The Endocannabinoid System In Dogs And Cats
Ever wondered why cannabis has such a profound effect on us?
The answer lies in the unsung hero of the body: The Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
It was only 30 years ago that scientists discovered this little-known system, which plays a pivotal role in immune function, metabolism, emotions, pain response, inflammation, appetite and more.
But the Endocannabinoid System isn’t just a human thing. There’s an Endocannabinoid System in dogs, cats, fish, birds and even the humble sea cucumber.
In fact, it’s believed that all animals – both invertebrates and vertebrates – have this system inside of them.
So how does it work?
What’s it made up of?
And what on earth does it have to do with cannabis?
What’s the Endocannabinoid System?
We didn’t learn about it in high school science. But just like the Central Nervous System is made up of the brain and spinal cord, the Endocannabinoid System has three main parts:
- Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), which are naturally occurring molecules in the body
- Enzymes to break down these endocannabinoids
- Cannabinoid receptors, natural areas of the body that interact with cannabinoids (including CB1 which are commonly found in the brain and body, and CB2 which are commonly found in the immune and digestive system)
Because the Endocannabinoid System plays a major role in systemic wellbeing, when it’s out of whack (often due to a lack of endocannabinoids) this can lead to negative health effects, like poor digestion, sleep issues, stress, anxiety, pain and inflammation.
Now, let’s turn back to the cannabis plant.
The cannabis plant contains things called phytocannabinoids, which can trigger the same physiological response as the endocannabinoids found in our bodies.
So when our pets have health issues, we can mimic the endocannabinoids in the body with the cannabis plant, promoting holistic wellbeing and positive health benefits.
Let’s talk more about Phytocannabinoids
If we want to understand why cannabis has such a profound effect on our pets, we need to take a closer look at phytocannabinoids.
There are around 120 different phytocannabinoids found in cannabis, which all interact with our pet’s body’s in different ways. But the two most renowned (and researched) are THC and CBD.
You’ve probably heard of this one: THC is the infamous compound that gives you the giggles. You see, THC has a particular liking to the CB1 receptors in the brain, which help to explain the mood and cognition changes we often experience.
Scientists now suggest that dogs and cats have a higher number of CB1 receptors, making them extremely sensitive to cannabis products containing THC.
As funny as that may sound, it’s rather serious, as they’re at greater risk than humans of adverse effects from THC. And what doggo owner wants that?
Ah, the good guy. CBD doesn’t contain any of the psychoactive effects like in THC, instead, it can do a world of good. It can provide relief from animal osteoarthritis, support brain health, reduce anxiety, prevent disease, increase appetite and reduce pain.
This is why many CBD products on the market contain a low proportion of THC and more of the good stuff (but more on that in a minute).
Benefits of CBD for dogs and cats
Turns out, we might share more similarities with our pets than we initially thought – and doesn’t that make you all warm and fuzzy?
Research to date suggests that cannabis interacts with dogs and cats similarly to humans (the main difference being that pets are more sensitive to THC).
Some of the benefits of CBD oil for pets include:
- Pain relief
- Relief from osteoarthritis
- Brain Health
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved immunity
- Boost metabolism
- Improve heart health
- Reduce nausea
- Stimulate appetite
- Reduce seizures
- Improve overall wellbeing
Are there any side effects of CBD for dogs and cats?
To date, studies suggest CBD is well tolerated with extremely rare adverse effects. When they do occur, side effects may include diarrhea, dry mouth and drowsiness.
It’s important to add that there have been limited studies exploring the side effects of CBD for dogs, cats and other animals – but we expect more research to unfold as cannabis grows in popularity.
What are the different types of CBD Oil for dogs and cats?
If you take anything away from this article, make sure it’s this: Not all cannabis and CBD products are created equal.
This is important to understand, as hazy legislation and sneaky marketing tactics have created a whole lot of confusion for the consumer. Thankfully, we’re going to spell it out.
First things first, hemp seed oil is not CBD oil. Hemp seed oil is made by cold pressing the hemp seeds, and it’s readily available on supermarket shelves. It boasts an impressive range of nutrients for our pets – including Omega fatty acids – but it doesn’t contain any phytocannabinoids.
This means that it doesn’t have an active effect on the endocannabinoid system. So it’s better to think of hemp seed oil as a superfood rather than a medicinal plant.
So that’s all well and good, but what if you want to give your dog or cat CBD?
Then there are some additional terms you need to be aware of…
Full Spectrum Hemp Oil
Full spectrum hemp oil is made from the entire hemp plant, including the leaves, flowers and stalk. The result is a product that contains the full profile of cannabinoids – including CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, CBGA… the list goes on.
While full spectrum hemp oil does contain the naughty THC compound, it only makes up 0.3% – which is not even close to the amount you’d need to experience any adverse effects. This means it’s safe for your doggo or cat to consume.
Choosing full spectrum hemp oil for your pet also exposes them to the entourage effect. This is the idea that consuming all the compounds of the cannabis plant heightens its benefits – as they synergistically work together. Neat, huh?
As the name suggests, CBD isolate is when producers extract the CBD only. This means your pet will receive a heightened dosage of CBD, but miss out on the other cannabinoids and the entourage effect.
Finally, broad spectrum includes all of the cannabinoids found in cannabis, minus THC. This means that your pet may still experience the benefits of the entourage effect, just without the THC.
Where do I get CBD Oil for dogs and cats?
You’ve made it to the million dollar question.
Getting CBD oil for dogs and cats in Australia isn’t exactly a walk in the park. And that’s largely due to the fact that parts of the cannabis plant are perfectly legal, and other parts are still illegal in large quantities (ahem, THC) – making it pretty hard to regulate.
What’s more, there are plenty of companies out there that use sneaky marketing to profit off the lack of consumer knowledge – so kudos for making it to the end of this article. You won’t be one of them.
When looking for CBD oil, it’s important to choose a reputable, trustworthy source. Get in touch with them before making a purchase, and use this knowledge to ask educated questions. It’s also a good idea to chat to your vet before using any CBD products on your cat or dog.