An Imperfect Science (So Far)
A recent report from the American Pet Products Association shows that Americans spent almost $70 billion on companion animals in 2017, up almost 5 percent from 2016. More than $17 billion of that total was spent on veterinary care alone. Some replied to the study by wondering whether that money couldn’t be more effectively spent on more human-specific altruistic concerns. But for the estimated 85 million U.S. homes with at least one pet, it’s money well spent. The payoff is a lifetime of unconditional love, loyal companionship and the sense of community you build with other animal lovers, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when your furbaby starts to lose mobility, eyesight or hearing or shows declining mental faculties as they grow older.
According to HempBizJournal.com, total hemp sales last year came to $820 million, almost a quarter of which—$190 million—was spent on hemp-derived CBD products. Not bad for an industry that basically didn’t exist five years ago. While the site makes no connection between stats for human-use CBD and animal-use CBD (primarily for dogs and cats), the money being generated by the growing animal-use CBD market is substantial, even though it is a small percentage of the total CBD market.
Ailments in dogs (and other animals) being targeted with CBD in oil, cream, pill or infused-treat form mirror those being targeted in humans: arthritis, anxiety, seizures, epilepsy and inflammation, to name a few. If you’ve taken CBD yourself, you know the quality of relief possible in humans, but the research into the effectiveness of canine CBD therapy shows . . . basically nothing. The industry is that new.
Research into CBD treatment for elderly animals is beginning in earnest, though. Scientists at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University are currently conducting tests involving the use of CBD in canine epilepsy, and while it’s still very early in the trial, results are promising; according to California State University neurologist Dr. Stephanie McGrath, 89 percent of pooches studied experienced reduced epileptic activity as a result of CBD treatment.
So, considering the current lack of credible, long-term scientific research on the benefits and risks of CBD in our canine friends, most evidence surrounding canine CBD is anecdotal and not empirical, and since I’m not a veterinarian, just a doting doggie daddy, . . . meet Noodle.
A female purebred miniature poodle, Noodle was born in Texas and relocated four months later to New York City’s East Village, where she’s lived for the past 15 years. She’s been healthy all her life, aside from a few minor medical issues that are unavoidable, regardless of where a dog calls home. About a year ago, she began staring into space, sitting in the corner, walking in circles and crouching down on her front paws and looking up in the air as though seeing something flying back and forth, symptoms of what the American Kennel Club describes on their website (AKC.org) as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). She also apparently suffers occasional petit mal seizures. Having read about CBD use for pediatric and canine epilepsy—and having used CBD myself for relaxation and joint pain—I decided to give it a try with Noodle. So far, the results have been good! Here’s what we’ve found:
Noodle’s Tips for Canine CBD Use
Do Your Research
While information about the actual, real-world effect of CBD on elderly dogs is lacking, you will find information about potency, dosage, effects and risks of canine CBD use online (generally from canine-use CBD companies, none of which was contacted for this article). Hunt this information down. Read it. Be curious, and be skeptical. If you read something that doesn’t sound quite right, seek out a second source. Or a third. Or a fourth. If possible, buy your CBD in a brick-and-mortar store instead of online. Employees at most stores will be happy to answer your questions, but again, be wary of what you hear, especially if a salesperson is giving answers that are vague or unrelated to your questions. If you aren’t satisfied with their knowledge, go somewhere else.
Oil, Capsules or Treats?
The way you give your dog CBD is crucial to safe and effective treatment. I’ve opted to give Noodle CBD oil. Again, finding the proper dosage is key; you don’t want to give your dog half a dropper’s worth of CBD oil that’s meant to be administered one or two drops at a time. Depending where you buy it, CBD oil can be pricey, but I find that the extra control that an eyedropper gives me over caps and pre-made dog treats is worth the expense. And while, as with human use, taking CBD oil on or under the tongue is the most effective way for your dog to absorb it, whatever you do, do not stick the eyedropper in your dog’s mouth. One quick twitch when an anxious or unprepared dog clamps its jaws can break the dropper, resulting in a mouthful of sharp shards of glass or plastic and a most unpleasant trip to the vet. (Pro tip: I use the eyedropper to dose Noodle’s favorite treat, the puppy-size dog biscuit. I have one or two made up with about 2 mg to 3 mg of CBD already soaked in for when a seizure has started or is obviously on the way. I keep these safely away from her normal treats so I don’t dose her by accident.)
Find Your Dog’s Dosage
This is where CBD can get confusing, for both human and animal use. CBD comes in different concentrations. A general rule of thumb is about 5 mg of CBD for every 20 pounds of canine body weight, but your dog’s physical build and even the amount of food in their stomach will factor in as well. A dosage chart should be on the side of the packaging or in the instructions. Start out small, and take the time to learn what’s right for your canine friend. (Pro tip: A “dropper’s worth” of anything is not the entire volume of the shaft. Place the tip of the dropper into whatever liquid you’re using, squeeze the rubber bulb, and let it go. The amount drawn into the dropper is a dropper’s worth. The quantity of liquid is determined by the size of the rubber bulb, not the dropper itself!)
See What Happens
Don’t be surprised if a mainstream vet tries to discourage you from giving your dog CBD in
any form. CBD use is still in its infancy as far as the federal government is concerned. (Pro tip: Try keeping a medication diary, both for your own education and to bring along if you decide to consult a vet or holistic animal doctor. Make note of the reason(s) you’re giving your pet CBD, such as seizures or anxiety. Note the CBD’s strength, the time it’s administered, how long it takes to affect your dog and how long the effect lasts.)
The more time, effort and money that scientists and pet owners spend studying the effects of canine-use CBD, the better we’ll be able to realize its benefits. And that’s a small enough price to pay for the pets we love so much.