This article explores the issues of seizures and epilepsy in dogs. In particular, it analyzes some of the research on the natural compound cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, and its anticonvulsant properties. Finally, it covers the state of research in veterinary medicine regarding CBD for canine seizures.
According to the AKC Health Foundation, seizures in dogs can have a variety of causes, such as exposure to toxins, disease, injury, a specific stimulus (such as loud noise), or problems with metabolism. Three basic categories of seizures in dogs have been identified:
• Idiopathic epilepsy: The most common type of seizure activity in dogs, especially in dogs between six months and six years of age. “Idiopathic” means that after using diagnostic tests to rule out possible conditions, there is no identifiable cause for the seizures. At least some of these idiopathic seizures are thought to be hereditary conditions, as some breeds, including Boxers and other Bully types, appear to have them more often.
Although a single seizure may not cause lasting damage, multiple seizures in a short period of time, or seizures lasting more than a few minutes, can damage a dog’s brain and predispose it to activity. of more frequent and severe seizures in the future.
• Structural epilepsy: Damage to the brain, either due to illness or injury. An example would be brain damage after a head injury, stroke, or inflammatory disease. In many cases, but not all, other changes in behavior or motor coordination may also be present. Dogs that are less than one year old or more than five years old at the time the seizures begin are more likely to have structural epilepsy or reactive seizures than idiopathic epilepsy. Diagnostic tests, such as a blood test and an MRI of the brain, are often needed to identify the underlying cause of seizure activity.
• Reactive seizures: Seizures in response to a known trigger, such as a certain type of food or poison. Although not considered a marker of epilepsy, this type of seizure may be a sign of a serious underlying illness such as hypoglycemia, electrolyte imbalances, or hepatic encephalopathy. Reactive seizures can sometimes be cured if the underlying problem can be identified and corrected.
While some seizures may be relatively benign (e.g., idiopathic tremors common in Bully breeds), in other cases they may be a sign of a serious illness such as acute intoxication, injury, or illness that requires immediate medical attention. If your dog has a seizure, consult your veterinarian, who will perform the necessary diagnostic tests to rule out a serious problem and propose a course of treatment.
Traditional medicines for seizures in dogs
The treatment of canine seizures varies depending on their root cause. This may include changes in diet; treat an underlying cause (such as a metabolic disorder); and / or the use of anticonvulsants such as phenobarbital, potassium bromide, zonisamide and levetiracetam.
One of the things to keep in mind about anticonvulsant drugs is that once a dog takes them, most veterinarians are likely to recommend that they be kept for life. In cases of idiopathic epilepsy, where seizures are brief and uncommon and more serious causes have been ruled out, you and your veterinarian may decide not to give your dog an anticonvulsant medication and instead treat the seizures when occur.
Research on CBD and epilepsy
The FDA approved the first CBD oil-based pharmaceutical drug in 2018 under the brand name Epidiolex. This drug is now used to treat rare forms of drug-resistant childhood epilepsy. Unlike other drugs that use synthetic versions of the compounds found in the cannabis plant family, this seizure medicine is the first to be based on an extract from the hemp plant itself: cannabidiol (CBD). .
The move came as no surprise. In fact, robust scientific research has repeatedly shown the anticonvulsant properties of this natural compound, which have been known for some time since 1973. CBD shares this property with several other cannabinoids found naturally in the cannabis family. , although unlike its cousin THC, cannabidiol has no psychoactive effect. That is, it does not cause high or euphoric effects. As a result, in recent decades, it has been the subject of dozens of medical studies on its anticonvulsant properties.
Research on cannabis-based medicine has been hampered by legal issues related to cannabis. However, when the 2018 Farm Bill re-established agricultural hemp production in the United States, the door was opened for scientists to finally investigate the medicinal properties of this special cannabis strain, which is very high in CBD and very low in THC.
Research on CBD oil for canine seizures
It is common for veterinary research to be left behind in human medicine for several years. In the case of cannabis, the same problems that limited research in human medicine — the funding and legal status of cannabis use — have also affected the veterinary community.
However, as the scientific community has long been aware of the anticonvulsant properties of CBD, the change in the legal status of hemp and the FDA approval of Epidiolex encouraged veterinary researchers to investigate the safety. of CBD oil for canine seizures, as well as its potential in veterinary medicine.
Leaders in this area include researchers at James L. Voss Teaching Veterinary Hospital at Colorado State University. In June 2019, they published the findings of the first clinical trial on the effects of hemp oil for seizures in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy who were also undergoing traditional anticonvulsant therapies.
Although the sample size was relatively small (n = 26), the results were encouraging. The CBD group was given 2.5 mg / kg twice daily for 12 weeks in addition to their anticonvulsant medication, while the control group was maintained on anticonvulsant medications only. Although both groups showed a response to treatment (defined as a 50 percent or more reduction in seizures), those who received CBD oil in addition to the traditional anticonvulsant showed an average reduction of 33 percent in the frequency of seizures compared to dogs that only received traditional oil. anticonvulsant drugs.
To put it simply, this study showed that CBD enhanced the anticonvulsant effects of traditional medicines. The researchers also found a positive correlation between plasma CBD concentration and a proportional reduction in seizures, suggesting that more research is needed on how CBD is metabolized in dogs to establish the best dosing guidelines.
Thanks to a grant from the AKC Health Foundation, the same group of researchers intends to start a new clinical trial with a larger sample of epileptic dogs, and is currently looking for participants. This 12-week trial should lead to new ideas about the effectiveness of CBD oil for dog epilepsy.
What To Look For In A High Quality CBD Oil For Dogs
If you are considering CBD oil for your dog, work with your veterinarian to make sure you have a proper diagnosis and an approved treatment plan first. If you and your veterinarian decide to try CBD as part of a treatment plan for your dog’s seizures, do your research to find a high quality CBD oil made especially for pets.
The CBD market is a fast growing and largely unregulated industry. That said, there are some great products out there. To make sure you get the highest quality CBD pet products, look for companies that:
• Get your CBD from sustainable hemp farmers who make sure their soil is free of harmful toxins, which can make a dog very sick.
• Extract CBD carefully and safely by extracting high quality CO2. This method of extraction uses low temperatures and pressures that preserve the therapeutic nutrients of the hemp plant. It is also an ecological method that is better for the planet.
• List all the active and inactive ingredients found in each of your CBD pet products. This includes exact flavors, carrier oils, and milligrams (mg) of CBD.
• Thoroughly test your products by an accredited third party to ensure that the final product is labeled accurately, effectively potent and safe for your dog to consume.
• Provide all lab test results and additional information about testing your CBD pet products on your website.
• Offer exceptional customer service. Providing a well-trained and knowledgeable support team should outperform the product.
• Has a commitment to animal welfare. Look for a charity that partners with animal rescue organizations by donating both a portion of their sales and products to rescue groups that work to help abandoned, abandoned, and abused pets find their home forever.