As the decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis and hemp sweep across the USA, and the wider world, pet owners have begun to consider giving it to their “fur children”. Whether it’s for general health maintenance or to tackle specific health conditions, use of the herb is enjoying growing acceptance.
Like humans, our animal companions possess a complex system of cellular communication known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS), due to its resemblance with the cannabinoids found in hemp1. The main difference is that our pets cannot tolerate more than trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid that is not produced in significant amounts by hemp. So, hemp it is for pets (and many humans).
It is estimated that 1-5% of all dogs suffer from seizures, and just like humans, hemp may help to reduce them. One testimonial on the California-based site VETCBD said that their dog, Fisher, had been seizure-free for 16 weeks since beginning treatment with CBD-rich hemp oil. A study on rats showed that use of CBD resulted in reduced amplitude and duration of “LFP (local field potential) burst”2. In other words, it was reducing the severity of seizures and the subsequent damage. Additionally, the Chicago blog Mommy Mayhem had an amazing story to tell this year. When a 7-year-old Great Dane named Leah had bone cancer, her owner was advised to administer hemp oil in conjunction with her anti-inflammatory drugs, and within days she was back to running around. Anxiety may be another problem dogs experience that can be managed with hemp, as described by a woman whose dog couldn’t stand 4th of July fireworks3. Research on humans has found that CBD could relieve anxiety, such as that caused by public speaking.
Maybe you don’t have a dog; maybe you have birds instead. Including hemp seeds in your bird’s diet can be a great way to improve their nutrient intake, and therefore their health. If you keep chickens, a study has found that feeding them hemp seeds increases the omega-3 fatty acid content of their eggs. Omega-3 fats are required by our bodies to produce anti-inflammatory substances, which protect us from all sorts of damage. Hemp seeds are also rich4 in vitamin E, which also protects our cell membranes from oxidative damage, and magnesium, which is involved in hundreds of cellular reactions and prevents our muscles from getting too stiff.
Despite the potential benefits of hemp, it is absolutely imperative that your dog does not eat psychoactive levels of THC5. Studies in the 1970s found that dogs have a very high density of THC receptors in the hindbrain. The hindbrain controls vital functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and breathing6, and overdoses of THC have even been reported to kill dogs. This is through a similar mechanism to how opioids suppress breathing in high doses. While veterinary medicine still needs to run clinical trials, hemp for pets appears to be promising.