As our furry, four-legged friends age they become more susceptible to aches and pains caused by chronic health conditions like osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that primarily affects the joints. Specifically, osteoarthritis is characterized by the loss and dysfunction of the cartilage in your joints. This condition can affect humans, dogs, and cats alike.
It’s estimated that 20% of dogs over the age of 1 in North America have osteoarthritis. While the condition is more commonly recognized among dogs, it’s observed more frequently among cats than you might realize.
40% of all cats show signs of osteoarthritis, and the prevalence of OA among cats increases with age. By 12 years old, at least 90% of cats have osteoarthritis.
Pet stores carry various products designed to alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis, including CBD tinctures, treats, and chews. So… How do they work? Can they help our canines and felines alike feel better?
Osteoarthritis Symptoms in Dogs
Naturally, our canine companions can’t verbally tell us they’re in pain. However, their body language is often more than enough to fire off the alarm bells.
Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis among dogs include:
- Reduced mobility; sudden inability to go up or down the stairs, being less active or less playful, reluctancy to stand up
- Swollen joints
- Repeatedly licking their joints
- Whining, barking, irritability, and/or aggression
- Walking very slowly
- Decreased range of motion in one or more joints
These symptoms can be easy to miss if your dog has a calm or lazy temperament. You might have already noticed these symptoms and assumed it was just old age if you have a senior dog, too.
But if you notice any changes — even subtle or minor changes — in your furry friend’s mobility, it’s essential to share that with your vet. Your veterinarian can take x-rays of your dog and make a proper diagnosis based on the symptoms you report.
Risk Factors For Osteoarthritis in Dogs
Age and genetics are two of the biggest risk factors for osteoarthritis among our beloved pups. However, you have to be careful assuming that osteoarthritis only affects older dogs. Your dog can develop osteoarthritis at any age; they just may be more likely to develop it as they reach their golden years.
Other risk factors for osteoarthritis in dogs include:
- Conformation (the shape and structure of your dog): Certain factors, such as lower pelvic mass, are associated with an increased risk of hip dysplasia, which increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Certain breeding practices and “desired traits” could be modified to help lower the risk of hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis in future generations of dogs.
- Breed: Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to osteoarthritis, including Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Mastiffs, Boxers, Italian Corsos, German Shepherds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, and French Bulldogs.
- Body weight: Higher body weights are associated with a significantly higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in dogs. The more your dog weighs (relative to their size), the more pressure is applied to their weight-bearing joints. Thus, obesity is a major risk factor for OA among dogs.
- Sex: Some studies have reported that sex could be a risk factor for osteoarthritis, though they conflictingly report that either males or females are at higher risk. Thus, this could be more related to their size and body weight than their actual sex.
- Neuter status: Dogs that are neutered reportedly have higher rates of osteoarthritis. However, older dogs tend to be fixed, so it might actually relate more to their age. More research is needed to determine how the sex hormones affected by neutering may affect bone and joint health.
- Previous injuries: Injuries to their limbs or joints throughout their life can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis Symptoms in Cats
The symptoms of osteoarthritis in cats tend to be more subtle than in dogs. For example, decreased range of joint motion is commonly observed in dogs but is uncommon in cats with osteoarthritis.
Instead, be on the lookout for the following symptoms in your feline friends:
- Inability to jump on or off of objects — this is the most common symptom
- Limping — this is less common in cats but may still occur
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Depression and general changes in attitude
- Poor grooming habits
- Potty accidents — urinating or defecating outside of the litter box
- Sleeping or hiding more than usual
Even if your cat appears to be “walking normally,” be sure to bring up any behavioral changes or concerns with your veterinarian.
Risk Factors For Osteoarthritis in Cats
The risk factors for osteoarthritis in cats are similar to those noted in dogs. As such, the list of risk factors for cats includes:
- Age: Cats are increasingly more likely to develop osteoarthritis as they age.
- Genetics: Some cats may be genetically predisposed to developing osteoarthritis.
- Breed: Certain cat breeds are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, including Persian, Siamese, Scottish Folds, and Maine Coon cats.
- Body weight: Like dogs, obesity increases cats’ risk of developing osteoarthritis.
- Previous injuries: Injuries to their joints or limbs can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
CBD & Pet Osteoarthritis
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the non-psychoactive component found in hemp and cannabis. It has anti-inflammatory, anxiety-relieving, pain-reducing, and sleep-promoting properties without the “high” associated with THC.
Several studies have been published on using CBD products to treat several canine conditions, with many studies focusing specifically on dogs with osteoarthritis.
However, the same can’t be said for cats. Unfortunately, there has been a notable lack of research on CBD and cats across the board. Thus, we still need more research on the safety and efficacy of CBD products for cats to help support the findings that have been made thus far.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the researchers evaluated the efficacy of CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis. One group received CBD while the other received a placebo.
Additionally, before starting the study on dogs, the researchers verified the anti-inflammatory activity of CBD in vitro using cell cultures and in vivo by administering CBD to mice.
The veterinarian assessed the dogs in the study and their ability to transition from sitting to standing, lying to standing, walking, and running. Significant improvements were observed among the dogs that took 50mg of CBD per day.In comparison, no improvements were observed among the dogs who received the placebo or just 20mg of “naked” CBD per day.
Significant improvements were also observed among dogs who took 20mg of liposomal CBD per day. Liposomal means the CBD has tiny phospholipid molecules in the formulation that help improve the bioavailability and absorption of CBD.
By contrast, the “naked” CBD was not liposomal, implying that it may have had lower bioavailability than the 20mg of liposomal CBD.
It’s also worth noting the dogs in the study were larger (above 20kg/44lbs), so they would also require higher doses of CBD than smaller breeds. But generally speaking, most experts only recommend 1-5mg of CBD per 10lbs of your dog’s body weight. So 50mg is considered a very high dose for dogs.
Another study assessed CBD’s pharmacokinetics, safety, and efficacy for dogs with osteoarthritis. Pharmacokinetics refers to how drugs move through the body — i.e., how dogs absorb and process CBD.
In this study, the dogs received either 2mg or 8mg of CBD per kg of body weight or a placebo every 12 hours.
Regarding pharmacokinetics, the CBD reached peak concentrations in dogs 1.5 to 2 hours after dosing. The half-life of CBD at both the 2mg and 8mg per kg doses was 4.2 hours after administration. This means half of the CBD was processed and eliminated 4.2 hours after it was consumed.
Based on these results, the researchers proceeded to only use 2mg/kg for the remainder of the study due to the “cost prohibitive nature of 8mg/kg dosing for most larger patients [and] the impractical nature of frequent dosing.” This decision was also based on how most CBD vendors only recommend “0.5mg to 2mg of CBD per kg” for dogs.
The dogs who had received the 2mg/kg dose showed significant decreases in pain and increases in mobility during the two and four week evaluation periods in the study.
Lastly, it’s worth noting the dogs in this study were medium to large breeds, ranging from 17kg (37lbs) to 50kg (110lbs). No side effects or adverse events from CBD were reported in either of the aforementioned studies.
Key Takeaways: CBD May Help Dogs with Osteoarthritis
Our furry-four-legged companions are subject to many of the same ailments and conditions as us humans, including osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the cartilage in the joints, which can significantly hinder mobility and decrease the quality of life among dogs and cats. Although osteoarthritis is more commonly recognized in dogs, it is far more prevalent among cats than many people realize. This is due to how subtle the symptoms of osteoarthritis are in cats vs. dogs.
Various factors can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis among canines and felines alike. These risk factors include age, breed, genetics, and body weight. There is also a correlation between neutering and osteoarthritis among dogs. However, whether it is simply correlation or causation is still to be determined.
Several studies have been published on the safety and efficacy of CBD for dogs with osteoarthritis. Repeatedly, these studies have demonstrated that CBD may reduce pain and increase mobility among dogs, depending on the CBD product’s dosage and format (liposomal vs. “naked”).
Although there is a lack of research on CBD for cats, there are CBD cat and dog products alike on the market. These products are available in tinctures, treats, chews, and capsules.
If you decide to give CBD to your pets, it’s always best to start with a lower dosage and work your way up as needed. As a rule of thumb, most CBD vendors recommend starting with 0.5mg to 2mg per kg of body weight, or 1-5mg of CBD for every 10lbs of body weight.
- Anderson, K. L., Zulch, H., O’Neill, D. G., Meeson, R. L., & Collins, L. M. (2020). Risk Factors for Canine Osteoarthritis and Its Predisposing Arthropathies: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.00220
- Zoetis Us. (n.d.). Feline Osteoarthritis (OA) Pain: Current & Future State of Disease. https://www.zoetisus.com/oa-pain/feline-oa-pain.aspx
- Center for Veterinary Medicine. (2021, May 6). Osteoarthritis in Cats: More Common Than You Think. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/osteoarthritis-cats-more-common-you-think
- Verrico, C. D., Wesson, S., Konduri, V., Hofferek, C. J., Vazquez-Perez, J., Blair, E., Dunner, K., Salimpour, P., Decker, W. K., & Halpert, M. M. (2020). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of daily cannabidiol for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis pain. Pain. https://doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001896
- Gamble, L. J., Boesch, J. M., Frye, C. W., Schwark, W. S., Mann, S., Wolfe, L., Brown, H., Berthelsen, E. S., & Wakshlag, J. J. (2018). Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2018.00165