If you have been paying attention, you might have noticed that CBD is one of the latest health trends. Found in products from sodas to vapes, CBD (also known as cannabidiol) is all the rage among natural health enthusiasts.
It should not be too surprising to see this health trend move into the pet health niche. In fact, CBD oil for our pets can be found in the form of treats, creams, and oils in many niche pet boutiques these days.
However, is it all just hype and clever marketing? This article will explore that question in more detail by taking a look at the actual science of cannabidiol.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
In the late 1980’s, scientist discovered the presence of neurotransmitters and receptors in the body of all mammals that responded to compounds in the body known as endocannabinoids.
Over the last thirty years, research on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) has demonstrated that the ECS acts to regulate a huge number of critical functions including mood, sleep, appetite, pain, pleasure and tissue function throughout the body.
Given that, it is not surprising to find that there are a wide range of potential health benefits of CBD Oil for dogs. Nor is it surprising that we are seeing a huge boom in the CBD supplement industry for both people and dogs.
Let’s dive into the science of 5 of the most well studied benefits of CBD oil for dogs:
1. Reduce the Use of Prescription Pain Medication
Our furry friends deserve to be comfortable. Pain management is an important aspect of many conditions from injury and post-op recovery to chronic conditions such as arthritis, hip dysplasia and cancer.
There are three main traditional ways to treat pain: NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs), anti-depressants (most commonly SSRIs), and opioids (along with their synthetic counterparts).
Among these drugs, NSAIDs are the most commonly prescribed both because of their effectiveness and because they also combat inflammation. Unfortunately, recent concerns over the safety of NSAIDs, particularly in canines, has given some veterinarians cause to be concerned about potentially overusing this class of drugs.
In fact, one study showed that as many as 55% of clinical trials studying dogs and NSAIDs reported significant negative side effects. In some cases, these have even been fatal, as this class of drugs is linked to renal failure, particularly in older or immune compromised dogs.
It is no surprise then to see the veterinary community becoming open to the value that cannabinoids may offer in terms of decreasing reliance on traditional prescription drugs for pain.
CBD is well known to have both analgesic (pain relieving) and anti-inflammation properties when taken orally or applied topically. Moreover, there is also science that suggests cannabinoids may enhance the pain relieving action of opioids, allowing for less of these addictive drugs to get the same effect.
Since cannabinoids are active on receptors found in both the central and peripheral nervous systems, they can interact with other drugs. It is always critical to work with your veterinarian to create a pain management program that is best for your dog.
2. Relieve and Heal Dry, Itchy Skin
Many people are surprised to find out that the Endocannabinoid System is very much a part of healthy skin development. In fact, there are cannabinoid receptors found throughout the skin in both humans and canines. Many research studies have confirmed that the activity of the dermal ECS includes:
- Regulating lipid production (vital for moisturizing skin)
- Normalizing skin growth and cell death (making it a target therapeutic for conditions such as Psoriasis and Eczema)
- Preserving the immune barrier of the skin (important for healing and contact allergies)
Of particular importance to a great many dog owners is the role CBD oil may play in helping with allergic dermatitis in our furry friends. This all too common disorder is often caused by an allergic reaction to flea bites, dander, pollen, specific chemicals and even certain types of food.
Research has demonstrated the therapeutic role that cannabidiol can play in relieving the symptoms of allergic dermatitis. It does this through its powerful anti-inflammatory effects which it achieves through its interaction with CB1, CB2 and TRVP1 receptors, parts of the skin’s ECS.
If you notice that your dog is biting or scratching more than usual, take the time to thoroughly investigate. Left without treatment, persistent scratching can cause open wounds and skin infections that can become a serious health threat in a hurry. Get in to see your vet and ask about the role natural CBD oil may play in a treatment plan for your pup.
3. Calm Anxiety and Help Fix Phobias
Phobias such as separation anxiety, fear of car rides, and astraphobia (fear of thunderstorms) are actually quite common among our canine companions. Unfortunately, left untreated, these conditions often get worse over time.
In the worst cases, dogs can become a danger to themselves as they try to escape in terror, sometimes hurting themselves in the process. CBD oil can be uses in combination with behavioral therapy to reduce the anxiety associated with phobia triggers. However, just to be clear, severe cases often need the guidance of a professional dog trainer to fully address.
Cannabidiol gives you a major advantage when treating your dog’s phobias because it works in two important ways to reduce anxiety.
First, studies have shown that CBD operates directly with the 5-HT1A neurotransmitters found in the central nervous system, decreasing their defensive response in relation to fear inducing triggers. This helps your dog feel calmer in the face of triggers and may help to keep them below the “reaction threshold,” a critical tool in behavioral reconditioning methods.
Second, even more recent research has shown that cannabidiol actually helps to reduce the memory of trauma, and hence, the tight coupling between the trigger and a fear response. What this means in practice is that the benefits of using CBD for phobias may increase over time as your dog begins to learn that the triggers they are afraid of are not going to cause them any harm.
4. Promote a Healthy Appetite
There are many reasons why some dogs develop picky eating habits. In some cases, this problem can be an indication of an underlying condition that needs medical attention. For example, sudden changes in appetite could indicate kidney failure, dental disease, or even cancer. It is important to seek veterinary care for dogs to rule out these serious problems.
In other cases, decreases in appetite in your canine companion may well be from gastrointestinal problems such as poor gut health. And, it turns out that the ECS is directly involved in regulating important functions of the gut that maintain overall gut health, leading some researchers to see cannabinoids as having great potential for treating common gastrointestinal disorders.
The Endocannabinoid System is known to play a role in both appetite and metabolism. However, the role that specific cannabinoids play in stimulating appetite is less understood. Of course, this is an area of research into cannabinoids that continues to grow as we learn more.
5. Aid in Cancer Treatment
A lot of people are skeptical when they hear claims about anything that could be effective at treating cancer. As well you should be! And, no one here is trying to claim that CBD will cure cancer.
However, it may be that cannabidiol offers some benefits to veterinarian prescribed treatment program for cancer. There is extensive research demonstrating that CBD has the potential to fight tumors from several types of cancer. Plus, CBD has been shown to improve the cancer fighting ability of chemotherapy.
In addition, CBD may be helpful with the many side effects of cancer treatment including changes in appetite, pain and sleep. CBD oil may also boost the function of the immune system, helping to help the body’s natural healing power during cancer treatment.
Of course, treating cancer is complex and requires the expertise of a veterinarian. However, many are becoming willing to incorporate CBD oil as part of an effective treatment plan for cancer in dogs.
Talk to Your Vet
Cannabidiol is beginning to be taken seriously among veterinarians, particularly holistic vets that have traditionally been more open to the healing power of natural plants, herbs and essential oils.In fact, vets in California recently passed legislation protecting their legal right to prescribe cannabis based medicine to their animal patients.
It is important that you have a conversation with your vet before adding CBD oil formulated for dogs to your pet’s regimen. Although it is safe and non-psychoactive (meaning, it won’t get your dog high), it can interact with other medications. Better safe than sorry!
That being said, this natural supplement isn’t just a fad. As we have explored in this article, research has demonstrated that not only is the Endocannabinoid System important to overall health, cannabidiol acts to regulate many important functions and has several real health benefits.