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The Benefits of CBD for Senior Dogs



Kali, Boycie, Lucy… they are all oldies’ names, dogs that are or were lucky enough to have access to CBD to enjoy the quality of life they deserved as they were aging.

As dogs get older, they will start experiencing certain changes and show signs in a similar way as we humans do. Aging is a slow and gradual process that makes them more susceptible to develop health issues like arthrosis, cancer, dementia

 “And CBD can help to keep them healthier during their senior years”, says Dr. Marta Calvo Blanco, Head of Veterinary Operations and Education at eCS Vet (Endocannabinoid System Veterinary Centre).

CBD is a phytocannabinoid, a molecule that is naturally produced in the Cannabis plant. It is capable to interact with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) which regulates and controls many functions such as pain, temperature, inflammation, sleep, memory, cognition, cell proliferation and neuroprotection (among others). Many of those functions are critical in senior dogs.

Inflammaging

“'Inflammaging' is a term I love! 
adds Dr. Calvo BlancoIt relates aging with a certain level of inflammation”. Once initiated, its impact and its adverse effects determine the direction and magnitudes of further Inflammaging.(1)



When we think about our furry oldies it is so easy to see and understand that inflammation and aging are intrinsically related to each other. We all have observed an overall 'slowing down', reduced mobility and agility, longer naps and less excitement for walks.

Phytocannabinoids, and specifically CBD, may possess the potential to be used as anti-aging therapeutic agent being an effective adjunctive therapy to slow and permit a healthier aging. It has been proved that they:

1. Regulate the Inflammation response

2. Have Anti-oxidative properties

3. Improve the Dietary health

“Kali was a gorgeous rescued old lady” says her owner, Alex Cortes from Brisbane. “She started walking slower than usual and didn’t use to go upstairs to the first floor anymore, and gradually became more sensitive to food, like having soft tools and being picky”.


Kali was then set on CBD oil and just after a few days everything changed! 

“She was happy again and enjoying her walks, besides she started coming upstairs to sleep with us too. And her appetite and digestion were back to normal” explains Alex.

Dementia

Dog dementia, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), is a condition related to the aging of a dog's brain with very similar signs to Alzheimer in humans. In fact, dogs with CCD have been proposed as a model for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in a translational study (2).

It is mainly related with changes in behaviour affecting memory, learning ability and comprehension:

✔️ Increased anxiety or fears.
✔️ Irritability or aggressivity, reducing their social interactions.
✔️ Persistent barking, especially at night.
✔️ Sleeping disturbances.
✔️ Disorientation and confusion, being lost or confused in familiar surroundings.
✔️ Failing to remember normal routines or other pets.
✔️ No longer responding to their name or familiar commands.
✔️ Repetitive movements, like going in circles or bowing the head.


Dog dementia occurs in senior and geriatric dogs, when they are around 10-12 years old, but giant or large breeds may show symptoms from 7-8 years old. It affects up to 26% of the dogs at those ages and close to 70% once they are 15-16 years old.

There is no current cure for it, but we can slow down the progression and reduce the severity of the signs with a combination of therapies like lifestyle changes, behavioural support, supplements, medications… and certainly CBD!

Based on human research we can state that CBD (3):

1. Exert neuroprotective effects and helps restore the imbalance that is present in the ECS of patients with Alzheimer.


2. Can activate CB2 receptors in a special type of brain cells – microglia - helping reduce the production of the amyloid therefore inducing the reduction of the formation of amyloid plaques.

3. Reduces inflammation of the brain cells (neuroinflammation) and promote the formation of new cells (neurogenesis) in certain areas of the brain.

4. Is capable to regulate some neurotransmitters which are involved in the development of Alzheimer.

5. Has strong antioxidant properties that are important for brain health.

6. Can improve the social recognition memory when on long-term oral treatment.

Dr. Marta Calvo says “Unfortunately there are not a lot of research about the use on cannabinoids on animals, but even though there are no studies that have actually tested CBD on dogs, my experience and research knowledge leads me to highly recommend its use for dogs with CCD”.

Arthrosis or Osteoarthritis

It’s the most common type of arthritis seen in elderly dogs. It’s caused by normal wear and tear on the joints and cartilage as time goes by. 

Dogs are mainly affected on the weight-bearing joints, so hips, knees, elbows, shoulders and spine are the areas more prone to develop arthritis from aging.

When the cartilage that covers the bone and helps with the mobility of the joints is damaged, inflammation increases at the same time that the lubricating fluids reduce their quantity and quality, and in some cases extra bone like tissue - osteophyte - might develop.

All this changes in the joint can cause inflammation, pain, stiffness, loss of flexibility and reduced range of motion, so your dog might:

✔️ Be limping or licking/chewing the affected joint
✔️ Walk weirdly or slower than usual.
✔️ Be reluctant to go upstairs or downstairs.
✔️ Not be able to jump in the car or on their favourite couch/bed
✔️ Stand up very slowly and with difficulty.

There is no current cure for arthritis, and the process will keep evolving as time goes by, but we can help with the management of the pain and the inflammation to maintain animals happier and more active, to give them more quality of live. 

Taking a holistic approach that would involve specific exercises, weight maintenance, different drugs and supplements should be the best option.

Increasing levels of antioxidants can help to reduce cartilage loss, improve current symptoms of joint pain, swelling and inflammation as well as slow the degenerative process that can take place in the joints with aging.




1. Inflammation: CBD reduces inflammation, and it has been confirmed that it averts the damage cause in the join by the inflammation

2. Pain reduction: CBD helps to relieve pain in dogs. It also boosts opioids and NSAIDS, therefore reducing the intake of other strong medications.

3. Antioxidant properties: CBD is 30 to 50% stronger than the powerful antioxidants vitamin E and C.

A study by Cornell University in 2018 found that CBD clearly improves levels of comfort and activity when used twice a day at a dose of 2mg/kg (4), proving that CBD highly reduces pain and inflammation in dogs experiencing osteoarthrosis, thanks to the ECS, which is known to modulate pain signals and the activation of inflammation.

Little Lucy is a Fox Terrier cross coming up to 13 years old. She was diagnosed with a pulmonary carcinoma, which was removed and followed by a course of 6 chemotherapy sessions. 

“As with all dogs at her age, arthritis was becoming a problem” says her owner Annette.

“She needed quarterly injections for pain management but we were noticing that the need for these injections was becoming more frequent, so we decided to investigate a more natural product”.

“Since starting the hemp oil we have noticed a positive difference in her not needing her arthritis injection to help with pain management so frequently.
 
She has walked well, with no limping gait and a lot further than pre hemp oil, and her sleep is deep and restful, not restless, with continual changing position” explains Annette.
“As dogs get older, they start being more sensitive to certain anti-inflammatory and pain relief drugs” explains Dr. Calvo Blanco, “This is particularly interesting, since CBD is a lot safer to use than most of them and with barely any side effects”

Cancer

It has become very common on senior dogs leading the cause of death in those who are beyond middle age. One in four dogs will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life according to the Veterinary Cancer Society, with 50% of them being diagnosed at over 10 years of age.

Many cases of cancer are treatable, or at least manageable for some time, as long as they’re caught early enough, and many specialised treatments can help your dog to battle the condition while maintaining a high quality of life. 

They can go from simple benign lumps or skin masses to lymphoma, mammary gland tumours, sarcomas…

The overall health status of the dog, including its ability to tolerate the treatment, is pivotal to decide the best possible therapy, and similar to humans they can include:

✔️ Surgery
✔️ Chemotherapy
✔️ Radiotherapy
✔️ Immunotherapy
✔️ Holistic or herbal therapy, including cannabinoids.

Sometimes, combining methods work well for dogs with cancer, and the use of adjunct therapies such as acupuncture or others can be very helpful to address the side effects.


Cannabinoids specially CBD and THC, have been proved to address many of the pathways involved in the development of cancer cells, while helping to maintain the normal cells unaffected under certain conditions. 

Furthermore, they exhibit anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, antioxidant and other properties highly related with the co-adjuvant treatment of any cancer (5 and 6). Some of the effects observed are:

1. Antiproliferative: CBD inhibits cell growth in many types of cancer.

2. Induction of cell death: CBD induces the death of certain tumor cells through different mechanism (apoptosis and autophagia).

3. Reduces metastasis: CBD reduces cancer cell migration.

4. Enhance the activity of chemotherapeutic drugs: CBD can synergise with various chemotherapeutic agents and increase their efficacy by sensitising cancer cells or increasing their drugs uptake.

5. Prevents chemotherapy-induced neuropathy: Prevents the feelings of pain, numbness, tingling, and sensitivity to cold and heat in the extremities.

6. Antioxidant: CBD is a very powerful antioxidant molecule.

7. Appetite stimulant: Many animal studies have previously demonstrated that THC and other cannabinoids have a stimulatory effect on appetite and increase food intake.

8. Analgesia and anti-inflammatory: CBD attenuate the release of inflammatory agents and enhance the release of our own natural opioids.


Boycie was a rescued Beagle, abused by previous owners, that had panic attacks. After being adopted by Michelle and Steven in 2017, Boycie had thyroid cancer in 2018 (survived) and then lung cancer

He then started having seizures in 2019, which he first started taking anti-seizure drugs for and advised by their vet to try CBD.

“It was such great success that we stopped the human drugs and Boycie was seizure free until passed away from the cancer in Nov 2021” said Michelle.
“CBD not only helped to stop his seizures but also made him pain free from the cancer”.
“She kept a daily chart of the treatments and reactions where you can clearly see the benefits of the CBD and the increased quality of life of Boycie, not only for his seizures and pain, but also on his overall behaviour” adds Dr. Marta Calvo Blanco.

Summary

So, when you think about what you can do for your loyal furry friend to help him feel better during his senior stage, keep in mind that CBD is a great way to help him stay active and healthier while supporting his Endocannabinoid System.

Talk to your Vet, ask about the quality of life and how to increase your pet's mobility, appetite, or decrease their anxiety
Tell them about the benefits CBD could have for your dog's health and wellness and create awareness about the potential benefits of it.
written by Dr. Marta Calvo Blanco, August 2022 for Australian Dog Lover (all rights reserved).

About the writer

Dr. Marta Calvo Blanco
 received her Veterinary Degree with Honours in Spain over 25 years ago and ran her own practice with her veterinary surgeon husband for 15 years. 

Marta worked for highly recognised international small animal nutrition companies and pursued further education in Homeopathy, Flower Essences, Essential oils, Food Supplements and Animal Communication. 

Marta is also a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist since 2012 (IVAS). After coming to Australia in 2015, Marta worked as an Animal Naturopath and Vet Technician and founded her own company “Holistic Animal Naturopath”, while learning and improving her knowledge on the use of medicinal cannabis. 

She joined CANNect Veterinary (now eCS Vet) in 2019 to help educate veterinary professionals about using cannabinoid medications with animals. Marta is currently the Head of Veterinary Operations and Education at eCS Vet

Learn more at www.ecsvet.com and follow their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ecsvet

References:

1. Inflammaging and Cannabinoids. Babak Baban, Hesam Khodadadi, Evila ´ Lopes Salles, Vincenzo Costigliola, John C. Morgan, David C. Hess, Kumar Vaibhav, Krishnan M. Dhandapani, Jack C. Yu. Ageing Research Reviews 72 (2021)

2. Dogs with Cognitive Dysfunction as a Spontaneous Model for Early Alzheimer's Disease: A Translational Study of Neuropathological and Inflammatory Markers. Trine Schütt, Lone Helboe, Lars Ostergaard Peder, Gunhild Waldemar. Journal of Alzheimer disease (March 2016)

3. Potential and Limits of Cannabinoids in Alzheimer’s Disease Therapy. Giulia Abate,1 Daniela Uberti,1 and Simone Tambaro2. Journal Biology (June 2021)

4. Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Lauri-Jo Gamble, Jordyn M. Boesch, Christopher W. Frye, Wayne S. Schwark, Sabine Mann, Lisa Wolfe, Holly Brown, Erin S. Berthelsen and Joseph J. Wakshlag. Frontiers in Veterinary Science (23 July 2018) Sec. Veterinary Surgery and Anesthesiology

5. Cannabinoids as therapeutic agents in cancer: current status and future implications. Bandana Chakravarti, Janani Ravi, and Ramesh K. Ganju. Oncotarget Journal (Aug 2014)

6. Cannabidiol (CBD) in Cancer Management. Kylie O’Brien. Cancer journal (Feb 2022)


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