The Herb Column: CBD is for Cats, Birds and Dogs – Comstock’s magazine

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Alex Alejandrez says that when he was growing up in a rural
corner of Santa Cruz County, both animals and cannabis were a big
part of his life. He recalls that his family had dogs, cats,
chickens and a raccoon that his dad found when it was an
abandoned kit. Because they lived along a creek, Alejandrez had
his own tadpole farm.

He says his dad also grew marijuana, which he used to make
medicinal rubs for pain management. In 1980s Santa Cruz, weed was
everywhere, “but my parents are super old school, too,”
Alejandrez says. “And they believe — and they instilled this in
me — that we have everything on this earth that we need, 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 have come together at the
store, which sells CBD for animals. He reports that he has
hundreds of customers who are helping their pets with CBD — also
known as cannabidiol, in this case derived from hemp and
specifically formulated for animals. 

The compound, which is available in the form of
tinctures and chewable treats, is being used to treat a variety
of issues, including anxiety, pain and seizures. He says dog
people are giving CBD to their pets on long road trips and for
separation anxiety when their people are on vacation — and he
sells a lot of the stuff on the Fourth of July and New Year’s
Eve. He says cat owners give it to their kitties for anxiety,
mobility and as an aid to digestion. It’s even good for chickens,
Alejandrez says — especially chickens that have had a recent
encounter with a hawk.

He reports that many of his customers have eliminated other
medications, including drugs such as phenobarbital that have
serious side effects, and switched to CBD. While studies have
found minor side effects with pets’ use of CBD, including dry
mouth and drowsiness, Alejandrez says the vast majority of his
customers who have tried it are pleased with the results. And
while there has been a recent explosion of CBD use in pet health
care, he says this practice has been around for years. “It’s just
now that people are coming around to it.”

Alejandrez’s personal experience with CBD goes back seven years —
that’s when his Australian shepherd, Meiko, started to have
trouble getting up and down stairs and stopped jumping up on the
bed. He believes that the compound’s anti-inflammatory and
pain-blocking powers dramatically improved Meiko‘s life. The dog
is now 16 years old — a little bit rare for a 65-pound Australian
shepherd.

Western Feed and Pet Supply in Sacramento offers several
varieties of CBD for its customers’ dogs, cats and chickens.

Science Catching Up

Although academic research into the use of CBD as veterinary
medication is a new field that has not yet produced many results,
there is growing scientific evidence that backs up Alejandrez’s
claims about its benefits.

Dr. Signe Beebe has owned and managed the Integrative Veterinary
Center in East Sacramento for 21 years. Having been convinced of
CBD’s healing properties long ago by the experiences of own
canine and feline patients and their people, as well as vast
anecdotal evidence, she points to recent studies by Cornell
University College of Veterinary Medicine, which support the
compound’s efficacy for a number of maladies.

One study found that cannabidiol treatments given to dogs suffering from
osteoarthritis
— a common affliction in older animals —
noticeably decreased the animals’ pain with no side effects.
Another Cornell study found the compound effective in controlling
seizures. Yet another looked at “canine neoplastic cell
proliferation,” which refers to tumors, and found evidence that

CBD may prove effective at combating cancer
. Its findings
were peer-reviewed and published by the journal Veterinary and
Comparative Oncology. 

Beebe, who says about half of her patients are battling cancer,
says she has been recommending CBD to people whose pets have the
disease — with a disclaimer — since before the substance was
legal. And whereas hemp-based CBD is popular in many pet-targeted
products, Beebe, whose practice includes the use of acupuncture,
vitamin C injections and Chinese herbal remedies, says she
prefers varieties made from marijuana plants which have more than
a trace of THC.

“If your animal is suffering uncontrollable seizures, if you’re
afraid your animal is going to die, you’re probably going to bend
the rules somewhat,” she says. “I didn’t feel it was my place to
scold people who had the best intentions for their pets, so I
helped them learn how to use it correctly. That’s why I have more
than a decade’s experience using marijuana for the treatment of
veterinary medical conditions.”

As with human cancer patients, Beebe says, CBD is hugely
beneficial to pets who are receiving chemotherapy because it
controls (or stops) vomiting and stimulates the patient’s
appetite. Its palliative properties decrease the pain associated
with the disease. And the U.S. Army veteran, who served in the
101st Airborne Division in the mid-1970s, says she was an early
believer in the use of the compound to fight cancer — a position
that was once controversial, and now is embraced by mainstream
organizations such as the
American Kennel Club
.

How and Why It Works

Amanda Howland, cofounder of ElleVet Sciences, a
Maine-based company that makes CBD products for dogs and cats and
has partnered with Cornell for several studies, recalls being
involved with the osteoarthritis study in 2016. Most of the
animals who participated in the study were thought to be at the
end of their lives and were in a lot of pain. “Many of them
already had scheduled euthanasia dates,” Howland recalls. She and
her colleagues were “mindblown,” she says, when the study showed
that 80 percent of these dogs saw significant improvements after
four weeks of CBD treatment. 

In explaining the science behind this fast-growing
industry, Howland points to another study that explains why CBD
works the way it does on animals as well as humans, and also
lends credence to the theories about nature that Alejandrez
learned from his parents while growing up. 

Scientists only recently learned that the human body, and that of
every mammal, comes equipped with something known as the endogenous
cannabinoid
system. Located within the central nervous
system, the endocannabinoid system consists of enzymes and
molecules including cannabinoid receptors, which, as their name
suggests, respond when stimulated by cannabis.

“The whole job of the endocannabinoid system is to keep your body
in a state of balance or homeostasis,” Howland explains.
“Anything that’s out of whack in your body, whether it’s
inflammation or anxiety or whatever, your endocannabinoid system
wants to put things back to right. … It’s so important, yet even
a generation ago, nobody even knew what it was. And it was not
studied in medical school or vet school.”

Beebe predicts that the research spurred by ElleVet and others
will expand into every area of veterinary medicine, pointing out
that
industry news outlets
have reported that CBD is an effective
treatment when used to complement conventional veterinary
practices.

“This is a huge addition to the veterinarian’s armamentarium for
the treatment of disease,” she says.

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