The master regulator behind your dog’s health and wellbeing.

E-n-d-o-c-a-n-n-a-b-i-n-o-i-d. Now that’s a mouthful.

You’ve probably seen this scientific-leaning word tossed around if you’ve been reading up on CBD oil for dogs. The Endocannabinoid system is only a recent revelation, discovered in the early 1990s. Yet, it’s one of the most critical systems possessed by all mammals for maintaining optimum health. “Endo” is short for endogenous meaning something that is produced naturally inside the body. And “cannabinoid” refers to compounds like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that interact when introduced to the system.

Once cannabis is introduced, whether orally or topically, the Endocannabinoid system processes these compounds; and in turn, has a number of psychological and physical effects for several bodily functions in your dog. That’s why CBD is reported to have many medicinal properties for a variety of ailments; it can target multiple areas, like appetite and mood, at the same time. In fact, your dog’s endocannabinoid system is precisely why CBD’s many benefits are not just a myth. Because that’s just how far and wide the Endocannabinoid system works, and although the medical research is new, it has already backed a lot of its roles.

And as it turns out, dogs aren’t all that different than humans. Dogs, humans, cats – all mammals – are born with an endocannabinoid system (ECS). But what does this actually mean? And how does it work with cannabinoids such as CBD? Let’s unpack it all below.

What is the Endocannabinoid System exactly?


Think about when you touch something hot. While it’s not exactly the same thing, we can understand that the act of touching a hot plate sends signals throughout our body. These signals then force us to react and either drop the plate or remove our hand right away.

Well, the ECS works in a similar manner; it’s a signaling system. Once a cannabis product makes contact in our body, it acts with various pathways through cannabinoid receptors found on cells in the body, in the brain, central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and immune system. Then, a response is signaled in the ECS which influences things like a dog’s mood, sleep, motor strength, and inflammation. According to this study, “With its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind.”

Complex as it may be, the ECS is made up of three parts:
  • Cannabinoids:

    • Endocannabinoids: signaling molecules naturally made by the body, these interact with receptors.
    • Phytocannabinoids: produced naturally by the hemp plant, also interacting with the receptors.
  • Receptors: located in the nervous system and around the body.  Cannabinoids bind with receptors – think of it like turning the keys in your car. Once you start the car, everything powers up. On the same note, once cannabinoids bond to a receptor, certain bodily functions will also shift into gear.

  • Enzymes: break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids.

It’s interesting to note that cannabinoids can be naturally produced by the body or by the hemp plant. Nevertheless, both forms of the cannabinoid compound stimulate the ECS functions through receptors that exist on cell membranes. And these cell membranes have a lot of power when it comes to canine bodily processes and maintaining a healthy pup.

In terms of CBD, scientific and anecdotal evidence has demonstrated that this non-psychoactive component derived from the hemp plant can support an imbalance that may exist in one or more of your dog’s functions. After consuming CBD oil for dogs, your pup’s ECS will trigger the release of enzymes to break these down. Afterward, they bind to receptors, and voila! Chemical messages are sent from the receptors to the nerve cells that need to be supported.

That’s how incredible the mammalian body really is; it has the capacity to direct help to whatever part needs it most. So how does this translate to the possibilities of real-time health benefits?

What does the endocannabinoid system regulate?

The ECS regulates several bodily functions including:

  • Balance and coordination
  • Digestion and appetite
  • Immune function
  • Heart rate and blood pressure
  • Mood regulation and stability
  • Memory and recollection
  • Controls gastrointestinal tract functions
  • Regulates inflammation caused by infection or damaged tissues
  • Sleep
  • Motor control and muscle movement
  • Bodily temperature
  • Pain and pleasure
  • Reproductive systems
  • Development of the brain

As you can see, there’s a multitude of processes that the ECS helps to maintain simultaneously. A dog’s body is constantly making endocannabinoids to keep everything smooth and balanced. When the ECS isn’t working properly to keep the body functioning optimally, negative health issues arise. This is where CBD can help, with issues like arthritis, anxiety, and cancer come up. What follows is the intervention of prescribed medications or our preference, CBD, to alleviate the symptoms caused by these health conditions.

There is still more to learn and discover when it comes to the ECS, but we know that it benefits the stability of homeostasis for animals.

Understanding Homeostasis

It’s worth knowing homeostasis for the purposes of understanding the essential survival purpose of the Endocannabinoid system. And nothing could be more of an arrow pointing towards how incredible mammalian bodies are then Homeostasis. This is when the body monitors and maintains balance in everything from temperature to wound healing. It generates adjustments when outside elements cause a disruption in our system and then it brings the body back to homeostasis.

A dog’s endocannabinoid system works by stabilizing the body’s internal environment, from regulating its internal temperature (when a dog starts to pant) to urinating toxins that don’t belong in the bloodstream. Almost anything your dog does to adapt to changes in its internal or external environments is its way of bringing it back to that “just right” level of homeostasis. And the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in achieving this.

What are cannabinoid receptors?

There are two main cannabinoid receptors in a dog’s ECS. These receptors are connected with organ systems throughout the body. CBD will bind and help to set these receptors in motion.

endocannabinoid system infographic

Cannabinoid Type 1 Receptors (CB1)

These receptors are found throughout the body but are located predominantly in the central nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord. In the brain, they are in regions that control specific behaviors, specifically the signaling of pain, discomfort, affecting cognition, motor activity, emotions, memory processing, and more.

Cannabinoid Type 2 Receptors (CB2)

These receptors are most concentrated in the peripheral nervous system, located in parts of the immune system, cells, and organs. They are closely linked with the signaling of inflammation and play a larger role in synthesizing CBD oils in the body.

Where are the cannabinoid receptors in the dog brain?

Cannabinoid receptors in your pet's brain


How does CBD work with my dog’s endocannabinoid system?

So all of this information is fine and dandy – but let’s get to how CBD directly interacts with your dog’s ECS. The cannabinoids present in CBD oil mimic an animal’s own endocannabinoids. Because cannabinoids influence a myriad of complex processes, a dog’s ECS will go directly into drive mode. CBD basically helps their body create more, newly created endocannabinoids.

Once a dog ingests any CBD or cannabis product, the ECS receptors will begin working to process these compounds throughout the body and send chemical messages to the nerve cells requiring assistance. This is because the CB1 and CB2 receptors reunited with endocannabinoids again. The result? The imbalanced function is back in balance. CB1 receptors will help restore the overall functioning of your dog: from storing memories to conveying moods. Once CB2 receptors are activated by binding to CBD, they will work to help bring your dog back to a place of relaxation and pain relief.

Before introducing CBD or other supplements, there was likely an imbalance in your dog and specifically, in the area your dog was suffering in (i.e. cancer, arthritis, etc.). But with the fresh endocannabinoids bonding, these receptors can respond. That’s when the effects of CBD begin to kick in.

For example, if a dog is suffering from arthritis and inflamed joints, then CBD can help boost the receptors (specifically CB2 receptors in this case) and in turn, the ECS’s role in regulating that inflammation. As a result, your dog might experience a reduction in pain and inflammation.

More clinical research and testimonials are being released attesting to CBD’s therapeutic effects in a number of health issues that dogs face.

The effects of CBD in a dog’s endocannabinoid system

The effects of CBD on dogs are mostly physiological; your dog will not experience any alterations to its brain. Specifically, in this case, we’re referring to CBD and not THC. We wouldn’t recommend giving the latter to your dog simply because high concentrations of THC could confuse and alter your pet’s awareness. THC in high levels can also be dangerous for your pooch. In contrast, CBD oils, when administered slowly and appropriately, can eliminate unwanted symptoms associated with anxiety, arthritis, cancer, and epilepsy. When CBD and the ECS work together, possible effects include:

  • Improving mental state pertaining to depression and anxiety
  • Improves appetite
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces nausea
  • Prevents tumors
  • Improves energy levels
  • Reduces the frequency of seizures
  • Reduces pain and inflammation
  • Relaxes muscles

It’s important to emphasize that while these benefits have been demonstrated in dogs according to various anecdotal testimonials and some medical research, they’re not 100% guaranteed. Always consult with your veterinarian to evaluate your dog’s condition and potential treatments, including CBD oil.


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Final Thoughts

At first glance, seeing the words  “Endocannabinoid system” on paper feels intimidating – but it doesn’t have to be! We can look at CBD as a great tool for enhancing your dog’s health and wellbeing by working in harmony with their Endocannabinoid system. It’s already found to have a wide variety of effects in the pet health world because it directly influences the widespread role that an Endocannabinoid system has. And for the love of our dogs – that’s worth exploring!