Have you ever thought about what CBD can do for your dog? If your dog has IVDD, you would be surprised by how many ways CBD may help in not only the treatment of their symptoms, but also the treatment of the disease as a whole. In this post I will tell you all about what CBD is, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), and seven different ways CBD can help your dog with IVDD.
CBD and the Endocannabinoid System
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural, highly therapeutic compound derived from the cannabis flower. Unlike it’s relative, THC, it is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that doesn’t have the ability to induce an intoxicated or “high” effect. This is because, unlike all of the other cannabinoids that make up the cannabis plant, CBD does not bind to the body’s CB1 or CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are found in different parts of the brain that pertain to emotion, sensory perception, memory, and cognition. When activated, these receptors induce a mind-altering state. Since CBD doesn’t interact with these receptors, it does not cause any psychoactive effects. In fact, the World Health Organization declared that CBD is “safe, well tolerated, and not associated with any significant adverse public health effects”. Instead of binding to the body’s receptors, CBD actually triggers the release of the body’s own natural endocannabinoids. It also slows their breakdown, which prolongs their therapeutic effects.
The Endocannabinoid System
Just like humans, dogs and all mammals have an endocannabinoid system. It exists to keep the body in it’s natural balance on all levels. The scientific term for this is homeostasis. Just like the circulatory or respiratory systems that you learned about in school, along with the 9 other major organ systems, the endocannabinoid system reaches throughout the entire body. Some say it’s the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining health.
The endocannabinoid system was only discovered in the 1990s when scientists were trying to understand how marijuana affected the body. What they found was a complex network of cannabinoid receptors scattered throughout the body. This led to the discovery of endocannabinoids, the body’s own naturally occurring cannabinoids made to interact with it’s widespread cannabinoid receptors. From our brain, organs, and connective tissues, to throughout our nervous and immune systems, the endocannabinoid system plays a vital role throughout it all by promoting homeostasis at every level. It helps regulate everything from mood, hunger, and stress, to pain and imflammation, immune system, gut health, blood pressure, metabolism, and much more.
Because of it’s direct effect on so many of the body’s physiological processes, CBD has a huge range of therapeutic benefits for all kinds of diseases. It works directly with our body’s own natural endocannabinoid system to promote health and balance between all of our body’s major systems and organs. Almost all pathological diseases are linked to a poorly regulated endocannabinoid system.
How Can CBD Help Your Dog With IVDD?
Reduce pain and inflammation
Reduce anxiety and boost mood
Reduce disc degeneration
Prevent muscle spasms
Improve mobility recovery
No adverse side effects or drug interactions
Reduce Pain and Inflammation
One of the main difficulties your dog will face with IVDD is pain and inflammation. A bulging or ruptured disc is going to cause some major inflammation in the spinal column. This will lead to more damage, severe pain, and possibly the loss of mobility. It is very important to get your dog’s pain and inflammation under control as fast as possible. CBD effects the immune system, which is responsible for inflammation. Cannabinoids combat pain and inflammation from many different angles, all working for the same cause, so it is a very powerful anti-inflammatory. Another major plus is that it has no bad side effects on the organs, like the stomach, that NSAIDs do. Therefore, there is no risk of stomach ulcers or any of the other potential side effects that can come from taking NSAIDs.
Reduce Anxiety and Boost Mood
IVDD can be a very scary experience for our beloved dogs. They experience pain, they may lose their ability to walk, and no one can explain to them what the heck is going on! On top of that, they’re forced to stay in a cage or confined area while their body is healing for 6 weeks or more. I can imagine how confusing and anxiety inducing that would be. Not to mention the boredom of being confined to a bed for so long. Your dog may be feeling scared, vulnerable, anxious, or just bored out of it’s mind. Luckily, CBD is an effective anti-anxiety/anti-depresant. Similar to SSRIs like Prozac or Zoloft, CBD can activate certain serotonin receptors. This will increase their serotonin levels, reduce anxiety and boost their mood.
Studies have found that CBD shows promising capabilities as a neuro-protectant. It has been successfully used in the treatment of many neurological diseases including brain tumors, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and more. More research shows that CBD can play a very important role in recovery from spinal cord injury. In a study on spontaneous recovery after a spinal cord injury, the results suggested that “the endocannabinoids acting through CB1 and CB2 receptors are part of an early neuro-protective response triggered after SCI that is involved in the spontaneous recovery after an incomplete lesion”. There is still a lot of research to be done, but scientists believe that CBD has very promising potential to treat victims of spinal cord injury.
Reduce Disc Degeneration
IVDD is, essentially, the degeneration of the intervertebral discs in the spine. There aren’t any known cures to stop this degeneration, but studies show that CBD could slow it down. One study showed that when they induced a lesion on the intervertebral discs of mice to simulate a disc rupture, the mice who were given higher doses of CBD actually had less damage to their discs than the ones without. The study concluded that CBD “could be useful in the treatment of intervertebral disc degeneration”. Considering there is no stopping this disease, the thought of something slowing down it’s progression really brings hope for dogs with IVDD.
Prevent Muscle Spasms
Another common side effect of paralysis after a spinal cord injury is muscle spasms. A muscle spasm is involuntary movement and contraction of the muscles. It can be painful and, at the very least, unfomfortable for your pet. Fortunately, CBD has the ability to reduce muscle spasticity and is used for this reason to treat a variety of neurological diseases like MS. Many dogs experience muscle spasms after a ruptured disc, and may not respond well to the muscle relaxants your vet might prescribe. CBD can really help reduce that side effect, and help bring comfort to your dog.
Improve Mobility Recovery
IVDD causes loss of mobility due to spinal cord injury after a disc rupture. Your dog’s recovery will largely depend on the amount of damage done to the spinal cord at the time of injury. A more acute rupture can lead to more extensive damage to the spinal cord, which may greatly reduce your dog’s chances of making a ful recovery, or at least lengthen their recovery time. If there was something you could do to lower the risk of damage if your dog has a disc rupture, wouldn’t you want to do it?
Well, in another study on mice, scientists inflicted a lesion on their spinal cords and administered CBD before and after the injury to observe it’s effect on their injury as well as their recovery. The results showed that not only did CBD reduce the damage to the spinal cord after the induced injury, it also “improved locomotor functional recovery…suggesting that it could be useful in the treatment of spinal cord lesions”. That is some promising news in the world of IVDD! Recovery after a ruptured disc can take anywhere from a few weeks to years. So anything that can help speed up the process is a huge plus.
No Bad Side Effects or Drug Interactions
Last, but definitely not least, is CBDs ability to be used in conjunction with your dog’s other medications, as well as it’s safe use, with no adverse side effects. No one wants to give their dog anything that is going to make them feel bad or put their health at risk in any way. If you give your dog CBD, you can rest assured that they are safe, with no risk of overdose. Even if your dog is taking various other medications like narcotics, muscle relaxers, and NSAIDs, they may still be experiencing some pain and discomfort. Adding CBD to their medications can give them more comfort and relief in a safe way.
How CBD helped my dog with IVDD…
Cali’s initial diagnosis…
My dog, Cali, was diagnosed with IVDD in January of 2018. Out of nowhere, she lost her ability to walk and we quickly rushed her to the emergency vet hospital. She still had sensation and reflexes in her legs, and we decided to try to treat her conservatively with crate rest and medication. She was taking tramadol for pain, a muscle relaxant, and an NSAID to reduce inflammation.
Within a few days she was getting worse, and stopped moving her feet all together. After another trip to the neurologist we discovered that she had lost her deep pain perception and reflexes from the site of the disc rupture, which was in the middle of her back, all the way down to her feet and tail. She lost control of her bladder and bowels as well and was experiencing pain, despite being on all of the medication. We decided to go through with an MRI and surgery, but after her MRI we got devastating news that every IVDD dog owner desperately does not want to hear. She was diagnosed with progressive myelomalacia and was given only a couple days to live.
Myelomalacia is a rare and deadly complication that can happen after an acute rupture causing hemorrhaging and necrosis of the spinal cord. Not a lot is known about myelomalacia, but it is thought to be irreversible and usually leads to death within a few days to 2 weeks. We were told that there was nothing they could do, and the neurologist encouraged us to put our beloved girl to sleep. It was absolutely heart breaking, and we just couldn’t do it. We decided to take her home and keep a very close eye on her. We would help her cross the bridge when the time came.
How CBD helped her…
The very next day we started giving Cali CBD oil. The first thing I noticed was the relief it brought her. Even with all of the medication she was on, she was still trembling and panting in pain. But once we gave her the CBD, she was finally able to relax and get rest. She stopped breathing hard, she stopped trembling, and she slept peacefully at last. It was such a relief to be able to give her that peace in what I thought were her final moments.
Every hour for days we checked to see if her paralysis was progressing up her body, but it never did. As the days went by she only got better, her pain went away, her liveliness came back, and she pulled through! She survived myelomalacia. It was a miracle, and I am sure that CBD oil played a part in saving my dog’s life. She wasn’t supposed to live, but she did, and now over a year later she is the happy, playful, feisty little dog that she always was and, so far, she hasn’t had any other IVDD episodes. I am so grateful to have her in my life, and I am so grateful for CBD and all of its healing properties.
There is still much research to be done on CBD, cannabis, and the endocannabinoid system in general. But the existing studies and anecdotal evidence all point to very promising potential for this amazing therapeutic compound. We still only have a small idea of the possibilities and capabilities of CBD, but what we do know is that it is safe, and it is effective for a lot of different ailments. I was surprised to find out just how many benefits this compound can have for dogs with IVDD. And if I can help any dog, suffering through an IVDD episode, and take away their pain and help them heal by sharing this research and my story, I am so happy.