CBD, in its pure state, appears to be safe and well-tolerated by animals, according to a 2017 World Health Organization report. However, both subsequent 2018 canine studies mentioned above noted an increase in the liver enzyme alkaline phosphatase (ALP) during CBD treatment.
One study from 2018 sought to assess safety, anti-inflammatory properties, and anti-pain properties of a CBD oil in dogs with osteoarthritis.
- “It has been shown to be an effective analgesic, and a strong anti-inflammatory as well.” To date, CBD research has focused primarily on seizure control and pain reduction in companion animals.
Other veterinarians with experience using CBD in dogs also reported seeing positive results using the drug for canine osteoarthritis.
- Gary Richter, a veterinarian in Oakland, CA says he’s “certainly seen quite a number of dogs that are on either CBD or some other preparation of cannabis for the treatment of osteoarthritis and many of those dogs do very, very well.”
The recent study, published in the journal PAIN, looked at whether different doses and formulations of CBD might help dogs suffering from osteoarthritis - and the results suggested that it could. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine worked in collaboration with a CBD brand on the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The 4 week study included 20 large dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis who were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or one of three different CBD options. The dogs were evaluated before and after the regimen by both veterinarians and their owners on factors related to their mobility and pain. Details about the amount of CBD each dog was taking was kept from the owners and veterinarians so that it wouldn’t influence their evaluations.
While the placebo group and the low CBD group showed no improvement, by the end of the one month period, the group of dogs who took higher doses of CBD or used CBD in a liposomal formulation saw significant improvement in their mobility and quality of life.
- “I openly admit that I was surprised at how quickly we saw such large results” says Matthew Halpert PhD, Faculty with the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine and Senior Scientific Advisor.”
A 2018 study found that CBD can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis and the following year veterinarian Stephanie McGrath published a study showing CBD may help reduce the number of seizures experienced by epileptic dogs. But although these studies were well-designed and peer-reviewed, they're still small and very preliminary.
As part of her study, McGrath ran a simultaneous liver function test to make sure the dogs' livers weren't failing and everything came back normal, therefore it is unclear whether the elevated ALP levels were caused by something completely benign or could develop into a more serious problem long term.
- "I would definitely be a little concerned about giving CBD to a dog that has known liver issues," says McGrath. Similarly, because CBD appears to be metabolized by the liver, McGrath says she'd also be wary about giving CBD to a dog who already takes a medication that's metabolized by the liver. "We don't really know these things interact right now," she says.
Stephen Cital, a veterinary anesthesia & pain management specialist supports the use of CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis and has even had his own success story, using CBD to treat his own 11 year old mixed breed dog, who was having shaking in his back legs and a hard time getting up the stairs.
- “Within three days I noticed that his back leg stopped shaking.” Cital reports, recalling how his elderly dog was more able to walk up the stairs and play. Cital says he has seen many dogs in his practice see similar improvement with CBD. “You just see the life brought back into them... and [you] get a few more quality years out of them comfortably.”
The other big thing pet owners need to be aware of is quality control. Because the CBD market isn't well regulated yet, CBD products can contain ingredients that aren't listed on their labels -- including THC which is known to be toxic to cats and dogs.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.