I’m the same way.
So, when my Golden Retriever Rosie was diagnosed with cancer and hip dysplasia a few years ago, it wasn’t long before I stumbled on to CBD.
But you’re likely to still have a lot of questions about CBD, what it is, and what benefits it can bring your pet.
I’ll explore some key therapeutic effects and uses of this compound, as well as CBD’s ability to help restore balance and promote “homeostasis” for your pets.
Before we start exploring the individual benefits of CBD, it’s important to cover some basics about this compound first.
Below is some basic information about CBD, where it comes from, and how it interacts with the body.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in cannabis, the plant we often associate with marijuana.
In fact, it is one of over 113 “cannabinoids” found in the cannabis plant, many of which are also being investigated for their potential health benefits.
Unlike THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, CBD is completely non psychoactive and safe to be used on pets.
CBD also has no known toxicity level, and is incapable of causing an overdose.
In fact, the CBD found in cannabis pet supplements is usually sourced from hemp, a variety of cannabis that naturally contains extremely low concentrations of THC.
CBD interacts with the body via the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
It mainly consists of two types of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2).
These receptors are built to interact with endocannabinoids (cannabinoids naturally produced by the brain).
The endocannabinoid system is essentially the system that processes cannabinoids introduced into the body.
Below I’ll outline some of the main benefits of CBD in more detail.
Note that most of these findings come from studies on lab animals (like rats) or clinical trials on humans.
Nonetheless, the effects of CBD are similar in humans, dogs, cats, and other pets.
Plus, many of the conditions we’ll list below (like anxiety, arthritis, pain, and convulsions) manifest much in the same way in pets as they do in humans.
Let's Take a Closer Look at This List
Here is a detailed list of some of the major benefits of CBD which can improve the health of your pet.
Keep in mind these apply to dogs, cats, and other pets.
There are even more benefits than these, however these 7 will apply to the majority of conditions.
1. CBD is a Powerful Painkiller
In 1997, a study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology showed that the endocannabinoid system was deeply involved in managing pain.
Today, CBD has become renowned for its painkilling properties.
CBD can help manage pain in many different ways.
First of all, studies have shown that CBD can temporarily stop the absorption of anandamide, a chemical that helps dampen pain signals in the brain.
This temporary increase in anandamide can have various effects, one of them being reduced pain sensations.
Secondly, CBD has been shown to be a powerful anti inflammatory (we’ll explore this in more detail below).
By reducing the inflammation caused by conditions such as arthritis, for example, CBD is also able to reduce the painful symptoms caused by the condition.
2. CBD is a Known Anticonvulsant
Perhaps one of the best-known medicinal uses for CBD is its ability to help controls seizures, tremors, tics, and spasms.
That’s because CBD is a natural anticonvulsant.
News of CBD’s natural anticonvulsant properties first broke in 2013 when the story of Charlotte Figi, a young girl with epilepsy, made headlines across the globe.
Charlotte’s only hope for managing her 300 weekly seizures was a tincture now known as Charlotte’s Web, made from CBD rich cannabis.
Since then, numerous studies have proven that CBD can help manage a wide variety of tremors, spasms, and tics.
For example, multiple studies have shown that CBD can help manage seizures caused by epilepsy.
Other studies have also shown that both CBD and THC can help manage spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis, and research also suggests that CBD can help manage the tics and tremors caused by Tourette’s syndrome.
Unfortunately, it isn’t quite clear how CBD works as an anticonvulsant.
Seizures are generally believed to be caused by the rapid, uncontrolled firing of neurons in the brain.
Preliminary research suggests CBD can help restore order to these neurons, causing them to fire normally and essentially prevent the onset of seizures.
3. CBD is Anti-Inflammatory
As I mentioned earlier, CBD is renowned for its anti inflammatory effects.
In fact, the anti inflammatory effects of CBD are believed to be one of the main reasons the compound is so useful in treating a wide variety of conditions.
CBD’s anti inflammatory effects are believed to be linked to its ability to interact with receptors in immune cells.
CBD interacts with CB2 receptors, which are generally located inside immune cells.
By activating these receptors, CBD is able to evoke a wide variety of immune responses.
One of these responses is to fight inflammation.
Conditions like arthritis, MS, irritable bowel disease, and many others, are characterized by chronic inflammation.
In some cases, this inflammation can be caused by a malfunctioning of the immune system, causing it to attack healthy cells.
By helping lower inflammation, CBD can help reduce pain and other symptoms of conditions like IBD, arthritis, and more.
4. CBD Reduces Anxiety and Stress
It’s important to note that CBD doesn’t just help deal with physical symptoms.
In fact, many studies have shown that CBD can help manage the symptoms of a variety of mental conditions, including anxiety.
Much like humans, pets can also suffer from anxiety, stress or even specific phobias.
And while the exact source of anxiety may differ in pets, it can cause stress and specific physical reactions just like in humans.
Some common forms of anxiety affecting dogs include separation anxiety, noise anxiety, travel anxiety, and even specific phobias.
In humans, anxiety and stress might cause us to bite our nails, pace around, or become a little shaky.
In dogs, anxiety can cause similar repetitive behaviour.
Some common symptoms of anxiety in dogs include:
- Persistent barking
- Chewing (furniture, shoes, rubbish, etc)
- Urinating and defecating (usually inside the house or crate)
CBD has been shown to help reduce feelings of anxiety and thereby reduce these symptoms.
How it does so, however, isn’t completely clear.
Typical anxiety medications tend to target a type of seratonin receptor in the body known as 5-HT1A.
By targetting these receptors, anti anxiety medications can help temporarily boost seratonin levels in the brain.
This can then lead to improvements in mood and help temporarily reduce feelings of anxiety or fear.
Research suggests that CBD might work in a similar way, also temporarily increasing seratonin levels in the brain.
In doing so, the compound can have anti anxiety and anti depressant effects, while also helping reduce stress.
5. CBD is an Antiemetic
Nausea and vomiting are really common symptoms.
They can be the result of a specific condition, or can also be caused by treatments or medications such as chemotherapy.
Both in humans and dogs, nausea and vomiting are serious symptoms, often leading to a decreased appetite, rapid weight loss, dehydration, fatigue, and more.
There are plenty of antiemetic medications on the market, and some of the most common given to dogs and cats include acepromazine, chlorpromazine, aminopentamide, and more.
These drugs, while often effective in controlling nausea and vomiting, can cause a wide variety of side effects, including:
- Strong sedation
- Lowered seizure thresholds for animals with epilepsy
- Excessive drooling
- Lack of appetite
There is a strong body of evidence that shows that CBD is a successful antiemetic, controlling both nausea and vomiting while also stimulating appetite.
Interestingly, it seems to do so by stimulating 5-HT1A receptors, the same receptor which can help reduce anxiety.
By activating this receptor, CBD can significantly reduce feelings of nausea and also suppress the subsequent vomiting reflex.
Research also suggests that prolonged stimulation of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor in the brain can also help reduce nausea and vomiting.
In doing so, studies show that CBD can have powerful antiemetic effects.
In fact, some studies suggest CBD is a better antiemetic than some modern medications.
Best of all, CBD doesn’t seem to cause any of the side effects of traditional antiemetic medications.
6. CBD May Slow Tumor Growth
Cancer and malicious tumors are common in pets and, in many cases, prove to be fatal.
Until now, there is no known cure for cancer, and treatment usually focuses on slowing the growth of a tumor while reducing pain and other symptoms.
The most common treatment for cancer and tumors in pets is chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, like with humans, chemotherapy can produce a wide variety of side effects, including:
- Tiredness, fatigue, and lethargy
- Loss of appetite
However, new research shows that cannabinoids like CBD can have unique anticancer effects, too.
In fact, a growing body of research is beginning to explore just how cannabinoids can help slow the growth and spread of cancer and even reduce the size of tumors.
For example, a 2011 study conducted at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston showed that CBD can cause programmed cell death and hence inhibit the growth of breast cancer.
Another study, published by researchers from the University of Naples Federico II, Italy, also showed that CBD can help protect against colon cancer in rats by stopping the development, growth, and spread of malignant tumors.
Research from Complutense University, Madrid, has also shown that CBD and other cannabinoids can enhance the effect of traditional chemotherapy.
Researchers suggest it does so by increasing the rate by which cancer cells absorb chemotherapy agents, while simultaneously protecting healthy cells.
There are many more studies exploring the use of CBD and other cannabinoids in treating cancer.
To learn more, I suggest you check out this resource by the US National Cancer Institute.
7. CBD Promotes Homeostasis
Homeostasis can best be described as the proper functioning of the body.
It occurs when our bodies are in balance, and ensures all our biological systems function to the best of their ability.
However, sometimes this balance gets thrown out, and that’s when disease and illness strike.
New research suggests that the endocannabinoid system plays a key role in maintaining this balance, mainly because it is involved in such a wide variety of bodily processes.
Hence, researchers suggest that, by stimulating the endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids like CBD can help promote homeostasis in the body.
This is why many pet owners choose to use CBD not only as a medicine to treat a specific illness, but also as a regular supplement to promote the overall health and wellbeing of their pet.
I’ll cover CBD and its role in promoting homeostasis in more detail in future posts.
For now, I suggest reading this article by Perry Solomon, MD, Chief Medical Officer at HelloMD.