Dogs are more than pets. They’re beloved four-legged family members who depend on you for everything from breakfast to belly rubs just like your kids. That’s why it’s so devastating to watch yours suffer from a painful condition like osteoarthritis (OA).
But with the June 2018 approval of the first pharmaceutical grade cannabidiol (CBD), dog owners are looking to this wonder cannabinoid to help their canine companions.
CBD’s anti-inflammatory pain relief is well-documented for people with arthritis, so why not try the same medicine for your dog? Until recently, there wasn’t much research to back it up. But a new study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science shows promise for CBD as a safe and effective OA treatment.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the most common. Sometimes called degenerative joint disease, OA is a chronic condition that involves wear-and-tear to the cartilage that cushions the joints. Cartilage is a soft, slippery tissue that covers the bone ends where they meet at a joint. When broken down, it can cause bones to grind together.
Signs that your dog may have OA include:
- Altered gait or limping
- Stiffness and swelling in joints
- Decreased activity
- Difficulty getting up or lying down
- Inability or reluctance to climb stairs
- Whining, whimpering, and other signs of pain
Risk of developing OA increases with age, but certain dogs may be more susceptible to this disease earlier in life. If your canine counterpart is particularly active or large, he or she might be more prone to OA.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common treatment for OA but they’re far from ideal. NSAIDs can cause unwanted side effects, especially stomach issues.
A systematic review published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found that OA treatment with NSAIDs causes adverse side effects in 55% of studies. To make matters worse, NSAIDs may not even offer adequate pain relief for your pooch.
These issues have led many pet owners to seek alternative therapies, like CBD oil, to reduce OA symptoms without side effects.
Like humans, dogs have an endocannabinoid receptor system that plays a key role in managing pain and inflammation. In addition to being widely dispersed throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems, cannabinoid receptors are present in the lining of the joints.
CBD is a naturally occurring compound in the cannabis plant that binds to these receptors, offering therapeutic benefits such as:
- Decreased sensitivity to pain
- Reduced inflammation
- Regulation of the immune system
These medical benefits make CBD an appealing option for treating dogs suffering from OA. Until recently, there wasn’t a lot of scientific evidence to back it up. The July 2018 study, “Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs” by Gamble et al. provides the proof.
To investigate the effects of oral CBD supplementation, Gamble and colleagues performed a randomized, placebo-controlled, dog owner and veterinarian double-blind crossover trial. They gave 16 dogs with moderate-to-severe OA each two treatments in random order: CBD oil dosed at 2 mg/kg or a placebo. They administered treatment every 12 hours for 4 weeks with a 2-week period in between phases.
Gamble and colleagues measured OA symptoms with an owner assessment using the canine brief pain inventory (CBPI) and Hudson activity scale, as well as a veterinary evaluation every two weeks. Since the study was double-blind, neither owner nor veterinarian knew which treatment the dog was receiving during any phase of the study.
Results showed significant improvements with CBD supplementation at weeks 2 and 4 across 16 dogs of various breeds and sizes. While taking CBD oil, the dogs showed fewer signs of pain and increased their activity level both at home and during their veterinary evaluation.
More importantly, there were no observed side effects throughout the study. While a longer-term trial including a larger sample of dogs would reveal more information, the study by Gamble et al. suggests CBD is a safe and effective treatment for OA.
CBD isn’t only beneficial for dogs with OA. Even without double-blind, placebo-controlled trials to support it, many pet owners hail CBD as a cure-all for a vast array of veterinary health problems.
A report published in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association found that owners use CBD to treat several conditions in their dogs and cats, including:
- Digestive issues
- Skin conditions like pruritus
In addition to reducing pain and inflammation, CBD also has anticonvulsant and antiepileptic effects on dogs, making it a top choice for seizure treatment.
Even if your dog doesn’t have a serious medical condition like arthritis or cancer, he or she may exhibit anxiety in situations like a thunderstorm or among other dogs. Since they can’t talk to release trauma, the best you can do is make your puppy pal feel safe and comfortable. Following pain relief, help sleeping and reducing anxiety are the two most common benefits owners report when giving their fur baby CBD.
First, discuss your dog’s symptoms and any concerns you may have with your veterinarian. If the doggy doc diagnoses yours with OA or another issue, ask if CBD can help.
Remember: CBD is non-psychoactive, so your dog won’t get high as long as there’s no THC in the product. While both hemp and marijuana contain CBD, a product that contains only CBD typically comes from the hemp plant. Many CBD products come in oils you can easily mix in with your dog’s food, or simply drop it in their mouth.
If you have more questions about how CBD can improve your dog (or cat’s) life, one of Nugg’s friendly and professional Cannabis Concierge’s will gladly answer them. And while medical questions are best left for your vet, a Cannabis Concierge is always happy to chat with you about the best cannabis products for your fur baby’s condition(s).