Veterinarians at Colorado State University are studying the safety and efficacy of CBD in dogs with epilepsy and arthritis.
Researchers from the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital are examining the efficacy of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) for treating certain ailments in dogs.
A non-psychoactive cannabis compound, CBD has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-epilepsy, and pain-relieving agent in preclinical studies and a small number of clinical trials. Veterinarians at CSU are preparing to study whether the compound’s therapeutic properties could address some of those same ailments in pets.
After Colorado legalized adult use marijuana in 2012, CSU veterinary neurologist Dr. Stephanie McGrath noticed that more pet owners and vets inquired about the safety and efficacy of administering CBD to dogs. Without qualified, peer-reviewed scientific studies on CBD products for pets, owners were giving CBD to their dogs in the hopes of addressing seizures, pain, and anxiety brought on by thunderstorms and fireworks.
After receiving an increase in cannabis-related research requests, McGrath and her fellow CSU investigators have set out to offer pet owners and vets scientifically-backed answers on CBD’s potential for offering relief to pets.
Last spring, the CSU team conducted its first cannabis-related study, investigating the safety and measurability of CBD in healthy dogs. Comparing three dosing methods – capsule, tincture, and transdermal cream – tincture was found to be the best for safety and measurement in the bloodstream. Reported side effects included diarrhea and an elevated liver enzyme, and no blood test abnormalities forced any dogs to be removed from the study.
Following the study’s results, CSU gave the go-ahead for more clinical trials. Researchers are in the midst of enrolling dogs for two 12-week, double blind crossover clinical trials that will measure the effectiveness of CBD-rich hemp oil for osteoarthritis and epilepsy. McGrath is heading up the study on epilepsy. CSU veterinary surgeon Dr. Felix M. Duerr is principal investigator for the one looking into arthritis.
In the epilepsy study, pet owners will be tasked with keeping an ongoing log to track seizure activity, all the while not knowing whether their dog is receiving the CBD oil or a placebo. After six weeks, each dog will receive the opposite solution for the second half of the trial. The dogs will also be subjected to blood tests every four weeks throughout the 12-weeks.
Many veterinarians and scientists continue to be hesitant to recommend CBD, concerned with a lack of clinical research. Some may offer pet owners guidance on cannabis products for their animals, but veterinarians are as of now not allowed to prescribe any cannabis products.
Some veterinarians, like Dr. Steven Ellis of Sunderland Animal Hospital in Massachusetts, are acknowledging the therapeutic potential of cannabis for pets. Last summer, he told a local news outlet that cannabinoids have been used to treat canine seizures, spinal problems, and cancer.
Pet owners in all 50 U.S. can legally purchase CBD hemp oil products. Veterinarians urge pet owners to avoid giving pets cannabis products containing high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as dogs in particular have a much stronger reaction to the psychoactive compound than humans.