What the research studies say about cannabis oil for animals

CBD Vets Austraila_ the research on CBD oil
Animal lovers in Australia are having more and more conversations about medical cannabis, with a flurry of interest in the specific component of medical cannabis known as  cannabidiol or CBDThe question is how can it benefit the health and wellbeing of our furry friends? Below we share the research to-date so you can make informed choices around how it may benefit your pet’s health generally or to treat a particular health concern.

Cannabis for canines research – positive results for dogs

In 2018, Animal Medicines Australia reported that around 38% of Australian households have a dog and the prediction is that the number has increased substantially ever since. Dogs can suffer from numerous health conditions, from anxiety to arthritis and everything in between, and they rely on us to help with symptom relief.  With the ever-increasing knowledge and dissolution of stigma around medical cannabis, there is an increased interest from dog owners in treating with cannabis oil. Osteoarthritis is commonly encountered in dogs, especially as they age. Following positive outcomes for CBD in humans with arthritis, two 2020 studies evaluated whether CBD could help dogs with osteoarthritis. One study compared 2mg/kg body weight of CBD twice per day with a control group. Compared to the control group, the dogs receiving CBD oil showed consistently significant improvements in pain scores, mobility and owner measured comfort and quality of life. Both groups were permitted to continue normal medications such as anti-inflammatories and analgesics during the study period.  As a result, many of the dog’s medications were lowered and the authors hypothesise that concurrent use of cannabis oil with conventional treatments can result in beneficial effects on pain relief and improvements in quality of life. Another piece of research used the novel approach of liposomal encapsulated CBD, which allows for increased absorption and stability of the therapeutic compound. 20mg of liposomal CBD was assessed next to 3 other treatments: a placebo and non-liposomal CBD at two different concentrations, 20mg and 50mg per kilogram of body weight per day. Both veterinary and pet owner reports showed significant improvements in dogs osteoarthritis scores with 20mg liposomal CBD and 50mg non-liposomal CBD when compared with the lower dose and placebo.  Showcasing that liposomal CBD improved the bioavailability and therefore therapeutic action of the lower dose of liposomal CBD compared with the equal dose of normal CBD. These dogs showed  improvement in their ability to run and walk with ease, as well as mobility when transitioning from standing to lying positions. Moreover, pain relief was observed even two weeks after cessation of CBD treatment. This study was double-blinded, meaning neither researchers nor pet owners were aware of which treatment the dogs received. Blinding studies helps account for bias, especially when assessing subjective measures recorded by pet owners.

Treating epilepsy in animals with CBD oil

Cannabis oil has had resounding success in humans with epilepsy, so unsurprisingly this was one of the first ports of call for veterinary researchers.  A group of 16 dogs with epilepsy of various species were split into two groups, 9 dogs were given 2.5mg of CBD per kilogram of body and 7 dogs were given a placebo. Dogs given CBD showed promising reductions in seizure frequency compared to those in the placebo. On average CBD lowered the frequency of epilepsy in dogs by 33%.  The dogs that absorbed the CBD oil into their bloodstream the best showed the greatest outcomes, suggesting an increase of the bioavailability or dose could further improve seizure reductions.

Animals and the endocannabinoid system

Asides from love and affection, animals and humans share one other thing, the endocannabinoid system. This ubiquitous and integral system offers new perspectives on the causes and treatment of numerable diseases and symptoms in animals.  Veterinary researchers are keen to seek out ways the endocannabinoid system and cannabis oil can help our various animal health conditions, with plenty of clinical trials being conducted at the moment. 
CBD oil VET Clinics with medicinal cannabis treatment in Australia

Is cannabis oil safe for animals?

Clinical studies show that CBD is generally safe and well-tolerated in dogs. Some studies report no changes in key blood measures in animals taking CBD, whilst others show increased liver enzymes. This warrants further research into the safety and optimum methods of administration of cannabis oil for animals.

Side effects from CBD are generally mild and can usually be moderated by adjusting the dose. Dogs are more likely to experience gastrointestinal disturbances, somnolence or increased salivation. Whereas cats are prone to increased head shaking, licking and pacing. 

Despite some positive anecdotal evidence, there is currently limited clinical investigations into the safety and usefulness of CBD for cats. Watch this space! 

Promising research but not enough data

Although early research has shown positive results, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, who govern prescription medicines for animals, have not approved any medical cannabis products specifically for animals.

More research and safety data is needed before we see medical cannabis and CBD oil products officially approved. 

In the meantime, vets are able to prescribe compounded medicinal grade cannabis oil, usually prescribed for human use, to animals whose health conditions align with the therapeutic actions of CBD.

Even though cannabis medicines for pets can be bought over the counter in countries like the USA, there is still not enough information on the widespread use of medical cannabis for our most loyal companions, so it is always best to speak to your vet instead of risking black market products.

While research gains momentum, medical cannabis trained vets in Australia are now confidently prescribing CBD oil for pets in evidence-based and effective ways. 

If you are you’re seeking more guidance about how CBD oil could help your pets medical condition get in contact with one of our friendly team members at CBD Vets Australia.

By Jessica Kindynis 

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