Researchers at Colorado State University are studying how cannabis can help treat dogs with epilepsy and arthritis, but the veterinarians say humans could be the real beneficiaries.
Researchers at the Department of Clinical Science at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital are using cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component found in cannabis, in the study. It's a treatment many parents in the U.S. have already turned to to help their children suffering from seizures.
Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, but CBD is only legal in 18, which has limited research on its uses.
"The overall goal, the really long, long term goal would be to translate it to human medicine," said Dr. Stephanie McGarth, the lead researcher on the study.
About four dozen dogs are participating in the study, which is being funded by pet medication maker Applied Basic Science Corp., and some dog owners say they are already seeing an improvement in their pet's condition.
"Within about 45 minutes of giving it to Buster I could see a difference, it was just a whole different dog," said Kreg Adams of his dog Buster, who suffers from seizures.
However, half of the dogs in the study are part of a control group and are being given a placebo.
"There is a placebo effect and that same placebo effect is actually present in dogs as well. The dogs obviously don't know that but the owners. So when we ask owners, we have what we call a caregiver placebo effect," said researcher Felix Duerr.
Researchers check the dogs' brains for abnormalities to ensure there are no underlying causes for the seizures and the owners of the dogs are asked to keep a log of their pets seizures.
For the arthritic dogs, researchers use a special tracking pad to measure how much pressure dogs put on each paw when they walk.
If a dog puts less pressure on a paw, that means they are experiencing pain in that area, researchers said.
Dogs in the epilepsy study will receive the CBD oil or a placebo for 12 weeks. Dogs in osteoarthritis clinical trial will receive either the CBD oil or a placebo for six weeks and then will receive the opposite medication for the following six weeks.
The results of the study are expected to come out next year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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