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.
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.
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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