Cannabis sativa is a species of plant that contains over 113 compounds, including THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and cannabidiol or (CBD). THC is the compound that is responsible for the “high” feeling and is TOXIC to the dog. CBD may have medicinal properties and is currently under research at Colorado State University for its use in dogs.
The theory behind how CBD works is slightly complex. But let’s take a look. Dogs have an endocannabinoid system which includes receptors throughout the body. These receptors, are sites where the CBD molecule can bind and stimulate cellular activators. So, CBD binds to a receptor that causes the release of other molecules that regulate physiologic processes including pain, mood, inflammation, stress, and the like. These molecules or cellular activators include serotonin and dopamine.
Interestingly, CBD also blocks certain genetic signaling which decreases cancer cell reproduction. In other words possibly and anti-cancer drug.
There is potential for CBD to help improve many conditions such as: Allergies, anxiety, arthritis, cancer, seizures, and a number of other health issues.
Phase one of the research into CBD involved a safety study completed in 2016. It was determined that oil tinctures were the most reliable for absorption as compared to capsules and transdermal gels. Although some dogs developed intestinal upset and mild liver enzyme elevation; it was determined the drug was safe for further study.
The first two studies started were on epilepsy patients and osteoarthritis patients. These studies involved smaller group size of about 30 patients each. At this time the studies are not complete, but results appear promising. Further studies, involving much larger group sizes, have been started with funding from the AKC Canine Health Foundation.
Meanwhile there are numerous anecdotal accounts of patients improving with the use of CBD oil for various maladies.
At this point CBD is federally illegal and not available as a regulated product that veterinarians could recommend or dispense. Veterinarians can give opinions about the use of CBD if the use is in the context of the patient-practitioner relationship.
Cannabis is an unregulated industry at this point. What this means is that products have no guarantee of the quality or quantity of the ingredients they contain.
The potential upside of CBD is huge, but more regulation and research is needed to attain a medical grade product that is safe and predictable.