Over the last few years, we’ve seen an incredible surge in the popularity of CBD oil. This includes CBD for pets.
If you have an ailing pet at home, you’ve likely heard about CBD. Maybe you’ve even tried it. And you wouldn’t be alone – the usage of CBD oil for animals has grown exponentially across the U.S since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill.
But if you’re still not sure about it, want to know a bit more, or are wondering why you might include it in your animal’s daily routine, I’m going to fill you in.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD is short for cannabidiol. It’s one of the many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
If you’re hearing cannabis and thinking “marijuana = my pet will get high,” don’t worry. Unlike THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, CBD is non-psychoactive so it won’t leave your pet feeling doped up.
How does CBD for pets work? It’s because of an incredible system in the body (yours and your animal’s) called the endocannabinoid system. This is a system that runs through the brain, the immune system, the skin, the gastrointestinal system, and all the major organs. Its main role is to bring about homeostasis, or balance – that’s why it’s so good for so many different conditions.
So, in your pet’s endocannabinoid system there are 2 types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 ad CB2. These receptors interact with endocannbinoids – either ones naturally produced by the body or those introduced to it (that means CBD). This interaction causes some sort of response, be it pain relief, focus, better sleep, or stress relief.
Benefits of CBD for Pets
There are loads of benefits of CBD for pets.
Probably the most well known benefit of CBD oil is its anti-seizure (anti-epileptic) properties. There’s even been a CBD-based drug approved by the FDA to treat epilepsy in children.
Research shows that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in seizures and epilepsy. It suggests that external modulation of these systems can prevent or regulate seizure activity. That external modulation includes the use of CBD.
There are plenty of studies on the value of CBD for treating seizures in humans. For pets, however, it’s less plentiful – but it does exist (and more is being done as I write this). For example, in 2016 and 2017, a neurologist at Colorado State University conducted a study to assess the short-term effect of CBD on seizure frequency. What were the results? 89% of dogs who received CBD in the clinical trial had a reduction in the frequency of seizures! Now, the study was small: only 16 dogs in total were included. 9 dogs were treated with CBD, while 7 were treated with a placebo. Still, the results, we think, are telling. After all, 89% = 8 out of 9.
Sure, there’s no shortage of anti-convulsants available – Phenobarbital, Diazepam, or Potassium Bromide. But unlike many of these meds, CBD is a natural alternative with a strong safety profile and very few, very minor, side effects.
2. Reduces Anxiety
Thunderstorms, fireworks, separation – the causes of anxiety in animals is vast, and anxiety itself is quite common. Just like with humans, anxiety, fear, and stress are all completely natural responses to different stimuli. But that doesn’t mean we want our pets in a constant state of emotional turmoil. That’s not good for anyone.
As with seizures, there are plenty of pharmaceuticals your vet might suggest to reduce those feelings of anxiousness, but there are also plenty of side effects to go with them.
Luckily, CBD offers a safe, natural alternative to reduce anxiety in animals.
The cannabinoids in CBD oil interact with the receptors in the endocannabinoid system to manage symptoms of anxiety. One of the major ways it does this is by encouraging the brain to release serotonin. That’s the natural chemical the body releases that’s known to reduce anxiety.
Today, CBD has also become well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. And one of the best things about CBD as an anti-inflammatory is how it helps reduce pain.
Now, inflammation isn’t always a bad thing – it’s one of the ways a healthy immune system helps the body heal injuries and fight off foreign invaders. However, when it becomes chronic, as with something like arthritis, that’s when things start to cause trouble. Chronic inflammation happens when your animal’s body is trying to fight off a long-term illness or degenerative condition.
CBD can help manage pain in many different ways. Research shows that CBD can enhance anandamide signalling in the brain – that’s a chemical that helps dampen pain signals in the brain. This temporary increase in anandamide can help reduce pain sensations in the body. For conditions such as arthritis, research proves that CBD can have a significant impact on overall pain management and increased mobility, especially in older animals.
This one’s really important. With so many of our beloved animals being diagnosed with cancer, having something on hand that can slow tumor growth and potentially cause cancer cell death is huge!
Treating cancer in pets usually involves chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or a combo of the three. The treatment regimen will depend on the type of cancer your pet has, and how advanced it is (the stage). It may also depend on your dog’s current condition and overall health.
Research shows that CBD may play an important role in that treatment – not only to help with the tumors themselves, but also with many side effects of the cancer treatment.
5. Helps with Digestive Issues
Digestive issues covers a whole range of different conditions. We’re talking about everything from acute vomiting caused by something your pet ate, to ongoing, chronic issues like IBS. Again we look to the wonders of the endocannabinoid system in bringing about balance and helping the body heal.
In the digestive system specifically, the endocannabinoid system helps regulate the signaling and transmission of digestive biochemical substances in the body and stimulates specific digestive receptors that affect gastric secretion, digestion and intestinal movement. CBD can help improve the functioning and overall health of these systems.
Research shows that part of the reason CBD is so good for digestive issues is because of how it improves gastrointestinal motility. This refers to how well the intestines are moving waste along the intestinal tract. Research shows that CBD can improve gastrointestinal motility both by reducing inflammation and triggering the muscles and enzymes critical for proper functioning of the digestive tract.
Along with its anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, and anti-tumor properties, research has also shown that CBD is a powerful anti-bacterial agent. In fact, recent research shows that it has impressive potential for fighting bacteria that are often responsible for many serious infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Many of these bacteria are types that have become resistant to other antibiotics.
Now, these tend to be more common (although largely uncommon overall) in humans, but the fact that CBD has anti-bacterial properties makes it yet again, a valuable natural alternative for helping our pets heal.
Something like a CBD salve is great if your pet has a rash, minor burn, or just general cuts and scrapes.
CBD for Pets: Dogs vs. Cats
CBD oil has become very popular for pet parents, for all types of furry family members. As the two most popular pets in the United States, cats and dogs are the most common receivers of this natural alternative. That said, giving CBD to your cat is different compared to your pup, so we’d be remiss not to touch on it.
Cats, like dogs (and humans), have an endocannabinoid system. And, just like dogs it performs in the same way to bring about balance within your feline’s body. However, your cat may process it differently and need a different dosing schedule. In a 2019 study, researchers looking at the effect of CBD-rich hemp nutraceuticals in healthy dogs and cats found that cats appear to absorb or eliminate CBD differently than dogs. One noticeable difference was behavioral – the cats in the study did show some excessive licking and head-shaking during oil administration. It’s important to note, though, that the dogs and cats received the same dosage. Other than that, the safety profile was great!
Also, cats tend to have a much more sensitive digestive system. Their gastrointestinal tract is different from a dog’s, so it’s best to start out with a low dose and work your way up. Watch for any behavioral changes and alter the dose as needed.
The next time your pet isn’t feeling their best, consider CBD for pets as an effective natural alternative!!
Ian Pedersen is the Founder and CEO of Source CBD Hemp. He has spent years in the cannabis industry learning and researching how CBD can help benefits animals big and small across the globe. He’s a staunch advocate for looking to nature for medicine, both for humans and animals. He lives in Arizona with his family.