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CBD for Dog Seizures: The Honest Truth

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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?”

CBD for dog 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.

Dr. Wong with Ella the Goldendoodle

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.

Dr. Wong neuro exam

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.

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