Let’s face it—we can get a little crazy about our pets. Whether it’s breaking the bank for that plush new cat bed or swinging by that overpriced pet boutique for those gourmet organic treats your dog drools over, we all go to crazy lengths sometimes to make our furry friends the happiest and most spoiled pet in town. But spoiling our pets is a far different form of affection than the kind that involves your pet’s health and wellness.
Unfortunately, our pet’s face challenges in their life too. Emotional distress, physical discomfort…they deal with many issues not unlike those we face in our own lives. While serious illnesses and injury demand medical intervention, many pet owners seek other homeopathic options as an addition or alternative to their pet’s wellness regiment. One such option is cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD.
What Is CBD?
CBD is one of over 400 naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants of the cannabis genus, and particularly in the hemp plant. To narrow it down, CBD is one of over 113 cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another famous (or infamous, rather) cannabinoid, often associated with the marijuana plant which is within the cannabis genus as well. While both cannabinoids can be found in both the marijuana and hemp plant, they naturally occur and significantly different levels. Marijuana is naturally high in THC and low in CBD. Conversely, hemp is naturally low in THC and high in CBD. Moreover, the two cannabinoids have one major difference. THC is psychoactive, while CBD is not—but what does that mean?
Our brains—and as it turns out, our pet’s brains—have an endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is a complex network of communication containing endocannabinoid receptor cells, which are able to interact with cannabinoids and produce different effects. In particular, the ECS is believed to play a role in processes such as mood, sleep, appetite, and memory. Where the major difference between the two cannabinoids in question occurs depends on how exactly they interact with the ECS. Basically, THC binds strongly with the receptor cells, producing what is essentially an intoxication or “high.” CBD, on the other hand, binds weakly with the receptor cells and does not product such an intoxication. The good news here is people and pets alike can benefit from CBD’s other worthwhile potential effects without getting high!
What About CBD for Pets?
There have been a multitude of potential benefits revealed in research and the everyday pet owner’s exploration of CBD. While research is limited, the findings have been promising and encouraging enough to pique the interest of even more researchers. Moreover, with a quick google search, you can find an overwhelming amount of personal accounts declaring the wonders that CBD has provided people and their pets.
Emotional distress is not uncommon among animals. There are a multitude of causes and stressors examined in pets. For some animals, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a very real possibility, especially among adopted pets coming from an unknown and possibly troubling background. Animals may also demonstrate situational anxiety, such as a fear of thunderstorms and fireworks, car rides, vet visits and new places. Some animals simply exhibit general anxiety on a regular basis. While CBD is not proven to medically treat or cure anxiety, research suggests that it may aid in reducing feelings of anxiousness. With animals, this translates to a reduction in behaviors typically associated with distress. These behaviors include franticness, aggression, loss of appetite, and an increase or decrease in activity.
Although research on animals is limited, a 2015 analysis of previous studies found CBD to be a promising treatment for multiple different types of anxiety, including PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. While more research needs to be done, preliminary findings and anecdotal evidence do suggest that CBD may reduce anxiety related behaviors in pets. This includes a possible relaxation effect, reduced regression and increase in appetite.
Chronic Discomfort and Joint Health
Another area in which research has produced promising findings is CBD’s possible anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation can be responsible for many different aches and sores, and unfortunately, are pets are not immune to chronic discomfort. In one study, it was found that in cats over 12 years of age, 90% had signs of arthritis. It was also found that in an average lifetime, approximately 25% of dogs are diagnosed with arthritis. What’s incredible is that research has consistently demonstrated CBD’s potentially potent anti-inflammatory effects. In one study on rats with arthritis, researchers found that CBD effectively reduced pain related behaviors and inflammation. Based off existing research and what we know about our shared endocannabinoid systems, it’s not far-fetched to say that CBD may help reduce inflammation and discomfort for your pets as well.
You might have heard of an Food and Drug Administration approved drug by the name of Epidiolex, used to treat seizures in rare forms of epilepsy. What you might not have heard is that Epidiolex was the first pure CBD-based drug to be approved by the FDA. Ample research has demonstrated CBD’s potential ability to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in humans and rats. In one study’s clinical trials examined CBD’s ability to treat seizures in dogs, it was found that 89% of the dogs receiving CBD demonstrated a reduction in the frequency of seizures. Unfortunately, research on CBD’s efficacy in treating seizures in cats is limited. However, many pet owners report positive results, and based upon existing research, it’s an option worth exploring.
Is CBD Safe for Pets?
CBD was not legalized until the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, and therefore research on its long-term effects is essentially unknown. However, what we do know of CBD’s side effects is that they are minimal and relatively tame, especially compared to pharmaceutical medications. For pets, these side effects include lethargy, increased thirst, lowered blood pressure and lowered heart rate. As always, the smartest thing to do is to speak to a veterinarian before deciding to give you pet CBD. Be sure to use CBD that is completely THC free, as it is toxic to animals. After all, our pets deserve the best care, and that means being careful.