Humans that use CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound found in the cannabis plant, say it can help wide-ranging health issues from sleep to anxiety to muscle recovery. And they're also using it to help their furry friends; CBD treats for dogs are increasingly popular for treating everything from canine anxiety to pain. But now, a new, small study suggests that CBD oil may help dog epilepsy, similar to the FDA-approved epidiolex, a CBD-based epilepsy medication. But experts think it's not the right time to go buy CBD for your favorite four-legged friend.
This study was very small: only 16 dogs, all of which had epilepsy, were involved. Canine epilepsy is pretty common; up to 5% of all dogs will develop it, according to the Canine Health Foundation, so any new treatment could be seriously helpful. In the study, nine dogs were dosed with CBD, while seven were given placebo drugs. The researchers found that using CBD over a short period decreased seizure frequency in 89% of those dogs. All the dogs in the study remained on their normal anticonvulsants, but the study represents a possible step forward in future treatments.
However, there are a lot of caveats. For one, the study is tiny, with only 16 dogs studied. For another, it was sponsored by the CBD producer Applied Basic Science Corporation, and the lead scientist has a 5% stake in the company, according to a press release on the study. It's important to wait and see if the results can be replicated in other, wider studies.
CBD in dogs in general is the subject of scientific interest, but at the moment, the studies on its effects are small. A study on CBD's effects on osteoarthritis in dogs published in 2018 had positive results, but only used 14 dogs. The American Kennel Club, which is running a bigger study on CBD for dogs, urges caution until there's more research available. "The safety and risks of using CBD for dogs have not yet been researched. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD and has not issued a dosing chart. Therefore, we do not know what size dosage would be toxic," they noted in February 2019.
Veterinary experts also say dog owners should be cautious. Dr. Jennifer Coates told PetMD that often CBD-marketed products for animalsmay have little or no CBD, which may reduce their effect — and marijuana toxicity is a possibility with dogs. "A lot of people are making CBD products on their own, and it’s a largely unregulated marketplace at this time," vet Dr. Annette Sysel told a West Palm Beach, Florida, NBC affiliate in 2018. "CBD from hemp products can be pretty much made by anyone." That lack of regulation means that pet owners could be giving their dogs treats with too little or too much CBD for their ailments, rather than an appropriately tested dosage.
CBD extraction can also be a risky business. "There are several ways to extract CBD from hemp, but one of the quickest and cheapest involves using solvents such as butane and hexane, which can leave a toxic residue if not properly handled," notes Preventive Vet.
For now, if your dog has an ailment that needs medical attention, experts recommend bringing them to see a vet and holding off on self-administering CBD— at least until there are bigger studies, more regulated industries and a better idea of dosage and side effects. If you and your vet have decided that CBD is the correct treatment for your dog regardless, the AKC recommends that you shop carefully, check that the product contains little or no THC — which is the ingredient in cannabis that gets humans high — administer it drop by drop, and monitor your dog's symptoms and behavior very carefully. If they show any signs of tiredness, lethargy, dry mouth or behavior out of the ordinary, get to your vet immediately.
Readers should note that the regulations and data surrounding marijuana, CBD, and other related products are still developing. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as medical or legal advice. Always consult with your doctor before trying any substance or supplement.