Mushrooms for Cats and Dogs

Biologically species Appropriate Raw and Real Food for Cats and Dogs

Pixie Dust or Healthful?

There are countless studies of vitamins, minerals and “super” foods that are filled with antioxidants marketed as great immunity boosters for dogs and cats. Mushrooms are just one of these foods. If added into a dog or cats’ diet, current thinking dictate that we can increase their leukocyte count and therefore enhance their immune systems. However, not just any mushroom can do this. With over 140,000 different mushroom species, there is a large variety of mushrooms we do not ever see at our everyday grocery store. While they are still good for us and our furry friends, these are not the ones that help fight off those deadly cancer cells and other intruding microorganisms.

Mushroom (see: Wikipedia) are fungi, and an interesting member of gilled fungi family. Some species are not gilled, of course, but the collective term “mushroom” still applies. Mushrooms are more complex than simple fungi like yeast; the kingdom of fungi, also called fungus kingdom, is filled with edible, hallucinogenic, poisonous and medicinal mushrooms. Like fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, mushrooms are packed full of certain and essential vitamins, minerals, and have important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Minerals: potassium, selenium, sulfur, sodium, geranium, zinc, phosphorus
  • Sugars: mannitol, xylose, glucose, galactose, mannose
  • Vitamins: B complex, folic acid, pro-vitamin D
  • Protein: essential amino acids
  • Enzymes: antibacterial, proteolytic
  • Lipids: phospholipids, sterols, sterol esters, free fatty acids, mono-, di- and triglycerides
  • Polysaccharides: glycogen, beta-D-glucans, chitin
  • Essential oils: triterpenes

Many types of medicinal mushrooms are great for supporting your dog’s (or cat’s) immune system. Each mushroom has a slightly different type of Beta-glucan ​1​, an important compound that helps to give mushrooms their health supporting properties. With each different type of beta-glucan, the mushroom has a different effect on the immune system. Mushrooms have qualities for being anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-cholesterol, anti-diabetic, anti-fatigue, anti-fibrotic, anti-microbial, anti-oxidative, anti-fungal (Candida albicans) anti-viral (Herpes for example).

Not all mushrooms are safe for our pets. As discussed by Dr Jean Dodds in her article titled “Medicinal Mushrooms for Pets”, the use of mushrooms to treat certain ailments is still a science that needs to be applied wisely. For a list of known toxic or poisonous mushroom, please refer to our knowledge-base. Unlike grapes and mangoes mushroom do not have seeds that are poisonous to our fur kids due to them being fungi instead of plants. However, some of the mushrooms themselves contain toxins that can harm both pets and humans.

In general, mushrooms are versatile natural plants. They serve four major functions:

  • Prevention (disease);
  • Regeneration (cells);
  • Protection (cancer, radiation);
  • Intervention (treatment)

Some mushrooms are also adaptogens, which means they help the body adapt to stress. They can be incredibly immune boosting and most of this magic occurs via the polysaccharides, which support energy and structure, and the terpene constituents, which are found in plants that affect your “high” such as marijuana.

Different mushrooms are said to help the immune system as supplementary treatment of tumors and many other conditions.

  • Shiitake, Maitake, Chaga and Turkey Tail for breast cancer ​2​.
  • Phellinus, Turkey Tail and Chaga for cervical and uterine cancer.
  • Phellinus, Maitake and Turkey Tail for stomach and Colorectal.
  • Turkey Tail , Maitake. Cordyceps for Leukemia.
  • Turkey Tail, Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake and Phellinus for liver cancer ​3​.
  • Cordyceps, Reishi , Maitake and Turkey Tail for lung cancer Cordyceps for Lymphoma ​4​.
  • Shiitake and Phellinus for Melanoma;
  • Reishi Turkey Tail, Maitake and Shiitake for Prostate cancer;
  • Reishi for Sarcomas. Remember that vaccinations lead often to cancers and one of the hallmarks is the sarcoma.

Royal sun (Agaricus blazei)

Agaricus is often regarded as an immune-supporting mushroom​5​ with its high content of polysaccharides and cellular-growth supporting compounds. Like many other mushroom species, it is also being studied for a variety of applications​6​ ​7​ . Polysaccharides are the essential sugars in the body that help activate the immune system and help protect the body from infection and disease. Agaricus blazei is said to help:

  • Support healthy cholesterol levels;
  • Provide blood sugar regulation;
  • Healthy digestion support;
  • Maintain cardiovascular support.

Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)

Cordyceps offer strong immune supporting properties which are essential in the diet of your pet. Research ​8​ ​9​ shows ​10​ that they are essential in boosting your dog’s health and staving off dangerous diseases. Cordyceps has been known to:

  • Provide intense immune support;
  • Support performance, endurance and vitality;
  • Support heart and respiratory function.

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)

Shiitake mushrooms are flush with amino acids, enzymes and health-supporting minerals like zinc, iron and calcium. They are a great addition to maintaining your dog’s health by stimulating white blood cells and improving circulation. Like many other mushroom species, it is also being studied for a variety of applications​11​ . They have also been known to:

  • Help soothe inflammation;
  • Normalizes allergy symptoms;
  • Provide cardiovascular health support.

Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

Maitake is a powerful mushroom used to support regular blood pressure and immunity. With rich roots in Japanese culture, Maitake has a wide range of health supporting benefits. Like many other mushroom species, it is also being studied for a variety of applications​12​ ​13​. Maitake helps:

  • Support weight control;
  • Healthy digestion support;
  • Provide blood sugar regulation.

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

Reishi mushrooms have been proven to be able to slow the growth of tumors and kill off malignant cells in the process. Reishi mushroom is so popular that is well know by several names! A popular for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. Reishi contains beta glucans, or complex sugars known to modulate the immune system ​14​. Like many other mushroom species, it is also being studied for a variety of applications ​15​ ​16​ .

  • Intense immune system support;
  • Regulate blood pressure and sugar levels;
  • Support main organs like the kidney and liver.

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

Turkey Tail mushrooms, otherwise known as Coriolus Versicolor​17​ , are commonly being used as a dog immunity supplement and is a fantastic and immunity boost for dogs. It has multiple shades of brown and fanned out much like that of an actual turkey’s tail, and can be found growing on trees and dead tree stumps. Turkey Tail is considered the best over-all mushroom for cancer prevention and treatment​18​ due to the research that has been done connecting it with cancer and chemotherapy support. Turkey Tail is known for being rich in polysaccharides, which have been shown to support immune function. As a powerful immune modulator, this mushroom is useful for health conditions in dogs where the immune system is compromised. Turkey Tail mushroom can:

  • Promote immune health;
  • Modulate normal cell growth;
  • Sooth irritation in the urinary and digestive tract.

Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus Obliquus)

Chaga are another species of mushrooms that have been more commonly powdered for immunity supplements for dogs, and is also being studied for a variety of applications​19​ ​20​.

  • Scores among highest food Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity – meaning its scientifically one of the 5 best antioxidants on earth;
  • Immunity boost for dogs – directly aids in helping your dog fight diseases;
  • Anti-Cancer – anti tumor ability, strong antioxidant qualities, tumor reduction;
  • Anti-Viral and Anti-Inflammatory;
  • Boosts Endurance in your dog –the health benefits extend past the immune system and helps keep your dog full of energy and strong.

Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus)

Lion’s Mane is a potent mushroom made with 20 percent protein and is known as a delicacy when prepared in meals​21​ . Just like its name this mushroom has an appearance similar to a lion’s mane. A lion itself is symbolized as strength, which is why this mushroom is so powerful with all of its anti-cancer effects, and is also being studied for a variety of applications​22​ ​23​.

  • Helps Brain, Eye, and Circulation in dogs;
  • Slow tumor growth – and reduces blood flow to tumors allowing them to continue to reduce over time;
  • Anti-Inflammatory – Especially in digestive inflammation and other digestive complaints in your dog;
  • Benefits blood sugar – it is also used to help treat diabetes.

Black Hoof (Phellinus linteus)

Phellinus linteus (Japanese “meshimakobu”, Chinese “song gen”, Korean “sanghwang”, English “Meshima”, American English “black hoof mushroom”) or the thousand year mushroom as it is known in Asia is very much directed as a medicinal and against cancer​24​ , cervical / uterine, colorectal, stomach liver and skin (melanoma) cancers but also implanted tumors or sarcomas in research with mice ​25​.

  • Boosts Immune System;
  • Anti-Inflammatory;
  • Anti-Cancer;
  • Anti-Bacterial;
  • Protects the GI Tract.

How to Use Medicinal Mushrooms With You Pets?

You should never give uncooked mushrooms to either dogs or cats. They lack the ability to digest them and, in some cases, they can be toxic. Cats don’t particularly like the taste of mushrooms so it’s important that your mushrooms are cooked for both you and your pet as cooking them increases the availability of the nutrients for use by the organs such as the colon and liver. Alternatively, make use of one of the tinctures we offer.

As with most conditions, the most healthful natural diet will improve the pet’s overall health.

One of the best ways to get medicinal mushrooms into your pet’s diet is through a properly formulated natural powder or tincture. If you don’t have that available then try to include them as cooked, when feeding, or give them as a tea. You could also try using dried tinctures if you can get them.

Bear in mind that any form of natural treatment will take time for you to see the physical benefits in your pet. Medicinal mushrooms are working with the body to allow natural restoration and healing and will generally start working from day one within the organs themselves.

Books and Articles

  • Field Guide to Mushrooms & Other Fungi of South Africa by Gary Goldman and Marieka Gryzenhout (Amazon)


Paul Stamets, speaker, author, mycologist, medical researcher and entrepreneur, is considered an intellectual and industry leader in fungi habitat, medicinal use, and production. He lectures extensively to deepen your understanding and respect for the organisms that literally exist under every footstep you take on this path of life.

Paul Stamets

Health Benefits of Cordyceps

Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Health Benefits of Chaga Mushrooms

Health Benefits Of Reishi Mushroom

Health Benefits Of Turkey Tail Mushroom

Paul Stamets – Mushrooms, Mycology of Consciousness

Research and References

  1. 1.
    Akramiene D, Kondrotas A, Didziapetriene J, Kevelaitis E. Effects of beta-glucans on the immune system. Medicina (Kaunas). 2007;43(8):597-606.
  2. 2.
    Kidd P. The use of mushroom glucans and proteoglycans in cancer treatment. Altern Med Rev. 2000;5(1):4-27.
  3. 3.
    Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H. Can maitake MD-fraction aid cancer patients? Altern Med Rev. 2002;7(3):236-239.
  4. 4.
    Liu W, Wang S, Tsai M, et al. Protection against radiation-induced bone marrow and intestinal injuries by Cordyceps sinensis, a Chinese herbal medicine. Radiat Res. 2006;166(6):900-907. doi:10.1667/RR0670.1
  5. 5.
    Firenzuoli F, Gori L, Lombardo G. The Medicinal Mushroom Agaricus blazei Murrill: Review of Literature and Pharmaco-Toxicological Problems. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008;5(1):3-15. doi:10.1093/ecam/nem007
  6. 6.
    Ohno S, Sumiyoshi Y, Hashine K, Shirato A, Kyo S, Inoue M. Phase I Clinical Study of the Dietary Supplement, Agaricus blazei Murill, in Cancer Patients in Remission. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:192381. doi:10.1155/2011/192381
  7. 7.
    Tangen J, Tierens A, Caers J, et al. Immunomodulatory effects of the Agaricus blazei Murrill-based mushroom extract AndoSan in patients with multiple myeloma undergoing high dose chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplantation: a randomized, double blinded clinical study. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:718539. doi:10.1155/2015/718539
  8. 8.
    Panda A, Swain K. Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2011;2(1):9-13. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.78183
  9. 9.
    Tuli H, Sandhu S, Sharma A. Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin. 3 Biotech. 2014;4(1):1-12. doi:10.1007/s13205-013-0121-9
  10. 10.
    Lin B, Li S. Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug. In: Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd ed. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011:200.
  11. 11.
    Dai X, Stanilka JM, Rowe CA, et al. ConsumingLentinula edodes(Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. April 2015:478-487. doi:10.1080/07315724.2014.950391
  12. 12.
    Deng G, Lin H, Seidman A, et al. A phase I/II trial of a polysaccharide extract from Grifola frondosa (Maitake mushroom) in breast cancer patients: immunological effects. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2009;135(9):1215-1221. doi:10.1007/s00432-009-0562-z
  13. 13.
    Vetvicka V, Vetvickova J. Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts. Ann Transl Med. 2014;2(2):14. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2305-5839.2014.01.05
  14. 14.
    Batra P, Sharma A, Khajuria R. Probing Lingzhi or Reishi medicinal mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (higher Basidiomycetes): a bitter mushroom with amazing health benefits. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(2):127-143. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i2.20
  15. 15.
    Wang J, Cao B, Zhao H, Feng J. Emerging Roles of Ganoderma Lucidum in Anti-Aging. Aging Dis. 2017;8(6):691-707. doi:10.14336/AD.2017.0410
  16. 16.
    Zeng P, Guo Z, Zeng X, et al. Chemical, biochemical, preclinical and clinical studies of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide as an approved drug for treating myopathy and other diseases in China. J Cell Mol Med. 2018;22(7):3278-3297. doi:10.1111/jcmm.13613
  17. 17.
    Saleh M, Rashedi I, Keating A. Immunomodulatory Properties of Coriolus versicolor: The Role of Polysaccharopeptide. Front Immunol. 2017;8:1087. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.01087
  18. 18.
    Standish L, Wenner C, Sweet E, et al. Trametes versicolor mushroom immune therapy in breast cancer. J Soc Integr Oncol. 2008;6(3):122-128.
  19. 19.
    Géry A, Dubreule C, André V, et al. Chaga ( Inonotus obliquus), a Future Potential Medicinal Fungus in Oncology? A Chemical Study and a Comparison of the Cytotoxicity Against Human Lung Adenocarcinoma Cells (A549) and Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells (BEAS-2B). Integr Cancer Ther. 2018;17(3):832-843. doi:10.1177/1534735418757912
  20. 20.
    Zhong X, Ren K, Lu S, Yang S, Sun D. Progress of research on Inonotus obliquus. Chin J Integr Med. April 2009:156-160. doi:10.1007/s11655-009-0156-2
  21. 21.
    Brandalise F, Cesaroni V, Gregori A, et al. Dietary Supplementation of Hericium erinaceus Increases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:3864340. doi:10.1155/2017/3864340
  22. 22.
    Li I, Lee L, Tzeng T, et al. Neurohealth Properties of Hericium erinaceus Mycelia Enriched with Erinacines. Behav Neurol. 2018;2018:5802634. doi:10.1155/2018/5802634
  23. 23.
    Lai P-L, Naidu M, Sabaratnam V, et al. Neurotrophic Properties of the Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. Int J Med Mushr. 2013:539-554. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i6.30
  24. 24.
    Sliva D. Medicinal mushroom Phellinus linteus as an alternative cancer therapy. Exp Ther Med. 2010;1(3):407-411. doi:10.3892/etm_00000063
  25. 25.
    Chen W, Tan H, Liu Q, et al. A Review: The Bioactivities and Pharmacological Applications of Phellinus linteus. Molecules. 2019;24(10). doi:10.3390/molecules24101888

More about Whey

Biologically species Appropriate Raw and Real Food for Cats and Dogs

Whey is one of the two proteins found in milk. Whey (Wikipedia) protein is found in milk during the process of making cheese. It separates from the casein protein found in milk as a by-product of the cheese making process and is considered a complete protein. The liquid portion that contains all the water-soluble benefits of the milk with less of the allergy potential of milk proteins, such as casein.

What Are The Benefits?

Whey protein is an important protein source for carnivorous fur kids. Just like how many people use this protein for muscle production, dogs and cats can use it for the same purpose. As a protein source, it helps to build new muscle mass as well as maintain the muscle mass that exists already. By building muscles and keeping muscles healthy, your furry friend will have an improved quality of life.

Whey protein will also help keep your fur kid’s metabolic rate in check, ensuring that it consumes, processes and uses all of its nutrients in the best way possible. This protein is a highly-digestible and complete protein containing 20 amino acids including methionine, lysine, and taurine. Cats are unable to produce the amino acid taurine, which is important in promoting a healthy immune system and supporting other body functions.

Whey protein is low in lactose content. Therefore, it is safe and healthy to give to cats in the form of a supplement.

Liquid whey is rich in quite a few vitamins and minerals. Each 1-cup serving of liquid whey contains vitamin C, B-vitamins and vitamin E. Liquid whey also contains the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. A 1-cup serving of liquid whey contains 133 mg of sodium.

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What is Probiotics?

Probiotics for your Mutts Pups Nobles and Masters

Probiotics (Wikipedia), which are also known as friendly bacteria or good bacteria, can be defined as living microorganisms that are beneficial to the health of their host. In fact, the etymology of probiotics is literally, “pro health”. The idea that probiotics could be used to restore a healthy gut microbiome originated in the early 1900s. First in 1906, the French pediatrician Henry Tissier realized that if specific bacteria were administered to patients with diarrhea, they could help create a healthy gut flora. Gut flora are the microscopic organisms living in the intestinal systems. Then again in 1907 the Russian scientist Eli Metchnikoff suggested that, “the dependence of the intestinal microbes makes it possible to adapt measures to modify the flora in our bodies and to replace harmful microbes with useful microbes.”

Based on these original ideas it is now widely accepted that probiotics can be useful for many areas of health. Probiotics can support healthy immune, digestive, and respiratory systems. They can also help high risk groups such as children avoid infectious disease. However, there is more decisive research confirming the idea that probiotics are more successful in the prevention of health issues, than in treating them once they start. Probiotics are found naturally in foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kim chi (fermented cabbage), and cultured milk. However, they are also available in nutritional supplements and commercial products.

In order for probiotics to work, or restore a healthy gut microbiome several things must be true. The probiotics microorganisms have to be able to survive the passage through the digestive tract, they also must people able to inhabit the gut or grow in the presence of bile. Two commonly used types of probiotics are lactobacillus and bifodobacterium. Probiotics work in several different ways.

They prevent damage bacteria spreading in the body, can produce vitamins and enzymes, and change the acidic environment. Overall, the goal of probiotics is to restore the microbiome to its natural and healthy state, which could have been altered by dietary or environmental influences such as the use of excessive antibiotics. It is important to note that findings on the success of probiotics are still in the process and many other factors could be at play such as how long will the new bacteria survive, and if the effects are possibly from the healthy food itself.

Live probiotic cultures are available in fermented dairy products and probiotic fortified foods. However, tablets, capsules, powders, and sachets containing the bacteria in freeze-dried form are also available. Probiotics taken orally can be destroyed by the acidic conditions of the stomach. A number of micro-encapsulation techniques are being developed to address this problem.

Probiotics are considered generally safe, but may cause bacteria-host interactions and unwanted side effects in rare cases.

More about Kefir ..

Kefir for Pets

Kefir (Wikipedia) is a fermented milk drink that can be made from any type of milk – goat, cow, coconut, rice, soy, sheep, you name it. Most commonly, kefir is an active product cultured from 40 to 50 different probiotic bacteria and yeasts. It is a naturally sour cultured milk that is rich in probiotics and has many health benefits including its antibacterial properties from the Lactobacillus Pylori probiotic and Kefirin extract that are unique to milk kefirs. These inhibit the growth of Salmonella, Helicobacter Pylori, E Coli and other pathogens. The bulk of those grains are a combination of insoluble protein, amino acids, lipids and complex sugars. The word “kefir” comes from a Turkish word that means “good feeling”, and pronounced “kah-fear!”, this “grain of life” is similar in appearance to regular yogurt, however has a way bigger engine under its hood! Kefir is rich in B complex vitamins such as Vitamin B1, B12, as well as Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and biotin. The main minerals present in kefir tend to be calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Kefir is a fantastic source of many nutrients for huumans and pets alike (typical nutritional profile for 1 cup):

  • Protein: 4 grams;
  • Calcium: 10% of the RDI;
  • Phosphorus: 15% of the RDI;
  • Vitamin B12: 12% of the RDI;
  • Riboflavin (B2): 10% of the RDI;
  • Magnesium: 3% of the RDI;
  • A decent amount of vitamin D!

Commercial pet foods can contain up to 70% carbohydrates! These carbs are broken down to sugars, which then fuel the yeast in your pets’ bodies! Too much yeast = big time problems!

If you cannot switch to a low carb pet food, like a species appropriate raw food diet we supply, then you will need to supply your pet with something to attack the yeast. Meet kefir. These dairy or water-based grains have a multitude of vitamins and minerals. They provide a wide variety of probiotic organisms and have super awesome healing qualities.

Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt such as Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species. It also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir, which control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body.

Benefits of Kefir:

  • Kefir provides anti-biotic and anti-fungal properties;
  • A must add after the use of antibiotics to restore balance to your pet’s digestive tract;
  • Helps to prevent allergies in your pet;
  • Beneficial for candidiasis and heart problems in pets/humans;
  • Vitamin B will regulate the normal function of the kidneys, liver and nervous system for you and your pet;
  • Helps to promote healthy looking skin, boosting energy and promoting longevity;
  • All the micro-organisms present strengthen the digestive system;
  • Helps to alleviate gas, bloating and heartburn;
  • Probiotic aid may help with IBD (IBS), eczema and bad breath;
  • Has been linked to aid in gastritis, pancreatitis, abdominal peptic issues, skin psoriasis, rheumatism, joint disease as well as gouty arthritis, weakening of bones, anaemia, as well as leaky digestive tract syndrome;
  • Able to reduce risking potential a number of malignancies, such as colon cancer malignancy, stopping the increase of cancerous cells;
  • Health advantages comprise of acne pimple management or treatment, sleep problems, unhappiness, asthma attack, respiratory disease, high blood pressure, all forms of diabetes, long-term weakness syndrome, allergic reactions, colitis, looseness of the bowels, and so forth.

As always: variation, moderation and balance! Kefir is very safe, This is not to say that some people or pets don’t react negatively to kefir, especially when first trying it. When introducing kefir to your pets, remember to always go slow.

Give your pet’s system time to adjust. For the first few days to a week try half the recommended dosages. This will avoid digestive upset as your pet’s system adjusts to the increase of good flora in their GI tract.

About Cannabidiol Oil ..

CBD for Cats and Dogs

What is Cannabis Oil?

CBD oil contains CBD or Cannabidiol, which is one of over a hundred compounds found in the cannabis plant that belongs to a class of substances called cannabinoids. Whereas CBD is the major non-psychotropic component, THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the ingredient that produces mind-altering effects in users. Simply put, the health benefits of CBD oil cannot be overstated, and the evidence is not merely anecdotal but supported by research.

Before 2014, CBD was only available as a constituent of medical cannabis or cannabis oil, which typically has a high THC content, and while this remains a popular option, both legality issues and the unwanted high from THC led to the first CBD extracts from hemp. Cannabis extracts with high concentrations of THC are usually known by various names such as medical cannabis, medical marijuana, cannabis oil, marijuana oil, or THC oil, whereas extracts with high levels of CBD are commonly known as CBD oil, cannabidiol oil, hemp oil or CBD hemp oil.

What is the Difference Between Marijuana and Hemp?

Marijuana and hemp are merely different varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp, otherwise known as industrial hemp is commonly used to produce textiles, clothing and rope and has a very high CBD content combined with a low THC content of typically less than 1%. These days, most manufacturers produce CBD products using hemp, as this significantly reduces the cost of production, as the THC need not be removed from the product. Marijuana, in contrast, has higher levels of THC, the chemical compound responsible for the “high” that marijuana users experience. Marijuana is used to produce medicinal marijuana or cannabis oil, often used by cancer patients and those experiencing extreme pain.

Hemp (Cannabis Sativa)YesLow THC (less than .03%)NoRequires minimal care. Adaptable to grow in most climates.Automobiles, body care, clothing, construction, food, plastic, etc.Yes
Marijuana (Cannabis Indica)YesHigh THC (between 5% and 35%)YesGrown in carefully controlled environmentMedical and RecreationalYes

Differences explained in official terms.

Cannabis for Cats and Dogs
Cannabis for Cats and Dogs

Image Source: Ministry of Hemp

Sativa strains are typically taller, loosely branched and have long, narrow leaves. They are usually grown outdoors and can reach heights of up to 20 feet. Sativa plants typically have higher concentration of CBD enzymes, essentially causing no mind-altering effect. Indica strains are shorter, densely branched and have wider leaves. They are better suited for growing indoors. Indica plants contain higher THC content, which has an intoxicating effect of causing a “body buzz”.

*Many hybrids of these plants have been developed recently, so it is more important to examine the exact THC level of a plant rather than strictly categorizing them “sativa” or “indica”

What is the Difference Between CBD and THC?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is well known for its medicinal benefits, and Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is probably the most well known of the cannabinoids because of its psychotropic activity or psychoactive effect, causing a sensation of intoxication in users. These are two of over a hundred identified cannabinoid substances within the cannabis plant.

Cannabinoids vs Cannabis

Confused by the terminology? What is meant by cannabinoids and how do they differ from cannabis? Cannabinoids are a class of several chemical compounds that act on the cannabinoid receptors in cells that modify the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Cannabis, on the other hand, is a type of plant, of which marijuana and hemp are varieties.

The Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoids manifest their effects in your body by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is generally speaking is a collection of cannabinoid receptors present on the surface of cells in various parts of the central nervous system, that respond to cannabinoid ‘agonists’, or chemical messengers. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the psychological and physiological effects of cannabinoids, of which there are two types: endocannabinoids, which originate inside the body, 2-AG and anandamide are the two most significant endocannabinoids and exogenous cannabinoids which arise outside of the body, such as the THC and CBD in cannabis.

Is CBD Oil Legal in South Africa?

CBD, because of its lack of THC has been legal in South Africa since it first became available. However, in a landmark judgement on 18 September 2018, the Constitutional Court, South Africa’s highest court effectively decriminalised the cultivation, storage and use of cannabis in the privacy of one’s home, ruling that the prohibition of private cultivation, possession and consumption of the plant at home was unconstitutional. Before this, it was technically illegal, even for those using medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of diseases such as cancer. The ruling does, however, decriminalise the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, as previously many of those who used medicinal cannabis products to alleviate various symptoms, such as cancer patients, and those suffering from anxiety, PTSD, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, were technically doing so unlawfully.

How does CBD Oil Work?

CBD Oil works because it contains the exogenous cannabinoid CBD, and the human body contains an Endocannabinoid system, which according to the Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia “is a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors located in the mammalian brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems.Cannabinoids manifest their effects by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, that responds to cannabinoid ‘agonists’, or chemical messengers. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the psychological and physiological effects of cannabinoids, of which there are two types: endocannabinoids, which originate inside the body, 2-AG and anandamide are the two most significant endocannabinoids and exogenous cannabinoids which arise outside of the body, such as the THC and CBD in cannabis.

Full Spectrum vs Isolate

In addition to the cannabinoid content of cannabis, are the related terpenes or isoprenoids. These are the fragrant oils that give the various strains their diverse range of aromas. Terpenes also bind to receptors in the brain to produce multiple beneficial effects. The relationship between cannabinoids and terpenes is sometimes called the “entourage effect“, and is one of the factors that differentiate the various strains. Many brands of CBD oil advertise a full terpene spectrum, which indicates that they have not extracted the terpenes from the product. Strictly speaking, full-spectrum in the context of CBD oil products refer to an extraction and processing method that has preserved the entire spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids in the original plant matter.

CBD isolate, on the other hand, is manufactured using a process whereby the manufacturers refine the raw hemp oil until only the CBD is left, leaving a highly pure single cannabinoid CBD, usually in a crystalline form, that is around 99.9% pure. Medical practitioners use isolates where they require only pure CBD, and the benefits of the rest of the spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are of no consequence.

There is still much we don’t know about CBD. More accurately, we know pretty much nothing definitive about CBD because of global bureaucratic minefields created by governments, and presumable BigPharma, across the world.

BigPharma at play? Cannabinoids from bacteria? In mid-September 2018, the Canadian cannabis producer Cronos and the biotechnology company Ginkgo Bioworks announced a partnership for the artificial production of cannabinoids. Using genetic engineering, this company, founded in 2009, has specialised in producing bacteria for industrial purposes. It wants to further develop this technology in the near future, into production of cannabinoids.

To date, there have been no rigorous scientific studies published on marijuana, or even the non-psychoactive CBD, as a treatment for pets with arthritis, seizures, anxiety, or any other medical conditions. But that may soon (hopefully) be changing, as a few studies are either in the planning stages or underway.

  • Efficacy of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Epilepsy in Dogs (see: Colorado State University, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Efficacy of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Epilepsy in Dogs (Website));
  • Efficacy of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis in Dogs (see: Colorado State University, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Efficacy of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis in Dogs (Website));
  • CBD research is going to the dogs in quest to help pets (see: The Cannabist, CBD research is going to the dogs in quest to help pets (Article)).

The Entourage Effect

As with herbs and food, the benefits of the whole plant is what needs to be discussed when considering the use of CBD. One of the most important studies​1​ relating to full spectrum CBD oil took place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Hadassah School in 2015. It compared the performance of a full spectrum extract with one that contained CBD only. The study concluded that full spectrum was more effective when fighting pain and inflammation.

CBD For Cats and Dogs
CBD For Cats and Dogs

This Israeli Team discovered that: “The therapeutic synergy observed with plant extracts results in the requirement for a lower amount of active components, with consequent reduced adverse effects.” To qualify, full-spectrum CBD oil contains a huge array of cannabinoids, terpenes and much more, oils or isolates with CBD only, are separated from other compounds in the plant.

While CBD on its own only is somewhat effective, the whole plant extract not only provided faster and better relief, the effects also lasted longer. Therefore, an increasing number of companies in the CBD industry are selling full spectrum CBD oil as a rule.

The entourage effect is the main reason behind the efficacy of whole plant extracts. There are over 100 ‘identified’ compounds in the cannabis (Cannabis Sativa (Wikipedia)) plant. While most of these compounds have their own therapeutic benefit, they combine synergistically to provide a far better performance than any single compound, including CBD.

What are the Health Benefits of CBD Oil?

The health benefits of CBD oil are numerous. It exhibits potent antioxidant, analgesic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antipsychotic effects. It alleviates the cognitive decline associated with ageing, and it also reduces the risk of diabetes.

Studies show that CBD has a significant impact on various neurological and physiological disorders such as (to list be a few …):

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)AnorexiaAnxietyAttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD)Alzheimer’sArthritisBipolar
CachexiaCancerChronic painCramps
Gastrointestinal DisordersHeadachesHypertensionInflammation
InsomniaMigraineMultiple Sclerosis (MS)Muscular Dystrophy
NauseaObsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)OsteoporosisPain
Parkinson’sPost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)Phantom LimbSchizophrenia
SeizuresSpasticitySpinal injuryStress
CBD for Cats and Dogs
CBD for Cats and Dogs

Cannabis is good for the health and happiness of the world.

The Therapeutic Effects of CBD Oil

A number of studies over the last two decades or more have reported that CBD has anti-seizure activity, reducing the severity of seizures in animal models. In addition, there have been a number of case studies and anecdotal reports suggesting that CBD may be effective in treating children with drug-resistant epilepsy.

  • The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol (see: The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol, (NIH)).

CBD Oil for Pain Management

Cannabidiol, a non-euphoriant phytocannabinoid common in certain strains, shares neuroprotective effects with THC, inhibits glutamate neurotoxicity, and displays antioxidant activity greater than ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or tocopherol (vitamin E).

CBD additionally affects THC function by inhibiting first pass hepatic metabolism to the possibly more psychoactive 11-hydroxy-THC, prolonging its half-life, and reducing associated intoxication, panic, anxiety and tachycardia.

Additionally, CBD is able to inhibit tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) in its own right in a rodent model of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain ​2​ .

CBD Oil as an Anti-Inflammatory

Cannabinoids, the active components of Cannabis sativa, and endogenous cannabinoids mediate their effects through activation of specific cannabinoid receptors known as cannabinoid receptor 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2). The cannabinoid system has been shown both in vivo and in vitro to be involved in regulating the immune system through its immunomodulatory properties.

  • Cannabinoids as a novel anti-inflammatory ​3​ .

CBD Oil as a Cancer Treatment

Collectively, the non-psychoactive plant-derived cannabinoid CBD exhibits pro-apoptotic and anti-proliferative actions in different types of tumours and may also exert anti-migratory, anti-invasive, anti-metastatic and perhaps anti-angiogenic properties. On the basis of these results, evidence is emerging to suggest that CBD is a potent inhibitor of both cancer growth and spread.

  • Cannabidiol as a potential anticancer drug ​4​.

This study reveals that CBD inhibits angiogenesis by multiple mechanisms. Its dual effect on both tumour and endothelial cells supports the hypothesis that CBD has potential as an effective agent in cancer therapy.

  • Cannabidiol inhibits angiogenesis by multiple mechanisms ​5​.

Altogether, these findings provide a novel mechanism underlying the anti-invasive action of cannabidiol and imply its use as a therapeutic option for the treatment of highly invasive cancers.

  • Cannabidiol inhibits cancer cell invasion via upregulation of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-1 ​6​ .

CBD Oil as a Treatment for Anxiety and Insomnia

The main finding from this case study is that CBD oil can be an effective compound to reduce anxiety and insomnia secondary to PTSD. A review of the literature suggests some benefits from the use of CBD because of its anxiolytic and sleep-inducing effects.

  • The effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder ​7​.

CBD Oil as a Treatment for Epilepsy

CBD treatment yielded a significant positive effect on seizure load. Most of the children (66/74, 89%) reported reduction in seizure frequency: 13 (18%) reported 75-100% reduction, 25 (34%) reported 50-75% reduction, 9 (12%) reported 25-50% reduction, and 19 (26%) reported <25% reduction. Five (7%) patients reported aggravation of seizures which led to CBD withdrawal. In addition, we observed improvement in behaviour and alertness, language, communication, motor skills and sleep.

  • CBD-enriched medical cannabis for intractable pediatric epilepsy ​8​ ;

Seven out of the eight epileptics receiving cannabidiol had improvement of their disease state, whereas only one placebo patient improved.

  • Hypnotic and antiepileptic effects of cannabidiol ​9​ .

CBD Oil as a Treatment for Arthritis

The data presented here indicate that local administration of CBD blocked OA pain. Prophylactic CBD treatment prevented the later development of pain and nerve damage in these OA joints. These findings suggest that CBD may be a safe, useful therapeutic for treating OA joint neuropathic pain.

  • Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis ​10​ .

Taken together, these data show that CBD, through its combined immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory actions, has a potent anti-arthritic effect in CIA.

  • The nonpsychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an oral anti-arthritic therapeutic in murine collagen-induced arthritis ​11​ .

What are the Side Effects of CBD?

Most importantly, CBD will not cause you to get “high” or experience a sensation of intoxication as it has a minimal level of THC, making it non-psychoactive. It will not adversely affect your sensory perception, reflexes, reaction time or your behaviour in general.

Is it Safe to Take CBD?

CBD is safe and non-toxic even at high dosages. According to CannLabs, a testing lab for cannabis products, there is no established lethal dosage of CBD, and interestingly, there have been no reported cases of CBD overdosage. This fact makes it a reliable means of pain management and seizure control.

Several studies suggest that CBD is non-toxic in non-transformed cells and does not induce changes on food intake, does not induce catalepsy, does not affect physiological parameters (heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature), does not affect gastrointestinal transit and does not alter psychomotor or psychological functions. Also, chronic use and high doses up to 1,500 mg/day of CBD are reportedly well tolerated in humans. Conversely, some studies reported that this cannabinoid can induce some side effects, including inhibition of hepatic drug metabolism, alterations of in vitro cell viability, decreased fertilization capacity, and decreased activities of p-glycoprotein and other drug transporters.

  • Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa Constituent ​12​ .

In general, the often described favourable safety profile of CBD in humans was confirmed and extended by the reviewed research. The majority of studies were performed for treatment of epilepsy and psychotic disorders. Here, the most commonly reported side effects were tiredness, diarrhoea, and changes of appetite/weight. In comparison with other drugs, used for the treatment of these medical conditions, CBD has a better side effect profile.

  • An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies ​13​ .

I Don’t Care – I am Giving my Pets CBD …

It’s understandable that many pet parents are frustrated by the ambiguity surrounding CBD and dogs. When in doubt, stick with hemp extracted CBD, preferable a full spectrum solution. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

Do Your Research: This is especially true if you are buying something online. Avoid falling prey to the marketing hype and unsubstantiated claims. Seek out impartial reviews to see what others are saying. We find it is most often helpful to read the most negative reviews first. Conduct a little background research on the company: Have they been sued and, if so, why? Have they been penalized by the US FDA or EU Regulatory Bodies for allegedly making false claims? Do they have a veterinarian on staff, or do they work with a veterinary school?

Natural Doesn’t Mean Better: First, no marijuana or CBD product you might give your dog is natural. Apart from raw, unprocessed marijuana, which you should ABSOLUTELY NOT give to your dog, anything you get or buy online has been processed or altered in some fashion. Second, natural things can be dangerous – just think of arsenic.

If It Sounds Too Good to Be True: Online choices, CBD galore. Sounds too good to be true, right? There are several ways to extract CBD from hemp, but one of the quickest and cheapest involves using solvents such as butane and hexane, which can leave a toxic residue if not properly handled. That’s not to say all online products should be distrusted, but do your research on the company, how they make their product, their claims, and what unbiased reviewers are saying.

Document It: Keep a journal of your fur kid(s) before and for several days if you decide to use a CBD product. This will help you decide whether it’s having a positive effect. Better still, record video of your dog to document their progress, or lack thereof. This will help you overcome the flaws of human memory. Or ask your friends/family whether they’ve noticed any difference in your fur kid(s) without telling them that you’ve been giving your dog CBD.

Know the Warning Signs: As with anything you give to your fur kids – from chew toys to prescribed medications – it’s important to recognize when something isn’t quite right. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, it might be a good idea to check in with your vet. The following side effects have been reported by humans who took CBD, so do your best to translate them to dogs.

  • Dry Mouth: Your dog can’t tell you if they have dry mouth, but it’s safe to say they might increase their water intake. And increased thirst could also be a sign of other serious problems, such as antifreeze or rodenticide poisoning, or conditions like diabetes.
  • Tremors: Human patients with Parkinson’s disease have reported increased tremors at high doses of CBD. Tremors of any kind should be cause for concern in a dog.
  • Low Blood Pressure: If your vet notices low blood pressure during your next wellness visit, let them know that you have been giving your dog CBD. Until then, check whether your dog seems overly tired or lethargic.
  • Light-headedness: Your dog won’t tell you if they’re feeling light-headed, but they might seem disoriented or dizzy.
  • Drowsiness: Pay attention to your dog’s sleeping patterns to see if there’s any change.

Take Away?

Be extremely careful with all the hype being created online. The blossoming of marijuana and CBD use, both for dogs and humans, may be a positive change and a new path forward in medicine – or it could be a dead end. Regardless of the broader debate about marijuana, it is no laughing matter if your fur kids accidentally get hold of your pot! Just because it may be working for you or a friend of yours, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work (or be safe) for your dog. Best discuss your options with your vet or an integrated vet.

Curious? Do Your Own Research

Our pet parents are curious, including previously taboo topics such as cannabis-based treatments for their ailing companions, otherwise they would not be part of our family! We know that changing the attitude of medical professionals toward the use of medical cannabis with pets will be slow, hard work, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Still, we trust that the research will continue to show cannabis as a positive medical option for the treatment of dogs and cats.

Remember, as with any condition, the most healthful natural diet will improve the pet’s overall health. For further reading, ProjectCBD maintains a comprehensive list of conditions and related scientific studies that examine how CBD is used in the treatment thereof.

Articles and Videos

Dr. Rob Silver – Medical Cannabis Part 1- What every pet parent needs to know

Dr. Rob Silver – Medical Cannabis Part 2 – What every pet parent needs to know

References and Research

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