CSU researchers study CBD’s affect on arthritis in dogs

Hayden Hawley

Researcher Shelly Shamir works with a patient. (Photo courtesy of Felix Duerr)

Researchers at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital are conducting a study on the efficacy of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component in cannabis, on osteoarthritis in dogs.

Felix Duerr, a doctor of veterinary medicine and associate professor at CSU, is leading the study. According to him, this kind of research can be its own reward.

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“We do a lot of these trials,” Duerr said. “We only use drugs or treatments that we think are beneficial so we get to help these dogs and at the same time advance medicine. It’s just an awesome job, really.”

Osteoarthritis in dogs is extremely common, particularly in large breeds. According to Lindsay Elam, a doctor of veterinary medicine and another researcher on the project, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital sees its fair share.

“Far and away, the animals we deal with the most are ones that have arthritis,” Elam said on her work with the Orthopedic Medicine and Mobility service. “Unfortunately it’s one of those diseases that’s not curable but rather managed.”

Researchers are cautiously optimistic that CBD could be the next big thing in canine pain reduction.

“I think there’s a lot of promise even in human medicine honestly,” Duerr said. “I think we need to learn more about it, but yeah, I’m pretty excited about it. … I’m excited about the future, but we need to make sure it’s safe first.”

By constantly seeking out new treatments to mitigate dogs’ discomfort from osteoarthritis, Duerr and his colleagues are attempting to take a stand against pooch pain everywhere.”

The study, funded by cannabis extract purveyor CBDMD, is still actively recruiting new participants. If they qualify for the study and choose to participate, the patient must return to the VTH several times for evaluation, where they will receive a peanut butter-flavored CBD tincture or placebo.

“Each patient in the clinical trial will receive both placebo and CBD in a random order,” Elam wrote in an email to The Collegian. “That way we can compare each dog essentially to themselves on and off the CBD, but the clinicians, as well as owners, don’t know which one they’re on … until the very end of the study when we unblind it.”

Patient response will be measured through both owner surveys and a set of specialized tools.

“We give you kind of a cool little doggy Fitbit,” Elam said, explaining that this tool allows veterinarians to measure how much the patient chooses to walk on their own volition. “We’ll walk them over a pressure-sensitive walkway when they come back for their visits with us as well, and that tells us exactly how much percent body weight they’re putting on any given leg, so we can say exactly as a percentage how much they’re limping.”

In addition to testing the change in discomfort a dog might experience when given CBD, the study also seeks to find out if the cannabis byproduct interacts negatively with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs — what Duerr put in layman’s terms as “the dog version of aspirin.”

“We do know that the dog version of aspirin is really good for pain control, but it has some side effects and lots of other drugs cannot be given together with it,” Duerr said. “We think that CBD can actually be given together with it, so that’s part of what we’re investigating. … The pain is usually not 100% controlled with those NSAIDs.”

By constantly seeking out new treatments to mitigate dogs’ discomfort from osteoarthritis, Duerr and his colleagues are attempting to take a stand against pooch pain everywhere.

“We always have a few clinical trials running at any given time trying to test new treatment or diagnostic strategies for animals with arthritis,” Elam said. “We’re always looking out for new ways we can help modulate the pain in these animals and hopefully one day find a cure for arthritis.”

Participants who complete the study will be given a $500 incentive fee. For more information and to find out if your dog qualifies for the study, visit www.csudogs.com.

Hayden Hawley can be reached at cannabis@collegian.com or on Twitter @hateonhawley.