CBD Oil A Promising Treatment For Dogs With Epilepsy

Dr Stephanie McGrath led a small study with 16 pet dogs to assess the short-term effect of CBD on seizure frequency. John Eisele/Colorado State University

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil may be an effective treatment for reducing the frequency of seizures in dogs with epilepsy, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

To assess the benefits of hemp-derived CBD oil, researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) conducted a small-scale clinical trial involving 16 dogs diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy, a common neurological condition that affects about one-in-twenty pet dogs yet its cause is unknown. In the double-blind study, nine dogs were given oral CBD oil while the remainder were treated with a placebo for a total of three months. All dogs were required to stay on standard anticonvulsant drugs, including phenobarbital and potassium bromide.

Eighty-nine percent of the dogs who received CBD saw the frequency of their seizures decline. Researchers also noted a significant association between seizure reduction and amount of CBD concentration in the dog’s blood. No adverse behavioral effects were reported by the owners, although two participating dogs developed ataxia, a degenerative disease of the nervous system, and were removed from the study.

"We saw a correlation between how high the levels of CBD were in these dogs with how great the seizure reduction was," said neurologist Stephanie McGrath in a statement. "It's really exciting that perhaps we can start looking at CBD in the future as an alternative to existing anticonvulsive drugs.”

Eighty-nine percent of dogs who received CBD had a reduction in the frequency of seizures. Nine dogs were treated with CBD, while seven in a control group were treated with a placebo. John Eisele/CSU Photography

Though the results are promising, don’t go dosing up Fido just yet. According to the American Kennel Club, the scientific community knows that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in the nervous system, but the jury is out on just how the compound affects dogs. Anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD can help with pain, nausea, anxiety, and cancer, among other things, but a lack of extensive research and federal approval limits our knowledge of proper dosage and potential adverse interactions.

CBD derived from hemp contains just 0.3 percent or less of the psychoactive component of cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compared with marijuana-sourced CBD that can contain as much as 30 percent. Under the 2014 US Department of Agriculture Farm Bill, hemp-sourced CBD can be used in research purposes, while CBD that comes from marijuana is still federally banned due to its mind-altering effects (though it is legal in several US states), according to CBD Origin. CBD is extracted from flowers and buds of both marijuana and hemp plants and has been promoted for its questionable medical treatments in humans, from anxiety to sleeplessness, according to WebMD. The only conclusive research shows CBD as a valid treatment for use in people with epilepsy. In fact, a cannabis-based epileptic drug was pushed through for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration just last year.

Researchers at the CSU lab launched a second trial in January 2018 to asses proper dosage of CBD oil in dogs and hopes to delve deeper into the pharmacokinetic effects of CBD, how it is absorbed in the body, and how it impacts systems like metabolism.  

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