When you think of your cuddly best friend, you may not always consider what makes them feel or act a certain way. But just like you, your pets’ body consists of several different biophysical systems that keep their bodies up and running. The health of your pets’ endocannabinoid system (ECS) can greatly affect their overall happiness and wellbeing.
Endogenous cannabinoids (also called endocannabinoids) and endocannabinoid receptors bind throughout your pet’s body. The ECS exists in your pet’s immune cells, organs, in their central nervous system, glands, and even in their connective tissues.1
There’s much to know about the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of pets. Read here to learn about how cannabinoids interact with your pet’s neurotransmitters.
Why Learn About Your Pet’s Endocannabinoid System?
Now, did you think when you woke up this morning and you’d end up learning about some biophysical system in your pet’s body you’d likely never heard of before? Probably not. But there are reasons you should have a basic understanding of your pet’s ECS.
For one thing, if you know more about the science behind your pet’s ECS, the better prepared you’ll be to make smart decisions about how to support your pet and potentially improve their overall health.
Once you’ve got a handle on the science of the endocannabinoid system, you can employ some tricks and tips to help your pet with issues they might have like swelling, anxiety, fatigue, and more.
How Does Your Pet’s Endocannabinoid System Work?
Of all the systems in your pet’s body, the endocannabinoid system might be the most integrated. In many ways, it is responsible for helping the other physiological systems function properly.2 Because of this, many researchers refer to your pet’s endocannabinoid system as their meta-system — as it ensures the proper functioning of almost every other aspect of your pet’s overall health and wellbeing.
Your pet’s endocannabinoid system exists throughout your pet’s body. And no matter which section of your pet’s body a particular piece of the ECS is in, the goal of the system remains constant throughout your pet’s body… homeostasis.
Homeostasis is your pet’s body’s ability to maintain a consistent internal environment in response to possible environmental changes that may occur. And the endocannabinoid system helps your pet’s nervous and endocrine systems control homeostasis in their bodies.3
Your Pet’s ECS Consists of 3 Major Components That Help Make Homeostasis Possible: Endocannabinoids, Enzymes, and Receptors
Endocannabinoids — Natural cannabinoids are sort of like keys in your pet’s endocannabinoid system. ECS receptors, which you’ll read more about in a minute, act as a lock for each key. So when a natural cannabinoid “key” enters a receptor “lock,” your body reacts in a way specific to where in the body that cannabinoid and receptor are. One of the most significant types of cannabinoids in your pet’s body is anandamide.4
Anandamide exists in the human body as well. The endocannabinoid anandamide (one of the aforementioned “keys” that can enter those “locks” in your body otherwise known as receptors). Anandamide is often called the “the bliss molecule” because it is responsible for the experiencing of biophysical phenomenons like “runner’s high”. Research indicates that anandamide can also help with causing the deaths of harmful cells in your pet’s body.5
2-Arachidonoyl Glycerol (2-AG for short) is another important endocannabinoid (aka neurotransmitter). Like anandamide, 2-AG binds to your pet’s endocannabinoid receptors. 2-AG is produced in injured tissue. It can activate cannabinoid receptors to help ease nerve sensitivity and inflammatory response. 2-AG can also help during times of acute stress.6
Enzymes — Enzymes are the various substances in your pet’s body that cause chemical reactions to occur. When it comes to how enzymes interact with your pet’s endocannabinoid system, think of them as your pet’s personal waste management system.
Enzymes act within your pet’s ECS to recycle used endocannabinoids once they’ve served their purpose in your pet’s body.
Enzymes are important because they ensure that once your pet has used certain endocannabinoids, they can be broken down and carried away so they’re not used longer than they should be. Now, there are two major enzymes within your pet’s endocannabinoid system:
- Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH)
- Monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL)
FAAH helps to process anandamide. MAGL helps to modulate endocannabinoid tone. This maintains balance between the two substances.
Receptors — And as mentioned above, receptors receive and process certain messages that are sent by cannabinoids. There are two major types of receptors —
- CB1 receptors — These receptors can be found within your pet’s spinal cord and brain. CB1 receptors help regulate your pets’ appetite, manage memory, and even help to reduce physical discomfort.
- CB2 receptors primarily exist in your pet’s immune system. But, they can also be found in your pet’s digestive tract, heart, spleen, liver, bones, blood vessels, endocrine glands, and even in their reproductive organs. For the most part, CB2 receptors help reduce swelling throughout your pet’s body.7
CB1 and the CB2 receptors participate in several essential biological processes that can occur within animal bodies. Some of these biophysical processes include:
- Neuronal plasticity
- Physical discomfort
- Immune function
- Metabolic regulation
- Bone growth8
What Are Phytocannabinoids And How Do They Affect Your Pets Endocannabinoid System?
A phytocannabinoid is simply a molecule that can be synthesized by plants. Phytocannabinoids are phytochemicals produced by a cannabis plant. They interact with cannabinoid receptors. CBD is one of 113 phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Phytocannabinoids can be used to help relieve animal ailments.9
The cannabis plant contains many phytocannabinoids that can help reduce swelling in your pet’s body. But in some cases, your pets’ nervous systems might fail to coordinate certain actions within their bodies. There are some serious health issues that could be the result of endocannabinoid signaling deficiency. Please note: This notion is not fully accepted as fact by the medical community.
Some effects of Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Syndrome are as follows:
- Canine PTSD
- Headaches (yes, pets can get headaches)
- Bowel issues
- Widespread musculoskeletal discomfort
- Memory issues
- Mood issues10
Your pet’s endocannabinoid system works to ensure that their nervous system does not tend to over-function or under-function and cause disruption and discomfort. Ideally, the ECS helps your pet stay alert but also calm. Endocannabinoid System Deficiency can interrupt this balance… so you want to support your pet’s system and avoid deficiency. How might you do so?
Your Pet’s Immune System, PEA (Palmitoylethanolamide), And How They Interact With Your Pet’s Endocannabinoid System
When it comes to your furry friend’s immune system, healthy immune function must begin with a balanced endocannabinoid system. Your pet’s ECS is woven through its immune system.
As mentioned before, immune cells carry cannabinoid receptors and even make their own cannabinoids. Plus, immune cells can break down cannabinoids once they’ve been used. The endocannabinoid system helps to ensure your pet maintains immune homeostasis.
One endocannabinoid molecule that helps support immunity in pets is called PEA (also known as palmitoylethanolamide. PEA occurs naturally in almost all animals.
PEA is wonderful for supporting the health of your pet’s endocannabinoid system. PEA can have a calming effect on your pet’s nervous system.11
The endocannabinoid system can signal inhibition in activity across different types of immune cells in your pet’s body, which can prevent their immune system from being activated when it is not really supposed to be.
How Might You Support The Health Of Your Pets’ Endocannabinoid System?
Turns out you can support the health of the endocannabinoid system in your pet.
For starters, try to include PEA in your pet’s diet. Again, PEA can potentially help promote calm for your pet.12 Talk to your pet’s veterinarian to see if PEA might be right for your pet.
The Endocannabinoid System And Your Pet
While it may seem as though the endocannabinoid system can be quite complicated, the system really holds a lot to be discovered in pet healthcare.
Knowing how your pet’s body works can help you take better care of them. Talk to your vet about more ways to support the healthy function of your furry companion’s ECS — isn’t your pet pal worth it?
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