Do Pets Have Endocannabinoid Systems?

Published January 31, 2024
Do Pets Have Endocannabinoid Systems? - Secret Nature

Human beings have a lot in common with their pets, including the natural-born ability to process cannabinoids. Not every single creature a person might consider a pet has cannabinoid receptors, but most pets are equipped with these innate cannabinoid processing systems.

This means that if cannabinoid products work for humans, they should work for animals as well. Which animals have endocannabinoid systems, and what are the best ways human owners can help stimulate the endocannabinoid systems of their pets?

What is the endocannabinoid system?

The endocannabinoid system is a series of receptors and neurotransmitters in animal bodies that appears to be designed to process cannabinoids. It is unclear exactly how the endocannabinoid system came into existence, but scientists like Dr. Ethan Russo have uncovered how this system controls massive swaths of bodily processes, making it very important to understand how it works and how to optimize it.

Do only humans have endocannabinoid systems?

No, research has revealed that human beings are not the only creatures on Earth to have endocannabinoid systems — far from it! In addition to humans, many animals including mammals, birds, and reptiles also have endocannabinoid systems.

Endocannabinoid systems are so widespread in animals, in fact, that scientists have even set out to determine if this cannabinoid processing system is present in invertebrates. This research, however, has not produced promising results so far. 

Which animals have endocannabinoid systems?

At least for the moment, it seems only humans, mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have endocannabinoid systems. Even if endocannabinoid systems are as widespread in animals as they seem, the average person does not have a snake, frog, or bird as a pet. Most people keep cats and dogs in their homes, making it worthwhile to take a look at the endocannabinoid systems included in each animal in more detail:

Endocannabinoid system of dogs

Studies conducted to determine the extent of endocannabinoid systems in dogs have found that canines process cannabinoids very similarly to humans. Research from 2018, for instance, shows that cannabinoids might positively impact the central nervous system health of dogs by activating 2-AG, an important endocannabinoid that is increased by many forms of cannabis.

Endocannabinoid system of cats

Unlike the case with dogs, research hasn’t yet been conducted to specifically determine the role of the endocannabinoid system in cats. Based on everything we’ve learned so far, however, it’s likely that cats process cannabinoids very similarly to their human owners and even to dogs — though, no doubt, to their immense chagrin.

What pet endocannabinoid systems mean

The fact that our pets have endocannabinoid systems just like ours means that we’re much more similar than we thought. It also means that we can share cannabinoid products with our pets — both the products themselves and the experiences they provide.

If your pet is suffering from a condition that you know cannabinoids help with in humans, the same may be the case for your pet too. Many pet owners, for instance, give their dogs CBD for anxiety, or they might give their cats CBD for arthritis. Both of these are also common uses of CBD in people, allowing you and your pet to bond at an even deeper level.

Best cannabinoid products for pet endocannabinoid systems

If you want to boost the endocannabinoid system of your pet just as much as you boost your own, it’s first important to understand that pets do not need special cannabis products. No, a simple, unflavored tincture will do the trick. CBD or other cannabis products designed specifically for pets are almost 100% gimmicky with nearly no added value over normal cannabis products designed for humans.

How to make pet treats with CBD flower

To do the best by your pet, you may even want to ditch packaged products altogether and opt to make CBD cat treats or put together a special cannabis dish for your dog. Making cannabis edibles for your pet is easy, and your animal companion will appreciate the personal touch.

The bottom line: Human and animal endocannabinoid systems are alike

If you’ve ever looked your cat or dog in the eye and felt like you two were more similar than you could explain, perhaps the shared presence of an endocannabinoid system could be at play. Once you look “under the hood” and unravel the complexities of human and animal complexity, it’s clear we’re made of the same stuff — though in clearly different ways.

What’s the same about humans and animals is the way cannabinoids affect us. Everything you consider an “animal” has an endocannabinoid system, helping us understand how both the human being and the cannabis plant are echoed everywhere in nature.

Pet endocannabinoid system FAQ

Want to learn more about the endocannabinoid systems of animals? Start below with this FAQ section delving in the cannabinoid receptors of specific animals:

Do dogs have cannabinoid receptors in their ears?

Yes, dogs have cannabinoid receptors in their ears, but not in any great quantities. It may be tempting to put CBD oil in your dog’s ear if he or she resists taking it orally, but it’s best not to put anything in your pooch’s ear if you can avoid it.

Do pigs have endocannabinoid systems?

Yes, pigs are mammals, so they have endocannabinoid systems. In fact, pigs are remarkably similar to humans in terms of DNA, so it is likely that our porcine friends have endocannabinoid systems that are very much like our own.

Do hamsters have endocannabinoid systems?

Yes, even though they are rodents, hamsters still have endocannabinoid systems since they are mammals. We do not know the extent of the hamster endocannabinoid system or how having such a system might impact the life of an average hamster. Giving your hamster CBD or another cannabinoid, however, will certainly have an effect.

Do snakes have endocannabinoid systems?

Yes, snakes have endocannabinoid systems. While this fact might come as a surprise, all reptiles have endocannabinoid systems, making them more similar to human beings than you might initially expect.

In addition to reptiles, amphibians are also equipped with endocannabinoid systems. Exactly how reptilian and amphibian endocannabinoid systems work and what they do, however, remains more of a mystery.

Do bees have endocannabinoid systems?

No, bees do not have endocannabinoid systems because they are insects. Unlike mammals, reptiles, fish, and birds, invertebrates like bees do not appear to have anything resembling an endocannabinoid system. That’s because invertebrate bodies work very differently from the bodies of animals with spines.

Which animals do not have endocannabinoid systems?

All animals have endocannabinoid systems if you define an “animal” as a vertebrate creature. Whether it flies, swims, slinks, or slithers, it processes cannabinoids very similarly to humans. In short, your pet will react if you give it cannabinoids like CBD or THCA.

The only time a pet might not react to cannabinoids is if your “pet” has eight legs or a segmented body. Insects and arachnids xe do not have the capacity to process cannabinoids, and the same goes for other invertebrates like shellfish and crustaceans.

How do you balance your pet’s endocannabinoid system?

Whether it’s in a human or animal brain, every endocannabinoid system could do with some tuning and tweaking. The best way to approach optimizing your pet’s endocannabinoid system with phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids from plants) is to start slowly and closely observe the results. You don’t want to overdo it since pet brains and bodies are usually quite a bit smaller than our own. 

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