Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common ailment in dogs, affecting as many as 25 percent of all canines over the course of their lives. If your pooch has lost some of the spring in her step, seems to have more stiffness after regular activity or shows a reluctance to do things she used to enjoy, OA 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 she ages.
This article takes a close look at the role CBD oil may play in a veterinarian-approved treatment plan for OA, 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.
If you want to know if CBD oil can help your dog with arthritis, we hope this article will assist you in making an informed decision as well as give you a starting point for a conversation with your vet about safe treatment options for your furry friend.
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 the research they looked at 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 owners 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 OA 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, they are also found in surprising concentrations in degenerated chondrocytes (joint cells) in human OA 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 progression of pain associated with OA. This is big news for sufferers of osteoarthritis, 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 this natural plant may have for our pets’ health.
One of the most relevant studies that owners 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 OA at an oral dosage of either 2 mg or 8 mg per pound 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 2 mg-per-pound dose effectively reduced the dogs’ visible signs of pain and significantly improved their activity and mobility.
Is CBD Safe for Dogs with Osteoarthritis?
Significantly, in the study cited above, no side effects of treatment were observed at either dose. 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 OA?
One other question many dog owners have about the use of hemp or CBD oil has to do with the safety of a full-spectrum CBD oil for their dog. As might be inferred from the term, 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 contains 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 owners report that a full-spectrum CBD oil was more effective 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 with arthritis, it might be time to talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of adding a full-spectrum CBD oil for dogs, such as LolaHemp, to your companion’s daily supplements to help safely ease the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis in dogs.
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 the 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.