By Julia Henriques
There’s a popular medicinal herb you can give your dog these days …
… and it’s called cannabis.
Dog owners are using it to help their pets with a wide range of ailments – from anxiety to arthritis to cancer.
Are dogs going to pot?
Not exactly. The cannabis dogs are taking is hemp, not marijuana.
For a long time, hemp was illegal in the US and other countries because it got lumped in with other forms of cannabis. Today, you can buy hempseed products in your local grocery store – not just soaps and lotions, but hempseed protein powders and drinks like hempseed milk.
But the hemp that has therapeutic benefits for your dog isn’t the kind lining the supermarket shelves.
We’re talking about whole herb cannabis.
So what’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?
Marijuana Vs Hemp
Marijuana and hemp both come from the plant Cannabis sativa (though marijuana also comes from another member of the Cannabis family, Cannabis indica).
The cannabis plant has over 60 chemicals called cannabinoids. The two main types of cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBDs are therapeutic cannabinoids, while THC is the cannabinoid that makes you high.
Marijuana’s THC content is usually between 10 and 15 percent; but hemp must have a THC content of 0.3 percent or less. At this level, cannabis has no intoxicating effect, for people or dogs.
Hemp is higher in CBD, the substance that provides the therapeutic effects.
How CBD Works
The cannabis plant contains a number of different chemicals, including CBD, phytocannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids. Humans and other mammals have specific cannabinoid receptor sites. These sites are primarily in the brain and central nervous system, and in peripheral organs, especially immune cells. They make up what’s called the endocannabinoid system.
Studies show that many cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory effects, and can help with pain, tumors, seizures, muscle spasms, skin conditions, appetite stimulation, aggression, anxiety and neurological disorders.
How CBD Hemp Can Help Your Dog
CBD hemp can help with both chronic and acute disease.
Among chronic conditions, it can help with arthritis, compromised immune systems, stress responses, aggression and digestive issues. There are also studies under way into CBD’s effects on Type 1 diabetes, organ diseases and cancer.
Veterinarians are also finding CBD hemp can be useful in treating acute ailments like sprains and strains, torn ligaments, bone breaks and even during post-operative care to reduce swelling, pain and stiffness.
If your dog’s taking conventional drugs for any of these conditions, CBD hemp may make it possible to use lower doses of the drugs to achieve therapeutic effects. Since conventional medicines do have side effects, this is a useful benefit of CBD.
Does It Work Fast?
As with any herbal medicine, for most ailments you may not see an immediate effect. You’ll need to be patient.
Your dog may feel some pain relief in a few hours but other symptoms like inflammation may take a few days to show improvement.
First of all, because of the low THC, CBD hemp won’t make your dog high.
The most common side effect of CBD is that your dog may get a little drowsy – about the same as if you gave him a Benadryl.
On rare occasions, side effects have included excessive itchiness or mild vomiting, but these sensitivities are few and far between. If your dog reacts with these symptoms, you should stop giving him cannabis.
If Your Dog Gets Into Marijuana
This article’s not about marijuana, but this is important information. With the legalization of marijuana in many places, poison control centers are hearing more and more about pets getting into their owners’ marijuana stash.
Adapted from Dogs Naturally Magazine