Isolated seizures are common in dogs, and usually harmless. But canine epilepsy and other seizure-causing conditions can leave owners feeling helpless, with prescription drug courses often only working for limited periods, or causing undesirable side effects.

As a result, many are turning to CBD oil as an alternative treatment for canine seizures—but what exactly does CBD bring to the table?

What does the science say?

Research has focused on CBD’s seizure-preventing abilities

  • A 2019 human trial involving over 200 participants with epilepsy found that those taking 20mg of CBD twice daily experienced an average 42 percent drop in seizures.

  • The FDA has recently approved the first CBD-based drug for the treatment of two types of seizures in humans.

  • Research from Colorado State University has shown that dogs taking 2.5mg of CBD per kg of body weight are able to significantly reduce their seizure frequency, when compared to a placebo.

  • In that study, 89 percent of dogs taking CBD showed a reduction in seizure frequency, and the level of CBD in dogs’ blood was closely correlated with seizure frequency.

Here’s our in-depth review of the best CBD products for dogs.

Why does CBD affect seizures?

Unlocking the endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is found in humans, dogs, and almost all other mammals. It’s responsible for maintaining homeostasis across major organ systems, which means regulating things like temperature, inflammation, and internal pressure.

As a result, the ECS plays a role in modulating brain activity, including the onset of seizures.

CBD interacts with the body via CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system. While researchers still don’t know exactly how the interaction works, they do know that these receptors play an important role in controlling synaptic transmission and regulating how and when neurons fire.

CBD also shares some important metabolic pathways with anti-inflammatory drugs.

Through these receptors, CBD’s anti-inflammatory benefits increase the ECS’s ability to manage stability across the central nervous system and the brain. According to studies, the result appears to be a reduction in seizure frequency and intensity for most users.

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What’s the deal with traditional anti-seizure medications?

Researchers estimate that 30 to 40 percent of canine epilepsy cases are drug-resistant. This means that at least two different drugs have been tried, but all have failed to treat symptoms.

While occasional seizures in dogs aren’t usually treated with anticonvulsant medication, dogs experiencing more than one seizure per month, long epileptic episodes, or clusters of seizures, will be treated with drugs such as phenobarbital and potassium bromide.

These work by stimulating or inhibiting neural pathways in the brain, and may eliminate seizures, reduce their frequency, or reduce their duration. They may also lose effectiveness for unknown reasons.

Unfortunately, these drugs often come with long lists of common side effects. Liver toxicity can occur when taking phenobarbital, as well as blood cell loss. Sedation, increased appetite, and ataxia are also frequently noted effects.

Potassium bromide can also cause ataxia, sedation and excess food and water consumption.

What should owners do if their dog is experiencing seizures?

If you notice seizure-like symptoms in your dog, call your vet and record the symptoms with notes or videos. Pay attention to:

  • The parts of the body affected,
  • When the seizures occur,
  • How long they last, and
  • Any possible triggers.

This practice will boost you and your vet’s ability to diagnose your pet’s disorder. It may also help you work out if seizures have an environmental cause. Over time, you may be able to detect clear patterns between seizures and triggers.

After a seizure occurs, watch your pup closely. Some dogs will return to normal quite quickly, while others might move slowly or have trouble seeing. If disorientation or anxiety persists, a call to the vet is needed.

For dog parents dealing with frequent seizures, it can help to create a ‘seizure plan’ with clear steps to make things more manageable when an episode occurs. Make sure that:

  • The area surrounding dogs is clear and safe,
  • Nobody puts anything in dogs’ mouths,
  • Dogs are lightly supported without being held down, and
  • Dogs are comforted with calm, reassuring words.

It’s also important to remember that, although seizures are visually alarming, they’re not usually painful for your dog.

The tail end

CBD is already a mainstream treatment for select types of epilepsy in humans.

If your dog suffers from regular seizures and doesn’t respond to prescribed treatments, have a conversation with your vet about trying CBD.

Here are the best CBD oils for dogs with seizures.

The Best CBD Oils for Dogs 2021

The results are in. After months of research, here are the CBD oils for dogs we think are leading the pack.

See our top picks

Seizure types

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!