Nevertheless, cannabis products continue to explode in popularity and profitability. Demand has surpassed research as the public is progressively gaining access to these products and, on the advice of a friend or internet article, using them on their dogs. Right now, veterinarians are being inundated with questions, unrealistic expectations, and sketchy information about CBD products for pets.
What is CBD?
You’re probably here because you’ve heard that cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to have positive results in human patients with epilepsy, so it might just work for your dog too. CBD is an extract of the cannabis plant (marijuana), but unlike the other major active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it does not cause psychoactive effects. Yes, evidence from humans and lab animals does suggest that CBD may prove useful in veterinary medicine, but to date, there have been no in-depth studies of CBD in dogs to prove this.
Why is CBD So Popular?
Idiopathic epilepsy is the most common type of seizures in dogs, but it has no identifiable cause. It affects up to 5% of canines, making it the most prevalent neurological condition seen in dogs. Even with anti-seizure medication, most dogs with epilepsy will continue having seizures, and all prescriptions have the potential for serious side effects. It’s no wonder that pet parents are asking, “Can CBD help my dog with seizures?”
• Idiopathic Epilepsy: The most common type of seizure activity in dogs, particularly dogs between six months and six years of age. “Idiopathic” means that after using diagnostic testing to rule out possible conditions, there is no identifiable cause for the seizures. It is thought that at least some of these idiopathic seizures are inherited conditions, as some breeds, including Boxers and other Bully types, seem to have them more frequently.
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However, because the anticonvulsant properties of CBD have been known by the scientific community for quite some time, the change in the legal status of hemp and the FDA approval of Epidiolex encouraged veterinary researchers to investigate the safety of CBD oil for dog seizures, as well as its potential in veterinary medicine.
Traditional Medications for Seizures in Dogs
Leaders in this area include researchers at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University. In June 2019, they released the findings of the first clinical trial on the effects of hemp oil for seizures in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy who were also undergoing traditional anticonvulsant therapies.
Animals: 26 client-owned dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy.
Objective: To assess the effect of oral cannabidiol (CBD) administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy.
Results: 2 dogs in the CBD group developed ataxia and were withdrawn from the study. After other exclusions, 9 dogs in the CBD group and 7 in the placebo group were included in the analysis. Dogs in the CBD group had a significant (median change, 33%) reduction in seizure frequency, compared with the placebo group. However, the proportion of dogs considered responders to treatment (≥ 50% decrease in seizure activity) was similar between groups. Plasma CBD concentrations were correlated with reduction in seizure frequency. Dogs in the CBD group had a significant increase in serum alkaline phosphatase activity. No adverse behavioral effects were reported by owners.
Procedures: Dogs were randomly assigned to a CBD (n = 12) or placebo (14) group. The CBD group received CBD-infused oil (2.5 mg/kg [1.1 mg/lb], PO) twice daily for 12 weeks in addition to existing antiepileptic treatments, and the placebo group received noninfused oil under the same conditions. Seizure activity, adverse effects, and plasma CBD concentrations were compared between groups.
Design: Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial.