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CBD for Dog Seizures and Epilepsy: What Science Says

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on April 17, 2024 by Dogster Team

giving CBD oil to dog

CBD for Dog Seizures and Epilepsy: What Science Says

Watching your beloved dog have a seizure is a scary and highly distressing ordeal for you and your dog. Luckily there are treatments available that can reduce the frequency and severity of your dog’s seizures. However, these medications often don’t stop the attacks entirely, with some having potentially serious side effects. So, what about a more “natural” alternative?

CBD has been in the mouths of every health fanatic for a few years and is touted as a wonder drug to treat a whole host of different conditions. As we discuss in this article, there is the potential for CBD to complement other anti-seizure drugs in dogs, but more research is ultimately needed.

Is CBD a valid alternative or additional treatment for dogs suffering from epilepsy? Studies show promising evidence that CBD reduces the frequency and severity of seizures in dogs suffering from epilepsy.

dogster face divider What Is Epilepsy in Dogs?

Types of Epilepsy In Dogs (by causes or etiology):
  • An abnormality in the brain (structural epilepsy)
  • A genetic inheritance (genetic epilepsy)
  • An unknown cause (idiopathic epilepsy)

Dogs can suffer from different types of seizures, which can be incredibly frightening and disabling experiences.

sick dog
Image Credit: Igor Normann, Shutterstock
The two main classifications of seizures dogs suffer from are:
  • Focal seizures: Characterized by jerking movements or stiffness in specific body parts/ one side of the body, Unusual behavior (such as “fly-catching,” moaning, barking, or swaying), hallucinations, balance problems, and dilated pupils. Focal seizures stem from electrical misfiring in one part of the brain, which is why they’re also known as partial seizures.
  • Generalized seizures: They are the most common seizure type, involving seizure activity across the entire brain. Symptoms of a generalized seizure include loss of consciousness, confusion (often in the period before and after a seizure – pre/post-ictal phase, also seen in focal seizures), uncontrolled jerking movement, urination/defecation, vomiting, and foaming at the mouth.

Seizures only usually last a few minutes, but some may last longer or occur close together.

Safety Tip: If your dog has a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes or attacks that are close together without regaining consciousness (status epilepticus), you MUST seek emergency veterinary treatment. These seizures can be fatal.

How Can CBD Help Dogs With Epilepsy and Seizures?

From a purely objective perspective, cannabidiol (CBD) has not been researched enough to say it can definitively reduce or improve seizures in dogs.

Idiopathic epilepsy, epilepsy with no discernible cause, is the most common cause of seizures in dogs. With estimates putting the number of dogs suffering from epilepsy in the US at 0.75% of the canine population, this equates to approximately one in every 100 dogs having been diagnosed with epilepsy and one in 20 dogs having a seizure at some point in their lives.

There’s anecdotal evidence available that’s supportive of the use of CBD oil in epileptic dogs, but a few promising recent studies have shown that CBD oil can reduce the length and frequency of seizures (33% reduction in “seizure days” in one study) in dogs when used in conjunction with other anti-seizure medications (such as Phenobarbital).

vet examines dog
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

How Does CBD Work in Dogs?

Cannabidiols work in the brain by binding with the ECS (the endocannabinoid system), which controls various bodily functions such as pain response, immune response, and inflammatory response. 

While we can’t be sure how this interaction reduces seizures, CBD seems to affect the neurons in the brain and has a protective effect on the brain cells during an attack. These effects seem to happen because of the binding of CBD to C1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

Is CBD Safe for Dogs?

The consensus is that CBD is safe for dogs, as studies have shown that administration of CBD has little to no side effects at specific doses, but the total safety of CBD has yet to be confirmed.

Veterinary institutions like the American Kennel Club are conducting studies into the safety of CBD in dogs, with no current outcomes. However, other studies found no observable side effects in the tested dogs. 

While CBD is seen as safe, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the component of cannabis that causes the “high,” is toxic to dogs. There have been some reported side effects of CBD administered to dogs, but they are typically mild and include nausea, diarrhea, and ataxia ( involuntary shaking).

dog taking CBD oil
Image Credit: Aleksey Boyko, Shutterstock

How Much CBD Should I Give My Dog for Seizures?

The dosages mentioned in recent studies indicate a safe yet effective amount of CBD oil to be 2 mg/kg of body weight per 12 hours or 4 mg/kg per day. The dosage should be adjusted according to your dog’s size and the individual product used. It is also very important to know the concentration of a product before administering it to your dog.

What Type of CBD Should I Give My Dog?

Research shows a full-spectrum hemp extract is the best option for pups suffering from epileptic seizures due to the other beneficial compounds found in cannabis. Ensure any product you buy comes with a certificate of analysis so you can be sure a full spectrum CBD contains minimal THC.

Oils are concentrated solutions of CBD in a carrier oil, which can be trickier to give to dogs but are more potent. Biscuits and treats infused with CBD are also available, and while much easier to give in the correct dosage, they may not be as powerful.

sick german shepherd dog lying on the floor
Image Credit: Taisya Korchak, Shutterstock

Are There Any Breeds That Can’t Have CBD?

While no specified breeds should avoid CBD, all dogs have more receptors that bind to the CBD than humans do, so low doses are always recommended at the start of treatment.

Will My Dog Get High?

This is a question often asked by concerned owners, and the good news is no, your dog will not get high from CBD. CBD products don’t contain THC, which is the only compound found in cannabis that has psychoactive effects (out of 113) and is the compound responsible for causing the “high.”

TCH can be dangerous for dogs as it is proven to be toxic and highly distressing for pets under its influence. Don’t be tempted to use non-certified or low-quality CBD products (and don’t ever give your dog pure cannabis plants either).

divider-paw

Conclusion

While there is no concrete evidence that CBD is safe to use on your dog at home for treating epilepsy and seizures, there are promising studies and anecdotal evidence of its usefulness in relieving debilitating symptoms.

See also: 


Featured Image Credit: 24K-Production, Shutterstock

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