CBD Oil And Liver Disease In Dogs

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Does CBD elevate liver enzymes? Read about the NEW study that has reported no evidence of liver toxicity associated with CBD. CBD is a powerful therapy for dogs suffering with liver disease from cancer, infection, toxins, poor diet, and more. But there is some reason for caution.

Does CBD Elevate Liver Enzymes?

I am someone who doesn’t trust anything until I have researched it myself. In fact, before I would give my pets full spectrum hemp extract (CBD), I got my certificate in the biology and therapeutic uses of medical cannabis from the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. I also made it my mission to share as much research and information with pet parents about cannabis and other holistic modalities as possible.

One of the questions my team and I are asked often is whether CBD is safe and if it has any negative effects on pets. Because of a recent study, a stern warning from the FDA, and negative coverage in mainstream media outlets, the question has been posed: “Does CBD elevate liver enzymes to dangerous levels?” To find out the truth, I consulted the country’s top holistic veterinarians and did a little digging to find the most current research and medical opinion.

Table of Contents

NEW! Study Reports No Evidence of Liver Toxicity Associated With CBD

A New study on the “Observed Impact of Long-term Consumption of Oral Cannabidiol on Liver Function in Healthy Adults” has reported no evidence of liver toxicity associated with CBD. “Observational data gathered from 839 participants — ages 18–75 from across the U.S. and known to be taking hemp-derived CBD products orally for a minimum of 30 days — showed that CBD at the doses consumed in the study is not associated with clinical liver toxicity. Previous studies have suggested that prescribed cannabidiol (CBD) products may cause elevations in liver tests (LT).”

“This study compared the prevalence of elevated LT in an adult population self-administering CBD with the normal and general adult population prevalences. A total of 28,121 individuals were invited to participate in this study, 1475 enrolled, and 839 (female: 65.3%, male: 34.7%) completed the study. Full-spectrum hemp oil was used by 55.7%, CBD-isolate by 40.5%, and broad spectrum by 3.8%. The mean – SD daily dose of CBD was 50.3 + 40.7 mg. The prevalence of elevated ALT was 9.1%, aspartate aminotransferase (AST) 4.0%, alkaline phosphatase 1.9%, total bilirubin 1.7%, with 85.5% of the ALT elevations < 2 · the upper limit of normal (ULN) with only 0.3% having ALT levels >3 · ULN. The prevalence of ALT and AST elevations (9.1% and 4.0%) were not significantly different from known adult general population prevalences (8.9% and 4.9%). There was no significant association between CBD dosage and LT values. Thirty-three individuals with elevated ALT levels had follow-up LT performed with 21 having normal LT, 8 having the same severity of ALT elevation, and 4 having an increase in severity, 1 of which ultimately became normal.”

The results of the study concluded “Self-medication of CBD does not appear to be associated with an increased prevalence of LT elevation and most of the LT elevations are likely due to the conditions/medications for which the individuals are taking CBD.”

What About The Study That Alleged CBD Was Unsafe for Dogs Because of Elevated Liver Enzymes?

The original study that alleged that CBD raised liver enzymes was published in a medical journal called Molecules, and was conducted by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Researchers looked at the effect of various dosage amounts on mice, using the recommended dosage amount for humans to scale. The study found that mice who received higher doses of CBD showed liver damage within 24 hours, with 75 percent on the brink of death in a matter of days. Scary stuff, right?

There is just one big problem with the study: it was conducted using Epidiolex, an FDA approved CBD isolate, and the dosage was astronomically high. Epidiolex is NOT a full spectrum hemp extract, which means that the entourage effect is not in place and the amounts given were purposefully misleading.

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To conduct the experiment, scientists fed mice single doses of CBD ranging from “low” at 246 mg/kg up to a mega-dose of 2460 mg/kg CBD. To break it down, for every kilogram of body weight, they gave the mice about 2.5 grams of CBD. This dose is over ten times the normal dose – which is unreasonably high, and which caused the study to be skewed away from reasonable use from the start. The study’s abstract also presents math that is impossible. Since only 6 mice were studied, 75 percent of mice would have been 4.5, leaving only 1.5 mice to survive. Perhaps it is the animal lover in me, but I do hope that whichever mouse was able to survive in two halves is living a healthy life to this day, but something tells me that this figure is simply incorrect.

Why Would the Makers of Epidiolex Want Negative Results?

Epidiolex is made by a pharmaceutical company called GW Pharmaceuticals, who has taken great pains to corner the market on cannabis. In fact, they routinely lobby for stricter regulations that only they can meet. For example, they have pushed for legislation making it harder for medical cannabis companies to be marketed unless FDA approved. So, pushing researchers to find an issue with liver toxicity can only serve to benefit them by allowing them to be the only company able to provide a product that potentially will NOT elevate enzymes when used as directed. By raising consumer skepticism and fear of cannabis, they can effectively corner the market.

Do Vets Think CBD Is Safe For Dogs?

Dr. Gary Richter, a holistic veterinarian and owner and medical director of Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, CA, has been using medical cannabis in his practice for years. After years of research, Dr. Richter has spoken publicly about this study and shares that your pet cannot overdose on CBD, and elevated liver enzymes were reported incorrectly.

“Life-threatening risks for dogs from medical cannabis are exceedingly rare,” Richter says. “Toxicity more often occurs when a pet has eaten a product that contains chocolate, coffee, or raisins. Even if the THC toxicity is not excessive, they can sometimes have problems due to these other ingredients.”

Dr. Richter also notes that most medications, including Tylenol, raise liver enzymes, and when given extremely high doses of these common medications (or small doses over long periods of time) liver damage can occur. However, research has not shown that life-long use of cannabis has an adverse effect on the liver. In fact, it has shown the opposite, because elevated liver enzymes cease as soon as cannabis leaves the system (unlike dangerous pharmaceuticals) and CBD can be tolerated in dogs at very high dosages without fatal side effects.

“You always have to look at the clinical picture. Looking at one study’s research regarding elevated liver enzymes and focusing on it is a fear-based approach to medicine. And, it’s inhibiting our ability to understand this plant as a whole.”- Dr. Zac Pilossoph

Is CBD Safe For Dogs?

Studies have shown that CBD is actually safer for dogs than many widely used prescription medications. In a study conducted by Colorado State University, 10 mg/kg/day or 20mg/kg/day of CBD was administered to dogs for 6 days. CBD was well-tolerated in the study population. There was an elevation in serum ALP in 36 percent of patients, and all other blood parameters were normal – nothing more than a reaction to normal over the counter medications. Six of the 30 dogs had vomiting, and all had mild diarrhea. 11 of 30 dogs experienced erythema of pinna and 10 of 30 dogs experienced nasal and ocular discharge. These effects were significantly safer than many side effects of both over the counter and prescription medications.

How Can CBD Help Treat Liver Issues in Dogs?

The rising popularity of CBD products for dogs has inspired many pet owners to get on board with giving the supplement to their companion animals for a wide variety of conditions. These include epilepsy and seizures, cancer, pain, inflammation, joint and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. CBD also serves as an immune system regulator, a neuro-protector, antibacterial and post surgical assistant to healing. As such, it is becoming a prized remedy for supporting pet health.

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Studies on the benefits of CBD for dogs are few and are just beginning to appear in larger numbers. These studies have focused primarily on the use of CBD for treating arthritis and epilepsy in dogs, as well as for canine pain relief. There is a group of disorders, however, for which CBD may be or great benefit for dogs, and that is the category of liver disease. There are no long-term studies on the efficacy of CBD for treating these conditions, but many holistic vets feel it has an important role to play in this area.

Types of Liver Disease in Dogs

The liver is the second largest organ in a dog’s body, the largest being the skin. It plays a critical part in metabolism and breaking down toxins, in all being responsible for some 1,500 different biological processes. The liver filters the blood, produces bile to break down fats, produces proteins that are responsible for clotting, regulates blood levels of amino acids, stores iron that is used in the processing of hemoglobin, helps the animal to resist infections by filtering bacteria from the bloodstream, and much more. When the liver is compromised, the result can be a variety of serious health issues for the dog.

The primary challenges to canine liver health are:

2. Toxic plants and chemicals

4. Cancer and tumors

7. Congenital conditions

Let’s look at each of these individually.

Infection

Fungi, parasites, viruses (such as Adenovirus)and bacterial infections (such as Leptospirosis) can invade a dog’s body, infect the liver, and cause extensive damage. Leptospirosis — one of the most common infections — is spread to dogs via contact with wildlife such as rodents that carry the bacteria. The Leptospirosis spirochetes invade the body, spreading to and reproducing in the liver, kidneys, eyes, central nervous system, and reproductive system. The most obvious indication of this condition is fever, which often resolves upon the development of antibodies produced by the animal’s immune system. However, if the immune system is compromised, it is difficult for the dog’s body to resist the infection and the result can be fatal.

Toxic Plants and Chemicals

The liver is the first line of defense against environmental toxins. These toxins are ubiquitous in the homes and gardens of pet owners in the form of common plants that are toxic to dogs. These include aloe, begonia, daffodil, castor bean, sago palm, autumn crocus, lilies, tomato leaves, and many others. Foods such as raisins or chocolate are well-known canine hazards. And exposure to household cleaning products and a variety of other chemicals can cause poisoning and liver damage.

Pharmaceuticals

Drugs, even those prescribed by veterinarians, can be harmful to dogs. Pharmaceuticals account for much of the poor health seen in animals treated via conventional medical means. Prednisone, phenobarbital, and tetracycline are among the commonly administered medications that can cause canine hepatic disease.

Cancer and tumors

Liver cancer in dogs can be caused by exposure to pesticides, herbicides, or other environmental chemicals. It can also be the result of molds found in common pet food additives, diabetes, long-term use of painkillers, parasites, and untreated heartworms, among other causes. The cancer may spread to other vital organs if not treated.

Diet

Commercial pet food is often contaminated with aflatoxins, which are a major contributor to poor health in companion animals. Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin that come from the Aspergillus fungus and can not be killed by high temperatures, so even cooked foods are likely to contain them. They are found in foods such as corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, Brazil nuts, rice and walnuts. Aflatoxins bind with DNA and cause cell mutations which lead to cancer. Low cost kibble is most likely to contain these substances, but even premium quality brands have been found to harbor aflatoxins. Chronic exposure to aflatoxins has been associated with increased risk of liver cancer (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1314947/).

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Over-vaccination

Vaccination has an important role to play in maintaining a dog’s health. However, there are risks associated with over-vaccination. Finding the proper balance between core vaccines (those that all dogs should receive to be protected against serious diseases such as distemper, adenovirus, parovirus, and rabies) and non-core vaccines (those given based on individual need). Vaccination schedules should depend on lifestyle and exposure factors, and is ultimately a decision to be made by the individual pet owner in consultation with their veterinarian. Many holistic vets feel that over-vaccination can lead to chronic illness in pets, including certain types of cancer originating from vaccination-caused inflammation.

Congenital Conditions

A congenital liver shunt is an abnormal but common condition in dogs. A shunt results from a birth defect known as PSS or portosystemic shunt. It is an abnormal blood vessel that connects the digestive tract with the circulatory system, bypassing the liver and preventing it from filtering proteins that need to be digested and absorbed in the gut. As a result, proteins are diverted into the bloodstream instead of being processed through the liver. This condition results in a variety of health problems including poor growth, low appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and neurological problems.

How Can CBD Help Treat Liver Issues in Dogs?

CBD has an important role to play in healing liver disease. It can be part of a targeted treatment approach that includes diet, nutritional supplements, veterinary supervision and pharmaceuticals if indicated. Here are a few primary ways that CBD can help dogs being treated for liver conditions.

· Inhibits tumor growth

· No harmful side effects

· Decreases side effects of conventional cancer treatments

· Reduces pain and inflammation

· Maintains healthy appetite

· Treats symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, vertigo, thus making dog more comfortable and improving quality of life.

When Should CBD Not Be Used for Canine Liver Disease?

There are two areas in which using CBD to treat liver disease comes with caveats. One is congenital liver shunts. Dr. Michael Dym, DVM (http://doctordym.com) says that when treating these conditions his focus is on cutting down on the workload for the liver. This includes switching to a high quality low protein diet and using supplements such as SAMe and milk thistle, rather than using CBD. He’s hesitant about using supplements with all liver conditions, but particularly with congenital issues. “We don’t really know the effects,” he says. He has no hesitation, however, about using CBD for cancer, toxicity, infection, and problems caused by diet and over-vaccination.

The other time to be cautious is when an animal is on pharmaceuticals. Cytochrome P450 is a family of enzymes that play a key role in the metabolism of medications, including both veterinary drugs and CBD. As a consequence, they could interfere with one another’s effectiveness. Dr. Dym says that “they don’t actually neutralize each other, but [given] the fact that [both] are metabolized with the liver Cytochrome P450 system, we just have to be mindful when the liver is chronically compromised.” He may use slightly lower doses of CBD in these cases while being careful to support the liver with appropriate diet and nutrition and closelymonitor the dog..

The Big Picture: CBD as a Treatment Option For Your Dog

CBD offers enormous potential benefits for dogs with liver conditions and should not be overlooked as a treatment option. A good holistically oriented vet will use a comprehensive approach including dietary and nutritional support while conducting regular lab tests to track the animal’s progress.

A reputable holistic vet will also take great care to select high-quality CBD brands — carefully sourced, organically grown, and rigorously tested — to use in their practice. Choose a good vet who does their research, and the rest of the picture will be easier to sort out. And a good prognosis for your pup will be the most likely result.

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