You may have seen it on the shelf at your local pet boutique: CBD Oil for Dogs. One of the fastest growing natural health trends for both people and our canine companions, it certainly makes sense to learn more before you buy.
Is this just a fad or is there any science to back up the potential health benefits of this extract made from the hemp plant? And, could it be a helpful product for your disabled dog?
Great questions! And kudos to you for doing a bit of research before jumping on the bandwagon. Turns out that there is a fair bit of science that shows how CBD oil, also known as cannabidiol, has some very interesting properties, several of which are currently being researched for their therapeutic potential in human medicine. Let’s take a closer look to see if CBD oil may be helpful for your furry friend.
Researchers in the early 1990’s identified that there was a previously unknown biological system that was responsible for regulating a large number of functions in the body: The Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This collection of receptors, transmitters, and specialized enzymes are present throughout the body including the central and peripheral nervous systems, the digestive tract, the skin, and many organs.
Many people are surprised, and skeptical, when they hear that CBD oil my have healing benefits that cover such a wide range of issues. However, it becomes less puzzling when we understand that the ECS, designed to react to CBD (among many other cannabinoids produced in the body as well as in the cannabis family of plants), is responsible for regulating many different systems such as mood, metabolism, digestion, skin health, pain, and inflammation. It even seems to play a role in tumor growth in several types of cancer.
Cannabidiol activates this powerful system, without causing the “high” associated with THC, another cannabinoid found in many strains of cannabis. Thus, it has been the subject of intense medical research. Let’s take a look at those that may be relevant to your disabled dog:
One of the most well understood properties of CBD oil that has been verified in dozens of studies is that it reduces both pain and inflammation. Many disabled dogs experience a reduced quality of life because of pain from injuries, degenerative conditions such as IVDD or hip and elbow dysplasia, and even just wear and tear on the joints from age.
In many cases, pain and inflammation is chronic, meaning it must be treated over the long term. In some cases, prescription narcotics such as opioids are used to treat pain in our canine friends. In other cases, particularly when inflammation is present, the use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are prescribed. Although they are very effective at reducing inflammation, recent research does raise some concerns about the long term use of these drugs, particularly on older, immune, or liver compromised dogs. Adverse effects, including renal failure, are serious considerations that veterinarians and dog owners have to grapple with when finding appropriate pain management strategies for disabled pets.
In addition to having pain and inflammation reducing qualities of its own, some research shows that cannabidiol may enhance the activity of both opioids and NSAIDs allowing for a lower dose for effective relief thus lowering the risk of negative side effects from these drugs.
Although much of the research on CBD oil has been done on lab animals and people, one study in particular stands out for our canine companions suffering from osteoarthritis. Researchers found that 2mg/kg administered orally twice daily significantly improved mobility for dogs with OA.
The results were actually not terribly surprising. Previous studies have demonstrated that the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol may be so powerful that they can actually slow the progression of osteoarthritic degeneration in mice.
Not all disabled dogs suffer from physical problems. In fact, just like people, some dogs are plagued by anxiety issues, either general nervousness or triggered by specific phobias such as fear of cars, thunderstorms, or being left alone. Often these debilitating problems can benefit from both training (such as desensitization and reconditioning) as well as medication. Unfortunately, the drugs that are often prescribed can leave dogs feeling tired, “out of it,” and even confused or disoriented.
On the other hand, the natural extract cannabidiol, extracted from the non-psychoactive hemp plant, has repeatedly been shown to have anti-anxiety properties. Interestingly, it seems to work both by directly acting on the central nervous system, and by helping the brain “forget” the association between an initial trauma and a trigger. It is even being studied as a potential therapy for those that suffer from PTSD as a result.
In 2018, the FDA approved the first drug derived from cannabis, cannabidiol, under the brand name Epidiolex for rare forms of drug resistant childhood epilepsy. But the anti-seizure properties of cannabidiol have been known for a much longer time.
In fact, there have been some studies on the ability for cannabidiol to reduce seizures in dogs with idiopathic seizures (seizures with no known cause). In addition, in an exciting new study now underway, the AKC Health Foundation is looking into whether or not CBD may be helpful in dogs suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy. (Note: If your dog is currently on anti-seizure medication and still suffers from two or more seizures per month, they may qualify to take part in this clinical trial. Learn more here.)
CBD Oil made from hemp just for dogs is available without a prescription. If you decide to give it a try for your disabled dog, make sure you purchase from a reputable company that offers a full spectrum hemp oil with third party lab tests on their website to verify the quality of the product.
In addition, consult with your vet before adding CBD oil to your dog’s daily regimen. This is important for two main reasons. Like other natural products (grapefruit, for example), cannabidiol can interact with the way some medications are metabolized. In some cases, this is a good thing – for example, it may mean you can use less of prescription medications for pain management. On the other hand, it could interfere with other drugs, so it is best to be on the safe side.
In addition, just like with any symptoms your dog may be experiencing, it is never a good idea to try to treat the symptoms unless you know the underlying cause. Only a veterinarian is qualified to make sure that even minor symptoms are not indicative of a larger problem that needs medical attention.
Joey DiFrancesco is a dog dad, avid animal rescue advocate and the founder of pet formulated hemp oil LolaHemp. In 2015 he launched Lolawawa's Pet Boutique, an e-commerce store for pet lovers that donates a portion of profits to animal rescue efforts. In 2018 he launched LolaHemp in response to customer's growing demands for a supplement to help with pet ailments like chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, aggression and skin allergies.