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Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine

Hemp (cannabis) is one of the oldest crops, ornaments and medicinal plants on earth, which is also used for the production of medicines – and for some time also for the treatment of certain diseases and complaints of humans and animals. Cannabis is known as a pleasure and intoxicating agent, especially as marijuana (these are the dried leaves and inflorescences of the plant) and as hashish (that is the resin of the flower hairs of the female hemp plant). However, these are still prohibited in this country for non-medically indicated consumption.

How does cannabis work?

The main effect of cannabis is via the so-called endogenous cannabinoid system (endocannabinoid system), which all mammals have – i.e. in addition to animals such as dogs, cats or horses, also humans. The endocannabinoid system is a part of the nervous system and consists of two types of receptor to which cannabinoids can dock:

The cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) is found mainly in the brain and peripheral nervous system
The cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) is mainly found in certain cells of the immune system (mast cells, B lymphocytes, and T lymphocytes), as well as in bone-breaking and depleting cells (osteoblasts and osteoclasts).
Medicinally active substances of cannabis

Hemp contains a variety of substances: in human and veterinary medicine, preparations from plant parts as well as cannabinoid active ingredients are used that have been obtained in isolation or synthetically. In addition to the more than one hundred different cannabinoids and terpenes in the plant, the so-called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have recently been discovered as pharmacologically particularly active components of hemp and further Explored. In the following, we would like to decate these two active substances in more detail in their importance for veterinary medicine.

For a long time, medical research focused on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive component of the hemp plant. The unfertilized female inflorescences of the plant are particularly rich in THC. THC has an intoxicating effect and affects cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2).

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid derived from the female hemp plant. It agonistically binds to the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. Medically, cannabidiol works:

inhibiting the immune system
protective on nerve tissue
against nausea
Other possible effects of cannabidiol, such as an antipsychotic effect, are being investigated.

What diseases and ailments can cannabis help against?

The pharmacological effects of cannabis, especially THC and CBD, have been researched mainly in human medicine, but there are also studies and, above all, testimonials on the successful use of cannabis in animals. In addition, all mammals have the endocannabinoid system with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, i.e. humans as well as dogs, cats, horses, and other mammals.

In veterinary medicine, cannabis can be used, among others?

As CBD oil individually or supplementally to pain therapy (especially for pain in the musculoskeletal system and urinary tract)
as a CBD oil or cannabis supplement with low THC content may be used for epilepsy and other epilepsy-like diseases
as hemp oil in neurodermatitis and chronic bowel diseases
Side effects of medicinally used cannabis are very rarely observed in practice but are generally possible – as with any preparation. These include, for example, gastrointestinal intolerances or allergic reactions.

What is the difference between CBD oil and hemp oil?

There are numerous cannabis preparations on the market, and CBD oils and hemp oils, in particular, are in high demand at the moment. CBD oil and hemp oil are not the same:

Hemp oil is a food oil that is obtained from the pressing of hemp seeds. It is a very valuable food oil that can be used medically especially in patients with chronic skin diseases such as neurodermatitis.
CBD oil, on the other hand, contains cannabis extracts from the flower and herb of the hemp plant.
Many CBD oils contain both hemp oil and CBD oil, as well as other additives. Some oils also have additional cannabinoids.

If you are interested as a keeper in the use of cannabis supplements in your animal, ask your veterinarian. Please do not use any medicines (even if they are for sale) with your pet without consulting the veterinarian.

Sources :

1 Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM): Cannabis as medicine.;jsessionid=86E108384149363080866F89ED737483.2_cid329 (Available on 05/2019)

2 Nadig, Dr. med. vet. Alexandra: CBD Oil in Veterinary Medicine – Pharmacology, Application & Case Studies. Veterinary Mirror, Issue 28, 2018

3 O’ShaughnesseyWB. On the Preparations of the Indian Hemp, or Gunjah (Cannabis Indica): The Effects on the Animal System in Health, and their utility in the treatment of tetanus and other convulsive diseases. Transaction of the Medical and Physical Society of Bengal (1838-1840): 421-461

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