CBD Oil For Dogs With Dementia


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Loving and caring for a dog with canine cognitive dysfunction Does CBD Oil Help Dogs With Dementia? If you’ve had a dog grow old, then you know its physical wellness wasn’t the only thing that waned. You likely witnessed changes in behavior and even As is often the case with CBD for dogs, real benefits are likely to be found in the treatment of side effects of dementia, not dementia itself.

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.

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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

Photo Credits

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.

Further Reading

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.

Does CBD Oil Help Dogs With Dementia?

If you’ve had a dog grow old, then you know its physical wellness wasn’t the only thing that waned.

You likely witnessed changes in behavior and even personality. Maybe it was as simple as sleeping longer as the years passed, or perhaps it was something more jarring, like compulsively licking the floor. Perhaps a once sociable dog became reclusive or even hostile towards strangers.

That’s because as a dog ages, its brain ages with it. But with some dogs, the brain wears out faster than the body, causing a slew of symptoms we call Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) or more simply, dog dementia.

If your dog’s current medication isn’t easing his symptoms, you’re on the hunt for soothing solutions. This article will help you answer the question: Does CBD oil help dogs with dimension?

What is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction? Signs and Symptoms

This degenerative and progressive brain disease still holds many mysteries for researchers. What we do know is that the number of nerve cells dwindles as dogs age. In addition, neurotoxic deposits and free radicals also contribute more broadly to cognitive decline.

Affecting about half of dogs over 11 years of age, not only is dog dementia more common than people realize, it often goes undetected or untreated for many years. That’s because it sets in slowly and there’s no hard line. Many people simply expect their dogs to “get a little weird” as they age, even though this doesn’t have to be the case. What’s more, dementia can be treated more effectively if detected sooner rather than later.

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So how can you tell if your dog may be exhibiting symptoms?

Your Dog May Have CCD If They:

Become Easily Disorientated

Is your dog beginning to become lost in its own home? Disorientation is often the first sign of deterioration and can cause other behaviors due to the anxiety that unfolds; imagine how it must feel. You may hear her bark at nothing, run into furniture, or lose the way home from a once-familiar stroll.

Develop Compulsive Behavior

Dogs with dementia have been known to develop nervous ticks. They may begin to groom obsessively or even lick the floor. They may also pace in circles.

React Differently Towards Others

You may notice changes in your dog’s behavior towards you, your family, or other dogs. Some may show decreased trust or affection, while others become dependent on someone who becomes like a compass for them. Others become irritable and grumpy. A once sociable dog may become reclusive or even hostile to other dogs.

Have Trouble Sleeping

Along with disorientation to its environment, a dog with dementia will often suffer changes to its regular sleep cycle. Sometimes dubbed “sundowner syndrome”, your dog may have trouble sleeping and even bark in the night at nothing. Other times, they may sleep all day and become nocturnal, keeping you up at night.

Lose Their Training

Has your dog, despite years without incident, begun to lose its training? You may notice they begin to mess in the house. Or perhaps they no longer respond to once familiar commands for obedience, tricks, or games. They might not even want to indulge in their tasty post-trick snack, like freeze-dried chicken dog treats.

Becomes Lethargic or Restless

Has your dog begun to lack motivation? What used to excite him no longer gets him up from his bed. Some dogs, once food-driven, begin to lose their appetite for their dog kibble. Other dogs begin to develop restless behavior but in an anxious rather than excited way.

Keep in mind, these changes in behavior are not sure signs of dementia, as they could be due to other health conditions. But if you have your doubts, it’s time to bring them up with your veterinarian.

What Can I Give My Dog for Dementia?

Unfortunately, dementia in dogs and in humans has no cure. But hope is not lost. Veterinarians will typically consider a dog’s diet, routine, and cognitive enrichment as areas for improvement. They may also prescribe certain medications to prevent, slow, and treat the onset of canine cognitive dysfunction.

Research is still catching up to this complex disease, but there are some pharmaceuticals shown to help. So far, the only drug approved by the FDA is L-deprenyl which works by increasing dopamine levels in a dog’s brain to improve memory and overall cognitive function.

Beyond pharmaceuticals, people have long turned to supplements for dogs and natural remedies.

Omega 3’s are among the most researched supplements for cognitive function in humans and dogs alike. That’s because they play an essential role in brain health.

Antioxidants are another clear candidate as they combat free radicals, a natural but unfortunate result of aging. Antioxidants safe for dogs include certain berries, cooked root vegetables, and greens.

For sleeping problems, common with dog dementia, many turn to melatonin which has been shown to be safe for dogs in the right doses.

Finally, many pet owners and veterinarians are turning to a budding new hemp compound rising in popularity: CBD oil. Cannabidiol, the main active ingredient found in the hemp plant, has a psychoactive effect.

But do not be confused; CBD oil, unlike THC, will not get your dog high. Instead, it is used to treat a wide range of conditions including arthritis, generalized anxiety, chronic pain, and loss of appetite.
If you’re curious about trying CBD for a dog with dementia, read on.

Does CBD Help Dogs with Dementia?

CBD has become so popular, you can now find it on the shelves of any main street pharmacy. Because its health benefits are so broad, it is both promising and contentious among scientists, doctors, and the general public.

Human studies have found that CBD oil can help with chronic pain, arthritis, and reduce the intensity and regularity of seizures. Notably, in 2018, the FDA approved a cannabis-derived medicine for children with epilepsy. That should say something about its safety if not potential for animals. Studies have also shown CBD’s effectiveness for insomnia in humans, which may be promising for dogs with dementia who have trouble sleeping.

That said, research lags behind the rise of CBD oil’s widespread availability—and that’s for humans. Research on the use of CBD for dogs in general, let alone for dementia, is preliminary.

Before scientists can link CBD to specific outcomes, early studies must attempt to discover its general mechanisms in the brain. But recent psychopharmacological research suggests CBD acts as a neuro-protectant, and that’s promising news for dogs suffering from dementia.

Many pet owners and veterinarians alike are not content to wait for all the research to come in. Much like medical trials for people suffering from diseases that resist traditional treatment, some dog owners take the attitude that it certainly can’t hurt to try. After all, there is little to no evidence of harmful outcomes (more on that later).

Anecdotally, many vets and pet owners alike insist that CBD has been effective for dogs with dementia, citing cases where major symptoms abated in a rather short time. It is likely that its benefits have to do with its ability to fight the anxiety and stress related to dementia rather than restoring your dog’s waning mental faculties. In other words, it should be thought of as a palliative option to ease your dog’s mind rather than a cure-all.

However, scientists advise a level of skepticism. In middle school science class, you likely heard the expression “Correlation does not equal causation,” meaning that just because you notice improvement after using CBD, does not mean CBD was the cause.

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After all, there are many biases that come into play when it comes to medication. For one thing, there is the placebo effect. When we give our dog a promising supplement, we are biased towards seeing positive outcomes and ignoring negative or zero change.

And you may think, “Well, even the placebo effect is worth something.” But unfortunately, this psychology does not work on a dog that has no idea anything new has entered its body.

Finally, there is also a bias called “regression to the mean.” Many diseases have symptoms that ebb and flow. Chances are pet owners give their dog a supplement at the peak of symptoms; and when they ebb naturally, the inclination is to give credit to the supplement.

How Much CBD Should You Give Your Dog?

If you’ve decided to try CBD oil to treat your dog’s Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, you may be wondering how to give him.
While there are no federal standard guidelines, we advise you to find a trusted producer and follow label guidelines, beginning at the lower end and working your way up to the recommended dose over a week or so.

On average across the industry, dogs with dementia are recommended to take 35-50 mg of CBD per day, but this can vary by age, size, and condition.

Effects can range from 4 to 8 hours and the dose is often split into smaller doses throughout the day. Canine Journal, a trusted resource, recommends weighing your dog, and states, “A safe rule of thumb is to use 0.2mg of CBD per pound.”

Can CBD Be Dangerous For Dogs?

CBD is a budding new industry, pun intended. But there is still a long way to go before we reach a scientific consensus on its long-term effects.

As it stands by law, no CBD product can be recommended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. While it is widely regarded as non-toxic, some studies have shown a slight increase in a particular liver enzyme, ALP. This alone should not be cause for concern as 51% of dogs over 8 years have a high ALP for a slew of reasons, many of which are benign. But it does warrant further study.

You’re probably familiar with THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana plants that causes the “high”. By law, hemp CBD products are required to contain less than .03% THC. You should know that THC is poisonous for dogs, though unlikely at such small doses. Nevertheless, try to find a trusted producer that guarantees zero THC.

Unfortunately, industry regulations are currently lax. Some manufacturers have been charged with cutting their CBD oil with other compounds. This should not be cause for worry if you can trust your source.

And please note that certain additive oils are not only safe but healthy for your dog: many CBD products are suspended in fish oil, full of healthy omega 3 fats. A reputable brand will disclose this on the label.

The Verdict: CBD Oil Appears to Help Dogs with Dementia

Dog dementia is a sad and serious disease that has no cure and taxes its family with difficult decisions. But it doesn’t have to go unnoticed or untreated. Hopefully, you now have an informed perspective on the options available to you.

Perhaps science will shine more light on the properties of CBD oil in the future. For now, certain dog owners are trying it and many swear by it. If you suspect your dog has dementia, consult your veterinarian before trying anything at home.

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Does CBD oil help dogs with dementia?

T he research on CBD’s therapeutic potential for dogs with dementia is still ongoing. In human trials, no clinical evidence has yet shown that cannabinoids can directly help with dementia, but there are indications that the cannabis derivative may be useful in mitigating some forms of neurodegeneration and accompanying symptoms.

As is often the case with CBD for dogs, real benefits are likely to be found in the treatment of side effects of dementia, not dementia itself. Despite the lack of scientific backup, many owners do choose to give their elderly dogs CBD oil for a range of reasons, from maintaining joint health and mobility, to reducing the confusion and anxiety that can often accompany mental decline.

Here’s the current state of research on the link between CBD and dementia!

Dementia in dogs (CCD)

Like many conditions that come with age, rates of canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) are increasing alongside a growing population of older pups.

Much like Alzheimer’s disease in humans, CCD occurs when a dog’s brain begins to degrade and become impaired—usually as a result of the aging process. Age-related cognitive decline will often affect memory and learning abilities, but it’s not the only condition that causes canine dementia. Genetic factors, diseases, and traumas may also predispose an animal to dementia.

According to ABC news, dogs over the age of 14 have around a 40 percent chance of developing symptoms related to dementia and other forms of neurodegeneration. A 2001 study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, on the other hand, puts the figure as high as 68 percent in dogs over 15 years old.

Symptoms of CCD often gradually increase and commonly include confusion, forgetfulness, and anxiety. For example, a dog may forget their morning walk routine, or lose the ability to successfully navigate around their home. Sleeplessness is another frequent side effect, as well as a loss of recognition of previously well-known family members.

What does the science say?

Over the last decade or so, a number of studies have been undertaken to discover CBDs’ effect on a wide variety of inflammatory and progressive medical conditions. Occasionally, these studies have included dogs, but they usually follow the scientific standard of testing on mice and human participants.

Among the literature, there is increasing evidence that CBD’s effect on the body’s endocannabinoid system may help to regulate the speed and onset of neurodegeneration. Often, neurodegeneration is typified by three biomarkers:

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