As you may already know, the human body possesses unique receptors that interact with cannabinoids. This is why we can gain the beneficial effects of cannabis compounds like CBD. But do dogs have cannabinoid receptors as well, and can they also benefit from taking cannabinoids?
The answer to both of these questions is a resounding YES. Dogs, and most animal species for that matter, have cannabinoid receptors in their body that function the same way ours do. This means they too can benefit from CBD. Read all about your pet’s endocannabinoid system right here!
What Are Cannabinoid Receptors?
Animal cells contain numerous chemical structures called receptors. They are made from protein, and they serve a vital role in biology. Certain molecules called ligands bind to cannabinoid receptor proteins, sending chemical signals to the cells. These signals regulate a wide range of functions in the body and brain.
Cannabinoid receptors are specific types of receptor proteins that interact with cannabinoids. When we think of cannabinoids, our minds automatically go to compounds found in the cannabis plant, like CBD. However, animal bodies produce natural cannabinoids of their own, called endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids for short (“endo” is a prefix with ancient Greek roots that means “inner” or “internal”).
At the time of this writing, scientists know of two different types of cannabinoid receptors — CB1 and CB2. Let’s look at where these receptors exist in the body.
- CB1 Receptors: These are found primarily in the central nervous system (CNS), which comprises the brain and spinal cord. They also occur in the heart, lungs, digestive tract, reproductive organs, and immune system.
- CB2 Receptors: These are most abundant in the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which connects the CNS to other organ systems in the body. You’ll also find CB2s in the immune system (particularly as a component of white blood cells), bones, spleen, and skin.
The Endocannabinoid System
Together, the CB1 and CB2 receptors form the endocannabinoid system or ECS. Research shows that the signals transmitted by endocannabinoid receptors regulate some of the most critical bodily functions, including:
- Immune response
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Mood regulation
- Reproductive health
- Skin and hair condition
- Balance and coordination
A well-functioning ECS is essential for maintaining good health and homeostasis — a state of natural balance in the mind and body. An imbalance of cannabinoids in the body (known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency or CECD) can weaken the nervous and immune systems. CECD has been linked to increased pain sensation and poor immune function, putting the afflicted at risk for certain health ailments.
Do Dogs Have Cannabinoid Receptors?
It may come as a surprise, but research suggests that all animals have an ECS except for insects. This includes all members of mammal species, including you and your dog. Canines also have both CB1 and CB2 receptors, similarly spread throughout the body.
One notable difference is the fact that humans have a massive concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that controls learning and memory) while dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in the brain stem (which controls life-giving functions like heartbeat, breathing, and sleeping).
How Do Cannabinoid Receptors Work in Dogs?
Canine cannabinoid receptors serve the same purpose as human cannabinoid receptors. When endocannabinoids or plant-based cannabinoids make contact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, it sets off a chain reaction of sorts.
The cannabinoid receptors send signals to the cells they are attached to. These signals trigger changes in the body and mind. For example, when your dog takes CBD, it interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors, sending a message to their immune cells that modulate swelling. The response is a reduction in swelling around tender areas. CBD has even more beneficial properties than that, but we’ll discuss that all in greater detail later in this article.
Do Dogs Have an Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?
Dogs have cannabinoid receptors, so that means they must have an ECS. Remember, ECS is a term for the entire interconnected network of CB1 and CB2 receptors, so where you have one, you must also have the other. It may come as a surprise considering our many differences, but humans and dogs actually have very similar endocannabinoid systems.
The ECS regulates the same physiological processes in dogs as it does in humans, including sleep, appetite, mood, etc. Certain functions of the ECS are more noticeable in dogs than humans, namely its effect on skin and hair. We humans tend to overlook this property of the ECS since we’ve evolved to have less hair on our bodies. However, your dog counts on their ECS to keep their thick fur coat soft and supple.
How Does a Cannabinoid Like CBD Interact with a Dog’s ECS?
To understand how plant-based cannabinoids interact with your dog’s ECS, it helps to know a bit about their natural endocannabinoids. The ECS primarily interacts with these compounds in its daily functions. The two main endocannabinoids are Anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).
Both Anandamide and 2-AG occur in almost all animal tissue. They naturally stimulate the ECS, leading it to perform all the beneficial functions we mentioned above. It’s thanks to Anandamide and 2-AG that the ECS works in the first place.
Unfortunately, endocannabinoids aren’t always efficient at their job. Both Anandamide and 2-AG break down very quickly thanks to an enzyme in the body called Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase, or FAAH. This leads many animals to experience an imbalance of endocannabinoids and a less-than-optimal ECS. This is where plant-derived cannabinoids can lend a helping hand.
Many compounds in the cannabis plant can activate cannabinoid receptors in similar ways to Anandamide and 2-AG, stimulating the ECS. The most well-known plant-based cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD and THC
THC is famous for being the primary active component in marijuana and getting people “high.” This is because THC binds very strongly to CB1 receptors.
CBD is a different matter. It does not actually bind to the receptors, but rather it interacts with them indirectly to promote the ECS. Most importantly, CBD inhibits the production of Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase. Less FAAH in the body means that the natural endocannabinoids won’t break down so fast. In other words, CBD doesn’t just activate the ECS on its own, but it also makes the natural endocannabinoids last longer and function more efficiently.
We do not recommend giving THC to your dog. Remember when we said that dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in their brain stem than humans do? That makes them much more sensitive to the powerful effects of THC.
CBD, on the other hand, is well-tolerated by dogs regardless of breed, age, gender, or size. CBD has no intoxicating effects and has a less heavy-handed impact on the ECS because it does not engage in direct cannabinoid binding like THC does. Many veterinarians recommend giving your dog CBD for its many wellness benefits, which we will discuss right now.
What Are the Benefits and Effects of CBD for Dogs?
CBD offers numerous beneficial effects, thanks to its interactions with cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. These notable gains include:
- Relieving physical discomfort, muscle aches, and skin irritation
- Calming the mind and easing nervousness
- Reducing hyperactivity and agitation
- Improving overall mood and mindset
- Boosting appetite and proper digestive function
- Promoting better sleep
CBD carries an extremely low risk of side effects. Complications are extremely rare, minimal, and short-lasting. The potential side effects of CBD are:
- Dry mouth and increased thirst
- Change in appetite
- Upset stomach
CBD is not addictive, and there has never been a report of any animal, be they canine, human, or other, suffering an overdose of CBD. If you accidentally give your dog too much CBD, they can simply sleep it off and wake up when the effects have passed. It’s also important to note that, because CBD is non-addictive, you can lower your dog’s dose as needed without worrying about “withdrawal symptoms,” like you would with many other therapies.
Which CBD Products Are Best for My Pet?
We curate the best selection of CBD pet products on the market. From treats for cats and dogs to pellets for horses, we’ve got your needs covered.
We carry the following CBD products for dogs:
- Dog Treats: These crispy vegan dog treats come in three varieties: Mobility Treats (to manage joint issues), Calming Treats (for easing nerves and promoting relaxation), and Wellness Treats (for immune support and cardiac wellness). Our treats are plant-based, gluten-free, non-GMO, and contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives.
- Soft Chews: Our soft chews have a tender texture that makes them easier to chew than standard crunchy treats. They’re perfect for older dogs or dogs with dental issues. We have Mobility and Calming Soft Chews, designed to care for your dog’s individual needs.
- Shampoo: Our CBD shampoo is specifically formulated to boost coat condition. It hydrates the skin and hair while removing dirt and grease, improving coat quality, and protecting against skin irritation.
- Capsules: Each vegan CBD capsule contains a precise dose of cannabidiol. Bottles of capsules in five different strengths: 150 mg (5 mg per capsule), 300 mg (10 mg per capsule), 600 mg (20 mg per capsule), 1200 mg (40 mg per capsule), and 3000 mg (100 mg per capsule). To learn more about dosing, check out our CBD Dosage Chart.
- Oil: Oil tincture is one of the most popular CBD products in the world, if not the most popular. People give it to themselves and their pets because we can all gain the same benefits from it. Try dropping CBD oil under the tongue for the fastest results (effects set in 15-30 minutes after dosing). You can add it to your dog’s food or have them swallow it directly, in which case the effects will take closer to an hour to set in.
Final Thoughts – Do Dogs Have Cannabinoid Receptors
Dogs absolutely do have cannabinoid receptors, meaning they have an endocannabinoid system as well. You can take advantage of this fact and give your dog CBD. It’s good for short-term needs like ache relief and curbing aggression, as well as long-term needs like sustained distress management and maintaining homeostasis.
Which CBD product is right for your dog? It depends on a few factors, including their condition and their personal preferences. Maybe they have persistent skin irritation, making CBD shampoo a great choice, maybe they need soft chews for their teeth, or maybe they just can’t resist the taste of our apple and peanut butter calming treats. We recommend sampling a few different CBD products with your dog to determine what they respond to best. To get started, visit the HolistaPet store today!