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CBD Oil for Dog Seizures

grey and white spotted dog laying down under a blanket
Dr. Erica Irish author of CBD Oil for Dogs Seizures

Seizures can be scary events to witness, especially if it’s your first time seeing one, and especially if it’s happening to your furry best friends. What are some things to keep in mind, and how can you help your pup if he is having one? 

What causes seizures in dogs?

There are many different causes of seizures in dogs. Idiopathic epilepsy is the most common cause. Epilepsy is an inherited condition where your dog will start to have seizures due to an unknown cause, which is the definition ofidiopathic. On average, epilepsy can develop in dogs between the ages of one and six years. Beagles, Labradors, German Shepherds, Collies, and Australian Shepherds are some of the most common breeds affected by idiopathic epilepsy.

Exposure to certain toxins can cause seizures in dogs. Illicit drugs and even pain medications like ibuprofen have been known to cause seizures. Foods that contain xylitol (a sugar substitute) and dark chocolate which has high concentrations of theobromine will cause sharp drops in your dog’s blood sugar, thus resulting in seizures if left untreated. Even mushrooms and certain plants like the seeds of a Sago’s palm can cause seizures when ingested.

Brain trauma or damage can result in seizures, and if your dog has a brain tumor, increased pressure inside of his skull due to inflammation can cause seizures. Other cancers elsewhere in the body can result in seizures if cancer has spread to the brain. Underlying organ disorders such as liver and kidney disease cause the buildup of toxins in the bloodstream, thus increasing the risk for seizure activity.

If your dog is prone to seizures, any change in brain activity can initiate a seizure. This means a seizure can be triggered when he is excited, anxious, scared, or even eating his food. Any medications or supplements that are known to lower seizure thresholds should be avoided.

Types of seizures in dogs 

Seizures may vary in their frequency, duration, and severity, but all of them have the same three phases. In the first phase known as thepre-ictal phase, your dog may start acting oddly. He will suddenly seem nervous or restless, and he may cling to you for support as if he knows what is about to happen. This phase can last a few seconds or even a few hours prior to the actual seizure phase.

Theictal phase is when seizure activity occurs. Seizures can take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes to occur. In milder forms, seizure activity can be described as staring off into space, shaking slightly, losing control of bodily functions, or even losing consciousness and falling down.Grand mal seizures are the most severe form and cause the classic falling over and paddling motions that you think of when you think of seizures. They result in complete loss of consciousness, urination, defecation, and excessive drooling. If a seizure has not stopped after five minutes, this is referred to asstatus epilepticus and means that your dog requires immediate medical attention1.

In the final phase known as thepost-ictal phase, your dog may seem disoriented and restless for thirty minutes to one hour. He may also drool excessively and can temporarily lose his eyesight. Dogs can appear totally normal after this phase, but if he goes right back into the ictal phase after a brief period of time, these are known ascluster seizures. These can cause a rise in body temperature (hyperthermia) and can be very dangerous for your pup.

Treatments for seizures

If your pup has more than one seizure a month or has grand mal or cluster seizures, your veterinarian will need to prescribe an anti-seizure medication for him. Phenobarbital is one of the most commonly prescribed medications because it is derived from FDA-approved primidone and is very affordable for owners. If liver disease is suspected, potassium bromide is an excellent first choice. Ongoing research is being conducted on the benefits of levetiracetam (Keppra) and zonisamide for dogs. Gabapentin, a neuropathic pain medication that is metabolized by the liver, is also an option but it is still unclear how it works to prevent seizures. 

Brain trauma often requires hospitalization to get seizures under control and a diuretic known as mannitol to relieve pressure inside of the skull. Toxin ingestion cases will also require hospitalization with fluid therapy and supportive care. Chronic liver and kidney disease can also be managed supportively, and in cases where there is poor response to therapy, advanced imaging like CT and MRI or even specialized testing like cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis is necessary. Steroids may be prescribed in such cases.  

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CBD oil for dog seizures 

In recent years, cannabidiol has been shown to have excellent benefits in human patients with epilepsy, anxiety, and even pain due to various health conditions. Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, was found to be an effectiveanticonvulsant or anti-seizure therapy in 1973. CBD lacks thepsychoactive effects of the other ingredient found inCannabisknown as THC. CBD is the active ingredient in Epidiolex, an FDA-approved medication used to treat epilepsy in children.

In 2019, the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation (AKCCHF) performed a major clinical trial  with Dr. Stephanie McGrath of Colorado State University to study the effects of CBD oil on dogs with seizure activity. In this trial, 89% of the dogs who received CBD had a reduction in the frequency of their seizures. However, the proportion of responders between the treatment group (a total of 12 dogs) and the placebo group (a total of 14 days) was similar. Therefore, additional trials are necessary to see if higher doses would cause a greater difference between the two groups.

Research is still ongoing, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to support that CBD oil can have many benefits in dogs with seizures. If you are planning on purchasing CBD oil for your dog, make sure to talk with your veterinarian. Little is known about potential side effects and drug interactions from a clinical trial standpoint, and it has been documented that CBD usage can cause a significant increase in blood enzymes like alkaline phosphatase3.

High-quality CBD oil is CO2 extracted for purity purposes. This can result in a slightly higher price than other CBD supplements on the market, but the cheaper products can be more dangerous, especially if there is a risk for THC to be contained within the product. THC is toxic to dogs. High-quality CBD oil can be purchased here at SitStay.

Seizures can have many causes and so treatment will be geared towards finding a cause and using medications that can help decrease the risk of seizures. Once a medication has been started, it cannot be stopped because this will increase the risk of further seizures and may impact the response that your dog will have to that medication in the future. There is promising research ahead that may further prove the benefits of CBD oil for dogs with seizures. If you are considering purchasing CBD oil for your furry friend, contact your veterinarian today for more information.

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Meet The Author 

Dr. Erica Irish

Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine

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