In idiopathic (suspected genetic) epilepsy we can control the seizures with antiepileptic medication, but complete cure is rare. We consider that the disease is under control if the seizure frequency is reduced by more than 50% (for example, a dog that has seizures twice or three times a month could be expected to have a frequency of one seizure a month with medication or less). Sometimes more than one drug is needed to achieve a good control, however some animals may be refractory to medication.
It is likely that your dog has been prescribed antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) to control the seizure, but, is there anything else you could do to help control of epilepsy?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an extract of the cannabis plant. CBD is associated with pain relief and seizure control in human studies and it is the main ingredient in many cannabis pet products.
Whether CBD supplementation significantly reduces seizures in epileptic dogs is yet to be proven; however scientific studies suggest that it may be helpful in certain cases.
A recent study evaluated CBD derived from a hemp plant that contains less than 0.3% of the psychoactive component THC. Epileptic dogs in this study were divided in 2 groups, one group receiving 2.5mg per kilogram of CBD oil twice a day, and the other group receiving placebo (no CBD). Dogs were evaluated for 12 weeks in a double-blinded cross-over study. Dogs’ owners in the CBD group reported an average of 33% reduction in seizure frequency, compared with the placebo group. However, the proportion of dogs considered responders to treatment (≥ 50% decrease in seizure activity) was similar between groups. Another interesting finding is that higher blood concentrations of CBD correlated with a higher seizure control.
Side effects reported were inco-ordination in 2 dogs, but no behavioural changes were observed, and the CBD oil was very well tolerated at the provided doses. A larger study is ongoing to determine the optimal dose of CBD oil for dogs and what effect that would have in seizure reduction.
When using CBD oil for your pet, care should be taken, due to the lack of regulation in CBD products marketed for dogs: CBD can be toxic at high doses, and not knowing the exact constituents and quantities of those constituents in a particular product is dangerous.
With the publication of new studies, it is hoped that a safe and effective dose of CBD could be determined for dogs with epilepsy. CBD may be particularly useful to treat dogs that are resistant to other anti-epileptic medications, providing another step towards the successful treatment of canine epilepsy.