You’ve probably heard the buzz around medicinal cannabis and how cannabinoid rich-products are helping to treat many types of illnesses and alleviate a whole host of symptoms—in humans.
But what about dogs?
Dogs have the same natural cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system as humans so it’s natural to assume (or at least reasonable to wonder) whether the same benefits we see in humans would naturally transfer over to our pets.
The answer is yes but there are a few things to keep in mind. It’s important to do research and find a high quality, full spectrum product intended for pets, with a high cannabinoid content. It’s also imperative to keep a close eye on your pet once you begin treatment in order to make sure they are not having any adverse reactions. Some people use journal entries to make observations or track important changes, others shoot short, daily videos—whatever works- the idea is to pay attention for any significant or notable shifts in behavior. Treating your pet with any new regiment takes time and patience so make sure you have plenty of both when you start.
Whether you feel comfortable using CBD products for your pet or have never thought about it until now, here’s some useful information as well as some compelling anecdotal evidence to help you decide if this treatment might be right for you and your much beloved, four-legged friend.
How does it work?
Before we discuss real-life scenarios of dog owners and CBD use, let’s talk a little bit about the science:
The endocannabinoid system is a major organ system in the body much like the lymph or endocrine system. Its main goal is to help balance and support the different mechanisms and organs via a separate system of receptors embedded in cell membranes and spread throughout body.
The endocannabinoid system (“endo” means inside the body) in dogs -and all mammals for that matter- is what maintains the natural balance in the body and is usually stimulated by endocannabinoids, found internally. Phytocannabinoids (“phyto” refers to plants) are substances in cannabis that stimulate the receptors in much the same way as endocannabinoids. When introduced into the body, cannabinoids like CBD stimulate the cannabinoid receptors, which in turn triggers a healing cascade throughout the body- relieving and reducing inflammation, pain and muscle spasms- just to name a few.
When is a good time to start?
This is a great question and one that deserves more than a blurb. But the quick answer to ‘when is the right time to start using hemp or cannabis products?’ is when you first sense an imbalance in your dog (or cat or horse). That imbalance can be anything from pain to anxiety and stress and can happen at any point- from young adulthood to end of life. If you are lucky enough to have a vet that is receptive to CBD use and holistic treatments, having a conversation with them first is also recommended.
And now – some real-life examples that may further illustrate how and when to use CBD.
Sarah Vitale, a 33 year old engineer loves spending time with Mazzie, a young, female Scottish terrier. Unfortunately, she can’t take Mazzie to the brand new dog park a few short miles away- or anywhere for that matter. The issue is fairly common- Mazzie gets car sick and vomits almost immediately after jumping into the car. After a host of prescribed motion sickness meds failed, (she even tried Dramamine), Sarah read an article on how CBD helps treat anxiety in dogs; the anxious behaviors described sounded a lot like those exhibited by Mazzie. Turns out that the real culprit was stress. Mazzie would get nervous and anxious before hopping into any vehicle and reflexively throw-up.
Sarah decided to try CBD oil in a tincture and it worked well. She gives it to her dog about 30 minutes before a planned car ride. Mazzie isn’t a huge fan of car rides suddenly but her stress level has been reduced and at least she manages to get from point A to point B pretty well now.
CBD has been studied extensively in reducing stress and anxiety in humans. It has been shown to help anxiety both in healthy people and also those with stress-related behaviors and disorders. CBD seems to help dogs in the same way and has been found to be useful for dogs who struggle with things like separation anxiety and noise phobias as well as motion sickness.
Rob Sullivan is a 51 year old city planner. His beloved Border collie Roscoe got cancer and was given a few months to live. Rob and his wife were crushed. The cancer treatments were brutal, so they decided to stop and care for him the best they could at home. On the advice of a vet, they found an edible product that helped alleviate their dog’s pain and discomfort almost immediately. Roscoe had lost a great deal of weight too but regained his appetite and gained some of his weight back.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cannabinoids activate specific receptors throughout the body– particularly in the nervous system and immune system. The natural chemicals seem to help in treating cancer-related symptoms like pain and is useful in helping to stimulate appetite. Medicinal cannabis has also been found to have an anti-tumor effect, slowing and inhibiting glioma cell growth.
Rob has no way of knowing exactly to what part Roscoe’s CBD use played, but he ended up living 4 years passed his initial cancer diagnosis.
Dr. Doug Kramer, a pet owner and veterinarian, dedicated himself to treating dogs with cannabis, focusing specifically on dosage guidelines for dogs and other animals. His Siberian husky, Nikita, benefitted tremendously at the end of her life from drops and edible treats. Dr. Kramer describes how she stopped whimpering from the pain and seemed calmer. While he admits it might not have extended her life, he’s convinced it definitely improved the quality of it. One area where medicinal cannabis and CBD-rich products have really shown to be useful is for palliative care. In Nikita’s case it added dignity and comfort during a difficult time.
Darlene Arden, an animal behaviorist says that animals prescribed medical marijuana definitely show improvement in a variety of ways. She describes how results seem “almost immediate” and how older dogs start acting like puppies again. She says that in the final months or years, dogs have been made “far more comfortable” with the use of cannabis and cannabinoid-rich products.
And finally, will it get my dog stoned?
CBD (cannabidiol) is derived from either hemp or cannabis- although for the most part your dog’s CBD-rich products will probably come from hemp. CBD unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) has no psychoactive properties so it won’t get your dog “high”, which is a good thing because dogs in particular have an extreme sensitivity to THC. In short, your dog will get all the benefits like pain relief and relaxation without the intoxication.
Most pet owners, vets and dog behaviorists seem to agree that cannabinoid-rich products have helped their dogs in a variety of ways. They also unanimously agree that more studies and further research is needed if this treatment is to become mainstream. One thing is for certain, the benefits of cannabinoids to treat ailments in our pets can no longer be ignored.