The Effects of Cannabinoids from Hemp on Dogs and Cats
Hemp is defined as the plant Cannabis sativa L. having less than three-tenths (0.3%) percent Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp also contains a naturally occurring cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has gained popularity recently for being a generally well tolerated, natural remedy for conditions related to stress, anxiety, inflammation, and the immune system. All these reported benefits are without the psycho-activity associated with THC.
“Products made with a botanically complete hemp oil, including the naturally occurring cannabinoids and terpenes, and can cause feelings of calm, relaxation. Taken alone, CBD has been shown to have sedative, antioxidant, anti-anxiety, and antidepressant effects on the brain, but does not seem to create any intoxicating or euphoric effects like THC.”
— Tyler Strause, founder Randy’s Club
These benefits make sense when you learn the mechanisms that underlie the benefits of cannabinoids for dogs, cats, and other animals. But what makes CBD special?
All vertebrates produce and have receptors for cannabinoids. These so-called endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) and receptors are part of a system that modulates the regulation of a variety of body processes relating to the immune and central nervous system. This system is called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and functions to maintain homeostasis in the body.
The ECS is involved in multiple physiologic processes including the regulation of pain, mood, and cognition, as well as inflammation and immune response. It also plays a critical role in our metabolism all by maintaining homeostasis. Cannabinoid receptors can be found throughout the body. Two primary cannabinoid receptors have been identified: CB1 and CB2. CB1, found primarily in the brain regions, is mainly responsible for memory and motor functions; while CB2 operates throughout the body mostly in immune system and bone marrow cells.
Anandamide, also known as the “bliss molecule.” or “body’s own THC” and the cause of a “runner’s high” is an important endocannabinoid that binds to the same receptors as THC. Anandamide levels have been correlated with increased mood, memory function and affecting a number of other processes, such as appetite, pain, and memory. This molecule is also found in mother’s milk a thought to be associated with the bonding process. The CB1 agonist anandamide is present in the kidneys in dogs, cats, and people.
More interestingly, it has been associated with reducing the growth, spread, and survival of cancer cells. In 1998, a group of Italian scientists discovered that anandamide effectively slows the formation of cancer cells in a lab. Further research has shown that increasing anandamide levels in the brain reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.
When modulated, the ECS receptors regulate the body’s immune response, promoting a healthy inflammatory response to stress or trauma. These naturally produced cannabinoids play a central role in modulating the regulation of the human body. How the ECS is affected by the phytocannabinoids found in hemp is a hot topic for research and discussion as cannabis becomes more accessible to scientists and researchers looking for new or better ways to address chronic / difficult to treat conditions that may not respond well to existing treatment options. Or, in our perspective, how consistent, regular use can supplement the ECS allowing it to work more efficiently and effectively.
Dogs and Cats:
Dogs and cats are prime targets for the naturally occurring cannabinoids in hemp including CBD. Veterinary medicine tends to be very conservative but there is a clear trend in the interest for role of CBD in animals.
Mr. Cital, from Silicon Valley Veterinary Specialists (SVVS) in San Jose, CA, stated, “despite [the] restrictive policy, ….legal ramifications for veterinarians selling hemp-based cannabis products have not led to any loss of licensure to date and are highly dependent on individual state veterinary medical boards. Veterinarians also cannot “prescribe” or recommend these products. Interestingly, because hemp-based products are sold over the counter, veterinarians do not need to prescribe them and they are free to legally discuss with clients what the endocannabinoid system is and how it can be supplemented.” Mr. Cital recommended a “start low and go slow” approach he advised starting with a dose lower than 2 mg/kg, then gradually increasing the dose to achieve the desired effect.
There are no formal studies on the use of CBD in dogs or scientific data supporting the effect of CBD in dogs. However, the American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Health Foundation (CHF) is currently sponsoring a study, through the Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, that will evaluate the use of CBD in treatment-resistant epileptic dogs. The CHF hopes that this will be the first study to gain scientific data on the use of CBD in dogs with this condition. The AKC recognizes the increase interested and has published a What You Need to Know article.
Given the potential benefits of increasing anandamide levels in the body’s of our dogs and cats, one could consider using hemp products as a way to take advantage of these benefits.
Effects of Cannabinoids
At this point, we don’t fully know the full effects of endocannabinoids on the body in the context of phytocannabinoids from hemp. More research is needed, but, thanks to the favorable safety profile of hemp and, it’s potential benefits, hemp products are available to use with our pets today. Nonetheless, a better understanding will help us to efficiently use hemp to effectively regulate the ECS optimizing beneficial effects.
“Studies have shown that while CBD alone can have a positive effect on inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, and spasms, whole plant extracts are about 4 times as effective due to the synergistic effects of major and minor constituents including small amounts of THC.”
– Linda Strause Ph.D. & Vice President of G. Randall & Sons Inc. makers of Randy’s Remedy products.
Help managing stress and anxiety disorders
A growing body of evidence indicates a nexus between stress, anxiety and the inflammatory response. Increased stress and anxiety causes an increased inflammatory response which, if not controlled leads to increased stress and anxiety.
Here are some important studies suggesting possible effects of CBD on the body.
- Study (2010): Antidepressant‐like effects of cannabidiol in mice: possible involvement of 5‐HT1A receptors. British Journal of Pharmacology Results: Found that CBD induced antidepressant-like effects comparable to those of Imipramine. Results further suggest that these effects of CBD may be mediated by activation of 5-HT(1A) receptors.”
- Study (2014): Antidepressant-Like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis sativa. Publisher: Bentham Science Publishers Results: By reviewing studies that investigated the anxiolytic-like and antidepressant-like effects of CBD on animal models, a variety of experiments, such as the forced swimming test, elevated plus maze and Vogel conflict test, suggest that CBD exhibited an anti-anxiety and antidepressant effect in animal models.
- Study (2016): Prohedonic Effect of Cannabidiol in a Rat Model of Depression. Publisher: Neuropsychobiology Results: CBD has shown a hedonic (willingness to move towards a goal or away from a threat) effect on rats that underwent the saccharin preference test, the elevated plus maze test, and the novel object exploration.
Help Managing Pain Associated with Inflammation
Products made with hemp oil consisting of extracts from the hemp plant are reportedly being used effectively by people to manage chronic pain and inflammation. Given the same mechanism that exists in people, also exist in dogs and cats and other companion animals, people should consider them when addressing similar health concerns related to pain, stress, anxiety, and inflammation.
Restoring a Healthy Balance
Used consistently and regularly, hemp can effectively reestablish a natural balance in the body restoring the immune and central nervous systems and promoting a healthy inflammatory response. CBD, with its fairly low incidence of potential side effects, which is in contrast to the extremely high incidence of severe side effects when using conventional drugs, gives us hope for further research and medication development of CBD.
Hemp has rightfully attracted a dramatic increase in popularity as an effective, natural remedy for humans as well as dogs and cats. The benefits of cannabinoids affecting the ECS directly by increasing the body’s sensitivity to anandamide makes it one of the most crucial endocannabinoids within the body, playing a key role in modulating the regulation of the central nervous system.
As established scientific institutions catch up on researching this promising natural remedy, which contains naturally occurring drug ingredients, the chances are high that we will see new more effective therapeutic cannabinoid products made from hemp. We hope to see see hemp, and its naturally occurring cannabinoids used as an initial remedy to improve the quality of lives for our dogs and cats, as well as ourselves. These naturally occurring cannabinoids are not an alternative to standard medication, but rather a 1st step. If it is not effective, you have at least boosted the animals ECS potentially making standard treatment more effective.