The Use of CBD Oil in Canine Medicine

With the movement of legalized medical marijuana use sweeping across the country, it is no wonder why many pet owners are asking if some of the products proven useful in human medicine may also hold some benefit for our canine companions that are battling chronic diseases as well. The most popular version of medical marijuana available for use in pets is CBD oil, which is considered to be a safer derivative of marijuana and hemp as it contains little to no THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana that causes both people and animals to feel “high.” Mechanism of Action CBD oil contains cannabinoids, which act on endocannabinoid receptors located throughout the nervous system. By these mechanisms, cannabinoids can downregulate the neural transmissions that are involved in the various pathways that cause us to feel pain, anxiety, sense noise, and in the development of nausea and vomiting. Potential Uses in Dogs Proponents of CBD oil rave of its healing properties without some of the less desirable side effects, expense, or pitfalls of more traditional treatments. On the other hand skeptics are concerned about lack of information and potential toxicity. Even for critics, however, it would seem there are an endless list of possible uses in terms of treating various conditions encountered in dogs including but not limited to the following: 1. Antitumor treatment Conventional oncology treatments in pets are similar to human medicine and include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. There are several reports in the news and media about pet owners who have had animals diagnosed with metastatic or terminal cancer who resorted to CBD oil when traditional therapy was not working and claim that it significantly improved their animal’s quality of life. Some of the potential benefits include increased appetite, less nausea and vomiting, and improved energy levels and mobility. From a scientific standpoint, some studies in human medicine have shown that the cannabinoids found in CBC oil can have antitumor properties that not only aid in improving symptoms, but may significantly inhibit tumor cell growth, or even cause regression of the growth itself. In animals, this if of particular interest when tumors are cutaneous in nature and CBD oil can be applied topically. While no such studies have been conducted in veterinary medicine, it certainly warrants a closer look at CBD oil as an adjunctive cancer treatment. 2. Chronic arthritis and spinal disease CBD oil may also be very beneficial in controlling pain that is seen with a wide variety of orthopedic and neurological conditions, without all the negative side effects of more traditional medications such as NSAIDS, opioids, and other analgesics. These drugs cannot only be costly, but can cause significant liver or kidney damage, and cannot be used in cases where organ function is not intact. 3. Behavioral disorders There are a variety of behavioral conditions (separation anxiety and noise phobias probably being the most common) that can be incredibly frustrating to deal with, both from the position of the owner and the veterinarian treating their pet. CBD oil may provide a calming and alternative treatment when training and conventional behavioral medications are less than helpful. 4. Gastrointestinal disease CBD oil may improve appetite and lessen chronic vomiting and diarrhea in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease in which immune suppressive drugs and expensive prescription diets are often the mainstay of therapy. While CBD oil is not directly targeting the primary cause of these disease processes (which are typically caused by intolerance to dietary protein or carbohydrate molecules), it may help lessen common clinical signs observed in these patients such as anorexia, vomiting, and diarrhea. 5. Seizure disorders In both humans and animals alike, CBD oil is being used in cases where epileptic patients are either not responding to conventional treatments or when side effects from those therapies are incompatible with a good quality of life. CBD oil is not known to cause liver enzyme elevation or increased thirst and urination, the most common adverse reactions seen in patients being treated with Phenobarbital and/or potassium bromide, which are two of the most common anti-seizure medications. Keeping an Open Mind There are some limitations in understanding how CBD oil can help our canine friends due to the overwhelming lack of research involving the use of these products in veterinary medicine. The main reason more studies are not being done is because marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. This also means that all veterinarians are legally prohibited from prescribing CBD oil to their patients, even in states where both medicinal and recreational use of the drug are now allowed. There is also valid concern about the source and integrity of certain products, dosing recommendations, and potential side effects and toxicity in animals. The lack of information available can make it confusing to know which products are safest, how much one should administer, and what to expect in the short and long term. Despite all of this, many pet owners, including some veterinarians themselves, continue to experiment with CBD oil and the success stories they have shared in the news and media have shed some positive light on the use of medicinal marijuana in small animal medicine and are helping to penetrate some of those previous barriers. Advocates of medicinal marijuana use hope that this leads to the eventual rescheduling of the drug and more research opportunities.
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