Cannabinoids 101

How does CBD work for Dogs & Cats?

October 3, 2019 2 min read

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What exactly does it do for your pet?

Cannabis sativa has been used by humans for thousands of years for many therapeutic purposes. The discovery of cannabis-specific compounds, such as phytocannabinoids, and an endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) have led to increasingly targeted research on the medical effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. 

More specifically, you may have heard about the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) and how it could have positive impacts on human and animal health. Many people believe CBD binds cannabinoid receptors found in the ECS, but research continues to emerge on just how CBD functions within the body. So, let’s dive in to the most important question. How does CBD work? 

CBD is a phytocannabinoid, a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. To date, two main phytocannabinoids have been thoroughly examined: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the main psychoactive, euphoric phytocannabinoid, and cannabidiol (CBD) - a non-intoxicating phytocannabinoid. Unlike THC, CBD does not activate CB1 - the receptor associated with intoxication, meaning CBD is non-intoxicating.

Because CBD can affect many systems in the body without causing intoxication, it may have multiple therapeutic uses to support your pet’s health and wellbeing. Scientific research has shown that CBD works through many receptors in your pet’s body, which is why scientists refer to the actions of CBD as “poly-pharmacology”, meaning CBD has multiple functions. 

Scientists have found that CBD has the ability to interact with G-protein-coupled receptors such as GPR55, which have been shown to play a role in behavior, bone density, seizure control and pain reduction. CBD also interacts with the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) family, which can affect serotonin levels that play an important role in mood, happiness and wellbeing. 

Additionally, CBD interacts with the transient receptor potentiation (TRP) cation channel family and adenosine receptors which may help control seizures, decrease pain, and reduce inflammation. 

Experts agree CBD likely has a number of clinical applications for pets because of how it impacts many different biological systems, which play an important role in promoting homeostasis.

What about other phytocannabinoids?

Cannabis contains over 120 phytocannabinoids. Some other notable phytocannabinoids include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabinol (CBN). Some can have positive effects in your pet, while others can be harmful.

For example, THC can have a negative effect in dogs. This is because dogs have a much higher number of brain receptors (CB1) for THC than humans. Because even small amounts of THC can have a very negative effect, it is important to understand the composition of cannabinoid-containing products before administering them to your pet.

There’s still much research to be done to understand just how phytocannabinoids, most importantly CBD, can positively impact your pet’s health.