Our pets, like us, produce endocannabinoids, substances which act on specific receptors found throughout the body, and regulate various physiological roles. In diseased states, the activation of these receptors could be helpful to treat the underlying problem. Cannabidiol, (CBD), has the potential to treat various medical problems in a non-toxic way.
Most pet owners don’t want to see their four-legged friends suffering with inoperable or late stage cancer, back problems, separation anxiety, poor appetite or with severe arthritis. These painful conditions can prevent pets from eating, and they tend to suffer muscle wasting. For years, pet diseases have typically been treated with synthetic veterinary drugs. Meloxicam, (Metacam), fluoxetine, (Prozac), alprazolam, (Xanax), carprofen, (Rimadyl), are wonderful medications we veterinarians rely on for improving the quality of life in our patients. Pharmaceuticals have transformed and extended many lives but may cause moderate to serious side effects in some patients. Periodic blood work is required when these drugs are used long -term because of the liver and kidney risks.
THC is not CBD
THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes a user “stoned”, may cause psychoactive effects in pets, too and is not currently recommended in animals. No study has ever reported CBD is harmful to pets, but rather it is beneficial in many ways. Although legal issues remain due to all parts of the hemp plant considered a schedule I substance under federal DEA guidelines, CBD oil does not produce any psychoactive effect, only body effects which are beneficial to the patient. CBD oil has little THC and can safely treat inflammation, pain, cancer-related health problems, and can also be used for palliative care or end-of-life ailments. Products containing CBD oil cannot legally make any specific claims of being beneficial in these areas and research which proves their benefit cannot be conducted until the plant is removed from schedule I status. Nevertheless, the demand for this medication is being driven by doctors, veterinarians, patients and pet owners who have seen overwhelming and dramatic results with its use.
Pharmacokinetics of CBD in dogs – The technical Part
In dogs, 2-AG and anandamide are the primary messenger cannabinoids. These chemicals activate CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and other regions, respectively. Being an agonist to these receptors, CBD weakly binds to these receptors for a longer duration, and evokes long-lasting therapeutic response without causing toxic effects.
After intravenous infusion, CBD distribution was reported to be rapid, followed by prolonged elimination with a terminal half-life of 9 hours. The total body clearance may take up to about 17 hours after administration. The oral bioavailability appears to be low (13-19%), which may be due to the first pass effect in the liver. With low bioavailability, the risk of developing systemic toxicity may be low in dogs.
Once the effects wane, the dog’s liver metabolizes the cannabidiol and eliminate it via the urine or bile in a sustained and safe manner. This might be the possible reason for achieving immediate but prolonged therapeutic response in CBD-treated animals.
Claims that Support CBD Use in Pets
Like human use, veterinary marijuana use has caught the scientific community’s interest, and the interest of the general public lately; but unfortunately, cannabis still remains a Schedule I drug. This is why clinicians, medical and veterinary researchers have been fearful to conduct collaborative research studies.
Fortunately, encouraging research evidence is now surfacing that is helpful to gain public acceptance, and several independent organizations are demanding medical marijuana legalization across the globe. Marijuana advocates have petitioned the Drug Enforcement Administration to consider rescheduling marijuana, which has been unsuccessful thus far.
The largest veterinary organization in the world, The American Veterinary Medical Association, (AVMA), has, on its website, published testimonials of pet owners who endorsed cannabis use and who claim its use has dramatically improved the quality of life and mobility in animals that were previously unable to ambulate. More over, cannabis has improved appetite and reduced the reliance on conventional medications, particularly in animals that are intolerant to those drugs.
One study has found that the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids could prevent immune-mediated and inflammatory allergic disorders, including skin problems, in dogs. Another study has concluded that CBD has anticonvulsant and anti-epileptic properties with ‘high protective index’, compared to Phenytoin and Phenobarbital, the conventional anticonvulsant drugs.
A survey study conducted by AHVMA has reported that 61.8% to 95% of pet owners have endorsed the health benefits of CBD-laced treats, ranging from ‘moderate to excellent’. Some of the medical conditions that were relieved by these edible treats include pain, nervous system problems, inflammation, anxiety, nausea and/or vomiting, digestive system problems, tumors, seizures/convulsions, skin problems and phobias, including fireworks or thunderstorm phobias.
We are well aware that cannabinoids can alleviate rheumatoid pain in humans. However, dogs don’t suffer rheumatoid arthritis, but mostly suffer osteoarthritis (OA), a bone and joint disease that occurs as a result of joint(s) wear-and-tear. OA can cause neuropathic pain, for which cannabinoids can be helpful.
Both the research evidence and the testimonials of the pet owners appear to be encouraging.
1. Julianna hated to see her beloved dachshunds suffer with painful disc problems and side effects, even after unsuccessful treatments with Tramadol and Rimadyl. She chose to treat her dogs with CBD-infused oil. After few weeks, the mood and mobility of the dogs improved without any notable side effects.
2. One pet owner acknowledged the anti-convulsive benefit of CBD and his dog’s epileptic episodes have reduced to one per month after cannabis treatment.
3. One California-based pet owner has said that CBD has significantly improved the health of his dog after an injury.
4. David Bourgouin’s dog suffered traumatic injury between the chest and the leg. The injury caused a large cyst that limited the dog’s mobility and surgery was recommended by the veterinarian. Due to the high cost of surgery, David opted to treat his dog with CBD and the results were amazing. After a few weeks, the dog has been able to run without any signs of persistent pain.
The bottom line is this: the American Medical Association (AMA) has been urging the Federal Government to reschedule marijuana. Legalization would be helpful to conduct veterinary research studies, and to develop cannabinoid-based formulations. Like the AMA, the AVMA has called veterinarians for scientific debate on this issue, which is noteworthy.
Although CBD is not a cure-all medication, it can ease the pet’s discomfort, relieve debilitating pain and extend their lives. By opting for CBD, pet owners need not turn to euthanizing their pets to end their pets’ suffering.
This article was taken mostly from information published by Prakash Janakiraman.