Alex Alejandrez says that when he grew up in a rural area of Santa Cruz, both animals and cannabis were a huge part of his life. He recalls that his family had dogs, cats, chickens, and a raccoon that his father found when it was an abandoned kit. Because they lived by a stream, Alejandrez had his own tadpole farm.
He says his father also grew marijuana, which he used to make medicated liniments to treat pain. Weed was everywhere in Santa Cruz in the 1980s, “but my parents are super old school too,” says Alejandrez. “And they believe – and they taught me to do this – that we have everything we need on this earth and that cannabis is one of those things.”
The manager of Western Feed and Pet Supply in East Sacramento, Alejandrez, says his two early interests came together in the business selling CBD for animals. He reports that he has hundreds of customers who help their pets with CBD – also known as cannabidiol, in this case derived from hemp and specially formulated for animals.
The compound, which comes in the form of tinctures and chewable tablets, is used to treat a variety of problems, including anxiety, pain, and seizures. He says dog owners give their pets CBD on long drives and for separation anxiety when their folks are on vacation – and he sells lots of it on July 4th and New Years Eve. He says cat owners give it to their kittens for anxiety, mobility, and as a digestive aid. It’s even good for chickens, says Alejandrez – especially chickens that have recently had an encounter with a hawk.
He reports that many of his clients have eliminated other drugs, including drugs like phenobarbital, which have serious side effects, and switched to CBD. While studies have found minor side effects from using CBD in pets, including dry mouth and drowsiness, Alejandrez says the vast majority of his customers who have tried it are happy with the results. And although there has been an explosion of CBD use in pet health care recently, he says the practice has been around for years. “Only now are the people joining us.”
Alejandrez’s personal experience with CBD goes back seven years – at which point his Australian shepherd, Meiko, had trouble getting on and off and stopped jumping on the bed. He believes the compound’s anti-inflammatory and pain relieving powers dramatically improved Meiko’s life. The dog is now 16 years old – a bit rare for a 65 pound Australian shepherd.
Western Feed and Pet Supply in Sacramento offers a variety of CBD strains for its customers’ dogs, cats and chickens.
Science is catching up
Although academic research into the use of CBD as a veterinary medicinal product is a new field that has not produced many results, there is mounting scientific evidence to support Alejandrez’s claims about its benefits.
Dr. Signe Beebe has owned and directed the Integrative Veterinary Center in East Sacramento for 21 years. Having long ago been convinced of the healing properties of CBD through the experiences of her own canine and cat patients and their loved ones, as well as extensive anecdotal evidence, she points to recent studies from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine showing the compound’s effectiveness for a number of props of diseases.
One study found that cannabidiol treatments in dogs with osteoarthritis – a common condition in older animals – significantly reduced the animals’ pain with no side effects. Another Cornell study found the compound was effective in controlling seizures. Another looked at “dog neoplastic cell proliferation” related to tumors and found evidence that CBD might prove effective in fighting cancer. The results were peer-reviewed and published in the journal Veterinary and Comparative Oncology.
Beebe, who says about half of her patients have cancer, says she has recommended CBD to people whose pets have the disease – with a disclaimer – since the substance was legal. And while hemp-based CBD is popular in many pet products, says Beebe, whose practice includes acupuncture, vitamin C injections, and Chinese herbal medicines, prefers strains made from marijuana plants that contain more than a trace of THC.
“If your pet has uncontrollable seizures, if you’re afraid your pet is going to die, you’re likely to be breaking the rules,” she says. “I didn’t feel like it was my business to scold people who had the best intentions for their pets, so I helped them learn how to use them properly. That’s why I have more than a decade of experience using marijuana to treat animal diseases. ”
As with human cancer patients, Beebe says, CBD is of great benefit to pets receiving chemotherapy because it controls (or stops) vomiting and stimulates the patient’s appetite. Its palliative properties relieve the pain associated with the disease. And the U.S. Army veteran, who served in the 101st Airborne Division in the mid-1970s, said she had early believed in the drug’s use to fight cancer – a position that was once controversial and is now used by mainstream organizations like z as the American Kennel Club.
Most CBD products are made from hemp and * not * from marijuana. # Sponsored by @TheInnovetTeam https://t.co/vwko0z0PCy
– American Kennel Club (@akcdoglovers) August 11, 2020
How and why it works
Amanda Howland, co-founder of ElleVet Sciences, a Maine-based company that makes CBD products for dogs and cats and who worked with Cornell on multiple studies, recalls being involved in the 2016 Osteoarthritis Study. Most of the animals that took part in the study thought they were at the end of their lives and were in great pain. “Many of them have already had euthanasia appointments,” Howland recalls. She and her colleagues were “overwhelmed,” she says, when the study showed that 80 percent of these dogs saw significant improvements after four weeks of CBD treatment.
To explain the science behind this fast-growing industry, Howland points to another study that explains why CBD works so in both animals and humans, and also gives rise to the theories about nature that Alejandrez believed from his parents during his childhood learned.
Scientists have only recently learned that the human body, and that of every mammal, is endowed with what is known as the endogenous cannabinoid system. Located in the central nervous system, the endocannabinoid system is made up of enzymes and molecules, including cannabinoid receptors, which, as the name suggests, respond to stimulation from cannabis.
“The whole job of the endocannabinoid system is to keep your body in a state of equilibrium or homeostasis,” explains Howland. “Anything out of whack in your body, be it inflammation or anxiety or whatever, your endocannabinoid system is trying to put things right again. … It’s so important, but a generation ago no one knew what it was. And it was not studied in either medical school or veterinary medicine. ”
Beebe predicts that research spearheaded by ElleVet and others will be extended to all areas of veterinary medicine, noting that industry news has reported that CBD is an effective treatment when used as an adjunct to conventional veterinary practices.
“This is a great addition to the veterinarian’s disease management arsenal,” she says.
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