Unfortunately, epilepsy and seizure conditions are a common affliction in cats and dogs, with certain breeds being over-represented. While some animals may only have one seizure in their lifetime, other patients suffer from frequent, severe, and debilitating episodes that can be scary for owners to manage. Some patients respond well to conventional anticonvulsant medications like Phenobarbital and KBr, and Keppra, but other patients are refractive to these therapies and can be very frustrating to manage for owners and veterinarians. The families of these patients often dread the adverse side effects of the medications as much as the seizures themselves and may feel helpless and tempted to give up.
However, in the last few years, as more information emerges about the success of phytocannabinoid rich hemp oil in managing seizures in children, many owners are increasingly turning to phytocannabinoids for their pets as well.
While conventional seizure medications cause lethargy, coordination problems, and long-term liver damage, hemp has low toxicity and high tolerability in both humans and non-human patients. Indications for hemp include relief of pain, inflammation, anxiety, and of course seizure activity. Studies show that hemp affects several endogenous cannabinoid pathways at the same time, and acts by multiple neuropharmacological mechanisms. It also works alongside other anti-seizure medications, often allowing lower doses and reduced side effects while still being able to control seizures.
Cannabinoid receptors are located in cells throughout the body and control the excitability of neurons. When the endocannabinoid system malfunctions (sometimes called eCB deficiency syndrome), it may lead to symptoms including seizures, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, fibromyalgia, and other similar "maladaptive" conditions. The goal of using phytocannabinoids like hemp oil in these cases is to activate these deficient receptors and help the body equilibrate and return nerves to normal firing patterns.
While most of the scientific research available is on humans and laboratory animals as of now, there is more information being added all the time, and it is exciting to learn about the myriad benefits of these compounds and the potential benefits they have for the management of epilepsy and seizure conditions in our pets. If using hemp as part of an integrative approach to managing seizures can offer a better quality of life for owners and pets with fewer side effects, that would be a win-win for everyone!