As the years roll by, our pets go through changes just like we do. They become less active and prone to aging-related diseases like arthritis, cataracts, canine cognitive dysfunction (or dementia), etc. In fact, abnormal cell diseases accounts for nearly half of the deaths of pets older than 10 years.
As we know, dogs have much shorter life spans than humans and are considered "old" at roughly seven years. Perhaps this explains the popular belief that dogs age seven times faster than people. But even at advanced ages, dogs still have a lot of living to do and may need a bit of help for a better quality of life.
Like humans, the onset of age-related health complications is often the best indicator that our canine friends are aging. In addition to the diseases mentioned above, a slowing pace and graying coat are typical signs of aging.
Aging is a natural process, so there is nothing much you can do about it other than try to soothe its effects. In recent years, natural supplements have become popular options for pet owners, with cannabidiol (CBD) being a major hit.
As more research findings highlight the promising effects of CBD, its use on pets is growing. For instance, a Grand View Research survey projects that the global CBD pet products market could grow at a CAGR of 58.9% between 2021 and 2028. Considering that this market was valued at $125 million in 2020, it's certainly going to be a billion-dollar industry quite soon.
CBD-based supplements could help manage diseases like sleep disorders, anxiety, and epilepsy not only in people but in animals too.
And due to the rising incidences of these health conditions in dogs, roughly 50% of pet owners in the U.S. give their dogs (and cats) CBD, often on the recommendation of a veterinarian.
Benefits of CBD for senior dogs
As the health benefits of CBD continue to be studied, this medicinal compound is fast becoming a staple in the medical cabinets of many households. Pet owners with older animals are particularly an advantaged lot. Here's why!
Helps to reduce pain in senior dogs
Pain is often associated with the myriad of health conditions that afflict senior dogs. However, in cases like osteoarthritis (OA), the pain can become generalized, making your dog feel pain all over the body apart from the joints.
If this happens, previously casual activities like combing and brushing become painful due to increased sensitivity.
CBD may support conventional pain treatment therapies by influencing various physiological processes in the body. Based on early research findings, CBD may reduce pain by mitigating the effects of various pain precursors like anxiety, inflammation, and poor sleep.
Other studies suggest that CBD may affect how a person perceives pain by altering pain-perception pathways in the brain.
It does this by regulating the production of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that stimulates feelings of happiness and mental wellness by regulating pain. Higher levels of this chemical in the brain are linked to lower pain sensations.
Relieve pain, especially joint problems
Joint pain affects dogs of all ages but is more common in senior dogs. It's often the reason why they "slow down," although there are many other causes apart from aging. When your once eager-to-play furry friend suddenly displays reluctance to play, run, or jump, it may be trying to avoid aggravating the situation.
According to the study, CBD achieves this effect by modulating the hepatic cytochrome p450, thereby increasing the bioavailability of pain mediators like serotonin (an endocannabinoid) and THC (a phytocannabinoid).
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced mostly in the intestines. Its biological function is multifaceted and complex, with mood regulation, sleep, wound healing, blood clotting, bone health, digestion, and sexual desire among the most well-known.
CBD's role in regulating the production of anandamide could also explain its analgesic property. This hormone is involved in pain perception, and in high concentrations, it dulls pain sensation. THC is also vital in managing neuropathic pain, which probably explains why nabiximols are considered more effective painkillers than CBD alone.
Increases appetite and fights nausea in elderly dogs
There's no doubt that as they age, dogs need to eat healthily. This gives them the nutrients they need to stay strong and boost their immunity. But as dogs grow older and health complications set in, they may not be as voracious eaters as they were.
CBD may help with this too! Unlike THC, which boosts appetite by stimulating ghrelin production and hitting the hunger-control center in the brain to make you feel hungry, CBD takes a different approach.
Researchers hypothesize CBD increases appetite by calming the nervous system and digestive tract in addition to relieving feelings of nausea. Obviously, in the absence of nausea, your dog may eat more!
Furthermore, CBD's interaction with the CB receptors could also explain its indirect appetite-enhancing effects. For instance, since it modulates anandamide production, it may contribute to better appetite.
Anandamide and THC have similar molecular structures and bind equally to CB1 receptors to achieve similar effects, e.g., the "munchies."
By decreasing stress and optimizing GABA and 5-HT1A receptor activity, CBD can increase dopamine production. Higher levels of this hormone are associated with "pleasure eating." Moreover, mood and appetite are closely linked. Since 5-HT1A receptors control these two functions, it's apparent how better moods can boost appetite.
Helps aging dogs with anxiety
Age-related anxiety is common in older dogs and is primarily attributed to cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This condition causes a decline in cognitive functions like learning, perception, memory, and awareness (similar to the early symptoms of Alzheimer's in people).
The resulting confusion understandably creates anxiety. As a result, things like loud noise (e.g., thunderstorms, firecrackers), strange scents, separation, etc., can make your dog utterly desolate.
Fortunately, CBD possesses anxiolytic properties and may come in handy in such situations. This property has been extensively investigated in many animal and human studies, with results indicating that it could reduce anxiety symptoms.
For example, a 2015 study strongly supports CBD as a treatment for various anxiety disorders like panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Furthermore, a 2020 review of existing clinical and preclinical studies support "a possible role for CBD" in treating anxiety disorder.
While these studies predominantly used human models, researchers are optimistic that they are valuable to dogs too. This is because all mammals have an endocannabinoid system, meaning these results may be replicated in dogs.
CBD helps to improve digestion and reduce gastrointestinal distress
Senior dogs commonly experience gastrointestinal problems and indigestion. These can be caused by mental shock or other serious illnesses that impair the body's natural immune defenses.
One way CBD may help your dog's digestion is by maintaining correct intestinal pH levels and regulating bacterial growth. This may help reduce inflammation and promote healthy food digestion. Research shows that the activation of CB1 receptors by cannabinoids induces several physiological responses that can help reduce GI distress.
For example, activating CB1 receptors reduces the secretion of gastric acid and gastric motor activity. It also prevents gastric mucosal lesions from forming due to alcohol or NSAIDs use, pylorus ligation, and stress. All these help prevent intestinal inflammation.
Systemic inflammation is an important aspect of gut health, given the relationship between the two. Any imbalance in the microbiome alerts the immune system, which sets off an avalanche of inflammatory responses.
CBD modulates systemic and acute inflammation by inhibiting cytokine and interleukin production, resulting in therapeutic benefits. This is more so in cases of internal bowel syndrome, gas, bloating, colitis, and gut lining injuries.
Further, CBD also activates cannabinoid receptors by raising endocannabinoid levels. This elevation happens when CBD inhibits the action of metabolizing enzymes monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) and fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH).
This effect is particularly helpful in reducing gastric mucosal lesions caused by NSAIDs and gut inflammation due to colitis.
CBD oil lets your pet have a good night's sleep
Though rare, sleeplessness in dogs is often a sign of an underlying problem (or problems). It could be caused by physical health issues such as pain (due to an injury or arthritis), discomfort (itchiness caused by fleas), and frequent urination (due to kidney disease).
Insomnia in older dogs can also result from stress and anxiety or cognitive dysfunction.
Although there is strong evidence that CBD may help improve sleep, most of it originates from human studies. For instance, one such study showed that a CBD dose of 160mg increased sleep duration.
Another recent analysis demonstrated that 25-175mg of CBD had a calming effect on the participants. The researchers discovered that 25mg of CBD was more effective in curbing anxiety, leading to better sleep. Generally, these studies suggested that higher doses of CBD may support sleep.
A 2018 study published in Medicines indicated that cannabinoids from cannabis minimized symptoms of insomnia. However, the researchers used cannabis flowers, making it difficult to determine whether CBD or other cannabinoids were responsible.
Similar results were observed in two other separate studies; one investigated the effects of CBD on adults with poor sleep and anxiety; the other examined the impact of CBD oil in a case involving post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and poor sleep. In both cases, there were substantial improvements in sleep quality.
Despite the growing evidence that CBD may improve sleep, dog studies involving sleep are limited. Therefore, more research is needed.
CBD is legal in all 50 states
Cannabis is variably regulated across jurisdictions. For example, while marijuana remains illegal in a place like Jamaica, cannabis edibles are not! Also, the possession of small amounts was downgraded to a petty offense.
In the United States, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp cultivation, effectively deregulating cannabis products made from hemp. Hemp typically has lower THC concentrations (the psychoactive component of cannabis), so such products cannot induce THC's mind-altering properties.
Therefore, hemp-derived CBD products whose THC content does not exceed the 0.3% upper limit are legal for sale. However, this limit varies from state to state, with some having a 5% THC content limit.
CBD will not make your dog "high"
Mention the word "cannabis" and the average layman immediately thinks about getting "high" or "stoned." This misconception is understandable because the high-inducing compound in cannabis—THC— is also the most abundant.
However, THC and CBD are totally different compounds with equally different—but sometimes overlapping—effects. CBD does not cause a "high" regardless of how much you take because it's non-psychoactive.
CBD for dogs with mobility issues
Old dogs have higher risks of developing mobility issues due to arthritis, degenerative myelopathy, muscle atrophy, cruciate ligament, etc. This is due to declining strength and health.
Because CBD can offer relief from pain and inflammation, it may help improve your dog's deteriorating mobility. Indeed, a study showed that a CBD dose of 2mg of CBD twice daily substantially lowered pain and improved mobility in canines affected by osteoarthritis.
CBD for dogs with arthritis
Arthritis is common in senior dogs, especially large breeds. It's often symptomized by:
- Joint pain and muscle stiffness
- Reduced mobility
- Difficulty going up/down the stairs
- Reluctance to play
This condition can significantly affect your dog's quality of life. Nonetheless, the emergence of CBD oil—a relatively new treatment therapy—has shown some promising benefits for handling arthritis pain in dogs.
For instance, a rat study showed that CBD could reduce inflammation and slow the progression of joint degeneration in mice. Medical researchers contend that CBD's interaction with the GPR55 receptor may explain its ability to slow the progression of joint problems.
CBD for dogs with hip dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a hereditary disorder caused by unequal development of the hips. This leads to hip arthritis mostly at an early age.
Like their peers with arthritis, dogs with hip dysplasia have joint pain, chronic inflammation, and reduced mobility. Hip dysplasia symptoms are similar to those of arthritis.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, CBD has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties and may be vital in alleviating symptoms of hip dysplasia.
How to choose the best CBD for your dog
Recent research shows that 90% of legal cannabis products sold in medical dispensaries have higher THC content (10-15%) than what doctors recommend. This is bad news for dog owners because THC is essentially toxic for dogs and can be fatal.
So, it would help if you were keener when buying CBD products for your pets. Here are the areas you should address:
- Third-party testing – when it comes to CBD, quality is king. Ensure the product is third-party lab tested and request for the certificate of analysis (COA). This tells you more about the quality of the product and its contents.
- Organic sources – always go for CBD products made from organic hemp. These are unlikely to contain harmful contaminants like residues of pesticides or herbicides used in large-scale hemp farming.
- Broad spectrum CBD – ensure the products are labeled broad spectrum CBD or CBD isolate. This means the manufacturer has isolated THC.
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