A seizure can be anything from a single, uncontrollable twitch to several minutes of violent shaking. Dogs don’t actually feel pain when they have a seizure, but seizures are related to several serious health conditions. They’re scary, confusing, and if your dog has regular episodes, they’re usually impossible to cure. An estimated five percent of dogs suffer from epilepsy, and countless more have frequent seizures due to things like kidney disease, cancer, exposure to chemicals, and head injuries. Stopping a dog’s seizures is imperative for their overall health and well-being, but traditional treatment methods aren’t always effective. CBD oil as seizure treatment is new compared to conventional drugs, but it’s also changing the way dogs fight back against seizures.
The Problem with Prescription Drugs
For most traditional veterinarians, the go-to treatment for seizures in dogs is a cocktail of anticonvulsant drugs. Some of those drugs are phenobarbital, potassium bromide, and diazepam. Dogs can be prescribed a single drug or a mixture of these medications for the rest of their lives. And for some dogs, it’s enough to slow down the seizures. It rarely stops them for good, but it’s progress.
Unfortunately, those dogs are the lucky ones. Research shows that 30 percent of dogs with epilepsy continue to experience frequent seizures no matter how many different combinations of traditional drugs they try. They take medications every day, their humans spend a lot of money on those medications, and yet the dogs still suffer from seizures.
To make matters worse, many dogs taking conventional anticonvulsant drugs experience debilitating side effects. These side effects aren’t related to seizures, they’re consequences of the drugs. Loss of coordination, weight gain, increased urination, lethargy, restlessness, and liver damage are all common side effects. Long-term use can make the side effects worse, and it eventually gets to the point where the medication is worse for the dog than the seizures. It’s a problem that countless dog owners face. They have to decide what’s best for their dogs, and there isn’t always a clear answer. It makes them feel helpless and heartbroken.
CBD Oil as a Solution for Seizures in Dogs
Veterinarians have been prescribing the same anticonvulsant drugs for generations. The mixtures have changed and veterinary science has seen some advancements, but we’re still not at a point where seizures in dogs are easily manageable. We might never make it to that point, but a recent resurgence of a natural substance called CBD oil is giving dog owners hope. There are no wide-spread studies of the effects of CBD oil on seizures in dogs, but anecdotal evidence and a few small scientific studies show that CBD is a powerful treatment for dogs suffering from frequent seizures.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural substance found in cannabis. CBD is found in both marijuana and hemp, but don’t confuse it with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana that causes a person to feel “high.” CBD, on the other hand, has zero psychoactive properties. It’s the part of cannabis that’s related to pain relief, stress-relief, and you guessed it, treating seizures.
CBD oil works by triggering certain receptors in the body. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system, and they play a big role in the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis. There are receptors in the immune system, nervous system, brain, and other major organs. When CBD oil enters the body, it reacts with these receptors to initiate better seizure control. It’s a natural substance that is believed to have zero negative side effects. It can’t make your dog high, and it’s impossible to overdose.
We won’t know exactly how CBD oil fights seizures in dogs until there’s more research. There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered, but CBD oil’s recent burst of popularity is bringing about major change in how pet owners and veterinarians are treating seizures in dogs.
First, you don’t need a prescription to treat your dog with CBD oil. There are thousands of dog owners that administer CBD oil to their dogs with epilepsy, and they see the kind of positive results they never saw with conventional medications.
Researchers at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital are among the first to conduct an official study on how CBD oil affects dogs with seizures. Led by Dr. Stephanie McGrath, the study looked at the short-term effects of CBD on the frequency of seizures in dogs with epilepsy. Twenty-six dogs with idiopathic epilepsy participated in the blind study and were randomly given either a placebo or CBD oil. Before the study, the dogs’ owners recorded how many seizures their dogs had within a certain amount of time, and they did the same thing during the 12-week study. At the end of the study, results showed that 89% of the dogs given CBD oil experienced a reduction in the number of seizures.
Dr. McGrath said in a press release,
“It’s really exciting that perhaps we can start looking at CBD in the future as an alternative to existing anticonvulsive drugs.”
With the majority of the dogs experiencing positive results from the CBD oil, Dr. McGrath is optimistic that CBD oil might soon be a widely accepted method for treating dogs with drug-resistant epilepsy. She’s also working with the AKC Canine Health Foundation on a larger clinical study. Once it’s completed, this study will be the first large-scale trial of its kind. It will answer a lot of questions and give veterinarians and pet parents a better understanding of how CBD oil affects dogs and how it can be used to treat seizures. Dr. McGrath said,
“Regarding the epilepsy study specifically, it is important work because we are constantly searching for an effective anticonvulsant drug to treat epilepsy in dogs. The drugs we currently have available frequently cause intolerable side effects or do not work well enough to control the seizures. Therefore, if CBD does prove to be an effective anticonvulsant, this would affect thousands of dogs worldwide.”
While researchers are only starting to look at CBD as a viable treatment for dogs, there’s more information on using CBD oil for human epilepsy. The American Epilepsy Society published a study involving 210 people with epilepsy, and results showed CBD helped reduce both the frequency and severity of seizures by an astonishing 45 percent.
That carefully analyzed evidence is supported by several personal stories of success. One of the most famous cases of CBD oil being used to treat epilepsy involves a little girl named Charlotte Figi. Charlotte was born with a rare form of epilepsy. She was having up to 400 seizures a week, and some of those episodes lasted for as long as 30 minutes. Desperate to help their daughter, Charlotte’s parents tried CBD oil. They found that CBD-rich cannabis extract was the only treatment that effectively reduced the number of Charlotte’s seizures and improved her overall quality of life.
Charlotte’s parents have been spreading their discovery, and more people are choosing CBD oil to treat both humans and dogs with epilepsy. A video posted to YouTube in 2017 shows a dog owner administering CBD oil to his dog while the dog is having a seizure. Almost immediately afterward, the seizure stops. There are hundreds of other dog owners with similar experiences. The research is catching up, and high-quality CBD oil is showing all signs of being an effective, affordable, and side-effect-free option for treating seizures in dogs.