What is CBD and how does it work in the body?

What is CBD?

What is CBD and how does it work in animals?

Are you considering prescribing CBD oil for your pet but don’t quite understand how the treatment works in an animal’s body? Let’s dive into what CBD is and discuss how the compound operates on a biological level.


What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a phytocannabinoid found in the cannabis plant species. It was discovered in 1940 and has been researched for a wide range of medicinal effects in humans. In recent years, the amount of studies conducted regarding the use of CBD for household pets has grown exponentially.  CBD can be isolated naturally from the cannabis sativa plant and can also be made synthetically. CBD for pets comes in oil form, however, only CBD oil that has been obtained from the natural source is currently legally supplied in Australia. CBD acts as an additional tool for use in animals alongside more traditional veterinary treatments. It can be used to enhance treatment outcomes for a wide variety of conditions in animals such as epilepsy, osteoarthritis, chronic pain, anxiety, and appetite loss.

Difference between CBD and other cannabinoids

CBD is one of many cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Another well-known compound in the cannabis plant is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Whilst coming from the same place, CBD and THC have different effects. THC is the most active constituent of cannabis and has a psychological effect. It creates a mind-altering “high” when a person smokes it or uses it in cooking. This is because THC breaks down when a person applies heat and introduces it into the body. CBD, in contrast, is not psychoactive. It does not change a person’s state of mind when they use it. However, it may produce significant changes in the body, and it is showing some significant medical benefits.

How does CBD work in the body?

CBD works through its relationship with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Most mammalian species – namely humans, cats, and dogs – have an ECS and can therefore all be receptive to the health benefits of CBD. The ECS is a complex system interdependent and interwoven with pretty much every other system in the body. Cannabinoid research Professor Vincenzo Di Marzo summarises the ECS in 5 words, ‘relax, eat, sleep, forget, protect’. It has dynamic relationships with the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, making the ECS consequential in everything from regulating blood pressure to appetite and so much more in between.
UnderstandingThe Endocannabinoid System

What is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?

The ECS functions through the stimulation of cannabinoid receptors. This stimulation can be induced by either endocannabinoids or medical cannabis treatment.

The two main cannabinoid receptors are both G protein-coupled receptors, referred to as CB1 and CB2.

Both receptors are found dispersed throughout the body with different areas of density.

CB1 receptors are abundant in the brain and nervous system and are primarily famous for their interaction with THC – facilitating the intoxicating effects of cannabis.

Beyond the euphoric effects, CB1 receptors also contribute to maintaining biological balance via processes in the nervous and endocrine systems. In modulating hormonal release, influencing serotonin, dopamine and regulatory pathways they have both a direct and indirect role in mood, sleep, stress and pain.

CB1 receptors are also found in the cardiovascular and digestive system. In the heart, CB1 receptors moderate dilation and contraction of vessels thereby maintaining blood pressure, in the gastrointestinal tract they have influence over appetite hormones, motility and secretions.

CB2 receptors do not modulate the euphoric or intoxicating effects of cannabis or endocannabinoids but have a strong presence in the immune and reproductive systems. They are key mediators in the regulation of inflammation, pain and digestion, while in the skeletal system they are believed to play a role in maintaining bone density.

How does CBD interact with the Endocannabinoid System?

Numerous other receptors play a part in this orchestra. For example CBD interacts with other receptors such as TRPV’s and PPAR’s, as well as indirectly influencing ECS processes.

It is the activation of these receptors that are thought to account for CBD’s positive benefits in neuroprotection, pain, and inflammatory conditions.

The bliss endocannabinoid, anandamide, has been shown to interact with serotonin receptors resulting in improved mood and pain relief.

Different animals express varying levels of these receptors making them more or less susceptible to the effects of endocannabinoids and medical cannabis treatments.

In particular dogs and cats seem to have slightly different expressions of ECS components, making it incredibly important that medicinal cannabis prescriptions are administered by a trained veterinary doctor for the safety of the animals.

Prescribing CBD for animals

If you are considering CBD for your animal please talk to your vet.

If you are a vet who has a patient who may benefit from CBD, follow these simple steps to start prescribing CBD today.


  1. REGISTER YOUR VET:  Access our online portal for research material, information on dosage, and prescribing and training videos.
  2. WRITE A SCRIPT. Fill out a prescription online, or send it by email, when you have an animal patient who may benefit from CBD.
  3. DIRECT DELIVERY: The prescribed CBD Oil will be posted directly to you or your patient from our clinic.


If you would like some more information about prescribing CBD to animals, please feel free to get in touch at [email protected]

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