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Rescue Puppy

CBD and behaviour

Literature review

Yu CHJ, Rupasinghe HPV 2021, ‘Cannabidiol-based natural health products for companion animals: Recent advances in the management of anxiety, pain, and inflammation’, Research in Veterinary Science, vol. 140, pp.38-46


  • The endocannabinoid system plays an intimate role in the regulation of stress responses.

  • Chronic environmental stress downregulates CB1 receptors, which in turn reduce levels of AEA and increase levels of 2-AG, where decreased AEA levels are associated with the progression of stress response and increased anxiety behaviour.


  • In murine studies, anxiolytic effects of CBD at doses of 5–60 mg/kg were found to be mediated through the activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors as well as serotonin receptors.


  •  Rodent and human studies on the effect of CBD in alleviating anxiety showed mixed results.


  • Humans - a recent comprehensive review article concluded that there is not enough evidence that CBD is effective in treating anxiety

    • Black et al., 2019, ‘Cannabinoids for the treatment of mental disorders and symptoms of mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, Lancet Psychiatry, vol. 6, pp. 995-1010.

  •  BUT inter-species differences in cannabinoid receptor number and location between humans and dogs so human studies are not translatable.

Literature Review

Mechoulam, R 2013, ‘The Endocannabinoid System and the Brain’, Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 64, pp. 21–47


  • Useful summary of the endocannabinoid system. 

  • Highlights the recent studies into CB1 and CB2 receptors.


CBD as an anxiolytic

  • CBD shows anxiolytic-like effects with mice in the elevated plus maze and in the Vogel conflict test.

  • In humans it was found to lower anxiety in stressful situations

  • The mode of action of CBD as an anxiolytic molecule is not well understood. Most probably it involves action as a serotonin receptor 1A (5-HT1A) agonist, enhancement of adenosine signaling through inhibition of uptake or inhibition of the GPR55 receptor.

Dog studies:


  • DOGS: 40 adult dogs, of three breeds (Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, and Norfolk Terriers), with a mean age of 4.1 years

  • Randomly allocated into control and treatment groups, then randomly allocated into two stressor groups

    • STRESSOR: dogs were either left alone in a familiar room (n=21) or underwent a short car journey (n=19).

  • Treatment: CBD dose @ 4mg/kg BW with breakfast, 2 hrs prior to testing.Control received a placebo oil.

  • Measured physiological and behavioural markers pre, during and post-test.



  • During car travel, CBD treated dogs were scored as significantly less “sad,” and also had a smaller decrease in “relaxed” ratings from baseline to test when compared to the placebo treated dogs.

  • Dogs that received the CBD treatment also had significantly lower serum cortisol concentrations than dogs that received a placebo

  • Dogs who received CBD were rated as being significantly less “stressed,” “sad,” “tense,” and “uncomfortable” and more “explorative” during the separation event than dogs who received the placebo.

  • Consistent with this, dogs who received the CBD also exhibited less whining and sitting behaviour and travelled further when they were left alone.

  • Collectively these characteristics are suggestive of a more relaxed emotional state in CBD treated dogs.


Aim: to evaluate the influence of CBD on behavioral responses to fear-inducing stimuli in dogs.


  • 16 dogs

  • design: replicated 4 × 4 Latin square design experiment with treatments arranged in a 2 × 2 factorial design, blinded

    • Groups: (1) control, (2) CBD (1.4mg CBD/kg BW/d), (3) trazodone (100mg for 10–20 kg BW, 200mg for 20.1–40 kg BW), (4) both CBD and trazodone. Dosed for 7 days

  • Fear induced by fireworks model of noise for 6 mins.

  • Measurement: cortisol analysis. Behaviors were video recorded, and heart rate (HR) sensors were fitted for collection of HR and HR variability parameters.

  • Research personnel administering treats and analyzing behavioral data were


  • the fireworks model successfully generated a fear response.

  • Trazodone lowered plasma cortisol (P < 0.001)

  • Plasma cortisol was not significantly lowered by CBD or the combination of CBD and Trazadone.

  • Neither CBD nor trazodone affected the duration of inactivity (P = 0.918 and 0.329, respectively).

  • Trazodone increased time spent with tail relaxed (P = 0.001).

  • CBD tended to increase HR (P = 0.093) and decreased the peak of low- and high-frequency bands (LF and HF, P = 0.011 and 0.022, respectively).

Aim: to determine the influence of CBD on the daily activity of adult dogs.


  • 24 dogs of various mixed breeds, research animals

  • Design: randomized complete block design

  • treatments targeted at 0 and 2.5mg (LOW) and at 5.0mg (HIGH) CBD/kg body weight (BW) per day split between two treats administered after twice-daily exercise

  • Activity monitors were fitted to dogs’ collars for continuous collection of activity data.


  • CBD (LOW and HIGH) did not alter the total daily activity points (P = 0.985) or activity duration (P = 0.882).

  • CBD tended (P = 0.071) to reduce total daily scratching compared with the control.

  • In the afternoon, dogs receiving HIGH tended (P = 0.091) to be less active than the control.

  • CBD did not affect the activity duration during exercise periods (P = 0.143).

Corsetti S, Borruso S, Malandrucco L, Spallucci V, Maragliano L, Perino R, D’Agostino P and Natoli E (2021), ‘Cannabis sativa L. may reduce aggressive behaviour towards humans in shelter dogs’,  Scientific Reports, vol. 11, pp 2773.


  • aggressive behavior toward human beings decreased significantly over time in the CBD group (P = 0.004), unlike the control group in which there was no significant reduction over time (P = 0.09).

  • However, the difference between these groups was not significant (P = 0.078).

  • stereotyped behavior and displacement activity events did not decrease (P = 0.545 and P = 0.923, respectively).

  • CBD treatment did not change the dogs’ attention (P = 0.09) and interaction with the environment (dozing, P =0.225; sniffing, P= 0.287).

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