Since the approval of the 2018 Farm Bill, the growth of hemp-derived products has been nothing short of amazing. Since 1937, all forms of cannabis were illegal and the 2018 Farm Bill changed the status of hemp to be federally legal. Hemp is not only legal to grow but hemp extractions, with some exceptions, are legal to sell and consume in all 50 states. CBD is one of the most well-known hemp extraction products. People and pets are benefiting from these products with some really incredible outcomes. We encourage anyone who is considering the use of CBD for their pet to consult with their vet. If your vet is unfamiliar with the topic, we encourage you to introduce the conversation. This article won’t answer all your questions but it should get you thinking.
The following information is intended to help give some context to the hemp and CBD topic and introduce you to some terms along with other things to consider. We are assuming that if you are still reading, that you want to understand more. This is a deep topic but we are just going to graze the surface. You can always find more topics of interest in our other blog entries. Here’s what we’ll be discussing today:
The Connection Between Humans, Pets, and CBD
Hemp and Marijuana: What’s the Difference?
Plants as Medicine
CBD Safety and Dosing
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HUMANS, PETS, AND CBD
CBD has lots of buzz these days. We feel that CBD has made a big difference in our pet's lives along with many other pets who use it regularly. Few people know how or why it works but it’s important to the conversation. Set CBD aside for a second so we can discuss why it works on us. All people and pets have an endocannabinoid (endo-can-a-bin-oid) system or ECS. It’s a big word and most people have not heard of it and don’t even know that they have one! The ECS is a system of receptors throughout the brain and body and its purpose is to create a balance with other systems in the body. Imagine it’s like an extensive messaging system that tells all the other systems of the body when to do their jobs and to what degree so that things run smoothly. That’s right, it’s like a master system helping the others work in harmony. The ECS uses its own endocannabinoids which are the chemical messengers made and used by the ECS.
The ECS is the postal service system of the body and the endocannabinoids are the mail. This system works constantly to keep things going smoothly in everyone's’ body and no one knew about it until after the cannabis plant was extensively studied. The ECS was discovered while scientists were trying to understand how marijuana makes you high. The answer was shocking; a system now believed to have developed in almost all living creatures right alongside the nervous system 500 million years ago. It was natural that the endocannabinoid system in our body be named after the Cannabis plant after this discovery. Cannabis has been in use by humans as medicine for thousands of years. We will get to the difference between hemp and Marijuana a little later, just keep reading.
The ECS wasn’t discovered by science until the ’90s and there are still volumes to be learned about how it works. Your pet. Your fur family whether it is a dog, a horse, cat, or lizard all have this system just like us, and using hemp-derived CBD works on the ECS like a charm! Cannabidiol (can-a-b-dial) or CBD, along with many other phytocannabinoids are plant compounds produced in the hemp plant which are so similar to our own endocannabinoids that the body responds to their influence through the ECS.
Humans and animals are both able to nourish the ECS by CBD supplementation which improves the health and wellness of the body. There are many reasons that our bodies may not have enough endocannabinoids. Poor diet, illness, high stress, chronic states of any of the previously mentioned conditions or simply being predisposed. In any case, you can take CBD and your body will immediately put it to use restoring balance and harmony to your body. If anyone has ever suggested to you that you take a vitamin D3 supplement, the idea is the same. Your body is able to produce vitamin D, but only with enough exposure to the sun which is necessary for your body to make it. If your body is unable to make enough endocannabinoids, you can take CBD to give your ECS what it needs to function. The list of potential benefits is incredible because the receptors that CBD communicates with are connected to every system in the body.
HEMP AND MARIJUANA: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Cannabis Sativa L. You have likely heard of its common names like hemp or marijuana which are basically two varieties of the same plant. It is pretty much a weed with very aromatic flowers (to say the least) but it has a history you could hardly believe. The history is for another time so let's help you get to know it in the present. What we now know is that the Cannabis Sativa L. plant produces over 100 known cannabinoids that interact directly and indirectly with the ECS system of almost every living creature. Hemp and Marijuana both produce all the same cannabinoids but in very different strengths or percentages. In the case of our pet products, we are only talking about hemp-derived extractions which include abundant amounts of CBD, less than the legal limit of 0.3% THC, and many other cannabinoids in small amounts.
Hemp may be from the same genus and species as marijuana, but there are some very important differences that affect their legal status. Hemp is very low in THC (commercially grown hemp has less than 0.3% THC) and typically very high in CBD. Strains of Marijuana plants have high levels of THC and very low levels of CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids. The high THC content is why marijuana is still on the federal schedule 1 controlled substances list and hemp is now exempt. THC is the only cannabinoid known to get you “high”. CBD does not have this effect. It is very common for brands offering CBD products to say “THC free” but there is some nuance to that statement in most cases. By governmental standards (and by people who use marijuana), 0.3% THC content will not get anyone or their pets high. Not at all. Therefore, most companies consider it safe to say THC free. There are a few companies that claim the absence of THC, and this can be done but it requires extra steps in the distillation process to remove it. Those products with THC removed are now referred to as “broad spectrum” hemp extracts.
THC “free” is mostly relevant to those people who may need to take drugs tests. While the 0.3% THC threshold is an important legal limit, it could also cause a positive result to turn up on a drug test. Again, not relevant to your cat or dog. Those of you that may have heard that THC is toxic to dogs, this is also a nuanced statement. The fact is that dogs are very sensitive to THC but it isn’t poisonous to them in the way as chocolate or antifreeze. They can well handle small doses and it can be very effective for specific illnesses but should only be used with an experienced veterinarian who knows how to administer it. If your dog received too high a dose of THC, it can cause serious side effects and they will suffer until the THC is metabolized. This topic is best served by advice from the several vets in the US who use it in their practices. This article won’t presume to give any medical advice. All our hemp products are below the 0.3% level and very safe for any pets you have. Both THC and CBD are part of a family of phytochemicals called cannabinoids which we mentioned earlier. These compounds directly or indirectly interact with our body’s built-in ECS and allows the body to utilize them to restore health and balance.
PLANTS AS MEDICINE
There are many examples of plant-derived chemicals that directly interact with systems of receptors in our bodies. The very idea of medicine comes from using plants for healing the body which predates human recorded history. As science progressed, we discovered the healing essence of plants could be extracted and distilled. This practice gave way to modern pharmaceuticals.
One of the best examples is a remedy for a feeling that everyone can relate to…pain. A pain reliever was one of the first remedies truly distilled from a plant and considered modern medicine. First rendered in the early 1800s and still used today, opiates like morphine are incredibly powerful. They work on the same pain receptors in the bodies of both people and animals as endorphins. Endorphins (in-door-fins) are our body’s own pain killers and we experience them during extreme stress or injury. In its original form, morphine was derived from opium, an extraction from the poppy plant which to many is just a beautiful flower or the seeds in a delicious muffin. Opiates attach to our body’s pain receptors and we experience pain relief as a result.
Opiates and cannabinoids are not at all alike in how they affect the body nor do they share the same receptors in the body. This comparison simply demonstrates how the bodies of both humans and animals are very capable of benefiting from plant chemicals and almost seems intended to do so. Despite their obvious uses, it is well known that opiates are highly addictive with many undesirable side effects. As of this writing, there are many thousands of years of recorded use of the hemp plant for medicinal purposes and no evidence of physical dependency, death, or serious side effects.
CBD SAFETY AND DOSING
Many people wonder how safe a hemp product could be if it was illegal for so many years. It’s really a split question. While hemp and hemp extracts are very safe for consumption, how they are grown has more to do with their safety as a product. True safety concerns have revolved mostly around the toxicity of the ground and pesticides. Hemp is known to heavily absorb all these types of impurities as it grows and is actually used for this reason to clean over-used crop soil. The rest is politics and that’s another story.
Good quality CBD products are known to be very well tolerated even at high doses in cats and dogs. Organically grown hemp is an important consideration. It is extremely difficult for a farm to get the USDA certification of organic, but many farms are using organic growing practices and are in the process of getting their certification. But marketers will say anything to sell a product. So how do you know if a product is safe? It’s the testing results mostly. Always look for the COA’s (Certificate of Analysis, which are lab test results) for a company’s product to help determine its quality. In the end, the testing will demonstrate that the product is clean and “safe” even if it isn’t certified organic. In this way, USDA certification is not always the proof of clean and safe, the tests are. You can see our COAs here.
The dosing topic must be addressed with care as all individual pets are different and have varying needs and tolerances. The “low and slow” approach is a common phrase known by pet parents offering CBD products to their fur babies. This means, take the dosing directions as a guideline, and not a prescribed dosing instruction. If your pet has never had CBD before, you can start at half the dosing instruction and increase it over time until your pet experiences the response you are looking for. The most common negative reactions to CBD is drowsiness and loose stool, and that is usually at fairly high doses. Keep in mind that CBD is a natural substance, not a pharmaceutical, and must not be viewed as “medicine” in the modern sense. Pharmaceutical companies own the medicine category and protect it jealously. Many of us are returning to old wisdom for help with common ailments in people and pets. Natural approaches with herbs and extracts are a great place to start. With your vet’s help, you can always get guidance for a more serious health concern in which case a pharmaceutical drug may be necessary.
There is still a great deal of study to be done because the Cannabis plant is such a deep subject, but there is no shortage of research already. With regard to pets, dogs have had the most research done to date and there have been some fascinating discoveries. Veterinary science is still waiting for its conclusive studies for how various breeds of pets respond to doses of the various cannabinoids, along with safety studies and even how much to dose. Preliminary studies have shown incredible promise but there are already many vets across the country that have been using CBD in their practices with fantastic results and they often write about it.
There is always more to learn. Dive into our blogs and get your pup or kitty back into the game of living life! Happier, more comfortable days are just around the corner for them. It’s up to you. Find what they need here at Homescape Pets.