Benefits of hemp and CBD oil in Canines

Benefits of hemp and CBD oil in Canines

June 22, 2022


When we renovated our house in the cul-de-sac and started clearing the jungle that posed as a garden, we came across a massive flowering cannabis plant.  Naturally, I was concerned about having illegal substances growing in our garden, and we promptly removed the plant,  though friends reassured me that, in all likelihood, it was not marijuana, just a hemp plant.  One of the fastest-growing plants, hemp spreads quickly as birds and other mammals ingest and disperse the seeds propagating the plant far and wide.

I did not give it another thought till spring, when I noticed a few small hemp plants appear in the garden, and no longer concerned that I was cultivating drugs, I did not remove them.  What did catch my attention was that Mila loved the leaves.  She'd munch on a few new shoots every day, only two or three, until she returned the following day and chomped away again with great gusto.  I had other herbs growing in the garden, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, but Mila didn't even glance at them and always made a beeline for the hemp.  I wondered why Mila was so drawn to this plant and if she instinctively knew that it was good for her?

In recent times much has been written about the benefits of hemp products, including oils, seeds, and CBD oil, for humans and canines, so I decided to investigate the subject.  I did not realise that marijuana and hemp come from the cannabis plant, though from different families.  So I was indeed growing cannabis on my property!  Though marijuana comes from the Indica strain with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, around 10-15 per cent, which is what makes you high, hemp or cannabidiol (CBD), on the other hand, comes from the Sativa strain with less than 0.3 per cent and has no intoxicating effect on people or canines.

Various surveys and articles appraise the benefits of CBD, which is believed to have pain and arthritis relieving properties and helps with stress, anxiety and digestive issues.  However, it can also support a compromised immune system, which, other than anxiety, was one of the conditions that interested me.  Some time ago, as outlined in my book From Wolf to Supermutt and Everything in Between, Mila had chronic gastrointestinal and digestive issues, possibly due to a compromised immune system, so I wondered if hemp would benefit her.

Many dogs are relinquished to pet shelters globally due to anxiety-related disorders, such as leash reactivity, noise hypersensitivity, fear of storms, fireworks, and separation-related anxiety.  A recent questionnaire on the effects of a CBD impregnated dog treat evaluated the before-treatment responses of 98 canines participants and the after-treatment responses, which seem very positive.  The fourteen-day study concluded that CBD has the potential to decrease anxiety-related disorders.  Though, of course, surveys have limitations as they rely on subjective owner observations, and as there is no control group, the verdict cannot be conclusive; however initial findings do merit further veterinary and scientific research.   

Although very few scientific studies have been undertaken on the effects of hemp and CBD, most are cautious in their conclusions and advise that further studies are needed.  However, there is growing interest in the promising pharmaceutical possibilities for treating and preventing various conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and neurological disorders.  So far, there have been encouraging findings on the effects of CBD on osteoarthritis pain management in dogs and cats.

In the meantime, all evidence indicates that hemp seeds are a mineral-rich nutrient source of ALA (alpha-lipoic acid and GLA (gamma-Linolenic acid).  The seeds also include proteins, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and folate and provide a few essential vitamins, including C, B, A, and E. CBD oil is a source of vitamins and minerals omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Bearing this in mind, I give Mila CBD drops daily, and I also stumbled on pressed hemp pellets which Mila enthusiastically consumes as a treat substitute.  Her reaction to the hemp pellets was on par with her other gastronomic favourites, including salmon paté.

Mila is not unique.  Many dogs like the taste of cannabis and seem to be instinctively drawn to this plant.  Generally, wild animals can distinguish what they can safely eat based on instinct, experience and what they learn from their parents.  Although domestic dogs still have many of these instincts, they are perhaps not as sharp as their wild counterparts and are less discerning in their tastes.  Dogs have been known to eat various harmful things, including rat poison, chocolate, fertiliser, and antifreeze.  Unfortunately, their intuition does not  seem to work very well regarding man-made goods, and they are drawn to the wonderful smells oozing from these products.  I believe their instincts are more honed towards non-man-made edibles that they usually find in nature.

Although I cannot say that I have noticed any change in Mila's anxiety levels, how she was instinctively drawn to the hemp plant still makes me wonder if she knows something that we don't but will hopefully discover soon.