If you’re reading this, chances are you have some gaps in your knowledge about cannabinoids, and you want to fill in those gaps—especially if they can benefit your pet’s overall health. Sure, you’ve probably heard of Cannabis, but what does that have to do with cannabinoids?

The truth is, the cannabis plant wouldn’t be anything without cannabinoids. These little compounds pack a whole lot of therapeutic punch for our sweet fur babies, and they’ve been the main focus in the wildly successful cannabis industry. So, what are cannabinoids and what kind of benefits do they offer our furry friends?

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are broken down into two categories: phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids.

By definition, phytocannabinoids are unique chemical compounds that naturally occur in the Cannabis sativa plant. These little compounds, when consumed, serve unique and beneficial roles in our pets’ bodies. Researchers suggest that over 100 different cannabinoids have been identified in the cannabis plant, two of which have gained worldwide attention: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).

Endocannabinoids, on the other hand, are endogenous cannabinoids found in animals and humans. Only two endogenous cannabinoids have been discovered and identified within the body: Anandamide (the “bliss molecule”) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These two molecules help make up the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and send messages to activate the cannabinoid receptor cells (CB1 and CB2), which are found all throughout our pets’ bodies.

Amazingly, our pets’ endocannabinoids play a huge role in maintaining balance in their health. Supplementing with certain plant derived-cannabinoids can actually help deliver therapeutic effects in their bodies. This is because certain cannabinoids affect our pets in different ways, and researchers are just starting to scratch the surface of the beneficial properties these cannabinoids contain.

Cannabinoid Research

Over the last few decades, scientists have been researching these incredible compounds to see what therapeutic properties they offer the mammalian body. For now, scientists believe that phytocannabinoids, when consumed, directly and indirectly work with endocannabinoids by encouraging their production and preventing their breakdown.

Structurally, phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids are quite similar, but their functionality is different. When our pet’s endocannabinoid system is working properly, it produces the correct kind and amount of endocannabinoids their body needs. However, if their endocannabinoid system isn’t correctly producing the proper amount of endocannabinoids their body demands, health problems can arise.

Scientists referred to poorly functioning endocannabinoid systems as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome –– a deficiency of endocannabinoids. This is where the functionality of phytocannabinoids may help. Because certain phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids bind to the receptors cells in our pets’ bodies, some studies suggest that unwanted symptoms are mitigated when certain phytocannabinoids are consumed.

Benefits of Cannabinoids

Although scientists are still learning about cannabinoids’ effects on the mammalian body, the few studies that have been conducted show that certain phytocannabinoids do hold therapeutic properties. But before we dive into the benefits of cannabinoids, it is important to note that certain cannabinoids may not hold a lot of value on their own. Cannabinoids research is still in its infancy, and what scientists know right now is that certain cannabinoids may only be therapeutic when combined with other cannabinoids in specific ratios. This is true especially for animals, who are more sensitive to phytocannabinoids than humans.

It’s worth noting that dogs, in particular, have more endocannabinoid receptors located in their brain than us humans. This makes them much more sensitive and susceptible to cannabinoid’s effects. This inherently means that pet owners must do their research, and consult with their veterinarian, before giving their pet certain cannabinoids.

THC Cannabinoid

Let’s begin with the (in)famous Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While we know that THC offers psychoactive effects, it does hold therapeutic value when consumed in trace amounts. Less than 0.3% THC is present in our full spectrum hemp oil products, and has been proven to offer no psychoactive effects when high levels of CBD is present. On its own, THC is intoxicating and harmful for the extremely sensitive systems of our beloved fur babies. But combined (in trace amounts) with other cannabinoids, it can help enhance their therapeutic properties.

CBC Cannabinoid

Cannabichromene (CBC) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in small amounts in the cannabis sativa plant. CBC is known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Generally, CBC produces a more powerful effect when combined with other cannabinoids.

CBG Cannabinoid

Cannabigerol (CBG) is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid that offers tremendous therapeutic benefits. It is known to be the chemical precursor to several other cannabinoids, giving it the “mother” title. While there is no scientific evidence that suggests it’s the precursor to all cannabinoids, it is in fact the precursor of THC, CBD and CBC. The potential benefits of full spectrum hemp oil with CBG include its ability to increase appetite and regulate mood and has strong affinities for the urinary and GI tracts and the brain. Again, when CBG is combined with other cannabinoids, it enhances their therapeutic properties.

CBN Cannabinoid

Cannabinol (CBN) is the byproduct of THC and is found in small amounts in the cannabis sativa plant. It’s mostly known for its effects on sleep. While little else is known about CBN, research suggests that CBN may help relieve symptoms of pain, and help enhance the therapeutic benefits of THC.

CBD Cannabinoid

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the most talked about non-intoxicating cannabinoid in the cannabis industry. Scientists believe CBD holds anti-neuroinflammatory properties that may help in reducing the misfiring of brain cells. In fact, in one study, researchers observed that dogs suffering from intractable idiopathic epilepsy experienced less seizures when they consumed CBD. Other studies suggest that CBD could help in relieving unwanted symptoms associated with osteoarthritis in dogs. On its own, CBD holds powerful therapeutic value. But when combined with other cannabinoids, its effects are greatly enhanced.

Last Notes

While these benefits are thought provoking and compelling, more studies are desperately needed, as each animal responds differently to certain cannabinoids. Still, pet owners are noticing positive differences in their pets with the use of cannabinoids, and that anecdotal evidence shouldn’t be ignored.

If you think your pet may benefit from the therapeutic qualities in these cannabinoids, be sure to seek out reputable companies that offer “full spectrum” or “broad spectrum” hemp products specifically made for pets. Reputable brands have their products tested by an independent third party to ensure its quality, safety, and efficacy. They’ll also give you access to their COAs (Certificate of Analysis) upon request, or they may have them already displayed on their website (See Holistic Hound’s product testing). Before introducing any supplement into your pet’s diet, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian.