Cannabidiol (CBD) may improve osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs

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

Cannabidiol (CBD) may improve osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs

A 2020 study published in Pain has demonstrated the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD for improving symptoms associated with osteoarthritis in dogs.

This study aimed to determine the therapeutic potential of CBD on osteoarthritis in dogs. The study compared both naked and liposomal-encapsulated CBD to determine the potential benefits in dogs with spontaneous osteoarthritis.


Dogs were selected for the study if they presented to Sunset Animal Hospital (Houston, TX) with osteoarthritis-related conditions, including lameness. Owners completed a questionnaire to outline the affected limbs, lameness, and any medications the dogs was on.

Dogs were selected if they were diagnosed with osteoarthritis and demonstrated pain, lameness, joint pain, and gait issues, as assessed by their owners. Dogs were also ruled out if they had an underlying disease, outlined by a blood test.

The 20 selected dogs were then randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: placebo, 30 mg/day naked CBD, 50 mg/day naked CBD, or 20 mg/day liposomal CBD. Blood samples were collected at the start of the treatment, and after 30 days for chemical analysis. As well as this, veterinarians assessed each dog’s locomotion for walking, running, and standing. Owners were also asked to assess their dog’s pain using an assessment called the Helsinki Chronic Pain Index.

Together, these methods were used to determine pain levels before, and after 30 days of treatment with CBD.


There was a range of veterinarian and owner assessed outcomes to determine whether CBD had a therapeutic impact on dogs with osteoarthritis.

Owner assessment

There was no significant change to pain levels for dogs in the placebo and 20 mg/day naked CBD group when assessed by the owners. However, owners reported significant pain reduction in dogs receiving both 50 mg/day naked CBD and 20 mg/day liposomal CBD. These pain reductions were also found to be significant for at least 15 days after finishing treatment.

Veterinary assessment

As with the owner assessment, veterinary assessment observed very little change in the groups that received the placebo or 20 mg/day naked CBD. However, consistent with the owner assessment, there were evident improvements in all categories of veterinary assessment for dogs receiving 50 mg/day naked CBD and 20 mg/day liposomal CBD.

Together, these results demonstrated an overall decrease in pain, and an increase in locomotion, as assessed by both owners and veterinarians.

Discussion of results and implications

This study was assessing the therapeutic potential of CBD on osteoarthritis in dogs. Dogs with confirmed osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to treatment groups, and all researchers and participants were blinded to which group they were in.

CBD appears to reduce pain and improve locomotion

The results from the owner assessment questionnaire, as well as the veterinary assessments, both demonstrate the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD. The overall decrease in pain for two of the treatment groups compared to the placebo indicates that using CBD could be beneficial in reducing osteoarthritis-associated pain in dogs.

Additionally, the same two groups showed improved performance in locomotion, indicating that CBD could be important in not only reducing pain but also improving the quality of life for dogs with osteoarthritis. Their increased ability to perform daily activities, such as walking or standing up, demonstrated the role CBD could be playing in improving arthritis-related symptoms alongside the pain.

CBD has the potential to be beneficial for managing arthritis in dogs and this study provides an excellent foundation for future research exploring CBD use for pets.

Observed therapeutic benefits of CBD appear to be dose-dependent

One very interesting aspect of this study is that CBD may be more effective at a higher dose. The dogs receiving the 20 mg/day of naked CBD showed little to no improvements, with many scoring similar to those in the placebo group.

However, the group that was given 50 mg/day of naked CBD consistently showed a significant decrease in pain as well as a decrease in arthritis-related symptoms. This indicates that the higher daily dose may be crucial in gaining the apparent benefits associated with CBD.

As well as this, dogs receiving liposomal CBD showed significant improvements compared to both the placebo and 20 mg/day naked CBD groups. Even though the dose for liposomal CBD was also 20 mg/day, it demonstrated significant improvements compared to the naked CBD.

This is likely due to the capsule increasing the bioavailability of the CBD, meaning more of it is available for the body to digest. This demonstrates the potential for the use of a capsulated CBD supplement to provide an optimal response at a relatively low dose, reducing the need to take high-dose CBD to gain the same effect.

Together, these results demonstrate that, without the aid of a capsule, increasing the dose of CBD appears to result in a better response. However, adding a lipophilic capsule allows for the same impact at a lower dose. This could help to inform further therapeutic studies looking at the best dosage to implement for safe and effective results.

Future research

This study provides excellent preliminary data and foundations for further research into the potential role of CBD in the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Ideally, the next first step would be to increase the overall sample size. While this study demonstrated the potential of CBD for therapeutic use, it did only have a sample size of 20. To further develop our understanding of the therapeutic potential and safety of CBD, further studies incorporating large populations would need to be done.

It would also be beneficial to do a study that follows up the participants for longer than 4 weeks to develop the long term benefits and harms of CBD use for osteoarthritis. This would need to be done before it could be considered as a regular treatment option.

Broadening the population used would also help to make the results from this study more generalizable to a population as a whole. This could include incorporating a wide range of dog breeds and the severity of arthritis.

Lastly, specific dose-response studies should be done to determine the optimal dose for therapeutic use. This would help to maximize the outcomes while also minimizing the potential harms that high-dose administration can cause.

There are therefore several future options that can be explored to further our understanding of the therapeutic potential of CBD for osteoarthritis.

The bottom line

This study demonstrated the clear potential therapeutic benefits of CBD for osteoarthritis in dogs. The preliminary data from this study demonstrated that, at the right dose or in the right form, CBD appears to reduce pain and improve the quality of life for dogs suffering from osteoarthritis.

The results suggest that CBD may be an excellent candidate for osteoarthritis management, warranting further studies into its potential therapeutic uses.


Verrico, C. D., Wesson, S., Konduri, V., Hofferek, C. J., Vazquez-Perez, J., Blair, E., … Halpert, M. M. (2020). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of daily cannabidiol for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis pain. Pain, 1. DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001896

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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