I hear a lot of pet parents talk about CBD for their dog, but (as any parent should) they also have questions. A particularly common question is: will CBD interact my dog’s medications? There aren’t many veterinary studies on this topic so far. But, there is early evidence that CBD could complicate matters when it comes to your pet’s existing medicines.
One quick note – when I talk about “drugs,” from now on, what I mean is any compound your pet is given that his or her body does not make naturally. Most of the time, this refers to medications like antibiotics. It also includes CBD! The official term is “xenobiotics,” in case you need to impress anyone at trivia night.
It’s All About the Liver: A (Relatively) Painless Intro to Drug Metabolism
To learn about how CBD might interact with medications from your vet, we first need to talk about how your pet’s body processes drugs. Just like in people, drug metabolism in dogs is all about the liver.
The liver is a large, reddish-brown organ that sits just behind (or below, for our two-legged readers) the lungs, separated by the diaphragm. This super organ has hundreds of different functions!
One of the liver’s main jobs is to break down medications, toxins, and other substances that enter the stomach or bloodstream. Other organs metabolize drugs too, but the liver does most of the heavy lifting.
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What Does the Liver Do to Medications?
How does the liver break down drugs? It’s complicated, but one secret weapon is a group of enzymes called cytochrome P450 (CYP450). Liver cells use CYP450 enzymes to convert medications into a form your pet’s body can eliminate. The most common exit route involves a trip to the backyard.
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Okay, But Will CBD Negatively Interact With My Dog’s Medications?
CYP450 enzymes in the liver are like bouncers for drugs. They break down and eliminate medications from your dog’s system. How long this process takes depends on the drug itself, the delivery route, your dog’s health status, and other factors.
But if the liver is breaking down substances all the time, why would CBD make a difference?
CBD has an unusual trait: it is broken down by CYP450 liver enzymes, but it also affects how they work. In human studies, CBD use is associated with increases in blood concentrations of epilepsy and blood clotting drugs.
In other words, CBD partially blocks the function of medication-metabolizing enzymes in the liver. This causes other drugs to be broken down less efficiently.
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The Downside of Drug Interactions
This effect on drug metabolism might sound like a good thing at first. More bang for your prescription buck, right?
The problem is that some medications can become toxic or cause more side effects when their concentration in the blood is too high.
Veterinarians rely on standard doses to know how much medication a dog can take without causing problems. Unfortunately, adding CBD could make the amount of medicine your dog receives more unpredictable.
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But That’s in Humans; What About CBD for Dogs?
As I mentioned, there isn’t much research about how CBD affects the breakdown of medications in dogs yet. One small study found that six weeks of treatment in dogs did not affect bile acid levels, which are also affected by the CYP450 enzymes that CBD messes with in people.
However, one small study isn’t enough to decide that CBD won’t affect a dog’s other medications. Only large, controlled trials can tell us for sure.
Additional CBD Studies in Dogs:
Do other veterinary studies show us anything? A handful of reports show that CBD modestly increases blood levels of ALP in some dogs, which can indicate liver stress. The size of the change isn’t big enough to indicate a major problem for most pets, but those with ongoing health problems (especially in the liver) could be affected.
These results have also been seen in smaller animals like rats. Liver stress could mean more difficulty processing medications, but only your vet can accurately interpret bloodwork results.
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So, Can I Give My Dog CBD if They’re on Other Medications?
Hopefully, more studies will be available soon, and we’ll have better information about how CBD interacts with your dog’s medications.
For now, human research shows that CBD complicates things in the body’s drug-metabolizing powerhouse, the liver. This effect is part of what makes CBD unique, but it can also cause problems.
One important note from your neighborhood vet – never change or stop medication doses without consulting your veterinarian, and do not use CBD to replace an existing prescription.
In Conclusion: Will CBD Negatively Interact With My Dog’s Medications?
We do know that CBD is generally safe for most dogs based on anecdotal evidence and limited research. If your furry friend has liver problems or takes any prescriptions, though, you’ll definitely want to talk to your vet.
Dr. Nicole Wanner is a veterinarian and published scientific researcher. She currently studies the effects of CBD on human and animal health as a Ph.D. candidate and writes articles to help pet parents stay up to date on the latest veterinary research. She shares her home with Sylvie and Nemo, a brother and sister pair of former barn kittens she adopted with her partner Evan in 2014.