Cannabidiol (CBD) may help reduce pain in dogs with osteoarthritis

by Dr. Roberto Chiocchetti May 05, 2021 5 min read

Cannabidiol (CBD) may help reduce pain in dogs with osteoarthritis

A 2020 study published in Veterinary Record has demonstrated the potential for CBD to be used alongside current drug treatments to reduce pain in dogs with osteoarthritis.

This study aimed to assess the potential role of cannabidiol (CBD) in reducing osteoarthritis-associated pain in dogs. The overall aim of the study was to determine if CBD can reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis in dogs if it is given alongside current treatments.


The researchers carried out a literature search and found one paper that met the search parameters and was relevant to the aim.

The paper assessed the pain, lameness, and weight of 16 dogs with confirmed osteoarthritis. The dogs were assigned to either receiving CBD or a placebo alongside their regular medication for 4 weeks. The groups then swapped treatments for a further 4 weeks following a 2 week period where the dogs received no intervention.

Outcomes were measured by an owner questionnaire as well as veterinary assessments that included hematology, serum chemistry, and physical examinations. Outcomes were measured before treatment, at week 2, and the end of the treatment intervention.


Due to there being several potential outcomes to report on, the study reported a range of results consisting of owner and veterinary assessments.

Owner-assessed outcomes

Following CBD treatment, owners reported an overall decrease in pain and a subsequent increase in activity at both 2 and 4 weeks after treatment began. There were also no side effects reported by owners.

Vet-assessed outcomes

Following CBD treatment, there was an overall decrease in pain. Based on veterinary assessment palpitation scores, pain levels significantly decreased at both 2 and 4 weeks following CBD treatment compared to the baseline scores. Additionally, pain decreased in the CBD-treated group compared to the placebo group.

However, there were no significant changes in vet-assessed lameness or weight-bearing scores.

Discussion of results and implications

This study was assessing whether CBD can reduce pain levels in dogs with osteoarthritis, alongside their current treatments. The study did a literature search and found one paper that assessed this.

CBD appears to reduce pain

The initial findings of this study indicate that CBD does aid in overall pain reduction in dogs with arthritis. The owner-assessed questionnaire determined that, from the perspective of the owner, there was an overall increase in their dog’s comfort levels following the use of CBD.

These results were reinforced by the veterinary-assessed outcomes, which also found a significant decrease in pain following palpitation testing. The fact that this was found when comparing baseline to treatment, as well as a placebo to treatment, further confirms the pain-reduction potential of CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis.

Potential weaknesses

While these findings are promising, several things would have to be improved in the study to reinforce their clinical significance.

1. Sample population

This study had a relatively small sample size of only 16 dogs in total. Additionally, there was no consistency in the breed, age, or severity of arthritis. As well as this, there was no controlling for the type or dose of the medication that the dogs were already on for their osteoarthritis. All of these factors could impact the ability to make a conclusive call from the results obtained from this study.

2. Timelines

There is no explanation as to where the 2 and 4 week periods came from. The half-lives of CBD or any other medications the dogs did not appear to be taken into account, therefore, it is uncertain whether the timeline of this study is sufficient enough to conclude whether CBD reduces pain long-term. As well as this, it is unclear whether 2 weeks is sufficient enough to clear the drug from the dog’s system before swapping the treatment groups over.

3. CBD composition

The study used a very specific cannabinoid product that consisted of high concentrations of CBD. Not all strains of cannabinoids have the same proportion of CBD to other products, and so these results won't necessarily apply to other strains.

Regardless of this, these results are an excellent foundation for further studies to take place the potential use of CBD as a pain reliever in dogs with osteoarthritis. The researchers have demonstrated a clear potential for CBD that, with further research, could change the way osteoarthritis pain is treated in the veterinary clinic.

Future research

Several things could be done to further understand whether the addition of cannabidiol alongside current drug treatments reduces pain in dogs with osteoarthritis.

Firstly, a study with a much larger sample size would need to be conducted. An increased sample size, as well as the incorporation of a variety of dog breeds, would help to form the conclusion that is more representative of the entire population as a whole. As well as this, it would be beneficial to control for factors such as age, breed, current medication, and severity of arthritis to reduce the possibility that the findings are due to an unrelated reason.

To understand the impact of CBD on pain long-term, future research would need to include studies that involved a longer period. This will help to understand whether CBD can relieve pain long-term, as well as any possible side effects that could arise from long-term use of the substance.

Further down the line, it would also be beneficial to do a number of tests comparing an array of CBD products. CBD can vary in purity and consistency, meaning that one company’s product could produce different results than another. It would, therefore, be useful to test several CBD products to determine any possible differences in their results.

Future research opportunities will help to further develop an understanding of the potential benefits of CBD on pain reduction in dogs with osteoarthritis.

The bottom line

This study provides a good foundation for the potential benefits of CBD on pain reduction for dogs with osteoarthritis. The preliminary data from this study demonstrate that CBD appears to aid in pain reduction for dogs with osteoarthritis.

While the initial findings are promising, further studies will allow for an increased understanding of the benefits of CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis.


Morrow, L., & Belshaw, Z. (2020). Does the addition of cannabidiol alongside current drug treatments reduce pain in dogs with osteoarthritis? Veterinary Record, 186(15), 493–494. DOI: 10.1136/vr.m1594

This article was written by an independent and third-party author specialising in CBD, hemp and cannabis research. Any opinion, advice or recommendation expressed in the article does not reflect the opinion of Formula Swiss AG or any of our employees. We do not make any claims about any of our products and refer to our disclaimer for more information.

Dr. Roberto Chiocchetti
Author: Dr. Roberto Chiocchetti

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