CBD for Dogs

Does CBD have any medical uses, and can it be used safely for pet dogs?

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring chemical substance that is an active ingredient in marijuana.  It is not a narcotic and has no psycho-active effects – unlike THC, the other major compound found in marijuana and hemp. In the past year, it has been extensively marketed as a beneficial treatment for a number of health issues and has turned into a huge industry.  You can’t drive past a strip mall without seeing stores advertising CBD products.

What is it used for?

CBD products are available in capsules, pills, topical creams, lotions, oils and tinctures, food additives, smoothies, gummies, vaping products and pretty much any other form that can be taken internally or applied to skin1.  They are marketed as treatments for a huge array of ailments, including anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain, arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, autism and Alzheimer’s disease2,3, in both humans and animals.

Does it work?

Does it?  We don’t know.

There is clinical evidence that CBD is effective in treating some forms of childhood epilepsy.  And early studies suggest that CBD has some effect on insomnia and anxiety in humans, and in treating anxiety in humans.  Early studies indicated that it may have some use as an anti-inflammatory4.   However, later testing showed no pain-relieving or anti-inflammatory effects in dogs5.

Recent testing has also shown that CBD was not effective in reducing anxiety in dogs, either alone or in combination with other medications.  In fact, it seems to reduce the effectiveness of other medications when used in combination with them6.

The FDA has issued warnings to several companies, ordering them to stop making unproven claims about CBD’s effectiveness.  However, these warnings have little effect, and the FDA is essentially playing whack-a-mole in trying to reign in consumer fraud regarding CBD.

Adding to the confusion is that dogs have entirely different digestive systems than humans and produce different digestive enzymes.  Products designed for human consumption don not always work with dogs.

What are the issues with it?

First of all, there’s a serious lack of testing.  And much of CBD testing has been of questionable quality, relying on owners’ and veterinarians’ impressions of effectiveness rather than objective testing.  An AVMA spokesman estimates that the placebo effect of CBD studies can be as high as 40% 7.   As discussed above, when controlled testing takes place, efficacy claims are placed in serious doubt.

Being an unregulated product, there is no way of knowing whether the contents of a pill, cream or other form of CBD actually match what’s on the label8.   Further, its available in a wide range of forms.  We don’t know it should be administered or what dosage may be effective – if it has any effect at all.

We do know that it can cause liver damage and that it can affect other medications.  It can also cause mood changes and stomach upset9.

What’s the bottom line?

CBD has some interesting possibilities, but we have to wait for the scientific process to prove or disprove the marketing claims.  It is probably safe in that it won’t cause harm to your pets, although side effects have been noted, but we have no reason to believe that it will be effective in treating any physical, emotional or mental conditions.  And we don’t know how it may interact with other drugs, how it should be administered, what form it should take and what dosage is needed.  Further, until it is regulated in some form, we have no way to know what’s in those pills or gummies that are sold online or over the counter.

My advice:  If you think your dog needs medication for some condition, talk to your vet.

References:

  1. Beginners guide to CBD.  Retrieved from Your Guide to CBD (healthline.com)
  2. Mother Jones. (December 2018) Sorry, Hipsters. CBD Will Not Solve All Your Problems. Retrieved from Sorry, Hipsters. CBD Will Not Solve All Your Problems. – Mother Jones
  3. Hazekamp, A., (2018), The Trouble with CBD Oil, Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids 2018 (1). 65 – 72. doi: 10.1159/000489287
  4. Grinspoon, P. (August 24, 2018), Cannabidoil (CBD) – What We Know and What We Don’t. Harvard Health Publishing.  Retrieved from Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing
  5. Mejia, S., Duerr, F. M., Griffenhagen, G. and McGrath, S. (2021). Evaluation of the Effect of Cannabidoil on Naturally Occurring Osteoarthritis-Association Pain: A Pilot Study in Dogs.  Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 57 (2), 81-90. doi:  5326/JAAHA-MS-7119
  6. Morris, E. M., Kitts-Morgan, S. E., Spangler, D., McLeod, K. R., Costa, J. H. and Harmon, D. L. (2020), The Impact of Feeding Cannabidoil (CBD) Containing Treats on Canine Response to a Noise-Induced Fear Test. Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2020).  doi:  3389/fvets.2020.569565
  7. DVM360, CBD in Pets, retrieved from CBD in Pets (dvm360.com)
  8. Grinspoon, et al.
  9. S. Food and Drug Administration. What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-Derived Compounds, Including CBD.  Retrieved from:  What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD | FDA

Alternative Veterminary Medicine – Homeopathy

Various pharmacy bottles of homeopathic medicine on dark background

I was thinking about hitting a hornet’s nest with a stick, but decided to stir up some real trouble instead.  So, I’m working on a few pieces regarding the use of alternative veterinary medicines, starting with today’s article on homeopathy.

First off:  What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a field of veterinary medicine that has a loyal following and a number of professional practitioners.  Homeopathic remedies are widely marketed as curatives for a wide variety of physical, emotional and behavioral conditions; but the general public has very little knowledge of this field or its principles.

Homeopathy is the creation of Samuel Hahnemann (1755 – 1843) a German physician, building on previous studies by Anton Von Stork, who proposed that poisonous plants can have medicinal values when administered in small doses.  The basic principles that Hahnemann proposed are:

  • Like Cures Like:  Meaning that a very minute dose of a toxin can cure the symptoms that it would cause in larger doses, or would cure similar symptoms caused by a disease.  Putting it another way; poison ivy causes itching, therefore a minute dose of poison ivy would cure a rash. 1
  • Water Memory:  The concept that water is able to retain and remember the shape and characteristics of medicines that it once contained.1
  • Dilution:  The principle that the more a substance is diluted in water, the more powerful it becomes in treating symptoms.2  The process of “succussion” (being shaken between dilutions) and successive dilutions is a key characteristic of homeopathic “remedies”.

Example:  Lets suppose that a homeopath chooses to treat a patient’s fever with a plant substance that can induce a sensation of heat:  Chili peppers.  He wants this treatment to be very effective, so he will subject is to 30 succussion and dilution steps (called 30X, a very common homeopathic dilution, homeopathic remedies are often distilled far more than this).  He would create a ten-to-one mixture of 10-to-one chili peppers and distilled water; then take one part of that mixture, shake it and dilute it in ten parts distilled water.  This step of shaking and diluting would then be repeated twenty-nine times.  The final result would be that the each drop of chili pepper solution would be diluted by 10 to the 30th power (or, one in a million trillion trillion).  Put it another way, it would be pure distilled water.  But the homeopath would state that this dilution would make the treatment of the fever even more effective.

What is it used for?

Veterinary homeopaths and alternative medicine practitioners will prescribes homeopathic treatments for behavioral problems, phobias, wounds, diarrhea, viruses, gallstones, fibroid tumors, allergies, asthma, colitis, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, chronic infections and a host of other conditions.3

Does it work?

In a word.  No.

Homeopathy is based on an 18th century understanding of disease, nervous systems, immune systems and physics.  The fact is, a homeopathic “remedy” is simply distilled water, or a drop of distilled water poured on a sugar pellet. There is no active ingredient in a homeopathic treatment, so it can’t do anything.

This is, however, a major industry that has spent enormous sums of money attempting to prove that homeopathic remedies are effective.  This has been studied by the Federal Trade Commission4,  The National Institute of Health5, the British National Health Service2, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council7 along with other national and international medical associations, have all concluded that no evidence exists to support claims that homeopathic treatments are effective in treating any diseases or medical conditions.  Each of these bodies has concluded that homeopathy has never been found to be more effective than placebo.

So, in summary:  Like does not cure like, water does not have a memory, and dilution doesn’t make medications stronger.  (A note on those last points:  Proponents of homeopathy would have you believe that water retains a memory of a substance that it touches, but does not retain a memory of every bladder and bowel that it passes through.  By homeopathic principles, a small cup of water from your kitchen faucet is actually a tremendously powerful dose of mastodon pee.)

Is homeopathy harmful?

In and of itself, no.  Since a homeopathic remedy has no active ingredients it can’t be directly harmful or interact with any medications.  However, if an animal is treated for a medical condition only with homeopathic treatments, it is harmful in that it amounts to withholding effective care from the suffering animal. 6

Conclusion

The takeaway from all this:  If you believe that your animal is suffering from a condition that would be cured by a drop of distilled water or a sugar tablet, then use homeopathy.  Otherwise, seek help from a qualified veterinarian.

  1. What is Homeopathy? | Live Science
  2. Homeopathy – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
  3. Veterinary Homeopathy | Homeopathic Treatment For Animals | Alternative Veterinary Services (alternativevetservices.com)
  4. Staff Report on the Homeopathic Medicine & Advertising Workshop (ftc.gov)
  5. Homeopathy | NCCIH (nih.gov)
  6. 1,800 Studies Later, Scientists Conclude Homeopathy Doesn’t Work | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine
  7. Homeopathy not effective for treating any condition, Australian report finds | Homeopathy | The Guardian