Today and as we receive an increasing number of requests from pet owners, we bring you the story of Jack, the 9 and a half years old Belgian Shepherd that was diagnosed with a strong form of epilepsy, back in 2016.
It was no walk in the park for Jack's owner and friend, Fernando, who shares his hopeful and inspiring story from when he found him, to when he fought for him and changed his life.
How it all started: In 2012, the rescue.
"I did not want any particular kind of dog but Jack appeared in scene and I remember his super positive energetic attitude despite of being so thin, having abuse marks on his muzzle, conjunctivitis in both eyes and internal worms, as I saw later. He was limping as he had a very deep injury on his paw.
He had been given antibiotics but it didn't work very well for him. I was told he would probably need to have a big part of his paw amputated but luckily, it was not necessary in the end and he recovered very fast. Jack just needed a home.
2016, the diagnosis : Idiopathic Epilepsy
Two month before the official Idiopathic Epilepsy diagnosis in April 2016, there were two days where we came home from work and found some objects that seemed to have been destroyed. We didn't take it seriously at the time. After witnessing his first epilepsy episode ourselves, we were told to wait to confirm it wasn't just an isolated crisis, and it happened again with harder intensity everytime.
He started taking an anti-epileptic drug at a high dosage and at first, the crisis were more or less under control. A year later, the dosage had to be increased up to the maximum as the epilepsy crisis appeared more and more often and even so, he was having several crisis a day, more or less 2 times a month. An emergency drug was needed to stop each crisis, plus another strong antiepileptic drug in addition to get his Central Nervous System balanced again. After a crisis, Jack was stoned by the strong drugs for a few days, he lost sight and was unable to walk properly, with no strenght in his back legs. He slowly recovered from it, spent a few quiet days until the first signs of stress lead to another episode and the same mad cycle started again.
Our vet decided to add a second drug to the one Jack was already taking at maximum dosage. The crisis became less frequent, but a lot but very nasty side effects appeared on him. It wasn't just his skin getting burnt and losing hair all through his body, but also he also started wailing and trembling, becoming very grumpy and stressed everyday. It was really heartbreaking to see him like that, we even considered putting him to sleep, as he was suffering so much.
Discovering CBD: a light at the end of the tunnel
I remember one night of 2017, I googled "natural remedies for epilepsy" with very little hope. Suddenly I found the story of Charlotte, a little girl from the USA suffering from severe epilepsy and successfully treating it with a high CBD strain of cannabis. The next day I went to my local Grow-shop, saw Enecta Premium Hemp Extract 10% CBD oil, bought a bottle and threw away Jack's second antiepileptic drug on that same day. "Last bullet, Jack!" was what I wrote to the Customer Care team in the first week, telling them about my experiment.
I started with a low CBD dosage for a week for Jack to get used to it, increased it up, and then increased it little more but the epilepsy episodes remained as frequent as before. "Sorry Jack, this is not working", I remember thinking. Then, I decided to take one last leap of faith and almost doubled his daily dosage. I waited for his next crisis for a week, then two, three weeks, thinking "well done Jack, maybe this is working?". Weeks turned into a month, then two: "Yes, we got it Jack !". I thought, I'd try and reduce the dosage of the first antiepileptic drug as well as it was at a dangerous level, so we started decreasing it slowly.
Months continued to pass, and there was still no epilepsy crisis in sight. The antiepileptic drug was now at only 25% of the initial dosage working hand-in-hand with CBD, allowing Jack to make it to this day, 3rd April 2020 and seizure-free for 1 year and 7 months. Keeping his CBD dosage steady and regular, we further reduced the antiepileptic drug to 10% of his initial dosage with success, so our goal is to achieve its complete discontinuation this year. Since taking CBD, there was no decrease in its efficiency, no tolerance development, quite the opposite. We have never needed to change his CBD dosage and as Jack is becoming older, he has never looked better.
2020: How is life treating Jack?
Jack takes CBD twice a day, just before every meal, it is simply a part of his daily routine. I give him the oil directly from a little syringe that I've marked with precise amounts of oil, but I could also just use the dropper. My mother prefers to just put CBD oil directly into his food, and it is fine as well.
Jack has always needed a lot of sport and in 2017 we had to stop as everytime he got excited, he had a serious epilepsy crisis. Today, Jacks has a normal happy and healthy life, he does intense sport everyday and he is almost 9 and a half years old ! We even took part in a canicross race, which was a really happy day for all of us, and a symbol of victory after years of fight.
Tips to people considering CBD?
Find a reliable CBD supplier and be careful: "10% hemp extract, with CBD" is not the same as "10% CBD hemp extract". Maths don´t lie, but unfortunately some dishonest suppliers do.
I would also add: do your research. During Jack's journey to health, I read a lot about Cannabidiol, its benefits against epilepsy (for children especially) and its general effects on our Central Nervous System. I have truly learnt a lot. There are few studies with humans and still very little research about it, but all the results published are promising: CBD shows to be effective with a lot CNS and neurodegenerative diseases. And what's more important, CBD has a very safe profile. I couldn't see any side effects on Jack, not even the smallest one.
I also personally take CBD sometimes to relieve some stress, help me sleep better or to ease some muscular pain. It really works and my mind remains clear (if not clearer!) It would be great to overcome this "drug stigma" around CBD and medical cannabis.