CBD Shows Early Promise for Aging Pets

CBD Shows Early Promise for Aging Pets

Mandy was 16 years old, which would have made her 112, depending on which scale you use, when she tried something new for her crippling leukemia.

Chronic leukemia in dogs is heartbreaking to see. Its symptoms can include a loss of appetite, lethargy, anxiety, increased thirst and urination, and swelling in the abdomen. Mandy faced a hard end, which would’ve eventually made for a hard decision for her owner, Christine Leogrande, from Utica, New York.

Leogrande sought pet products that would ease Mandy’s discomfort and pain and help promote a healthy life so their cherished time together could continue. Looking for guidance from experts, Leogrande turned to her veterinarian, who mentioned CBD oil to her, as had people in a rescue group she belongs to. Hopeful for results, she ordered CBD oil drops and began trying them.

Leogrande says the difference in Mandy has been noticeable. “It has increased her appetite, and made her less restless and less anxious,” she says. “It may be helping with her mobility as well.”

Leogrande is not alone. A growing number of pet owners are looking for products infused with CBD. And a growing number of retailers are rising to meet market demand. These retailers, many of them online, offer an array of pet products with CBD, including tinctures, capsules, powders, chewies and treats. 

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), in 1994, Americans spent $17 billion on their pets. By 2017, that number grew to $69.51 billion. The APPA estimates that spending could surpass $96 billion in sales by 2020, setting the stage for an increased demand in natural pet products.

Pet owners are hopeful CBD could be beneficial to help manage pain from arthritis and other conditions, reduce epileptic seizures, alleviate separation anxiety, expand mobility, improve cognitive function and lessen insomnia. As CBD breaks into the mainstream, some of the earliest adopters have been dog owners and their pups. They won’t be leading the pack for long, though. As more research surfaces, a variety of pets may benefit.

“Vets everywhere are dealing with pet parents reaching out to them for information,” says Dr. Casara Andre, a veterinarian and founder of Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting, based in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. “We were seeing this huge need and tried to address that need in our community. 

There are so many positive stories and anecdotal evidence about using cannabis in veterinary medicine.”

For many pet owners whose animals suffer from debilitating diseases or conditions, CBD-infused products may offer a shot at helping to alleviate their loved ones’ pain and discomfort. And new research is increasingly coming to light.

Emerging Evidence 

One example of such research is a new study called “Efficacy of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Epilepsy in Dogs,” led by Dr. Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. McGrath initially decided to pursue this line of research after receiving frequent calls from clients and other veterinarians with questions about CBD.

Based on her study, McGrath found that 89 percent of dogs who received CBD in a clinical trial had a reduction in the frequency of seizures.

Although more research may have been done on the benefits of CBD for dogs with seizures, these benefits may also project positively for our feline companions. Humans, dogs, cats and other animals all have common endocannabinoid systems in their bodies, which have receptors that are responsive to CBD. Seizures are caused by disrupted electrical activity in the brain, and CBD has been demonstrated to restore order to these neural pathways.

Although cannabis pet products come in a variety of formulations, Andre recommends choosing a tincture or liquid formulation to start. “Tinctures are the easiest products to work with because they allow pet parents and the veterinary health care team to start really low and creep up slowly in dosage based on how the pet responds,” she says.

How can pet owners get their pets to take CBD? Some early adopters use a CBD tincture or oil and apply a few drops under their pets’ tongues. This method of delivery is intended to optimize the CBD’s bioavailability, which means it will be more readily usable for the animal.

However, some pet owners may have trouble prying open their pet’s mouth and getting the pet to cooperate. In this situation, another option is to add drops of CBD oil onto the pet’s food. Pet owners can also give their pet a treat with CBD already incorporated. Keep in mind, however, that because CBD added to food or treats has to pass through the digestive tract, it may need longer to take effect. Consult your veterinarian before beginning a CBD regimen for your pet.

Stephanie Farrar, owner of The Canine Cookie Company, an online wholesale and retail operation with a brick-and-mortar store in McKinney, Texas, recently developed a dog treat that contains approximately 15 mg of CBD per cookie.

“People are giving me feedback that their dogs are moving again; they’re not in pain; their arthritis is not the issue that it was,” Farrar says. “The CBD pet product category is growing by leaps and bounds.”

And, Farrar says, that’s probably good news for aging pets.

“Our store does birthday cakes for dogs who are 12, 14, 15 years old and higher,” Farrar continues. “You don’t have to write your friends off.”

Longtime pet owners know the heartache of seeing pets aging with discomfort, particularly arthritis, which causes the animals to move slowly and with great difficulty. They can even hurt to the touch.

“Dogs age just like we do,” Farrar says. “They get arthritis, they get aches and pains; they get dementia too. They get some of the other problems that we get as humans. By calming them and relieving their inflammation and their pain, you are making for a happier dog. It’s about quality of life.”

Farrar’s own dog, Wally, is nearly 14 years old. “We thought a year-and-a-half ago we would have to put him down, because his arthritis was crippling,” she says. “We had a daughter in Colorado and we started buying CBD and bringing it home for Wally. We started to see vast improvement in Wally. That is when I became bent on making my own CBD pet product.”

Desperate to find something that could help Wally, Farrar was ecstatic with what she observed from CBD. 

“Your pet is your best friend,” Farrar says. “You won’t get that kind of unconditional love from anyone but your pet. We love our pets, and we would do anything for them. Just like they’d do anything for us.”

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of CBD Snapshot. Never miss a story; subscribe today!

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