How CBD treats epilepsy and seizures in animals

Dogs can be treated with CBD for Epilespy & Seizures

The anti-convulsant properties of CBD may minimise seizures in dogs with epilepsy, and the neuroprotective properties of CBD may protect the brain and nervous system.

Seeing our furry friends unwell pulls at the heartstrings. For those who have pets that suffer from epilepsy, the discomfort at seeing their beloved pet in the throes of seizures can be unbearable to witness. 

In recent years, following the prolific media surrounding the benefit of CBD oil for children and adults with epilepsy, there has been a surge in interest for how this cannabis-derived medicine may help our pets who suffer similar conditions. 

In this blog we delve into understanding seizures in animals including treatment options and how CBD can be used as an adjunct (add-on) therapy for epilepsy. 

Epilepsy signs and symptoms in dogs 

Epilepsy is one of the most serious brain disorders faced by dogs. It is characterised by recurrent seizures. Signs of a seizure include twitching, shaking, tremors, convulsions, and/or spasms.

Epilepsy disrupts homeostasis in dogs and, if left untreated, can lead to the deterioration of an animal’s physical and mental wellbeing.

It is estimated that up to 2% of all dogs will have a seizure in their lifetime.

Three stages of a seizure

Epileptic seizures vary in appearance but can be identified once an owner becomes familiar with the disorder’s three stages: the aura stage, the seizure, and post-seizure. 

Prior to a seizure, animals may undergo what is known as the aura stage; a state of anxiety, fright, and haziness when they can sense an upcoming seizure.

The seizure itself is often characterised by a stiffening of the neck and legs, stumbling and falling over, uncontrollable chewing, drooling, paddling of the limbs, loss of bladder control, defecating, vocalising, and violent shaking and trembling. 

Once the seizure subsides, animals may experience the postictal stage where they may appear confused, disoriented, dazed, or sleepy as they return to baseline. 

Anti-seizure medication for dogs 

Anticonvulsants are a common group of pharmacological agents used in the treatment of epileptic seizures. Some commonly prescribed epilepsy medications include Phenobarbital, Keppra and Potassium Bromide. 

Although these anti-seizure medications have high efficacy ratings, they also contain several caveats. Most notably is the fact that once treatment is started, it will likely be continued for life. Stopping these medications abruptly can cause even more intense seizures to occur.  

CBD – a natural treatment option 

Although the pharmaceutical path is well trodden, researchers have noted* the detrimental effects that these medications can have to a dog’s liver. The negative side effects of these medications have led many pet owners to consider more natural and holistic treatment options. 

A natural treatment which is now legally available and accessible in Australia is medicinal cannabis, also known as CBD. 

Cats can be treated with CBD for Epilespy & Seizures

What does the research say? 

A number of studies confirm that CBD has anti-epileptic and anticonvulsant actions, which may reduce the frequency and in some instances the severity of seizures.

Additionally, animal studies and in vitro research show CBD exhibits neuroprotective effects which may aid in protecting against damage to the brain and nervous system during seizures.

Dogs, just like humans, have an endocannabinoid system – this system is found throughout the body and interacts with other body systems to help maintain homeostasis. Endocannabinoids are compounds that are produced naturally by the body to achieve homeostasis – the state that epileptic seizures aim to disrupt. Supplementing with phytocannabinoids like CBD can help restore balance. 

Two types of endocannabinoid receptors have been identified: CB1 receptors, found predominantly in the brain and nervous system; and CB2 receptors, existing mainly in the immune system. While CBD benefits both receptors, their ability to calm overactive neurons and control seizures comes from the interactions with CB1 receptors. 

Research published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2019 found that 89% of dogs who received CBD in the clinical trial had a (median, 33%) reduction in the frequency of seizures

In addition to the significant reduction of seizures in the group of dogs that received CBD oil, they saw a significant association between the degree of seizure reduction and the amount of CBD concentration in the dog’s blood. No adverse behavioural effects were reported by the dog owners. 

This 2022 study tested the safety and efficacy of CBD/CBDA rich hemp extract in the treatment of refractory epileptic seizures in dogs. The results confirmed its safety and recommended a dose of 2mg/kg every 12 hours to help reduce the incidence of epileptic seizures when used alongside other anti-seizure medication. 

Approximately 30% of dogs with idiopathic epilepsy are drug-resistant. In 2023 there was a study performed with 51 dogs with drug-resistant idiopathic epilepsy with the aims of evaluating the addition of CBD to anti-seizure drugs on seizure frequency, and reporting adverse effects. It was a double-blinded placebo-controlled study which had a duration of three months.  

It was found that at a CBD dose of 9mg/kg/day given orally, the decrease in seizure frequency was significant compared with placebo. A 24% decrease in seizure days occurred in dogs receiving CBD versus a 6% increase in dogs receiving the placebo. Liver enzymes should be monitored with administration of CBD to dogs. 

CBD side effects in dogs 

The most common side effects from CBD observed in dogs are gastrointestinal changes, such as soft stools and changes in appetite

In terms of potential side effects, this study reported no signs of short-term liver toxicity. An increase in the levels of the liver enzyme, ALP, has been observed with CBD treatment. This isn’t cause for great alarm, and is observed in humans also, however it is pertinent in dogs with liver disease. Your vet will be able to determine whether or not CBD therapy is appropriate for your dog. 

Side effects are often mitigated by careful dosing regimes. Read more about side effects HERE.  

CBD for epilepsy in cats 

Epileptic seizures are just as common in cats, with an estimated 1-3% of the feline populations being affected*. Unfortunately, as of 2024, there has yet to be any published trials which evaluate the use of CBD in cats experiencing seizures. 

Cats metabolise cannabinoid medicines differently to dogs, meaning we can’t directly translate the benefits of CBD for epilepsy in dogs to their feline friends. Future research will hopefully uncover how effective medical cannabis may be in alleviating seizures in cats.  


CBD may be considered when pets have not responded well to first-line anti-seizure medications and for those with other medical conditions which exacerbate the common side effects of these pharmaceuticals. 

CBD oil is commonly prescribed for pets suffering from epilepsy in conjunction with other therapies and medications such as Pexion and Phenobarbital. The anti-convulsant properties of CBD may minimise breakthrough fits common in dogs with epilepsy, and the neuroprotective effects of CBD may protect the brain and nervous system during seizures. 

If your dog has epilepsy or is struggling with seizures, talk to your veterinarian and contact CBD Vets Australia on (02) 8294 9303 or email [email protected] to see if your pet is suitable for CBD therapy. 

Updated by Emma Delaney, MPharm (2024)


*Recurrent seizures in cats: Diagnostic approach – when is it idiopathic epilepsy? By Michal Hazenfratz and Susan M Taylor (Sage Journals)


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