The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) has been found to be present in vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish) and invertebrates (sea urchins, leeches, mussels, nematodes, and others). It regulates sleep, appetite, behavior, and multiple metabolic processes. The ECS also plays an important role in pathologies that affect other organs and systems, working to restore homeostasis. Scientific evidence of the ability of phytocannabinoids to assist the ECS in regulation is growing, even in the realm of veterinary medicine to understand the potential benefits in alleviating symptoms associated with different animal disorders.
Despite legal restraints from country to country, use of cannabinoids in dogs, cats, and horses have been reported to include:
- Reduction in anxiety
- Reduction in pain
- Improvement in mobility issues associated with osteoarthritis
- Regulation of appetite
- Control of type 2 diabetes
- Control of inflammatory conditions
- Lessened epileptic episodes
Published results from a United States survey reported that nearly 60% of pet owners give or were giving cannabidiol (CBD) to their dogs and 12% reported the same for their cats. From these, 64% found it helped with pain reduction, 50% found it helped with sleep, 49% found it reduced anxiety, and 30% found it reduced convulsions.
Argentinian Study Shows Promise
Between May and November 2021, Argentinian Cannabis Veterinarians conducted the first national survey to assess and evaluate cannabinoid therapy treatments provided by veterinarians to dogs and cats. Results were published in 2023. The survey evaluated the following comprehensive list:
- Location of the practitioner
- Species treated
- Type of feeding
- Treatments implemented
- Type and concentration of cannabis (full spectrum THC dominant, full spectrum CBD dominant, or a full spectrum 1:1 ratio)
Of the treated species, 77% were dogs and 21% were cats.
The dog ages ranged between 0.4 and 19 years old. Pain was the most prevalent condition followed by behavioral and seizures. Remaining disorders included distemper, cancer, senile cognitive dysfunction, and dermatopathies. Veterinarians determined the cannabis oil type based on the condition. For example, 97% of dog patients with pain were treated with either a THC dominant or 1:1 ratio formulation, whereas 58% of dog patients with behavioral disorders and 54% of dog patients with seizures received the CBD dominant formula.
Among the dogs treated for pain, 37% showed significant improvement after 15 days of treatment and 80% showed significant improvement after 60 days of treatment using the THC dominant formula. Those treated with the 1:1 ratio formula saw a significant improvement of 75% after 15 days. Dogs with seizures and behavioral disorders using CBD dominant formulas witnessed reduced seizure frequency, duration, and intensity in epileptic conditions. They also had minimized behavioral disorders such as anxiety, restlessness and compulsive behaviors.
Of the 89 dogs who received cannabis oil, 28 were using it as a standalone therapy without any other medication.
Reported adverse effects for the dog patient group included lethargy and one case of a paranoid state with a patient taking other medication and with a pre-existing behavioral disorder.
The age range of cat patients was similar to dogs at 2 years to 18 years old, although a smaller group was observed. The main diseases and conditions observed included behavioral disorders, pain, gingivostomatitis, dermatopathies, autoimmune diseases, and combinations of two or more conditions.
THC dominant, 1:1 ratio, and CBD dominant formulas were used for cats with pathologies such as behavioral disorders, pain, and cancer. Dermic pathologies were mostly treated with just the CBD dominant formula. The THC dominant formula showed a 66% improvement at 15 days while the CBD dominant formula showed a significant improvement of 43% at 15 days and 75% at 30 days.
For cats, the use of the cannabinoid products alone or combined with other medications improved clinical parameters. Ten cats received cannabis as their single therapy. Just as with the dog group, veterinarians and caregivers saw a reduction of clinical signs and symptoms at 15, 30, and 60 days.
This exploratory study presented the opportunity to determine the status of cannabinoid therapy in veterinary medicine. In all cases, veterinarians and caregivers both reported a positive perception of treatments, indicating moderate to significant improvements in the quality of life at 15, 30, and 60 days. The promising results support the case to develop a plan that builds solid scientific evidence. Researchers also advocate for the education of the ECS for veterinarians, understanding the quality and safety of products before recommending to animal patients, initiating treatments at the lowest possible dose, and closely documenting health outcomes.
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