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Can CBD Help Dogs With Seizures and Epilepsy? Science-Backed Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

pet dog taking cbd oil from owner

If your dog suffers from seizures or canine epilepsy, it can feel helpless. Several treatment options are available, but you may wonder if CBD is effective for dog seizures and epilepsy.

CBD for dogs is legal, and both anecdotal and clinical evidence suggests that it may be effective for seizures and epilepsy in dogs. Here’s what you need to know.

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Seizure Disorders and Epilepsy in Dogs

Canine epilepsy is the most common cause of recurrent seizures in dogs. Idiopathic epilepsy is an inherited disorder, but the exact cause is still unknown. Toxins, brain trauma or tumors, kidney failure, and liver disease can also cause seizures.

Typically, seizures occur in times of altered brain activity, such as excitement or while falling asleep or waking up. Dogs may appear normal in between seizures. Despite the violent appearance, seizures are not painful, though they may cause anxiety for the dog. It’s best to avoid interfering with the dog during a seizure, other than preventing the dog from falling or injuring itself on nearby objects.

One seizure isn’t usually dangerous, but multiple seizures within a short period of time (cluster seizures) or a seizure that lasts longer than a few minutes can cause a spike in body temperature that can create other issues.

The two common medications to treat seizures in dogs include phenobarbital and potassium bromide. The treatment protocol depends on the types of seizures, but dogs that don’t respond to standard treatments may benefit from a combination of different medications.

Some vets and dog owners are investigating CBD as an alternative to pharmaceuticals for canine epilepsy and seizures. Though the research is limited, it’s showing promise for future treatments in dogs that haven’t responded well to conventional treatment options.

a sick beagle dog lying on the floor
Image By: Elena Loza, Shutterstock

CBD for Canine Epilepsy

Cannabidiol (CBD) is an extract from the cannabis plant. It doesn’t contain the active ingredient that results in euphoria, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and therefore won’t cause any feeling of a “high.”

After hearing anecdotal cases of CBD being used in human epilepsy cases with success, the veterinary community began to investigate. One such study was conducted by researchers at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital1, the results of which were published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association2.

The study focused on 26 client-owned dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. Participants were assigned to a treatment group or placebo group randomly. The treatment group received CBD oil for 12 weeks. All the participants were given their standard anticonvulsant drugs, including potassium bromide and phenobarbital.

Once completed, the nine dogs in the CBD group and the seven in the placebo group were analyzed. Dogs in the CBD group showed a significant reduction in seizure frequency compared to the placebo group. No adverse effects were reported by the owners.

Overall, 90% of the dogs receiving CBD had a reduction in seizure activity. According to the researchers, CBD oil shows “promise” as a treatment option for canine epilepsy, but more research is needed before it can be included in a standard treatment protocol.

Is CBD a Good Treatment for Canine Epilepsy?

More research is needed to determine the positive and negative effects of CBD for canine epilepsy. In the meantime, CBD is generally safe for dogs—with one caveat. Without the studies and regulations for CBD products, there’s no way of knowing the exact quality of the product. For example, CBD oil that’s harvested or manufactured improperly may contain a higher dose of THC, which could be toxic to dogs.

As more research is done to determine the effects of CBD for canine epilepsy, the market may become more favorable.

In the meantime, make sure you purchase high-quality CBD oil to improve its effects. Look for organic CBD that’s free from pesticides, solvents, or fungicides. Generally, the more expensive products have higher quality and purity, so don’t just choose the cheapest option.

Dosage is one of the areas that’s not well understood in dogs. If possible, get CBD as a liquid instead of a treat. Oils and tinctures allow you to start slowly and adjust the dose drop by drop, so you can carefully monitor your dog’s response and any possible side effects.

Hemp CBD oil
Image Credit: Bukhta Yurii, Shutterstock

How You Can Help

Researchers are invested in determining the effects of CBD, but they need more dogs. If you’re interested in supporting this research, you can participate in current research studies.

Once studies have enough participants, they can provide solid research data to understand the benefits, side effects, safety, and optimal dosage of CBD to treat epilepsy in dogs. In the future, this may provide a much-needed treatment option for epileptic dogs that don’t respond well to conventional treatment protocols.

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If you want to try CBD as a treatment for your dog’s epilepsy, be sure to discuss it with your vet. Remember, the research on CBD for dogs is still sparse, and the market is unregulated. Take it slow and use only the highest quality, organic CBD oil to minimize any adverse effects.

Featured Image Credit: Nuva Frames, Shutterstock

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