Using CBD Oil for Canine Pain Management
Dr. Jo de Klerk Honours degree in Veterinary Medicine
Date Published: 2020-01-14
Date Updated: 2020-01-15
Dr Jo de Klerk talks about her opinions and experiences with CBD oil in veterinary practice
When I was a young vet, fresh out of veterinary college, I worked in the rural countryside of South-East England. Stereotypically, my client base was made up of a large proportion of country-folk with their trusty old Labrador gundogs, who would go out shooting on the weekends. As a result, I became very familiar with the Labrador dog breed, probably more so than other breeds. When I’d first see a young Labrador, they’d come bounding into my consult room with big smiles and wagging tails, but as they aged, I’d start seeing the pain set in. They’d have stiff expressions, and eyes that gazed off into space. Their gentle, biddable natures were telling them not to complain, but they were suffering in silence. The source of the pain was almost always arthritis, as the Labrador breed is prone to the debilitating condition at an earlier onset than other breeds. I would pull a bottle of anti-inflammatories off the shelf and hope that it was enough to improve their quality of life. Often it wasn’t.
I realized over the following years that I needed to learn more about pain relief options, over the conventional ones. The treatment I was offering was simply not enough. So, I proceeded to study a Certificate in Companion Animal Pain Management, as well as complete a course in Western Veterinary Acupuncture. The new knowledge I acquired was life changing and enabled me to be able to provide a much more holistic approach to pain management. I set up my own veterinary facility in early 2019, focusing on pain management and rehabilitation, and I saw many cases of painful conditions that required a holistic and multimodal approach to managing them.
Around the same time as opening my veterinary facility, CBD oil started to become more popular as a treatment modality for pets. At first, I was skeptical, but then I had a dog come to me called Dotty. Dotty was an elderly girl with severe arthritis of the elbows and hips, as well as liver, heart and kidney disease. Her conditions were relatively well managed with daily medications, apart from her arthritis. Because she had liver disease, it meant that most pain relief or anti-inflammatory drugs were contraindicated as they would worsen it. I tried acupuncture, physiotherapy and therapeutic massage for her, but it wasn’t enough, so I took the plunge and recommended CBD oil for the first time. The improvement in her pain was excellent.
Hemp products are becoming increasingly popular, and their medicinal uses are certainly now widely recognized. There are four different types of hemp products available; medical cannabis, cannabis oil, hemp oil and CBD oil. Out of those four products, hemp oil and CBD oil can be used safely in dogs, however only CBD oil has medicinal properties. CBD oil is derived from the stalks, buds and leaves of the plant Cannabis sativa. However, it doesn’t contain any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive substance present in cannabis. Therefore, dogs can have access to the medical benefits without feeling narcotized.
Between myself and my close colleagues, I have had the ability to use CBD oil in the treatment for dogs with behavioral problems, such as anxiety and stress, cancer, osteoarthritis and minimizing seizures, but I’ve been particularly impressed with the result of CBD on tackling pain. Pain is a sensation which is registered in the brain, but it starts in the peripheral body. The sensation follows a complex neurological journey from its origin, where it hurts, to the cerebrum of the brain. When a dog first comes into contact with a painful stimulus, a receptor creates an electrical signal in the nerves. Different types of receptors are triggered for different types of pain, but all receptors need a certain amount of a stimulus to be able to cross a threshold to create the signal. CBD works its action directly at the pain receptor level, so that more of a stimulus is needed to create a signal. As a result, there are fewer nerves triggered. Once the nerve is triggered, the signal is sent to the spinal cord, and then to the brain where it is processed. This then causes the body to react with inflammation, heightened emotions and movement away from the stimulus.
There’s still a lot of stigma around using CBD oil in animals in the veterinary profession. It’s something I’ve come across frequently from colleagues that I’ve worked with. This is because there are plenty of poor-quality oils on the market which have low CBD in or traceable levels of THC. This causes either poor results or dogs to experience psychotic effects. Buying an organic product with a certificate of analysis will prevent you from being ripped off. In fact, there are ones on the market which have been specifically formulated for dogs, and those are the ones I dispense to my patients.
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate in the UK, where I’m from, have been hesitant to sing the praises of CBD oil. They claim that CBD products fulfil the definition of a ‘veterinary medicine’ and therefore should be regulated and treated as one. Therefore, owners should not be self-diagnosing and buying CBD oil from the local pharmacy, but instead only buying it directly from their veterinarian.
Over the next few years, I hope to see more veterinarians and clients become open to the idea of using CBD oil as a treatment modality for their dog’s pain, as I have been delighted with the results I have been experiencing in my patients who cannot have conventional pain relief, or who have no more options for pain relief. The pain relief can be profound and as a result, many animals can have an opportunity at a new lease of life. So, if you think it might be helpful for your dog’s pain, don’t hesitate to speak to your veterinarian today!