FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- At Colorado State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital, 9-year-old Tucker the Entlebucher, has become well-known for his enthusiastic greetings and affinity for treats.
He's also one of the dogs Dr. Felix Duerr and his team hope will give them a better understanding of how effective CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabis compound found in marijuana plants, is in treating arthritis and epilepsy.
"Our question is, does CBD help with this problem and is there an improvement in the outcome measures that we use?" Dr. Duerr explained.
The budding CBD for pets industry promises to treat everything from anxiety to pain management, but like anything involving cannabis, the legal waters of how the drug is being used, remain murky at best.
"It is, to some degree, a federal crime right now to prescribe this," Dr. Duerr said.
Despite the unknowns, many vets are already prescribing CBD products containing a very low level of THC (less than 3 percent), skirting any potential legal consequences and pet owners are turning to CSU's vet teaching hospital hoping to get treatment for their "best friend."
The discussion of CBD use in pets is nothing new. Testimonials from vets appear on the American Veterinary Medical Association website claiming success in treating pain but also warning of the need for responsible dosing and more research. That's where Dr. Duerr comes in.
"We need to make sure that there [are] no problems that can happen when you give this to your dog," said Dr. Duerr.
In Tucker's case, owner Jackie Tichawsky watched arthritis steal parts of his life for the last two years.
"It went really quickly from limping one day to two months later, not wanting to go on any more walks or anything," Tichawsky said. "We gave him Rimadyl and some glucosamine, things like that, but nothing really worked."
Desperate for a fix, she turned to Dr. Duerr and his team.
"I thought it would be worth a try since nothing was working for him," Tichawsky said.
Tucker became part of a three-month clinical trial. For six weeks he was given an oil containing CBD and for six weeks he was given an oil without CBD or a placebo. It's a double-blind study, meaning neither researchers nor Tucker's owners knew when he was given the placebo versus the real drug. They then tracked his activity using an activity collar and analyzed his gait on a pressure mat.
"We can get the program to calculate what exactly was the force on each paw during that walk," Dr. Duerr explained.
"The first part I could not see any difference, and then it got switched after six weeks. I think it got switched and I pretty drastically saw a difference in him," said Tichawsky.
Although Tichawsky doesn't know the findings of the study yet, she's already a believer the CBD oil helped.
"Yes, I'm convinced, 100 percent convinced. For him it's working," Tichawsky said.
Tichawsky is so convinced, she continued Tucker on the CBD treatment even after the three months was complete.
"It's a different strength of what he was getting here for the study but he's still on the CBD. It's from the same company. He gets it twice a day every day," Tichawsky said.
Dr. Duerr and his team are hopeful but say pet owners should remain cautious when considering CBD for their dogs. The findings of their studies will be published in about a year.