can increase the absorption of Sativex when delivered orally (ref 6). This suggestion is consistent with another meta-study published in Pharmacotherapy in 2021, reporting that most human patients who received Sativex or Epidolex had a higher blood concentration when they received a meal, compared to those who didn't (ref 7).Consistent with these data, a placebo-controlled, randomized, crossover study of fourteen males reported that ingesting food before consuming CBD resulted in higher overall CBD blood concentration that also stayed longer in circulation (ref 8).
And if you want to bake CBD treats with healthy fats at home, we suggest our guide on how to prepare homemade CBD dog treats with peanut butter. It aims to give you a super-simple recipe that you can tweak to your needs while ensuring that your pet eats healthy and well-balanced CBD cookies.
Does Timing Affect How Quickly CBD Works on Dogs?
In short, yes and no. CBD tends to accumulate in the body when administered long term, meaning that giving your pet CBD cookies every day, will be more effective and will last longer than giving it to your dog only once or twice here and there. We always suggest using them for a few weeks before deciding whether it works or not, since the benefits of CBD may need up to 4 weeks to show up. This is likely because CBD is a compound that binds well to fatty molecules, and therefore can be stored in fat tissue over time.
Another common question is whether CBD treatments are better if given in the morning vs. evening. In this case, no study in dogs investigated this question. Morning or evening is only relative to a potential effect of the circadian rhythm, and a recent study published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms indicates that CBD can alter how circadian rhythm genes work (ref 9).
Yet, researchers found that "CBD had no effect on the phase-delaying effects of light" in the animals in this study. This means that CBD did not change the effect of light in delaying how quickly they fell asleep.
While there is not enough evidence to suggest that morning is better than evening for maximizing the health benefits in your pet with CBD, we believe that it is more important to time CBD with food to optimize its absorption. Whether you prefer morning or evening can also depend on what you are helping your pet with. If you are treating separation anxiety when you go to the office, then mornings are your go-to. If your pet is hyper at night, then evening should be your choice. If you are addressing overall wellness or arthritic joint pain and mobility, then morning plus evening are a better choice.
Does How Much CBD I Give My Dog Change When The Effects Kick In?
How much CBD you give has little effect on how quickly it is absorbed. Studies in humans demonstrated that higher doses are not absorbed more quickly, however, higher doses increase the maximal concentration of CBD in the blood (ref 1). This could be due to the rate at which CBD can be processed. Pretty much like water coming out of the faucet, you can't get more than your faucet can handle.
Every dog, just like humans, has a maximal rate at which it can process molecules, meaning that doubling the dose of CBD will not change how soon it will start working. While larger dogs may require a higher CBD concentration than smaller dogs, there is still a range of CBD dosage that should be respected. So, please do not exaggerate the doses because even if CBD is very safe and it is almost impossible to overdose your dog on CBD alone (well...I do want to overestimate your caution here!!), you can still end up giving your dog too much CBD by mistake.
When Should You Expect CBD To Start Working For Your Dog?
As a rule of thumb, CBD can take effect between less than one to two hours to kick in. Different CBD products on the market will have different concentrations per dose, and how long CBD dog treats take to work will depend on the various factors that we explored in previous sections of this article.
Overall, assuming that you nailed the exact CBD concentration, that food or fasting conditions were appropriate, and that you are dosing CBD with nothing else that can affect its potency, you should observe the initial benefits within a couple of hours (ref 10).
As an example, if you choose to use CBD to help your pet during fireworks, then you should time the dose about one to two hours before the show starts, so that there is enough time for cannabidiol to kick in, and for your dog to relax.
How Long Does a Dose of Quality CBD Last For in Your Pet?
The effect of CBD will last as long as it is in circulation, meaning that the longer your pet has CBD in the blood, the longer will be the effect.
A few studies have measured the so-called "half-life" of CBD in dogs, which is the time it takes for half of the dosage to be metabolized and removed from the body. A recent research paper published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science measured various blood parameters in dogs who received CBD orally and determined its half-life to be 2.67 hours (ref 3). Other research groups reported the half-life of CBD to be higher than 4 hours (ref 11, 12).
If you are giving CBD cookiesmultiple times a day, then the time it takes to half the dose may be affected depending on the dose, the interval between two doses, and how quickly you'd dog metabolizes cannabidiol. While CBD will help dogs large and small, it may be processed differently due to innate differences among dogs. This means that it may take longer for your dog to completely clear out all CBD from the body.
Conclusions: How Long For CBD Dog Treats To Work?
CBD products are popular dog supplements that can help with a multitude of health-related issues. Yet, even the best treats will not have an immediate effect, as your pooch may need some time before seeing any effect. Assuming that you picked the correct dose your dog needs based on testing different doses over time, you now can observe CBD working its way against anxiety and pain and helping joint mobility.
The effects will last anywhere from a few hours to half a day or more, but if your dog takes it regularly, then the effect may be more pronounced because of how CBD can accumulate over time.
(1) A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans
(2) Pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol in dogs. - https://dmd.aspetjournals.org/content/16/3/469
(3) Pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol following single oral and oral transmucosal administration in dogs - https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2022.1104152/full
(4) Pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol administered by 3 delivery methods at 2 different dosages to healthy dogs - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6038832/
(5) Pharmacokinetics of Bedrocan®, a cannabis oil extract, in fasting and fed dogs: An explorative study- https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0034528818313158
(6) A meta-opinion: cannabinoids delivered to oral mucosa by a spray for systemic absorption are rather ingested into gastro-intestinal tract: the influences of fed / fasting states - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17425247.2019.1653852
(7) Food effects on the formulation, dosing, and administration of cannabidiol (CBD) in humans: A systematic review of clinical studies - https://accpjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/phar.2512
(8) Cannabidiol and Cannabidiol Metabolites: Pharmacokinetics, Interaction with Food, and Influence on Liver Function - https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/10/2152
(9) A Cannabinoid Receptor 1 Agonist Reduces Light-induced Phase Delays in Male But Not Female Mice - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/07487304231166785
(10) Scientific Validation of Cannabidiol for Management of Dog and Cat Diseases - https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-animal-081122-070236
(11) Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol, Cannabidiolic Acid, Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid and Related Metabolites in Canine Serum After Dosing With Three Oral Forms of Hemp Extract - https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2020.00505/full
(12) Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs - https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2018.00165/full
Footnote: The content of this article is for informational and educational purposes ONLY. It is not intended to identify, diagnose, or treat any health condition in your dog. Please do your research and consult with your veterinarian before taking any action based solely on what we report here. We assume no responsibility for inappropriate decisions taken without consulting a health professional.
Seb has been a research scientist for the past two decades and is the founder and owner of My Blissful Pet. Seb grew up with cats and dogs and married his passion for science and animals with My Blissful Pet by wanting to help dogs and cats live healthier lives.