Can CBD Help Treat Dogs With Food Aggression?

Matt Weeks December 17, 2020 0 comments

Food aggression is a common and problematic trait in dogs that CBD has the potential to help if the root is anxiety.

At its root, aggression around food is a form of resource guarding. In the wild, food means survival. Guarding food is an instinctive behaviour, and one that has benefits outside domestic life.

It may not seem like a big deal, and plenty of pet owners adopt a hands-off dinner policy, but food aggression can become a serious problem. As a dog ages and its senses wane, the aggressive behaviour can manifest at random times, and the dog may bite someone seemingly out of the blue.

Combating food aggression means easing the underlying anxieties your dog experiences— something that CBD may be particularly effective at accomplishing.

Recognize the Signs of Food Aggression

Food aggression manifests in a very particular way, but varies in intensity. Accurately reading your dog’s body language will give you the tools to assess the severity of your dog’s aggression.

A dog prone to food aggression will change its behaviour just before and during feeding times. Its body may tense and its tail usually drops. Their ears go back, and their eyes widen. In more severe cases, the dog may snarl, growl, lunge, and bite.

The first step in treating food aggression is to determine if your dog exhibits these behaviours solely around mealtimes or if they manifest in other circumstances too. Regular aggression in dogs can also be treated by CBD, but the dosage and additional non-CBD treatments may be different.

If your dog only displays aggression at mealtime, you should determine how severe the case is. Biting indicates a serious problem, lunging or snapping at passersby is indicative of a medium problem, and subtle growling or teeth glaring is a low-grade issue.

It’s also important to understand what is not food aggression. If a dog runs away with a treat, that’s harmless. A dog growling, however, is a red flag for aggressive behaviour.

food aggression in dogs represented by aggressive german shepherd

Causes of Food Aggression

There are a number of reasons dogs show aggression around food. The pack mentality dictates specific rules around eating, and your dog may be showing dominance, telegraphing fear, or dealing with anxiety when it displays the telltale signs of food aggression.

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Dog may be showing aggression because they feel their dominance is being questioned. They may be underfed or unsure of where they next meal will come from, thanks to an erratic feeding schedule. Rescues can exhibit food aggression from past abuse.

Dogs may not trust their owners or other animals in the house, and feel the need to protect their food.

The dog may have deep-seated emotional scars from a previous owner or life on the streets. Or, they may have come from a large puppy breeder that didn’t monitor feeding times well. In cases with communal feedings, dogs learn quickly that aggressive behaviour means more food.

Whatever the cause, CBD treatment and a few changed owner behaviors can go a long way toward curbing aggression.

How to Dose CBD for Food Aggression

Studies have already shown that CBD is safe and effective in dogs. A literature review [1]Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), … Continue reading published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research (2017) found that CBD has been safe and effective across all animals studies — including those on dogs.

But relevant research published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2018)[2]Gamble, Lauri-Jo et al. Pahrmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine. Published online at … Continue reading went even further, assessing how long CBD in dogs lasts and remains effective. The researchers noted the ideal dose for dogs with chronic pain conditions, specifically arthritis, was 2 mg of CBD per kilogram of dog weight twice a day.

For dogs who specifically show food aggression, a dose should be given anywhere between twenty minutes and two hours before feeding. You will definitely want to work with your veterinarian to discuss dosing and/or behavioral management programs to help your dog.

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Because the canine endocannabinoid system is different than the one in humans, its especially important not to overdo it. Start low and go slow — and be sure to use CBD products that contain absolutely no THC. The best bet is to buy a brand specially made for pets because another concern is that come additive ingredients, especially in CBD edibles for humans, may be toxic to pets.

Other Ways to Help

CBD treatments can help aggressive dogs relax, but are only one tool. Effectively disarming food aggression should include extra behavioral treatment.

For example, dogs are creatures of routine. Having consistent mealtimes every day is a good way to provide a sense of comfort for your dog’s internal clock. Dogs whose aggression rises from a fear of their next meal will find great comfort in a dependable, unchanging routine.

Some advocates, such as Dog Whisperer Caesar Milan, believe that the dog pack mentality is a primal and unchanging part of a dog’s brain. The pack mentality determines their response to all things. To combat this, make sure your dog knows that you are the pack leader, and they are a follower. It will keep them from guarding their food from you during meals. To do so, always eat before you feed the dog.

food aggression in dogs represented by happy yellow lab eating

Eat Your Food First

Never fill up your dog’s bowl then sit down to a meal. In the wild, alpha dogs are always the first to reap the bounties from food and fend off lesser dogs through intimidation. If your dog sees you eating first — even if it’s a pretend sham of grabbing a bowl and a fork and pantomiming eating — it will learn its rightful place, and may be less inclined to growl or bark when you step too near its dinner.

Handling dog food with your hands, in order to transfer your scent on the food and help the dog associate your smell with bringing food instead of taking it away, is another way to soothe food aggression.

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Food aggression is a real problem, and can lead to terrible consequences. Letting bad behavior go unchecked can lead to problems in a dog’s later years. All it takes is one bite for a dog to be vulnerable to being put down by authorities.

Use CBD wisely to help your dog live a longer and less anxious life.

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Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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