Loving and caring for a dog with canine cognitive dysfunction If your senior dog is showing behavioral changes, it may be Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), dementia in dogs. Can CBD help your dog with dementia?
6 Reasons NOT to Give CBD Oil to Your Dog with Dementia
The plant cannabis, which provides both hemp and marijuana, has a complex chemical makeup. Besides providing many practical products in the hemp form, it contains more than 100 “cannabinoids.” These are psychoactive chemical compounds, i.e., they affect the brain. A major compound is cannabidiol, or CBD.
The molecular structure of the chemical CBD
Some people recommend CBD oil for senior dogs. This is with the intent of treating symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction, anxiety, and more. Please be aware that in doing so they are making a medical recommendation. If they don’t have veterinary credentials, this is against the law in most countries. The Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. regularly warns the companies selling CBD oil for people and dogs that they must not market them as medications. The list below will tell you why.
Here are some reasons to think twice about adding CBD to your senior dog’s meds.
1. CBD oil has not been tested as a treatment for dementia in dogs. This one reason should be enough. Do you want to experiment on your dog with a substance that may affect their brain? Research on the many compounds from the cannabis plant is still in its infancy. There has been some progress, but it hasn’t gotten to dogs yet. So far, there are findings that CBD may provide mild help for humans with chronic pain, pain from multiple sclerosis, and with nausea from chemotherapy. There are indications that it might help with epileptic seizures. However, there is as yet no evidence that cannabinoids help with human dementia.
But even if there were evidence for CBD helping humans with dementia, we can’t assume that it works for dogs. Some helpful drugs for humans are actually toxic to dogs.
There are several clinical trials with cannabis going on for dogs. They are not for dementia or anxiety. One is for dogs with epileptic seizures. It does look promising. Here is a link to the clinical trial from Colorado State University, and here is an article about the study. Note that until the study is completed and replicated, there is not enough evidence even for this use of CBD. The two others, both for joint pain and arthritis, are through Cornell University and Colorado State. They are also said to be promising, and the Colorado State one will soon be published.
One peer-reviewed study published recently reported the testing of CBD for noise-induced fear in dogs. The CBD was used by itself and in combination with the prescription drug trazodone. The CBD not only didn’t show any fear-reducing or relaxing effects, it actually appeared to lower the efficacy of trazodone when used in combination.
2. Quality control for CBD products is poor. Some products advertised as having CBD oil don’t have a trace of the oil in them at all. Some products were contaminated with other compounds. The ones that do have it contain hugely varying amounts compared to each other. Here are the warning letters sent out by the FDA in 2015, 2016, and 2017 to CBD oil companies in violation of the law. They received the warnings because there was no CBD in the product, there was contamination with other substances, or because they made illegal claims. Buyer beware!
3. Safe dosages have not yet been determined. This is an offshoot of #1 but merits its own section. We often don’t realize all the things research needs to tell us. When a substance is studied, the research goes far beyond whether it “works.” It has to be determined whether the substance has any adverse effects or drug interactions (see #4). Dosage needs to be figured out. Some cannabinoids are toxic to dogs at certain dosages. For instance, this article reports the deaths of two dogs from marijuana-infused butter. Here is a large study of the toxic effects of marijuana (not CBD) in dogs. While cannabidiol is thought to be less toxic than some other compounds in marijuana, there is still a risk from amounts or contaminants, especially if you are buying from a company who has been cited in the past.
4. Interactions with other drugs and supplements are unknown. Senior dogs, with or without dementia, are sometimes on several medications and/or supplements. Veterinarians keep our dogs safe from negative effects because they know about drug interactions. With the exception of the one study mentioned above that showed an undesirable interaction with trazodone, the statistical information for CBD simply isn’t there yet.
5. Drugs that affect the brain and neurological system affect individuals very differently. Don’t forget: CBD oil affects the brain. Many psychoactive drugs have different effects on individuals. This is true for people and for dogs. Many people have to try several different antidepressants before finding one that works. The “wrong” antidepressant can make depression worse. Likewise, my fearful dog who takes medication didn’t do well on the first one we tried but did on the second. It’s unlikely that there is a “one size fits all” solution with this kind of drug.
6. When we try a remedy, we tend to be biased about it. We all want to believe that we are free from bias, but it is a hard thing to achieve. When we invest our time and money on a solution for a beloved dog, we desperately want it to work. There is a specific bias that pops up easily in this situation called “regression to the mean.” The way this works is that many diseases and conditions have symptoms that come and go, get worse, then better again. We typically look for help when our dogs are going through a hard time. Then whatever intervention we have chosen is likely to look effective. This is because what naturally happens after the symptoms have bottomed out for a while is that the dog gets better (for a while). Then we attribute it to the therapy we started, when actually there may not have been any relationship at all. Besides regression to the mean, there is also the placebo effect. Not for the dogs, but for the people. When we give medications, we believe they work, even if the evidence doesn’t necessarily say so. This has been shown to happen to dog owners and even vets regarding whether a certain medication worked.
For more information on how our brains are automatically biased in certain situations, check out Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow. It has many, many examples.
Natural Treatment of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Many natural remedies and supplements are available that claim to help dogs with dementia. But only a few have been shown to work in clinical studies. Check out the treatment page on this blog for a list. And most important, talk to your vet before even considering trying these supplements. Supplements are made of chemicals, just like prescription drugs, only are much less controlled. Supplements can interfere with each other and with prescription medications. Only your vet can tell you if they are safe for your individual dog.
But It Worked for My Dog!
As noted above in #6, most of us are hopeful when we try a new treatment for ourselves, a human loved one, or our dog. What usually happens, because of regression to the mean and confirmation bias, is that we perceive a benefit right away. Then it seems to dwindle. How many times have you seen someone report, “This treatment helped at first but it’s not helping anymore.” It may not have been helping at all; it could just appear to help from the timing.
If you are serious about testing a medical intervention or supplement for dementia, work with your vet. And be sure you keep a journal of your dog’s symptoms starting before you give them the treatment. That will give you an objective measure as a benchmark to help you determine whether your dog is actually improving.
Copyright 2018 Eileen Anderson
Green vials photo from Canstock photo.
Capsules photo copyright Eileen Anderson.
Cannabidiol molecular diagram courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and can be found here.
Two photos of dried cannabis courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and can be found here.
This blog by a credentialed veterinarian tracks the claims and progress made about using cannabis on pets. Here is his latest article, and note it links to an earlier one. He is good to follow because he will update the info as research becomes available.
Colorado Researchers Studying CBD Oil In Dogs. Retrieved from http://denver.cbslocal.com/2018/05/18/colorado-cbd-oil-dogs/
Conzemius, M. G., & Evans, R. B. (2012). Caregiver placebo effect for dogs with lameness from osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 241(10), 1314-1319.
Devinsky, O., Cross, J. H., Laux, L., Marsh, E., Miller, I., Nabbout, R., … & Wright, S. (2017). Trial of cannabidiol for drug-resistant seizures in the Dravet syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine, 376(21), 2011-2020.
Efficacy of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Epilepsy in Dogs retrieved from http://csu-cvmbs.colostate.edu/vth/veterinarians/clinical-trials/Pages/efficacy-of-cannabidiol-for-the-treatment-of-epilepsy-in-dogs.aspx
Ellevet Sciences: For Veterinarians. Information on clinical trial for osteo-arthritis and joint pain treated with CBD oil. Retrieved from https://ellevetsciences.com/pages/for-vets
Janczyk, P., Donaldson, C. W., & Gwaltney, S. (2004). Two hundred and thirteen cases of marijuana toxicoses in dogs. Veterinary and human toxicology, 46(1), 19-20.
Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan.
Krishnan, S., Cairns, R., & Howard, R. (2009). Cannabinoids for the treatment of dementia. The Cochrane Library.
Machado Rocha, F. C., Stefano, S. C., De Cassia Haiek, R., Rosa Oliveira, L. M. Q., & Da Silveira, D. X. (2008). Therapeutic use of Cannabis sativa on chemotherapy‐induced nausea and vomiting among cancer patients: systematic review and meta‐analysis. European journal of cancer care, 17(5), 431-443.
Martín-Sánchez, E., Furukawa, T. A., Taylor, J., & Martin, J. L. R. (2009). Systematic review and meta-analysis of cannabis treatment for chronic pain. Pain medicine, 10(8), 1353-1368.
Meola, S. D., Tearney, C. C., Haas, S. A., Hackett, T. B., & Mazzaferro, E. M. (2012). Evaluation of trends in marijuana toxicosis in dogs living in a state with legalized medical marijuana: 125 dogs (2005–2010). Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 22(6), 690-696.
Morris, E. M., Kitts-Morgan, S. E., Spangler, D. M., McLeod, K. R., Costa, J. H., & Harmon, D. L. (2020). The Impact of Feeding Cannabidiol (CBD) Containing Treats on Canine Response to a Noise-Induced Fear Response Test. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7, 690.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. National Academies Press. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/24625/chapter/1
Skeptvet Blog: “Presentation on Cannabis for Pets.” Retrieved from http://skeptvet.com/Blog/2018/03/presentation-on-cannabis-for-pets/
Thompson, G. R., Rosenkrantz, H., Schaeppi, U. H., & Braude, M. C. (1973). Comparison of acute oral toxicity of cannabinoids in rats, dogs and monkeys. Toxicology and applied pharmacology, 25(3), 363-372.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: Dementia in Dogs
When your dog enters their senior years, you may notice a change in their behavior. It can be tough to spot at first, but if your senior dog is showing behavioral changes, it may be time to take them to the vet to find out if they have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). CCD is also known as dementia in dogs, sundowners, or “dogzheimers” but all are terms for the same cognitive issues.
If your dog is diagnosed with CCD, it can be heartbreaking. Nobody likes to see their best friend suffer, and as your pet ages, you may feel helpless. But, you can help make your pet’s twilight years comfortable by knowing the symptoms of CCD, minimizing stress, and adding all natural supplements to your pet’s regimen.
Table of Contents
Signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or Dementia in Dogs
Recognizing CCD or dementia in dogs is not quite as straightforward as it is in humans. Your dog cannot tell you that they forgot something, they cannot tell you that they are scared or worried or don’t know where they are. So as your pet ages, it is important to pay attention to their habits and routines so that you can know when something is off, and recognize the presence of dementia in dogs.
Since there is no easy test to diagnose a dog with CCD, it is important that you write down any observations you have made and bring that paper to the vet.
Disorientation and Increased Anxiety
One sign of CCD or dementia in dogs is that you may notice your dog pacing behind closed doors. The reason for the pacing is usually due to being lost. They may not remember how to exit the room or might not remember the home at all. You may also notice them gazing into space; almost as if they are staring into the wall. This could be a house they have lived in for years. They may simply not recognize it, due to a declining mental state.
This will understandably lead to increased anxiety. Think about what would happen if we were completely lost and didn’t know where we were or where to go. We would become anxious ourselves. Excessive anxious barking may occur. You know your dog’s bark and what each one means. You may hear anxious or nervous barking, along with some possible howling, signs of their distress.
Lack of Bowel Control
Another sign of CCD or dementia in dogs is a lack of bowel control. Even if your dog has the best track record for using the bathroom outside, they might start having accidents inside the house. Stay calm if this occurs; this isn’t their fault. They may lose control of their bowels due to anxiety or another underlying condition. Comfort your dog and let them know everything is going to be okay. If you remain optimistic, they are more likely to remain optimistic.
Changes in Appetite
You may also notice a decrease or increase in appetite with CCD or dementia in dogs. Usually, this is due to increased anxiety, but it could also be that due to their CCD, they just forget to eat. They may not eat until they remember, or they may eat if you place their food bowl directly in front of them.
Changes in Hearing and/or Vision
It is important to note that changes in hearing or vision can cause some of the same symptoms as CCD or dementia in dogs. For example, a dog who is losing hearing or vision may become disoriented and may have increased anxiety as a result. Have your vet test for hearing and vision problems to rule out CCD or dementia in dogs.
Supporting Dogs With Dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
There is no cure for dementia in dogs or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. However, there are ways that you can help keep your pet comfortable and slow their decline.
Minimizing Stress for Dogs With Dementia
Maintaining a regular routine is important for CCD or dementia in dogs. A routine can help your dog maintain a sense of calm and balance, even if they have trouble remembering the routine. In addition, it can soothe their anxiety to listen to soft music and exercise regularly.
Another tip for dogs with dementia, incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into their diet can also help brain-health. Full Spectrum – Hemp Extract is one option which is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which contribute to brain health. Additionally, essential oils, like lavender, can provide a calming effect and can help senior dogs with dementia feel comfortable.
It is important that you consult your veterinarian (we recommend a holistic vet when possible) to discuss supplements that can help slow decline and to discuss all of your options for dementia in dogs.
CBD For Dementia in Dogs
CBD has been shown to help animals with many symptoms and ailments, from seizures to anxiety to pain, and even neurological issues in dogs. In fact, the U.S. government has a patent on cannabis as a neuro-protectant .
CBD has been shown to help brain function. This review showed how CBD can provide symptomatic relief for Alzheimer’s, stating “Recent studies using an AD mouse model have suggested that CBD can reverse cognitive deficits”. CBD has also been shown to help ease anxiety and stress. Minimizing stress is vital for dementia in dogs and can help your dog stay calm and comfortable in their senior years.
For Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or dementia in dogs, we recommend our HEAL CBD oil for dogs , as it has 1100 mg of full-spectrum CBD and has a perfect balance of fatty acids and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. CBD is a great supplement for supporting your dog with dementia.
Research on CBD for Dementia in Dogs
“CBD affects both GABA and serotonin receptors and has been shown to have anxiolytic properties (64). A review by Maroon and Bost discussed the neuroprotective benefits of CBD, which include decreasing the production of inflammatory cytokines, influencing microglial cells to return to a ramified state, preserving cerebral circulation during ischemic events, and reducing vascular changes and neuroinflammation (65). CBD has been shown to reverse or prevent the development of cognitive defects in a mouse model of AD (66). Other studies show that a combination of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD in a full-spectrum product reduced memory impairment in AD mice. In other murine studies, cannabinoids were found to reduce oxidative stress, microglial activation, and neuroinflammation; facilitate removal of Aβ plaques and reduce their production; and decrease tau protein aggregation (66). Cannabinoids have been used in humans to reduce the signs of dementia in AD patients. Caregivers report decreased distress, agitation, and aggression and improvement in mood, appetite, and sleep quality in AD patients taking cannabis oil (67). Because CCD is a model for AD, this would suggest that cannabinoids may work in a similar way in canine patients.”
CBD Dosage for Dementia in Dogs
For Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or dementia in dogs, we typically recommend a dosage of 35-50 mg of CBD per day. This is not a set dosage for every pet, as optimal dosage can vary by many factors, including age and disease progression. Our recommended CBD for dementia in dogs, HEAL: CBD Oil for dogs, contains approximately 37mg of CBD in a single 1mL dosage.
For administering the CBD oil for dementia in dogs, we recommend applying directly to the gums for the best and fastest absorption. We also recommend splitting your dog’s optimal daily dosage into multiple applications a day. This will help maintain blood concentration of CBD throughout the day. Additionally, it will help lower the possibility of any stomach upset as your pet’s gut gets used to the addition of an oil tincture.