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About two weeks ago, my dog Barley took a tumble while playing fetch. He yelped and got up, holding his right back leg up. Within a few minutes he was hobbling around, but the vets suspect that he tore his CCL (cranial cruciate ligament). While we waited on an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to confirm if he needs TPLO (tibial plateau leveling osteotomy) surgery, I had to keep Barley from jumping, running, or twisting.
Barley is an EXTREMELY active dog who just finished up his fifth season as a conservation detection dog. He’s used to being out in the wilderness hiking and running for up to 8 hours a day, 4-6 days per week.
In other words, crate rest was going to be a challenge.
Enter Okoa Pet. Just a few weeks earlier, Okoa Pet had emailed me asking if I’d like to test out their CBD chews. Now seemed like a good time to really go for it.
I’ll be honest: despite living in Colorado and enjoying a gummy for myself a few times a month, I’m a bit skeptical of pet CBD. I personally haven’t found much relief from CBD oils or gummies – it’s the THC I enjoy.
But when Okoa Pet reached out, I agreed to test out a bag in exchange for an honest review.
Why Did I Agree to Test Okoa Pet?
Okoa Pet is an all-natural CBD+ pet treat company. They have proprietary strains of hemp that include not only CBD but also CBN and CBG – but not THC.
They source their CBD+ from organically-grown hemp in Colorado (one of my home states). They also we use an independent ISO 17025 certified laboratory to screen and test for cannabinoid content, heavy metals, microbials, mycotoxins, and fungicides – and publish the results. I love that! One of the things that often worries me with pet CBD is lack of quality control.
Finally, Okoa Pet offered me a specific joint blend to try out. With Barley’s ultra-high activity levels and his age (nearly 9), I figured a joint supplement can’t hurt.
The joint supplement includes CBD, CBN, and CBG. It also includes green-lipped mussel powder, green-lipped mussel oil, and New Zealand roe oil. We’ll cover all of these ingredients below.
What’s the Science Behind What’s in Okoa Pet CBD Treats?
There are a LOT of TLAs (three letter acronyms) to navigate when researching hemp-based products, so I did my best to break them down below.
What is CBD? Okoa Pet treats include the cannabidiol (CBD) molecules that have been shown in some studies to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. Honestly, though, the research is pretty mixed with varied study design, small sample sizes, and more.
What is THC? Okoa Pet treats do NOT have THC, which is the psychoactive chemical in weed that makes you feel high.
What’s CBN? Cannabinol (CBN), meanwhile, is essentially a milder version of THC. It’s also psychoactive but is much less powerful. There’s not as much research behind it as THC, but some studies suggest it can support folks (and maybe pups) with conditions ranging from insomnia to chronic pain to ALS. A 2021 paper called into question much of the research behind CBN regarding insomnia, though.
What about CBG? Cannabigerol mostly comes from younger hemp plants. It is an acidic compound that in older plants eventually transforms into both CBD and THC. There’s really not much research into the therapeutic effects of CBG yet, but a 2021 research paper points to potential antiinflammatory properties relating to IBS and Parkinson’s, but cautions that we simply don’t know yet.
Green-lipped mussels: why include them? Green-lipped mussels contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce joint pain and inflammation. However, a 2017 research paper found that green-lipped mussels performed worse than fish oil and krill oil in reducing “matrix degradation” of canine cartilage tissue. But then a 2019 research paper found that a green-lipped mussel oil complex did help in rat arthritis. Basically… green-lipped mussels probably help with inflammation but the devil is in the details.
New Zealand roe oil is basically another version of omega-3-rich fish oil. I couldn’t find any research on Google Scholar on this product specifically.
There’s a “research and white paper” section of Okoa Pet’s website that gave me pause. The page describes a “study” with 98 dogs taking the “Hush, Puppy” chews from Okoa Pet. The website touts that 17/20 owners reported a reduction in anxiety-related papers and 19/20 owners reported improved sleeping and resting behaviors.
However, this “study” is likely a victim of the placebo effect. Many studies have found that pet owners report huge benefits of placebos being given to their dogs. Since the “study” didn’t include double-blind placebos or objective measures of dog health, wellness, and behavior, we simply can’t take much from it.
You also can’t read the full white paper without giving over your email, and it’s not peer-reviewed. This is a huge red flag that it’s more of a marketing ploy than anything else.
What Did I Notice With Okoa Pet CBD+ Chews for My Dog?
Barley is a larger dog, so he got 2 Okoa Pet Jumpin’ Joint Mobility Chews every day until the bag ran out.
The CBD+ is expected to have a fast-acting effect, helping soothe his nervous system while the omega-3s build up and have a longer-lasting effect that may take a while to see.
I started giving Barley the chews before his injury. Every day after we got home from fieldwork, I gave him a chew and he went off to take a nap. He always seemed to sleep well and wake up feeling fresh.
Honestly, I did not notice a huge difference in Barley’s behavior or mobility with the chews after his injury. He is generally pretty relaxed around the house, even when he’s cooped up.
To complicate things, I was also giving him massages, physical therapy, gabapentin, trazodone, and Rimadyl (all at the advice and guidance of his veterinarian). I didn’t feel that it was responsible to forego the prescriptions his vet gave him in favor of the CBD treats in order to properly test how much they helped.
The bottom line is this: I’ll probably continue giving Barley Okoa Pet chews, but wouldn’t necessarily buy more once they run out. They may help, but for now I’m going to err on the side of specific products and medications that my veterinary team recommends – and save money by not adding on extras.
I’d love to see a bit more research behind all CBD+ products, especially for the claims being made. At this point, the best we’ve got is “anec-data:” anecdotes and firsthand stories that add up to a promising but very incomplete picture.
I love the idea of giving my pets CBD+ treats that help with anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, and pain. I really do. But right now I haven’t seen much of an improvement in my dog and I don’t see enough science enough to spend my money on these products.
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.