By Cara Oorbeck, Green Wellness Life Operations Guru
My dog is getting old!
If you are anything like me as a pet owner, the onset of age in our pets causes worry and sadness. We all know our pets do not live as long as we do but it is disheartening to see a formerly happy, active, and playful dog want to stay on his bed all day or watch him suffer in pain. Old age and the arthritis that often comes with it is a progressive, debilitating condition that is very common in senior pets, those over age 6-7 years. Larger dogs are most prone to health problems related to arthritis. What animal owners see when their pets begin to suffer from arthritis is an expression of pain, irritability and depression, limping or favoring a leg or paw, trouble getting up and down stairs or into cars, and less interest in walking, playing, or usual activities.
Vets have a number of treatment options to treat arthritis and the associated pain and anxiety. These include medications similar to the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications humans also take for arthritis, though formulated specifically for dogs. These medications do help, but the degree they can control pain and debility is limited. Vets can also recommend orthopedic devices, such as raised food and water bowls or a higher bed. These treatments are designed to ease pain and reduce inflammation, but they do not stop the progression of the disease. Other supplements are recommended by vets to improve the inflammatory nature of arthritis, such as omega fatty acids and glucosamine chondroitin. However many of these options fall short as our pets age!
Can CBD Help Our Aging Pet?
Some research regarding CBD and our aging dog was published by Cornell University, suggesting that CBD can help control pain and the associated anxiety in senior pets with arthritis, as well as maintain and improve mobility. The groundbreaking study looked at the way CBD in various preparations is absorbed in the dog’s body, and the various pharmacology-related issues such as half-life, blood levels, and first-pass metabolism. These pharmacokinetic parameters were necessary so the study could be sure the dogs were getting CBD in a usable form, and that it was staying in the blood stream long enough for a clinical effect to be observed. The study was a double blind crossover model, which means the dogs were randomly chosen to get either the CBD preparation or a placebo for a number of weeks, and then the groups were switched, so each dog had both time with a placebo and time with the CBD. Results were evaluated by both owner’s reports of pain, activity, and behavior, and objective measurements in the vet clinic, such as gait analysis and the amount of pressure dogs were willing to put on a painful leg measure by a pressure plate.
While there have been clinical impressions by vets and anecdotal reports by dog owners for some time suggesting that CBD in dogs can improve symptoms of pain, inflammation, and anxiety, this was the first scientific study done using rigorous criteria evaluating CBD in dogs. The results were statistically significant for improved movement and decreased pain, both signs that the progressive, inflammatory nature of arthritis was improved by the CBD supplement.
How do I get my pet to take it?
Some of our pets are picky and getting them to take the CBD is challenging. Researchers tried a number of different delivery models and formulations and found that an oil carrier such as olive oil helped the CBD to be absorbed by the dogs better. Pet tinctures have carrier oils making the bioavailability of the CBD more effective in our pets. Some effective tinctures have flavorings like peanut butter or bacon. There are also treats with CBD in them. It is important that pets take CBD daily in order for it to be effective.
How much do I give?
Knowing how much to give your dog is challenging. The vets in the Cornell study found that there is a narrow window in which the CBD is effective. Not enough, and the supplement doesn’t work. Too much, and the kidneys get rid of the extra as waste. Giving more doesn’t always seem to be more effective. This compound works by bringing the system back into balance. It only corrects back to normal. Giving more doesn’t improve effectiveness. Following the rule of 1 to 5 mg for every 10 pounds will help guide you. Start small and increase according to symptom reduction in your pet.
Other uses for CBD in dogs?
CBD has been used by vets to treat dogs with various seizure disorders, and research being conducted at Colorado State University has shown that CBD is effective as an adjunct to standard medical treatments. This is important research, as standard medical therapy for seizure disorders is not as effective as hoped, and these dogs suffer a poor quality of life. Clinical impressions by vets and anecdotal reports by pet owners have also suggested CBD can be useful for anxiety and other types of pain, including pain from cancer. Research studies are being planned to study the effectiveness, serving size, and formulations of CBD to treat anxiety and pain in dogs.
How is research being funded?
While we are seeing the first good scientific studies looking at CBD in pets, and clinical impressions and anecdotal reports have suggested a use for CBD in dogs and cats with cancer pain and anxiety, the difficulties in getting this research approved and funded are significant. There is a discrepancy between federal and state law regarding hemp farming and processing; in addition, how the CBD is classified is the subject of significant confusion. Most federal funding for pet research into uses for CBD is limited, and state universities have limited ability to develop scientifically rigorous studies without support. But market pressures, and pressures from both vets working in the field and pet owners may help encourage more research into the best formulations, serving sizes, and uses for CBD in dogs.