Our pets are often the cornerstones of our day to day living. Many of us can’t do without seeing our dog, cat, horse, parrot or other furry friend and they undoubtedly become part of the family. This love for our pets is what means we always ensure they’re taken care of. We want them to be healthy, happy and free of chronic illness. Many owners are now turning to hemp extract oil with CBD to support this aim. But navigating the waters surrounding hemp oil can be challenging – we’re here to help. Learn more about how to use hemp oil for your pet here and top benefits – from horses & cows to birds.
Overview of Hemp Oil
Since ancient times, the therapeutic effects of the hemp plant have been understood. It was originally used by many tribes in Asia and the Middle East to help reduce pain and for relaxation by vaporizing hemp with steam. Fast forward to today and clinical studies have been rapidly progressing everywhere from Australia to the US and EU. As recently as 2022 new discoveries are being made showing CBG and CBDA from hemp extract can prevent infection from the COVID virus. Its also known to have antibacterial and antimicrobial effects. Hemp’s potential and uses are being studied more – there are now well over 10,000 research papers on the topic and more than 1000 purely on cannabinoids like CBD and CBN.
What’s most notable about hemp oil is its broad range of applications for health in both pets and people. When consumed, cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids in the oil bind to the endocannabinoid system present in animals like horses, birds as well as people. Receptors at the binding sites release endocannabinoids like anandamide which are highly anti-inflammatory and anti-analgesic. These receptors are called the CB1 and CB2 receptors (CB standing for cannabinoid) and are located throughout the central nervous system, brain and body. It’s how hemp extract is able to treat both mental issues like insomnia or anxiety, as well as bodily aches, pains and inflammatory problems like arthritis in horses for instance.
How safe is it to use for pets?
An intensive study by the World Health Organization looked at whether CBD could have harmful side effects. It was uncovered that for humans, hemp extracts were non-harmful with minimal side effects. The largest danger identified was that it can cause the liver to work harder which can create problems when other medications are also being used. Most pharmaceuticals are processed by the liver to detoxify them. But if CBD is being taken the liver may not fully cleanse the other drugs via its enzymes (cytochrome catalysts) which can lead to toxicity in the body. It’s important to completely avoid mixing medications with hemp oil. For pets this can include medicines like de-wormers and heartworm medicines which may also be processed via the liver.
Let’s cover off each key mammalian pet group and what the safety and side effect profile looks like. Note that most non mammalian animals don’t have an endocannabinoid system making hemp oil use much less beneficial so we won’t cover this.
- Dogs – we know that THC is toxic to dogs and must be avoided at all costs. Never give anything containing this compound to your puppy or it can poison them. Hemp oil is safe however and poses little risk providing you begin on low dosages. It contains a range of beneficial compounds like Omega 3 &6, plus healthy fats and antioxidants, all of which are great for your pup’s health.
- Cats – using hemp extract for cats has almost no clinical studies or research on it yet. Cats are mammals and have an endocannabinoid system though complete with CB1 and CB2 receptors meaning they would be able to benefit from CBD and other nutrients hemp can provide. Again we recommend only ever using 0% THC oils and testing with your particular pet at low doses first.
- Horses -for equine animals there are certainly some helpful effects that full spectrum hemp oil can offer. This type of pet has an extensive system of cannabinoid receptors and is able to directly benefit from compounds like CBN, CBG and CBD. They trigger the release of endocannabinoids like anandamide when ingested. Again there is limited specific research on the use of CBD in horses however like cats and dogs we can infer the benefits to our mammalian friends due to having similar metabolic pathways and receptors as humans.
- Birds -again the nutrient and antioxidant rich nature of this product will assist birds with their holistic health. But care must be taken to avoid THC and any use with other medications. It’s a key source of phytonutrients like chlorophyll, carotene and beta carolyp
A promising study conducted by Murray State University concluded that CBD was in fact safe for use with horses. Up to 30 horses were given CBD via pellets over a period of 8 weeks each day. It had high bioavailability meaning the horse was able to metabolize it, plus assisted the horse with movement. This study also highlighted the application of this product for dogs to mitigate osteoarthritis. However it also noted that low dosages were used (up to 250mg daily) and further tests at high dosages for extended periods were definitely needed.
There have been other studies conducted on canines such as Colorado State University’s brief review of hemp extract’s safety in cats and dogs. While less than 20 subjects were tested, the study period over 6 weeks had a high dosage regime applied to each animal with upwards of 10mg per day of CBD being given to each pet. An important outcome of this study was clearing the compound for toxicity – it had little effect on the liver of each animal and was able to be metabolized well. There were some minor side effects noted however such as upset stomach for dogs and excessive licking or head shaking with some cats. Researchers concluded that it was safe to provide the product to these types of pets providing the right dosages were used, no other medications were simultaneously taken and the pets had no underlying conditions or liver problems.
How it works – the endocannabinoid system in mammals
Present in all mammals, the endocannabinoid system is known to be a regulator of homeostasis and support functions like immunity, metabolism and sleep. Pathways from this system link to the brain and central nervous system, endocrine system and immune system in both humans and animals ranging from cats and dogs, horses and cows. Its mechanism of activation is via the CB1 and CB2 receptors which bind with cannabinoids (such as CBN, CBD or CBG) when consumed. These trigger the system and the release of endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These compounds are highly anti-inflammatory, anti analgesic and anti anxiolytic, providing relief from a range of physical and mental ailments. Importantly, the CB1 receptors are largely located in the CNS and brain – these generally provide relief for problems like stress, anxiety, depression and epilepsy. CB2 receptors on the other hand are primarily located in the body’s endocrine system, joints and muscle cells, throughout the gut, spleen and skin.
Due to their anti-inflammatory nature, these compounds can help indirectly with other inflammatory related issues like arthritis in cats or colitis (inflammation of the gut). Cannabinoids with documented anti-inflammatory properties include cannabidiol (CBD), ß-caryophyllene (BCP), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerolic acid (CBGa), and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). Despite a large quantity of subjective reports and anecdotes from pet owners and veterinarians on the topic there is still limited support and research that’s been conducted on hemp extracts. Trials are increasingly being conducted however on rats and humans which will be extended to dogs and other pets in the coming years.
What are the benefits for pets?
There’s no doubt that hemp oil is an excellent addition to the diet and wellness of our dogs, cats and horses. Hemp has high concentrations of many natural nutrients and phytocompounds that enrich the health of our pets. At its most basic level its a nutritional supplement. Hemp extract contains a bounty of helpful plant based antioxidants like chlorophyll, lignans, carotene and cannaflavins. These help to protect and support cells from damage that occurs due to pollution, cell function and stress. You can think of them as holistic health chemicals that support almost all systems of our pet’s body.
Let’s have a look at some of the specific areas full spectrum CBD oil helps our furry friends with.
- Anxiety and Stress Reduction
Anxiety affects pets similarly to humans. When the fight or flight response and nervous system is overwhelmed with stress and cortisol chronically it leads to adverse effects for the mind. Anxiety in cats, dogs and other pets can be debilitating and cause our pets to become fearful and withdrawn. They may become more scared of common noises like car sounds or horns, in addition to becoming moody and irritable. Luckily pets have CB1 receptors located in their brain and nervous system. When triggered these receptors can calm the mind and reduce amygdala activity to slow or prevent the stress response occurring.
A 2012 study of rats showed that cannabidiol had a marked reduction on anxiety levels across hundreds of subjects and reduced cortisol. CBD is a powerful anti-anxiolytic (or anxiety reducing) compound and its a very useful characteristic when it comes to treating our dog or even horse’s worries. It can particularly assist with problems like noise based anxiety, fear of other animals and supporting phobia reduction. In any case many owners and vets now religiously use it for their beloved pets to provide them with some level of relief and calm. Combined with other changes like pet behavioural therapy, changing scenery or conditioning confidence against stressors or phobias it can have powerful results.
- Alzheimers & Neuroprotection
Just like anxiety, pet’s can also experience neurodegeneration and associated diseases like alzheimers. This loss of mental abilities accelerates with age. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is considered the animal equivalent to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Pets affected by this disorder exhibit dramatically reduced functioning of the brain. Like alzheimers, it’s caused by plaque build up along the microglia or brain cell pathways. It’s an inflammatory condition, with plaque build up slowing down the passage of electrical signals and reducing cognitive ability. There are also some indications it can aid in preventing memory loss when administered to animals although these reports are anecdotal.
While limited, there is some evidence full spectrum CBD oil can aid in protecting the brain cells and mitigating this mental decline. Multiple cannabinoids like CBG and CBD exhibit neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may be important in protecting microglia. A three month study on dogs recently indicated hemp extract was able to significantly reduce the incidence and length of seizures by around a third. This is also seen in human applications of CBD for epilepsy. It suggests the compound offers some form of neurological support and protection in pets but the full extent of which is not yet clear. CB1 receptors are abundant in cat, horse and dog brains which may provide the pathway for this therapeutic action via endocannabinoids.
Pets suffer from both osteoarthritis (resulting from normal wearing of the joints) and rheumatoid arthritis (caused by inflammatory immune conditions). Using hemp oil for dogs and cats reduces inflammation and can also assist with arthritis pain. What’s great is that hemp extract works for both types of arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory and pain blocking properties. CBD helps slow inflammation progression in pets, both protecting the joints against more severe damage and inhibiting the release of factors that cause joint aches. Anandamide and other endocannabinoids produced from the CB2 receptors in the joints are linked to this outcome. Other cannabinoids that act as anti-inflammatories are CBG , CBC, CBCA, and CBDA.
A research study in 2017 explored the application of CBD oil for dogs who were afflicted with osteoarthritis. Even at low doses of around 5mg per kilogram body weight per day the subjects showed positive outcomes versus placebo. Pain and aching from arthritis was reduced, mobility improved and the dogs appeared more at ease and happy. Larger doses would be needed to achieve similar effects for horses or large dogs, but the researchers noted that high dosages – while performing better on pain and movement scores – weren’t necessarily needed to still get a great patient outcome for each pet.
- Inflammation & Gut Health
Pets like cats can suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) particularly common. Studies have now shown that hemp extract is helpful for many stomach issues, including IBD and colitis. Cannabinoids like CBN and CBG reduce gastrointestinal inflammation via the CB2 receptors in the stomach lining and intestine. Antioxidants like beta carotene and cannaflavins may also play a role in calming the stomach and protecting stomach cells from becoming inflamed. CBD’s pain blocking mechanisms also help in soothing the irritation and discomfort associated with inflamed bowels for pets.
Both cats and dogs can get diabetes. The condition is hard to control, and many owners can’t adjust to the high stress and needs of treating a diabetic pet. Cannabinoids from hemp may offer assistance. CBD’s role as a partial regulator of hormones and in homeostasis may link it to supporting pancreas function. Its still a new area of research though and not fully known. Interestingly, human CBD users are found to have a lower average weight, lower fasting insulin, and better insulin sensitivity on average contrasted with non-users.
Chronic inflammation plays a key role in the development of type 2 diabetes. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may lessen inflammation and reduce the chance of developing it. Cannabidiol has been shown to reduce the incidence of diabetes in normal-weight mice in studies. It may actually suppress the symptoms of diabetes. A second cannabinoid, THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), has also been shown to combat diabetes. A 2013 study reported that THCV reduces glucose intolerance, improves the user’s insulin profile and liver triglyceride levels. Each of these effects is beneficial to treating diabetes. Whether it works for pets like cats and dogs with diabetes is difficult to ascertain currently.
- OCD and Mood Issues
Mood problems as well as OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder occurs in pets just like us. A genetic basis for it has actually been found in some dog and cat breeds. The condition in animals can be debilitating, as it may involve self-mutilation or chronic repetitive behaviour. This can mean less interacting with family or even eating problems. Anecdotal reports from people with OCD support the finding that full spectrum CBD oil reduces expression of their symptoms. Even at low doses, it has been shown to decrease repetitive behaviour in rats. CB1 receptors and their interaction with the endocannabinoid system in the brain may also contribute to improved mood and confidence in pets like horses.
- Pain Management
Cannabinoids like CBD achieve analgesia, or pain reduction, through CBD1 receptors in parts of the brain responsible for pain reception (nociception) and CBD2 receptors in nerve endings in the body. They also alleviate pain by causing other cells to reduce their release of inflammatory agents. Numerous cannabinoids, including CBN, CBCA, and CBGA have demonstrated analgesic properties. This almost certainly applies to pets. Many vets and owners have cited its ability to limit the pain and discomfort seen in many dogs due to arthritis aches. As such it improves their quality of life and means they can move more, lose weight and jump or run with less constraint.
- Skin Conditions
The most common skin condition of pets is pruritus (itchiness). The condition can be so bad that pet owners sometimes turn to euthanasia out of desperation. Cannabidiol may offer a solution. Sensory nerve fibres from the skin contain cannabinoid receptors. Researchers found that cannabinoids like CBG applied directly to the skin topically can significantly reduce itching in humans. Other studies have also found that cannabinoids can protect against contact dermatitis and psoriasis. In pets like horses and cats, the skin is actually rich in CB2 receptors which are able to bind with cannabinoids to release their potent nourishing effects. Many say the oil helps their cat or dog’s fur coat and improves moisture and sheen.
- Immunity support
Cannabinoids can influence much of the immune system, which contains CB2 receptors in lymph nodes. In 2022 it was even discovered that CBG and CBDA assist in preventing and combating COVID in humans. It has strong antibacterial and antimicrobial effects that can help the T cells (white blood cells) and body fight intruders or pathogens. Many of the same mechanics are suspected to occur in pets like dogs. Often the immune system misfires and causes overkill, damaging the body itself and causing inflammation due to failing to turn off after an infection. Since CBD oil helps to reduce inflammation and thus immune irritation, it might be supportive in mitigating immune system problems. Bringing the immune system back to homeostasis and recovering with antioxidants and nutrients is also key to this.
How do I give hemp oil to my pet?
Many products and types of CBD exist which make it convenient and fairly simple to provide to your pet – whether they’re a dog, cat, horse or other animal. For dogs the oil can be simply added into their normal feed as drops or given directly to them orally. Most dogs love the taste of hemp oil as its rich in healthy fats like omega 3 & 6 plus gamma linoleic acid. Similarly for cats, the rich healthy polyunsaturated fats of hemp are palatable typically. You can dose via a tincture oil (mixed with a carrier oil), straight oil, topical, sublingual or even pellets. For horses we recommend using pellets or just adding the oil to their plant feed. Oil is the best bet for dosing due to its bioavailability and ease of absorption in the body.
Where can I buy CBD oil for pets?
In Australia most veterinarians haven’t yet caught up with much of the research and evidence surrounding CBD but many will still prescribe it. Much work is still to be done in progressing the dialogue and moving forward with the therapeutic benefits of CBD for pets. Its always important to purchase from a trusted, reputable supplier and seek test results if possible to ensure your product has no THC. This is toxic to most animals including cats and dogs. When purchasing your product look for ‘full’ or ‘broad spectrum’ on the label. This oil will contain much greater quantities of phytocannabinoids, nutrients and terpenes from hemp. Resultantly your pet will get more effect on their wellness and terpenes can trigger the entourage effect, enhancing the efficacy of other cannabinoids like CBN and CBG. Isolate oils typically only contain CBD – they’re still effective but won’t provide as deep relief and results.
What are the risks and side effects?
Always monitor your pet and their behaviour whenever you begin dosing with hemp oil. Any major changes in behaviour such as scratching, itching, erratic movement or noises may be a sign that your pet is experience side effects. In this case simply cease dosing or seek veterinarian attention if symptoms continue. Always begin with a low dose to test your pet’s tolerance and avoid problems. The most common side effects are upset stomachs and diarrhoea. Some dogs were also seen to have redness around their ears or nasal problems as side effects in the Murray University research. Many cats are also reported to scratch more.
Outside of this the product is very safe. Hemp extract won’t get your pet high as it contains no THC so is non psychoactive. It’s non toxic and can be readily consumed to benefit your cat, horse or dog. Its also non addictive but actually contains many nutrients and antioxidants that improve overall health. Even high doses can be used when your pet is ready. It will deliver more benefits and improvements in health but you can always stick to low doses if you think that’s all it needs. Always speak to your vet first and ease into it.
Its clear that hemp oil is great for pets and can help them with many common issues. Countless owners from the US to Australia are coming forward with their experiences with CBD assisting with their dogs arthritis, helping their cat reduce pain or improve their horses’ movement and daily living standards. Its very well tolerated in mammals including people, non toxic and contains a rich bounty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Unfortunately much of the research on pets is not very progressed and still in its initial stages. There is immense promise in this space however and many crossovers with research on humans and mice that can be drawn on.
There are multiple cannabinoids in this healthy and beneficial extract that can potentially provide therapeutic benefits for pets, including cannabidiol or CBD, CBG, CBC and BCP. Cannabinoids are not just for when your dog is sick or when pharmaceuticals fail. They are a beneficial component of daily nutrition for all pets. It’s apparent that full spectrum CBD oil is becoming a vital tool in the fight against health issues—but even more important is their value in maintaining health. Cannabinoids prevent and combat common complaints of aging, reduce stress and anxiety, inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. But beyond that, cannabinoids may simply make pets feel better, improving their comfort, mood, activity and appetite. They can feel and act like a younger version of themselves again.