Can CBD Oil Help Relieve Pain for Dogs With Arthritis?
Take a close look at the role CBD oil may play in a veterinarian-approved treatment plan for osteoarthritis.
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Osteoarthritis is a common condition in dogs, affecting as many as 25 percent of all dogs over the course of their lives. If your pup has lost some of the spring in their step, seems to have more stiffness after regular activity, or shows a reluctance to do things they used to enjoy, osteoarthritis may be the cause.
Unfortunately, osteoarthritis — aka arthritis — is a progressive disease, and it is important to have a veterinarian assess your dog at the first signs of pain or changes in mobility. Developing an early treatment plan is critical to doing all you can to slow the damage this degenerative condition can do to your dog’s joints as they age.
Let’s take a close look at the role CBD oil may play in a veterinarian-approved treatment plan for osteoarthritis, as well as at the scientific research that demonstrates the great promise this natural supplement offers for relief from both the pain and inflammation associated with it. Getting informed about how CBD oil can help your dog with arthritis is an important first step and will give you a starting point for a conversation with your vet about safe treatment options for your pup.
Traditional Treatments for Arthritis in Dogs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly prescribed medication for dogs who are experiencing pain from inflammation, including osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, this class of drugs can have serious, even fatal, side effects.
A 2015 study points out that the number of adverse side effects from NSAIDs reported to the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine is higher than for any other veterinary drug currently prescribed. Of particular concern, as this study notes, is the possibility of renal damage and/or failure as a result of using NSAIDs for chronic conditions.
A systematic review reported on in 2013 looked at the results of 35 studies and 29 clinical trials that investigated the use of NSAIDs in dogs. It found that as many as 55 percent of the studies reported significant negative side effects with this class of drugs. It may be worse for dogs with OA; as its authors noted, most of the dogs used in their research were from a young and healthy population. Since it is known that NSAIDs are more likely to be a problem for older dogs, this gives pet parents of senior dogs plenty of reason to pause and consider their options before jumping right into long-term NSAID therapy for their pets.
In fact, the FDA describes the veterinary use of NSAIDs with the following words of caution: “Owners and veterinarians should carefully consider the potential benefits and risks of using an NSAID and other treatment options before deciding to use an NSAID. Use the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration consistent with individual response.”
Given that veterinarians already know that long-term use of NSAIDs, particularly in older dogs or those with compromised liver or kidney function, is potentially dangerous — even deadly — the search for a safe treatment for pain and inflammation has been a significant priority in vet medicine.
Research on CBD Oil and Arthritis
CBD oil, also known as cannabidiol, has been extensively studied in people and, more recently, dogs. It is well understood to have both anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Since osteoarthritis involves both pain and inflammation, it is no surprise to see that CBD has been a major focus of research into treatment alternatives without the downsides of NSAIDs.
And there’s more. It turns out that the endocannabinoid system, present in both dogs and humans, may play a vital role in the progression of osteoarthritis.
Not only are cannabinoid receptors found throughout healthy joint tissue, but they are also found in surprising concentrations in degenerated chondrocytes (joint cells) in human osteoarthritis patients. Researchers believe that these cells may respond to treatment with cannabinoids. In fact, a few recent studies, including this one, have shown that cannabidiol may even play a role in preventing the degeneration of joints and the progression of pain associated with osteoarthritis. This is big news for osteoarthritis sufferers, be they human or canine.
Research on CBD Oil for Dogs with Arthritis
Veterinary research for companion animals is often behind the curve when it comes to the latest and greatest. Part of this has to do with the money needed to develop new drugs, which, in many cases, can only be found at pharmaceutical giants concerned mostly with human markets.
Veterinary research on CBD oil for dogs with arthritis has also been hampered by the evolving legal status of hemp and other types of cannabis, which has made it difficult to obtain legal samples for study. Recent changes to the laws regarding hemp may soon remove that barrier to researching the benefits of this natural plant for our pets’ health.
One of the most relevant studies that parents of dogs with arthritis should be aware of was conducted by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in 2018. Researchers administered a full-spectrum CBD oil to dogs with osteoarthritis at an oral dosage of either 2 mg or 8 mg per kg twice daily.
The dogs in the study were assessed before the trial began, as well as at two and four weeks into treatment. The researchers found that the two mg-per-pound dose effectively reduced the dogs’ visible signs of joint pain and significantly improved their activity and mobility.
Is CBD Safe for Dogs with Osteoarthritis?
Significantly, in the study cited above, no side effects were observed at either dose when using CBD oil to treat OA. Also, there were no indications of any psychoactive effects, despite the fact that the full-spectrum CBD oil the researchers used contained trace amounts of THC. This builds on other research demonstrating the safety of appropriately calibrated cannabinoids for dogs.
What About Full-Spectrum CBD Oil for Canine Osteoarthritis?
One other question many dog parents have about the use of hemp or CBD oil has to do with the safety of a full-spectrum CBD oil for their dog. Unlike broad-spectrum CBD oils, full-spectrum oils contain the full range of trace compounds (known as cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes) found in the source hemp, including trace amounts of THC (.3 percent or less, by law).
Many pet owners think that since dogs are known to be sensitive to high levels of THC, a full-spectrum product may not be safe. However, this is not the case. By law, hemp and hemp oil contain extremely low amounts of THC, well under the threshold known to be safe for dogs. As long as you purchase a full-spectrum CBD oil made just for pets and follow dosing guidelines, it is perfectly safe for your dog.
In fact, many pet parents report that a full-spectrum CBD oil is more effective at treating symptoms of arthritis than CBD oils made with an isolated form of CBD. This is backed up by research. Scientists refer to this phenomenon as the “entourage effect.” Dozens of studies on cannabis-based medicines have shown that the trace amounts of THC and other cannabinoids found in full-spectrum CBD oils may well enhance the pain- and inflammation-relieving properties of these natural compounds.
Talk to Your Vet
If you have a dog suffering from arthritis, it might be time to talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of adding a full-spectrum CBD oil for dogs, to your companion’s daily supplements to help safely ease the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis in dogs.
While many companies may market their products as the “best” dog CBD oil, not all CBD tinctures have actually been lab-tested. Your vet will recommend that you look for products that are verified by third-party lab testing to ensure that there are no harmful ingredients, such as pesticides, heavy metals, and pathogens.
CBD may help you and your vet work out a treatment plan that reduces the use of potentially dangerous NSAIDs, and in some cases, eliminates them altogether. However, since cannabidiol can interact with other medications, it is important to have a conversation with your vet before adopting this strategy—to put your dog’s whole health needs first.
A final word of caution: Even though CBD is available without a prescription, it is critical to make sure that whatever product you use, it is formulated specifically for dogs. CBD products made for people can sometimes have high amounts of THC or other additives (such as artificial sweeteners) that can be toxic to dogs.
Disclaimer alert: This article is here to share information. But, much like pineapple on pizza, the topic may be controversial. Meaning, not all vets or pet professionals agree. Because every pet is a unique weirdo with specific needs. So, don’t take this as fact or medical advice. Talk things over with your vet when making decisions, and use your best judgment (about both your pet’s health and pizza toppings).
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Joey DiFrancesco is an animal lover, rescue advocate, entrepreneur and the founder of pet-formulated CBD oil LolaHemp and the online pet novelty shop, Lolawawa’s. Both brands are heavily active within the rescue community and contribute a portion of proceeds to animal rescue efforts.