This article will explore the topic of seizures and epilepsy in dogs. In particular, we will explore some of the research on the natural compound cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, and its anti-convulsant properties. Finally, we will review the state of research in veterinary medicine regarding CBD as a potential future treatment for dogs who experience seizures.
Seizures in Dogs
According to the AKC Health Foundation, seizures in dogs can be caused by a variety of issues including exposure to toxins, illness, injury, specific stimulus (such as a loud noise) or problems with metabolism. They have identified three basic categories of epilepsy in dogs:
Idiopathic Epilepsy: This is the most common type of seizure activity in dogs. It basically means that there is no known cause of the seizures. In some cases, this type of seizure seems to do no harm to the dog, even though it is very uncomfortable to watch. It is thought that at least some of these idiopathic seizures are inherited conditions as some breeds, such as boxers and other bully breeds, seem to have them more frequently.
Structural Epilepsy: If there is some kind of damage done to the brain that can be observed with an MRI scan, either from illness or injury, this is generally classified as structural epilepsy. An example would be brain damage after a head injury, stroke, or inflammatory disease. In many, but not all, cases, other behavioral or motor coordination changes may also be present.
Reactive Seizures: When a dog has seizures in response to a known trigger such as a certain type of food or a poison, it is not considered epilepsy. However, the seizures can be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition such as hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, or hepatic encephalopathy.
Consult with Your Veterinarian
While some seizures may be relatively benign (such as idiopathic head tremors common to bully breeds), in other cases they may be a sign of a serious medical condition such as acute poisoning, injury, or an illness that needs immediate medical care. Only a veterinarian will be able to perform the necessary diagnostic tests to rule out a serious problem and treat your beloved pet.
Traditional Medications for Seizures in Dogs
Of course, the treatment an epileptic dog will receive will vary depending on the root cause of the seizures. This may include dietary changes, treating the underlying cause (such as a metabolic disorder), and/or the use of anticonvulsants such as phenobarbital, potassium bromide, zonisamide, and levetiracetam.
One of the things to keep in mind about anti-convulsant pharmaceuticals is that once a dog goes on them, most veterinarians are likely to recommend that they stay on them for life. This is because taking the dog off the medications can itself induce convulsions. That is why in cases where idiopathic seizures appear to be doing no harm, you and your vet may decide not to put your dog on anti-convulsant therapy and instead deal with the occasional seizure once more serious causes have been ruled out.
Research on CBD and Epilepsy
The FDA approved the first pharmaceutical
drug based on CBD oil in 2018 under the brand name Epidiolex. This new drug is
now being used to treat rare forms of drug resistant childhood epilepsy. Unlike other drugs that use synthetic versions of the compounds found in the cannabis family of plants, this medication for seizures is the very first based on an extract from the hemp plant itself: Cannabidiol (CBD oil).
The move actually came as no surprise. In fact, there is robust scientific research which time and time again has demonstrated the anti-convulsant activity of this natural compound. In fact, as far back as 1973, the anti-convulsant properties of CBD were already known.
CBD shares this property with several other cannabinoids naturally found in the cannabis family, although unlike its cousin THC, cannabidiol has no psychoactive effect. That is, it doesn’t cause the high or euphoric effect of marijuana. It is because of this fact that it has been the subject of dozens of medical studies concerning its anti-seizure properties in the past few decades.
Research into cannabis based medicine has been greatly slowed by legal issues surrounding cannabis. However, the 2018 Farm Bill reinstated the agricultural production of hemp in the United States. This opened the door for researchers to finally investigate the medical properties of this special strain of cannabis, which happens to be very high in CBD, and very low in THC.
Research on CBD Oil for Dogs with Seizures
It is typical for veterinary medicine to fall several years behind human medicine. However, because the anti-convulsant properties of CBD have been known by the scientific community for quite some time, the change in the legal status of hemp and the FDA approval of Epidiolex have encouraged veterinary researchers to investigate the safety of CBD oil for dogs as well as its potential in veterinary medicine.
The leaders in this area of veterinary research include the researchers at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University. In June of 2019, they released their findings from the very first clinical trial on the effects of this natural remedy for seizure frequency in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy who were also undergoing traditional anti-convulsant therapies.
Although the sample size was relatively small (n=26), the results were encouraging. The CBD group was administered 2.5 mg/kg twice daily for 12 weeks in addition to regular anti-seizure medication, while the control group stayed on their regular seizure medication alone. Although both groups showed response to treatment (defined as a 50% or more reduction in seizures), those that received the CBD oil in addition to traditional anticonvulsant showed a 33% median reduction in the frequency of seizures over the dogs who received only traditional anticonvulsant drugs.
To put it into more simple terms, this study showed that CBD enhanced the anti-seizure effect of traditional medications alone. The researchers also noted a positive correlation between the plasma concentration of CBD and a proportionate reduction in seizures, suggesting that more research needs to be done on how CBD is metabolized in canines to learn more about the best dosing guidelines.
The same group of researchers, under a major grant from the AKC Health Foundation, aim to start a new clinical trial with a larger sample of epileptic dogs, which is currently seeking participants. Looking to include 60 dogs with epilepsy, this 24 week trial should garner new insights into the effectiveness of CBD oil for dog epilepsy.
Here at LolaHemp, we consider it part of our mission to help inform our readers with real information on the status of medical research on the properties of CBD oil. We hope you have found this article helpful and informative.