CBD oil for dog seizures

Whether caused by canine epilepsy, injuries, and other conditions, seizures are a common disorder for dogs. In fact, if you’re a dog owner, it’s likely you’ve seen your pet have at least one seizure.

With their sudden onset, unknown duration, and erratic movements, there’s no doubt these fits and convulsions are emotionally jarring for both you and your pup. It can be easy to feel helpless, and worry about the chances for further injury (such as a brain issue, lack of oxygen, or bumping their head.)

Adding to the uncertainty for owners is the unreliability and undesirable side effects of some prescription drug courses. What seemed to work for years may suddenly become ineffective, or now cause your dog to feel unwell.

As a result, many are turning to an alternative treatment for canine seizures: CBD oil. Early research on the cannabis extract has shown it to be an effective safeguard against seizure progression, as well as bringing a bunch of anti-inflammatory and anxiety reducing benefits to the table.

Seizures in Dogs

Canine epilepsy is the most common cause of doggo seizures, affecting close to one percent of all dogs. As in humans, epilepsy is defined as the presence of recurrent, unprovoked seizures due to some type of brain abnormality. The disease itself can be passed down genetically—due to some physiological feature of the brain—or arise from an unknown cause.

Less frequent and one-off seizures often have more local causes, such as a head injury or dehydration—the same goes for tremors or reactions to ingested toxic substances.

What Do Symptoms Look Like?

Seizures don’t have to result in full body convulsions. Symptoms can be smaller, localized, and fleeting. Like people, dogs will often enter altered states of consciousness pre and post attack, which can cause confusion, irritableness, unsteadiness, circling, as well as clumsiness.

During a fit, dogs can exhibit numerous worrying behaviors and symptoms. These can include (and may not be limited to):

  • unconsciousness

  • limb stiffening

  • drooling or foaming at the mouth

  • eye-rolling or fixed eyes

  • reaching and swiping

  • chewing

  • opening and closing their mouth, or

  • swallowing their tongue

Seizure types

What Can You Do?

If you notice any seizure-like symptoms in your dog, be sure to to record them with notes or a video. Pay attention to which body parts are affected, when seizures occur, any possible triggers, as well as how long they typically last.

This practice will boost you and your vet’s ability to diagnose your pet’s disorder, and possibly work out why seizures have begun to occur. Over time, you may be able to detect clear patterns between seizures and environmental triggers.

After a seizure occurs, be sure to watch your pup closely. Some dogs will return to normal quite quickly, while others might move slowly or have trouble seeing. If general disorientation and anxiety persist, a call to the vet is in order.

The underlying message here is that caring for a dog with consistent seizures is no easy task. So as a dog parent, it can help to construct habits (both mental and physical) to make things more manageable for yourself and your dog. For example, it’s useful to internalize the idea that, although seizures and visually alarming, they’re not physically painful to your dog. Understanding the value of being a calm and soothing presence for your pet is also important.

In addition, having a clear routine when seizures occur can help to keep worrying at bay. Make sure the area surrounding your dog is clear and safe—you don’t want any objects falling on them or having them fall a large distance. Do not try to put anything into her mouth (dogs cannot swallow or choke on their tongues during a seizure). Lightly support your dog from hitting any nearby objects, if necessary. And finally, be sure to stay vocal with some reassuring words.

Anti-Epileptic Medications

If you do suspect your dog has epilepsy, schedule a vet visit and follow their instructions. Never initiate a course of treatment on your own.

Typically, occasional seizures in dogs will not result in them being prescribed anticonvulsant medication. However, if your dog has more than one seizure per month, clusters of seizures that occur close to one another, or a particularly long or severe epileptic episode, anti-epileptic drugs may be recommended by your vet.

These drugs work by stimulating or inhibiting specific neural pathways in the brain—the two most common drugs being phenobarbital and potassium bromide.

Use of these drugs comes with common side-effects. Liver toxicity can occur when taking phenobarbital, as well as blood cell loss. Additionally, mild sedation, excess food and water consumption, and ataxia are also listed as common adverse side effects. Potassium bromide can also cause ataxia, sedation and excess food and water consumption.

Of course, these drugs do not always eliminate seizures completely, and many dog owners may find that their pup still experiences symptoms—although they may be reduced in frequency, intensity, or length.

Researchers estimate that about 30 to 40 percent of canine epilepsy cases are drug resistant (meaning that at least two different drugs have been administered, but have failed to treat any symptoms.)

Types of Epilepsy

Epilepsy in dogs is typically classified into 3 categories based on the presumed cause.

CBD
A New Treatment

Given that conventional prescription drug treatments for epilepsy and seizures do not work for all dogs, it’s unsurprising that many owners have turned to the benefits of CBD oil!

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of more than a hundred cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Unlike some cannabinoids, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning that it brings the benefits of the cannabis plant without a ‘high’ feeling.

For those with concerns about intoxication, most CBD products for animals are sourced from the hemp plant (rather than marijuana). Hemp contains miniscule amounts of psychoactive cannabinoids to begin with—nowhere near enough to produce a high.

Cannabidiol shares some important metabolic pathways with common anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Furthermore, research showing how CBD can help treat epilepsy is piling up, in humans and dogs. In fact, the FDA has recently approved the first CBD-based drug for the treatment of two types of seizures in humans.

Research from Colorado State has recently shown that treating with CBD oil (2.5mg per kg of bodyweight) can lead to a significant reduction in seizure frequency when compared to a placebo. Moreover, a presence of CBD in dogs’ blood was positively correlated with a reduction in the frequency of seizures. Of those in the CBD group, 89 percent showed a reduction in seizure frequency.

What does this mean for you? If your dog is struggling with epilepsy, and you feel like their current treatments aren’t cutting it, then CBD should absolutely be your next step. Ask your veterinarian, as well as any fellow dog parents, about their experiences with CBD treatment.

The science behind CBD

The precise biochemical mechanisms through which CBD reduces seizures are still being discovered. However, we know that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is in part responsible for modulating brain and seizure activity in humans and a variety of animals.

This ECS is common to almost all living things (save insects and some single cell organisms), and is responsible for helping to maintain the homeostasis of a variety of major organ systems. This includes the immune system, the brain, the nervous system, and the digestive systems.

It’s clear that cannabidiol’s effect on the ECS has a positive impact on the overall stability of these large organ systems, including the brain—so watch this space for new findings on the mysterious yet hugely positive relationship between CBD oil, the ECS, and seizures in dogs.

Summary

  • Despite their common occurrence in dogs of all breeds, traditional seizure medications and treatments are not always reliable.

  • For dogs with epilepsy (and their owners), this means dealing with an unpredictable and worrying disorder in the long-term.

  • A growing body of research into the relationship between seizures, the endocannabinoid system, and CBD oil, is showing positive benefits—both in seizure reduction and prevention.

  • It seems that CBD is ready to take a seat at the table when it comes to mainstream treatments for seizures in dogs!