According to the American College of Rheumatology, every year, around 302 million people around the world are affected by osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. In addition, back pain and arthritis are two of the leading causes of work disability in the US. Although advancements in analgesics have been made in over the years, leading to the development of fast-acting gels, ointments, creams, and sprays that provide instant pain relief, there is still no effective long-term treatment for this condition.

But that may soon change thanks to the recent findings of a team of researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, who conducted a study to assess the therapeutic effects of CBD in treating arthritic pain in dogs. The researchers hope that their findings can shed some light into how CBD might help humans afflicted with the same condition.

In the last five years, CBD has gained a lot of traction as an alternative form of treatment for a wide range of conditions and diseases, from insomnia to multiple sclerosis, although much of the hype has been a result of its anti-inflammatory properties, resulting in the introduction of an ever-expanding list of products that target muscle soreness and pain.

While there already exists a wealth of anecdotal evidence of CBD’s efficacy in treating joint pain for sufferers of arthritis, more studies still need to be done. The Baylor study is a step in that direction.

The study was done in collaboration with Medterra, a CBD company who provided the CBD tinctures used in the experiment. The study focused on dogs because canine arthritis mimics the characteristics of human arthritis.

The study was published in the medical journal PAIN. The study first showed how, in both laboratory tests and mouse models, CBD was able to significantly reduce the production of inflammatory molecules and immune cells associated with arthritis. Meanwhile, in the dogs-focused study, it showed that CBD treatment significantly improved the dogs’ quality of life as assessed by both owners and veterinarians.

The study’s lead scientist, Dr. Matthew Halpert from Baylor’s Department of Pathology and Immunology, said, “CBD is rapidly increasing in popularity due to its anecdotal health benefits for a variety of conditions, from reducing anxiety to helping with movement disorders.”

In the study, Halpert and his co-researchers measured the effects of CBD on immune responses associated with arthritis, both in human and murine (mice) cells grown in the lab and in mouse models. They found that the CBD tinctures helped reduce the production of inflammatory molecules and immune cells linked to arthritis. In addition, they found that the CBD was more effective and the effect was quicker when the CBD was administered via encapsulated lipsomes rather than ‘naked’.

Following the favorable results observed in the mice models, they turned to assessing CBD’s effects on arthritic dogs. Halpert said of the decision, “We studied dogs because experimental evidence shows that spontaneous models of arthritis, particularly in domesticated canine models, are more appropriate for assessing human arthritis pain treatments than other animal models. The biological characteristics of arthritis in dogs closely resemble those of the human condition.”

According to the American Kennel Club, arthritis affects one out of five dogs in the US. Like humans, while there are drugs that can treat the symptoms and alleviate pain, there are no effective long-term forms of treatment. Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often the first choice in treating pain. However, they come with a range of detrimental side effects and cannot be used in the medium or long-term.

20 dogs were enrolled int the study at the Sunset Animal Hospital in Houston. The dogs were randomly provided with identical unidentified bottles that contained CBD, liposomal CBD, or a placebo. Neither the owners nor the vets knew which treatment each dog was receiving.

After four weeks of daily treatment, the owners and vets reported on the dogs’ conditions, with regards to their level of pain and changes in gait. Before the treatment, the dogs were also evaluated on cell blood count and blood indicators for both liver and kidney function.

At the end of the four weeks, Halpert said that the results were encouraging. “Nine of the 10 dogs on CBD showed benefits, which remained for two weeks after the treatment stopped. We did not detect alterations in the blood markers we measured, suggesting that, under the conditions of our study, the treatment seems to be safe.”

The team’s findings will provide the basis for future studies on the effects of CBD in treating human arthritis. Thanks to the 20 dogs who participated in the study, relief may soon find, not just our arthritis-suffering four-legged friends, but also the millions of people worldwide who struggle with the condition every day.

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