The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) functions the same way in people as it does in dogs, cats, and other animals. In reality, all animals have an ECS. This includes horses, rabbits, monkeys, dolphins, elephants, and even sea urchins, to name a few. A huge amount of research is currently being undertaken around the world to find out how exactly the ECS and cannabinoids, like CBD, work together.
The endocannabinoid system in dogs helps to maintain a healthy, natural internal balance. The ECS communicates with cannabinoid receptors using its own endocannabinoids that it produces naturally. However, the ECS can also be stimulated by phytocannabinoids (plant cannabinoids), including Cannabidiol (CBD) – the non-psychoactive compound found in hemp. This interaction between the ECS and phytocannabinoids, like CBD, is causing some big excitement in the medical world today.
You may have read about how people are already using medicinal cannabis and other cannabinoids such as CBD. Some well-educated pet owners are using CBD for their pets, as well. In fact, there are CBD cat treats and CBD dog treats made specifically for pets.
If you have ever wondered how CBD can be effective in so many situations, here is an explanation of how it works with the Endocannabinoid system in Dogs & Cats. Let’s explore how this interaction can have a beneficial impact on many parts of the body.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
The Endocannabinoid System, or ECS, was first discovered by scientists who were researching why cannabis causes people to get “high”, hence the name Endocannabinoid System. “Endo” is short for endogenous, which refers to something that originates inside of the body. “Cannabinoid” is a term that describes specific compounds, such as CBD or THC, that are capable of stimulating the ECS.
The ECS is the biological system that is responsible for the effects that cannabis has, both psychological and physical. It has also been discovered that the endocannabinoid system plays a major role in regulating many important bodily functions in dogs.
The endocannabinoid system in dogs has recently become the subject of much scientific research because of the many effects that it has on the body and the therapeutic potential it may hold. Scientists understand the basic functioning of the ECS, but researchers are studying more new exciting therapeutic uses of this system every day.
What Are Cannabinoid Receptors?
Cannabinoid receptors are located on the surface of cells and they monitor the conditions outside of the cell. They transmit what they detect to the inside of the cell, and that triggers the appropriate cellular response.
There are several types of cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system in dogs and other animals, but the two major ones are known as CB1 and CB2. The precise locations of these receptors in dogs’ bodies are still being investigated, but many locations have already been discovered.
These receptors are involved in a wide variety of body processes, including nerve growth and development, inflammation, immune function, bone growth, pain, emotions (anxiety, feelings of well-being), and metabolism.
CB1 Cannabinoid Receptors
CB1 receptors are found throughout the body but are more concentrated in the spinal cord and the brain than anywhere else. CB1 receptors in the brain are found in regions that control specific behaviors.
For example, CB1 receptors have been found in the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating appetite. There are also CB1 receptors in the amygdala region of the brain; this area relates to emotions and memory. CB1 receptors also reside in the nerve endings which control pain.
The anatomical locations of CB1 receptors in the brains of dogs differ from human brains, which is one of the reasons dogs are much more sensitive to the negative effects of THC than people. CB1 receptors are also found in the skin, salivary glands, digestive system, and immune system of dogs.
CB2 Cannabinoid Receptors
CB2 receptors mainly reside in the nervous system, immune system, spleen, and liver. Many of these receptors are concentrated in immune tissues and cells, pointing to the possibility that the ECS plays an immunomodulatory role. This means the ECS may help monitor and regulate the immune responses, such as inflammation or allergies.
How Do Cannabinoids Work With My Pet’s Endocannabinoid System?
Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. There have been 113 cannabinoids identified in the cannabis plant to date. The two most abundant cannabinoids are THC and CBD.
THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that is responsible for the “high” feeling that marijuana users experience. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that can provide many benefits of marijuana without mental interference.
Endocannabinoids are molecules that the body produces naturally. These molecules bind to cannabinoid receptors to initiate specific actions. The body only creates endocannabinoids when it needs to.
When introduced into the body, plant cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) such as THC and CBD stimulate the cannabinoid receptors in the same way as the body’s own endocannabinoids do. This, in turn, triggers many natural reactions from the ECS.
The endocannabinoid system in dogs and all other animals operate in the same way. Introducing external cannabinoids into the ECS triggers the same effects that the endocannabinoids do.
The Functionality of The Endocannabinoid System in Dogs
The full extent of how the Endocannabinoid System works in regulating certain functions of the body is not yet fully understood. Most of the research on the ECS has been done in humans or in laboratory animals.
However, there is a growing and exciting amount of research on the role of the ECS in the dog. Researchers recognize this system for playing an important role in modulating the brain, the immune system, inflammation, the endocrine system, and the musculoskeletal system.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to damaged tissue or infection, but when this response is not controlled properly it can lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is believed to be responsible for many diseases, including epilepsy and arthritis.
Research suggests that the ECS regulates inflammation. Because of this, the ECS is proving to be a promising therapeutic target in the management of these conditions in dogs.
The Effects of CBD & The Endocannabinoid System
The ECS is there to respond to stimulation by the body’s own endocannabinoids, but the cannabinoid receptors can also be stimulated by cannabinoids from external sources, including cannabidiol (CBD).
Initial research on the benefits of medicinal cannabis focused on the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, which binds to the CBD1 receptors to trigger activity.
Subsequent research has shown that the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD stimulates both CB1 and CB2 receptors by triggering the release of the body’s natural endocannabinoids. This increases the effect throughout the entire body. Research by the National Institutes of Health has shown that CBD can slow the natural breakdown of endocannabinoids, which acts to prolong the therapeutic effect.
Research into the effects of CBD is still ongoing, but the list of uses and benefits is continually growing. Some scientists are now even predicting that the use of CBD to stimulate the endocannabinoid system in dogs and in humans could revolutionize modern practices. Learn more here.
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Written by Dr. Carine Laporte, VMD at www.holistapet.com