How Leafly’s husky, Topper, Benefited from CBD
Everyone, meet Topper. Topper is one among many of our office dogs here at the Leafly headquarters. Every now and then, he’ll remind us we’ve been concentrating for too long by singing a husky power ballad. Or by knocking over all the contents of your desk. Or simply by staring at you, unblinking, until you acknowledge how disgustingly cute he is.
Just before his second birthday, Topper began suffering from epileptic seizures. “The first one was horrifying,” Topper’s owner, Andy, said. “We thought he was choking on something he ate and that he was unable to breathe. It started with a hacking cough, as if he were trying to clear something stuck in his throat. Then he vomited, then collapsed and fell down the steps and began convulsing.”
Topper was immediately put on Phenobarbital, a barbiturate commonly used to treat seizures. “This does a good job of suppressing the seizures, but at the cost of pretty bad side effects,” Andy said. “It makes your pet extremely lethargic, increases appetite, and causes liver damage in the long term.”
The dog was also put on a raw diet with supplementary doses of fish oil, DMG, brewer’s yeast, and thuja. He experienced seizures two or three times a month while on this regimen, but several months down the road, his owners were unable to refill his prescription on short notice. “We had been researching alternative medicine ideas for a while due to the Phenobarbital drawbacks,” Andy said. His research led him to CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid whose anti-epileptic properties were made widely known through the story of 5 year-old Charlotte Figi. And it just so happened that companies were already putting out dog-specific CBD formulations derived from hemp.
“It’s pretty hard to say for sure, since nobody wants to do controlled scientific experiments on their beloved pet, but it does seem that the CBD pills are having a suppressing effect on Topper’s seizures,” said Andy. “He has them about once a month at this stage, whereas before the Phenobarbital, he had them about 2 to 3 times a month.”
Cannabis advocates are no strangers to the social stigma that comes with using marijuana medically, so you can only imagine the number of eyebrows raised by the idea of treating an animal with hemp-derived cannabinoids. Even here in the progressive and cannabis-friendly state of Washington, the issue was met with a spectrum of reactions ranging from curious to outraged.
I reached out to a number of veterinarians in an attempt to discuss CBD treatment for pets, but many didn’t know what CBD was and quickly disengaged as soon as the words “a non-psychotropic chemical constituent of cannabis or hemp” were uttered. Another sounded completely taken aback, confusing CBD consumption with “feeding an animal marijuana.” Topper’s vet, however, was open-minded and enthusiastic about this alternative, and urged his owners to provide updates on his progress.
“I think most people find it comical or don’t take it seriously as an alternative medicine,” Andy said. “Whenever I tell someone Topper is on CBD medication, they assume I hot-box my dog every night and listen to Phish with him while we both munch treats. People don’t realize that there are other types of marijuana-related remedies that don’t involve getting high.”
While Topper’s condition has certainly improved with CBD, anyone considering treating their pet with cannabinoids should do so under the guidance of a knowledgeable veterinarian. It’s clear that even medical professionals are still wary of marijuana- and hemp-based medications for animals, and if we’re to carve out a good name for cannabis, it’s critical that we don’t allow any harm to come to our furry friends. These types of medicines are still in their infancy and we have a lot more to learn about their efficacy and risks. However, it’s truly exciting to witness a frontier of therapeutic options possibly open up alongside this dog’s improved quality of life.
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