A single dose of cannabidiol (CBD) positively influences measures of stress in dogs during separation and car travel
by Candid Tails on Jul 17, 2023
Key - Take Aways
Separation anxiety makes up to 50% of referrals to dog behaviorists
• 25% of dogs suffer from travel-related stress
• The present study was able to clearly demonstrate the negative impact of these two stressful events on dogs
• CBD has been appraised as a possible intervention for acute stress in dogs, including situations of separation and car travels
• A single dose of 4mg/kg was given to each dog 2 hours prior to the stressful event – separation and car ride
• When submitted to the separation test, the dogs in the CBD group were less “sad”, less “stressed”, less “tense”, and less “uncomfortable” than the dogs that received placebo, and only the dogs in the placebo group were more “nervous,” “sad,” and “tense”
• During the car test, dogs in the CBD group were more “explorative” and the results suggested that CBD had a positive effect on reducing multiple aspects of canine stress during a car journey
• In conclusion, this study determined that a single dose of CBD positively influences some parameters in dogs after exposure to two different stressful events
Objectives & Hypothesis
Pet dogs are likely to experience a variety of stress-inducing scenarios over their lifetime, often due the relationship they have with people One common scenario is separation from caregivers which can manifest into separation-related anxiety which is one of the most reported stress-related issues in pet dogs, making up to 50% of referral cases to behaviorists. Another common situation that can elicit stress in dogs and results in negative emotional states, is car travel. Transportation is stressful for some animals due to the intense combination of auditory and visual stimuli experienced in a moving vehicle. It is reported that one in four dogs suffer from travel-related problems and commonly display behaviors including trembling, panting, shaking, hypersalivating, self-licking, and barking/whining. The present study aimed to understand the impact of being left alone and traveling in a car on measures of canine stress, and establish whether a single dose of CBD could positively influence any measures of stress.
In a blinded, parallel design study, 40 adult dogs were divided so that 21 dogs (10 control and 11 treatment) experienced a separation event (dogs were left alone for 45 minutes) and 19 dogs (10 control and nine treatment) experienced a car travel (standardized 10 minutes car journey). Dogs received either a placebo or CBD capsule (4 mg/kg bodyweight) and 2 hours after the administration, the dogs were exposed to either the separation event or car travel. Results were analyzed right after the first exposure to both treatment and stressful event. The following measures were considered: body temperature, cortisol (hormone with an important role in stress response), glucose, immunoglobulin A, heart rate, heart rate variability, distance traveled, body position, activity, dog behavior (using a Qualitative Behavior Assessment) and coded behaviors (whining and lip licking).
Regarding the measurements of cortisol, immunoglobulin A and glucose, there was a significant increase in cortisol concentrations during the tests for both treatment groups, but the increase in cortisol levels from baseline to post-test was greater in the placebo group. Dogs that received the CBD treatment had significantly lower serum cortisol concentrations than dogs that received a placebo. There were no significant changes from baseline to post-test for IgA or glucose. There was no significant effect of treatment on temperature, heart rate or heart rate variability.
In regard to the behavioral measures, dogs in both groups were significantly more “anxious,” “explorative,” “stressed,” and “uncomfortable” during the separation test, and less “relaxed” when compared to baseline. Likewise, during the car test, dogs scored as significantly more “anxious,” “nervous,” “restless,” “stressed,” “tense,” “uncomfortable,” and less “calm” when compared to baseline. This translates the negative impact that these stressful events have on dogs.
Considering the separation test, dogs in the CBD group were significantly less “sad”, less “stressed”, less “tense”, and less “uncomfortable” when compared to dogs given placebo. Dogs in the CBD group also had a greater increase in “explorative” ratings from baseline than those of the placebo group. Finally, only dogs in the placebo group scored as more “nervous,” “sad,” and “tense” compared to baseline, while only dogs in the CBD group scored as less “comfortable” and more “restless”.
During the car test, only dogs in the placebo group scored as less “comfortable” and “relaxed” compared to baseline, while only dogs in the CBD group scored as more “explorative”. Moreover, the reduction in “relaxed”, “calm” and “comfortable” ratings from baseline to post-test was smaller in the CBD group than in the placebo group. There were no other significant effects of treatment. These findings suggest that a single dose of CBD has a positive effect on reducing multiple aspects of canine stress during a car journey.
Finally, dogs who received the CBD exhibited less whining and sitting behavior and traveled further when they were left alone. Collectively, these characteristics are suggestive of a more relaxed emotional state in CBD treated dogs.
In conclusion, it was evident that some measures of canine stress changed significantly from baseline after exposure to these stress-inducing events, suggesting the situations elicited a negative emotional response in dogs. Some measures of stress in dogs were positively affected following administration of CBD, suggesting it may have efficacy as an intervention for acute stress in dogs. As such, the present study determined that a single 4 mg/kg dose of CBD positively influences some behavioral and physiological parameters in dogs after exposure to two different stressful events.