CBD for Dogs with Osteoarthritis: Does It Actually Work?
CBD for Dogs with Osteoarthritis: Does It Actually Work?
As the availability of cannabidiol (CBD) has expanded drastically in recent years, so have the claims being made about its ability to treat a wide range of ailments in humans as well as mammalian pets like dogs and cats. But what does the science actually say? Is CBD just the latest highly touted snake oil, or does it actually have beneficial uses, and, if so, what are they?
Though still in its relatively early stages, scientific research into CBD, its potential uses, and its efficacy has increased rapidly over the last half decade as social stigmas and legal restrictions have lessened significantly. The early returns on this research have been very promising and have allowed us to begin the process of separating the hype from the facts.
CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis
One early, pioneering study on the use of CBD for dogs was published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science in July 2018. For this study, researchers from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine tested the efficacy of CBD oil for pain reduction and mobility improvement in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis.
What is osteoarthritis?
According to the American Kennel Club, osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), is a common ailment in dogs, particularly older dogs and larger breeds, such as golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and German Shepherds. The condition is caused by the breakdown of protective cartilage found in various joints throughout the body. This deterioration of the cartilage is caused by “factors such as age, injury, repetitive stress, or disease” and can result in symptoms like pain, inflammation, a decreased range of motion, and, in some cases, the development of bone spurs. Because every joint contains cartilage, osteoarthritis can strike anywhere, but it most commonly is found in the lower spine and the limbs.
Existing treatments for osteoarthritis in dogs
While there presently is no cure for osteoarthritis, veterinarians and loving pet owners have long sought ways to help alleviate its symptoms, thereby improving quality of life. Unfortunately, common, currently available treatments, which utilize nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), “though efficacious, may not provide adequate relief of pain due to osteoarthritis (OA) and might have potential side effects that preclude its use.” These side effects tend to be gastrointestinal in nature and can be most pronounced in geriatric dogs, which are most likely to experience osteoarthritis.
As for other pharmacological agents sometimes used in the treatment of OA, such as gabapentin or amantadine, “there is little evidence regarding their efficacy in dogs with chronic or neuropathic pain related to OA,” according to the Cornell researchers.
This lack of satisfactory treatments for osteoarthritis in dogs led the researchers to take a closer look at the effectiveness of CBD in dogs suffering from OA. As they note, a number of companies have brought CBD-based products for dogs to market, “yet little scientific evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of oral dosing exists.”
The Cornell study
For their study, the Cornell researchers randomly divided the canine participants into two groups, one of which would receive twice-daily doses of CBD oil while the other received a placebo. To help ensure the accuracy of the study, both the pet owners and the veterinarians administering the dosages were kept unaware of whether a particular animal was being given CBD oil or the placebo. Each dog was then evaluated by both the veterinarian and the pet owner for signs of reduced pain and increased activity using factors such as gait, behavior, attitude, and proprioception (the so-called “sixth sense” that allows humans and animals to sense things like self-movement, force, and body position). Dogs were evaluated while walking, running, and weaving around traffic cones. The researchers also regularly collected blood samples in order to evaluate the chemical presence of CBD within the dogs’ bodies.
What kind of CBD did the researchers use?
Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time looking into the wide range of CBD products now available for dogs knows that CBD comes in a variety of dosages and forms, including CBD oil, capsules, treats (edibles), and topical rubs. Even within these categories there is a great deal of differentiation among products. For example, CBD oils vary in many ways, from the source of the CBD to the CBD extraction method to the type of oil with which the CBD is reconstituted.
The Cornell study utilized a very specific and strictly controlled form of CBD oil that was extracted from a proprietary strain of industrial hemp using ethanol and heat extraction before being reconstituted with olive oil. (Dogs receiving the placebo were giving an equivalent dose of olive oil without CBD.) The dogs receiving CBD oil were administered 2 milligrams of CBD for every 1 kilogram of body weight once every 12 hours.
What were the results?
DaThe results of the Cornell study were extremely promising when it comes to the efficacy of CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis, with the veterinary evaluations showing “a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity” following treatment with CBD oil. Further, and just as importantly, both the veterinarians and pet owners reported no short-term side effects of the CBD use. (The 10-week study was not designed to investigate the long-term effects of CBD use.)
The study initially included 22 dogs who had been brought by their owners to the Cornell University Hospital for Animals “for evaluation and treatment of a lameness due to OA.” Sixteen of these animals completed the full study, during which their diets and other medications remained the same as they had been prior to the study in order to help eliminate potential sources of change other than the introduction of CBD. For the same reason, dogs underdoing physical therapy were excluded from the study.
According to the researchers, the results were promising, with dogs receiving CBD oil showing a decrease in pain and increase in mobility at weeks two and four as compared to their baseline scores at week zero. Further, dogs receiving CBD showed greater improvement than those dogs that only had received the placebo.
While much more research needs to be done in order to fully understand the proper dosages and methods for administering CBD to dogs, as well as the conditions for which CBD use is beneficial, the Cornell study proved that there is indeed science behind the hype. If your beloved canine is experiencing pain and a lack of mobility due to osteoarthritis, CBD oil could be the safe, effective treatment you have been looking for!