As the popularity of CBD products continues to soar, human beings are not the only ones who can benefit. More and more pets are being given CBD by their owners as part of their medication routine or as a complete alternative treatment. An increasing number of veterinarians are also on board, although many must contend with restrictions on how freely they can discuss or prescribe CBD, restrictions that vary from state to state. Further studies of the effects on animals need to be done so that we may better understand the potential benefits of CBD for the health of canines, felines, and other animals.
Traditional Management of Your Pet’s Pain
As veterinarian and CBD proponent Dr. Courtney Campbell discusses on his blog, the conventional approach to managing the pain of pets is “aggressive.”
The first choice for pain relief among many clinicians are the medications that have been more extensively studied, including anti-inflammatories, gabapentinoids, opioids, local anesthetics, and other analgesics (acetaminophen, amantadine, Cerenia, etc.). These medications or a combination thereof have been prescribed to treat pain from orthopedic surgery, soft tissue surgery, intestinal surgery, and surgical neuropathic conditions, to name just a few.
Should You Consider CBD to Manage Your Pet’s Pain?
Although more research about the effects of CBD on animals is needed, safer and more effective methods of providing pain relief for pets are also needed. This is where CBD for pets comes in.
Interest in CBD goes back centuries, but it intensified in the 1980s after Allyn Howlett, a scientist at St. Louis University Medical School, discovered what she would eventually call CB1 receptors. In the early 1990s, a second receptor, CB2, was identified. Then, in the late 1990s, scientists at the National Institutes of Health discovered that CBD could protect cells from oxidative stress.
These discoveries have inspired much research on the benefits of CBD for humans, but investigators in the field of veterinary medicine have also become very interested. Almost all mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is similar to our own. Canines have both CB1 and CB2 receptors, and felines have CB1 receptors. The ECS is a network of receptors and cellular activators that regulate many physiological processes. These processes include stress, mood, pain, inflammation, and temperature and involve both the brain and the immune system.
The Science So Far
Although more research is needed about the effects on animals, some studies do clearly indicate that CBD can relieve animal pain. For example, studies from Colorado State University and Cornell University have documented the pharmacokinetics of CBD in dogs. The CSU study shows that “orally administered CBD was absorbed better than CBD applied transdermally, although transdermal application does show significant absorption.” The researchers also experimented with dosage, finding that even a relatively high dose of oral CBD (20 milligrams per kilogram per day) is well tolerated.
A 2018 clinical trial evaluating the effect of CBD on osteoarthritis in dogs showed reduction in pain with no harmful side effects. Another study, on the use of CBD to treat seizures, showed a statistically significant “89% reduction in seizure frequency in dogs.” The subjects also received conventional anti-epileptic drug therapy.
When Today’s Veterinary Practice looked at the current state of CBD use in pets, it concluded:
Pre-clinical and human studies have shown cannabis’s potential efficacy for neuroprotection, anxiety, cancer, gastrointestinal support, and other conditions. Although veterinary clinical trials are the gold standard, the available current data and a wealth of anecdotal evidence show cannabis (and CBD in particular) to be safe when used appropriately. In the absence of established, and proven effective, treatment options for a variety of conditions, veterinarians need to familiarize themselves and keep current with the state of veterinary cannabis research.
Veterinarians Are Paying Attention
Regulators of veterinary medicine have been cautious about accepting CBD as a treatment option. The American Veterinary Medical Association has stated that the research on the treatment of animals with CBD is still limited and evolving. Nevertheless, a new California law allows vets to discuss cannabis products with their patients as long as they are not administering, advertising, or selling these products themselves. Many other states don’t even have a policy about discussing CBD or prescribing CBD to pets.
In any case, pet owners are interested. One recent survey of veterinarians shows that clients ask quite often about the possibility of using CBD to help their furry friends. The survey also found:
- About 80% of respondents have not observed or gotten reports of particular negative side effects of CBD. A small number of respondents (10%) reported the occurrence of polyphagia (extreme hunger) in a small number of dogs (ranging from 1% to 10%).
- More than 90% said that the products have been somewhat helpful (56%) or very helpful (34%) as analgesics for chronic pain.
- More than 87% found CBD products to be somewhat or very helpful for reducing the anxiety of canines.
- Respondents reported that they and their clients most often discussed CBD as a treatment for managing pain, anxiety, and seizures.
All this makes sense. If CBD works for humans, why not for our pets? Although scientists have so far only scratched the surface of its potential to treat pain and other symptoms in animals, CBD holds great promise.
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