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CBD for Dog Seizures: The Honest Truth

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?”

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?

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.

“I used to get a question on this once or twice a year; now I get a question on this once or twice a day,” says Dr. Wong, Veterinary Neurologist at Southeast Veterinary Neurology.

For some reason, pet owners have unfailing positive views of cannabis products, believing them to be safe and scientifically proven effective, despite a lack of evidence. This is most likely because people consider cannabis to be “natural,” so it couldn’t possibly be harmful…

Dr. Wong corroborates, “A lot of people come to me and say, ‘I don’t want to give drugs. I want to give something natural.’ But CBD is a drug. It’s a chemical that you’re taking into your body to hopefully cause a positive effect. Basically, that’s what a drug is. It’s just that CBD has been marketed as not being one.”

Is CBD Safe for Dog Seizures?

The legal environment can be confusing, but generally cannabis products are not legal for veterinary use, and therefore remain unregulated. Unfortunately, quality control of available products is uncertain and unreliable.

“Many of the CBD products that are out there are not regulated, which means that what it says on the label is not necessarily what’s in the bottle,” states Dr. Carrera-Justiz from University of Florida.

Not knowing the exact ingredients or quantities of those ingredients should make pet parents uneasy, especially since THC can be toxic to dogs. In a 2020 study of quality and labeling, only 10 of 29 products were accurately labeled with regard to CBD, and two products showed unacceptable levels of heavy metals, even though many touted a Certificate of Analysis.

Can CBD Help a Dog with Seizures?

“The long story short is that at this point, any ‘evidence’ is purely anecdotal, and we still don’t have enough information to be recommending CBD, to say that it is safe or that there is any positive effect, to know how it interacts with other drugs, or what an appropriate dose might be. Currently the American Veterinary Medical Association’s stance on CBD is that we shouldn’t be prescribing it,” concludes Dr. Wong.

“It’s tough because when I speak to clients, who are often desperate, I’m always concerned that I’m coming off as this anti-CBD guy, but the reality is that we just don’t have the answers yet, and in order for me to make the best recommendation for a particular patient, I need to know that it’s safe and that it’s effective,” he adds.

Is There Any Scientific Evidence Supporting CBD for Dog Seizures?

Even though there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to support that CBD might help with dog seizures, the honest truth is that scientific research is ongoing. There was a small study in 2019 that suggested there may be a use for CBD in dogs with epileptic seizures, but although the results were deemed “promising” by the researchers, the conclusion was that more studies were needed.

The good news is that those studies are happening. In fact, a larger study at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital was just completed. The results have not been analyzed yet, but they hope to have some preliminary results to share this year (2021) and a publication out by next year (2022)!

All things considered, advances in technology, science, and medicine are happening faster every year, so rest assured that we will have an answer very soon. In the meantime, if you need help managing your dog’s seizures, the experts at Southeast Veterinary Neurology are available 24 hours a day.

Benefits Of CBD Oil For Dogs With Seizures

If your dog suffers from seizures, you’ve felt the stress and helplessness. So if you’ve been researching and wondering if CBD oil for dogs with seizures is a good option … I’m glad you found this post!

It’s hard to see your dog suffer and not be able to explain to him what’s happening and why.

If you’ve visited your vet already and haven’t found any answers you’re not alone. Or maybe you’re looking for an alternative to the medication the vet prescribed?

Regardless of what brought you here today, if your dog is prone to seizures, you want a way to help … and CBD oil for dogs may be just the answer you’re looking for.

And yes, it’s legal!

Seizures In Dogs

Seizures in dogs can manifest as anything from a twitch to uncontrollable shaking. They might be over quickly, or they can last for several minutes. Causes of seizures vary from dog to dog.

There are several different things that cause seizures:

  • Underlying health condition like liver or kidney disease or cancer
  • Electrolyte problems
  • Topical flea and tick products
  • Herbicides and pesticides
  • Vaccines
  • Head injury

CBD Oil For Dogs With Epilepsy

If your dog suffers from regular seizures, epilepsy might be the culprit. Epilepsy means there are bursts of uncontrolled electricity in your dog’s brain. Sometimes there’s no cure for this condition, but you can manage it naturally with CBD oil.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD stands for Cannabidiol. It’s harvested from the cannabis hemp plant. However, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD has no psychoactive properties .. so it won’t make your dog high.

This is because of the way CBD is structured. That structure affects CBD’s impact on the brain, nervous system and throughout the body.

The psychoactive effect of THC comes from the way it binds with receptors in the brain, called endocannabinoids. CBD also interacts with these endocannabinoid receptors.

Endocannabinoids are found throughout the body. The highest concentration is in the brain, spinal column, and nervous system. And it’s in these organs and systems that CBD has the greatest potential to help dogs with seizures.

CBD Oil For Seizures In Dogs

Scientists are discovering a wide variety of uses in both humans and dogs. And one of the most important uses of CBD oil for dogs is in the management of seizures. Studies as well as anecdotal evidence have shown CBD to be highly effective at managing seizures. But you don’t want to give your dog something without knowing exactly what it is and what it’s going to do.

So … how does CBD oil work?

Earlier I mentioned those endocannabinoid receptors. And they’re important when it comes to CBD oil for seizures in dogs.

There are two types of endocannabinoid receptors in your dog’s body.

  • The CB2 receptors – mainly in the immune system.
  • The CB1 receptors – centralized in the nervous system and the brain.

It’s these CB1 receptors that have the greatest impact on your dog’s seizure treatment. Studies suggest that the endocannabinoid system is altered by seizures and epilepsy.

Research shows that CBD improves seizure control in patients with specific epilepsy syndromes. Seizures can have profound effects on the endocannabinoid system. This is why CBD, through a process known as “external modulation,” can reduce and sometimes stop seizures from happening.

The exact way CBD contributes to a reduction in seizures and affects the Endocannabinoids system (ECS) is still unknown. One theory is that CBD affects the receptors that calm the neurons that fire during a seizure. But there’s still further investigation needed to learn more.

But we do know that CBD oil can have a positive effect on your dog’s seizure activity. If he feels any side effects at all, it will most probably take the form of mild drowsiness.

**Note. Even big pharma has finally recognized the power of CBD oil for seizures. And in June 2018, the FDA approved the first drug containing CBD for the treatment of epilepsy.

CBD Dose For Dogs With Seizures

CBD oil dosage for your dog depends on his size. Smaller dogs require lower dosages, of course, and larger dogs will need more to see an effect. You can make these determinations based on your dog’s weight. It’s best to follow the label directions on the product you buy.

Look for CBD oil with the following features:

  • Full spectrum or broad spectrum
  • Preferably organic
  • Extracted using C02 extraction, without solvents or chemicals
  • Manufacturer provides Certificate Of Analysis from a third party lab, showing that the product is what’s claimed on the label, and is free of contaminants, additives or preservatives

Full spectrum CBD oils in tincture form usually work best. If your dog is hard to dose, chewable tablets or treats may be easier. But be aware these products may not contain sufficient levels of CBD to help with seizures.

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CBD oil for seizures in dogs is a natural alternative with minimal side effects and a very promising future.

Carlini EA, Cunha JM. Hypnotic and antiepileptic effects of cannabidiol. J Clin Pharmacol. 1981 Aug-Sep;21(S1):417S-427S.

Kogan L et al. US Veterinarians’ Knowledge, Experience, and Perception Regarding the Use of Cannabidiol for Canine Medical Conditions. Front Vet Sci. 2019 Jan 10;5:338.

McGrath S et al. Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of oral cannabidiol administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2019 Jun 1;254(11):1301-1308.

Rosenberg EC, et al. Cannabinoids and Epilepsy. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):747-768.

Perucca E. Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last? J Epilepsy Res. 2017;7(2):61-76. Published 2017 Dec 31.

Can CBD Oil Help Dogs With Epilepsy?

Can CBD oil help dogs with epilepsy and seizures? Anecdotal evidence suggests maybe — CBD oil may offer a treatment alternative for several illnesses, including canine epilepsy, but no in-depth studies have verified these claims.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is an extract of the cannabis plant (marijuana). Unlike the major active ingredient of the plant, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not cause “high” sensations. Instead, it is associated with pain relief and is the main ingredient in many cannabis pet products.

Canine epilepsy is the most common cause of recurrent seizures in dogs. Unfortunately, the medications used to treat epilepsy, such as phenobarbital, potassium bromide, diazepam, and other anticonvulsant drugs, can cause serious side effects in some dogs. Even with medication, up to 30 percent of dogs with epilepsy continue to experience seizures.

The AKC Canine Health Foundation (AKCCHF) recently announced a major clinical trial to study CBD as a treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy in dogs. We talked with Dr. Diane Brown, the chief executive officer of the AKC Canine Health Foundation, and Dr. Stephanie McGrath, veterinary neurologist at Colorado State University and the principal investigator for the AKCCHF research project, to find out more.

Breakthrough CBD Clinical Trial

The AKCCHF’s CBD study could be the first published, large-scale study to examine the effects of CBD on seizure activity in dogs. “This clinical trial is important for several reasons,” Dr. McGrath shared. “Generally speaking, the science supporting CBD use in veterinary medicine is lacking. There is abundant anecdotal evidence, but very few, if any, well-executed research studies.

Regarding the epilepsy study specifically, it is important work because we are constantly searching for an effective anticonvulsant drug to treat epilepsy in dogs. The drugs we currently have available frequently cause intolerable side effects or do not work well enough to control the seizures. Therefore, if CBD does prove to be an effective anticonvulsant, this would affect thousands of dogs worldwide.”

She explained, “The study is testing CBD on dogs with epilepsy in a controlled research setting. The dogs enrolled in the study are randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or the CBD oil for 12 weeks and then, after a 4-week washout period, receive the opposite drug for an additional 12 weeks. The researchers and the owners are blinded as to which drug is given in each half of the study.”

The study will also explore any possible side effects associated with CBD. According to Dr. McGrath, the researchers examine the dogs in the study every four weeks, perform regular blood work, and provide the owners with weekly questionnaires.

Why Studies on CBD & Dog Seizures Matter

Without studies and regulations, many of the CBD products on the market are untested and unregulated. When asked if pet owners should be wary of these products, Dr. McGrath said, “Yes, the lack of regulation is of great concern. Not knowing the exact constituents and quantities of those constituents in a particular product is scary, especially with the knowledge that at certain doses, THC can be toxic to dogs. Hopefully, this market will change in the future.”

AKCCHF Epilepsy Initiative

The CBD trial is not the only research the AKCCHF has sponsored to study canine epilepsy. The foundation has funded multiple studies to help advance our understanding of the disease.

“AKC Canine Health Foundation launched our most recent epilepsy research initiative in 2017 to address the unmet health needs for dogs with epilepsy,” Dr. Brown explained. “Grants awarded by CHF have already resulted in the identification of genes associated with risk factors for epilepsy in dogs, as well as a new treatment for use in the emergency room for canine epileptic patients. When a genetic test becomes available for specific forms of epilepsy, then breeders will use that test to breed away from that mutation.”

She continued, “There is still so much to learn about inheritance of epilepsy, the influence of genes and epigenetics, the role of nutrition, the role of changes in the bacterial population of the intestinal tract, and other potential risk factors — we are investing in research in these areas. So, in some ways, while it is too soon to tell outcomes, you see the real need for more research. CHF is committed to finding and funding the best research available to address this important disease in dogs and looking for answers beyond genetics alone.”

Researchers don’t yet understand why some dogs continue to experience seizures despite medication. Preliminary in vitro studies of CBD show anticonvulsant effects, and researchers like Dr. McGrath hope that CBD will offer better control of epilepsy with fewer side effects.

How Can Dog Owners Help Research on Epilepsy?

It can sometimes feel like there is nothing we can do to help our dogs, especially with diseases like epilepsy. That is part of what makes the AKCCHF studies so exciting. Dr. Brown suggested two ways owners and enthusiasts can help:

  1. Support the AKC Canine Health Foundation for epilepsy research with a tax-deductible donation to the AKCCHF Epilepsy Initiative. This can be done online or by contacting AKCCHF about supporting this research.
  2. Participate in active AKCCHF research studies. All AKCCHF research projects that need study participants, including the CBD study, can be found on its website or by contacting AKCCHF at 888-682-9696. “Working together, we can accomplish so much more for our dogs,” said Dr. Brown.

“This study will be the first to provide real research data to further understanding of the use of CBD to treat drug-resistant epilepsy in dogs,” Dr. Brown concluded. “Equally as important, we will learn more about a safe dosage of CBD for dogs and potential side effects on dogs taking CBD. We expect to learn whether CBD can be used to treat dogs that are resistant to other anti-epileptic medications, and hope to add a new and much-needed treatment option for dogs with epilepsy.”

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