The Endocannabinoid System in Cats and Dogs

The Endocannabinoid System in Cats and Dogs

CBD for pets is processed through the endocannabinoid system, a remarkable bodily system that creates balance. Here’s what you need to know.

Before one can understand the benefits of CBD for pets, you have to understand the endocannabinoid system. This bodily system is complex and found in all mammals – humans, rabbits, horses, dolphins, monkeys, and of course, our furry feline and canine companions. Here’s what you need to know about how CBD for pets interacts with the endocannabinoid system in cats and dogs.

What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

Understanding the endocannabinoid system is key to understanding how your pet can benefit from CBD. The endocannabinoid system (sometimes called the ECS) is a signaling system that is present in all mammals. The purpose of the ECS is to establish balance and regulation in the body, so it influences several other bodily systems to keep you and your pets healthy.

Research has shown that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating a dog or cat’s muscles, lungs, vascular system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, bones, pancreas, liver, and more.

The ECS is made up of three major components. To understand the ECS, you’ll need to understand:


  • Receptors
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Enzymes


What Are Endocannabinoid Receptors?

The ECS is made up primarily of endocannabinoid receptor cells. These cells are scattered around the body, and they fall into two subcategories: CB1 and CB2.

While research is ongoing, scientists don’t yet know the exact location of these cells within the animal body – we only have a general idea of what systems they are connected to. The CB1 cells are part of the central nervous system and are thus found concentrated in the brain and spinal cord. We know that dogs have CB1 cells in their skin and salivary glands. CB2 cells are associated with the peripheral nervous system and the immune system and are found in organs associated with those systems, such as the spleen and liver.

These receptor cells act as a liaison or messenger, communicating messages from the brain to the rest of the body, which keeps the body in a healthy stasis and balance. The more of these messages that are communicated effectively, the more well-balanced and healthy the body will be.

What Are Endocannabinoids?

Three types of cannabinoids can interact with ECS receptors: phytocannabinoids, which are naturally occurring chemicals found in plants like cannabis; endocannabinoids, which are molecules made by the bodies of humans, cats, dogs, and other mammals; and synthetic cannabinoids, which are man-made chemicals that can mimic naturally occurring cannabinoids. The molecular structure of phytocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids sometimes imitates or mimics the signals of natural endocannabinoids, triggering the cannabinoid receptors and generating the same benefits for the body.

“Endocannabinoid” is short for endogenous cannabinoid. There are two types of endocannabinoids made by fats in the body, and they play important roles in regulating neural processes like mood and memory.

What Are Enzymes in the ECS?

The final part of the triad that makes the ECS function is enzymes. Enzymes are biological molecules that break down endocannabinoids. Once an endocannabinoid has served its purpose within the system, it has to be dealt with – this is the job of the enzymes. They are a vital part of the processing of endocannabinoids within the ECS and the body.


A dog and a cat under a bed sheet.


Your Pet’s Endocannabinoid System

Now that you know the parts that make up the endocannabinoid system, it will be easier to understand how this system functions to keep your pet’s body healthy and balanced. Many pet parents, especially CBD users, are surprised to learn that they share this vital system with their pets – both dogs and cats.

Do Dogs Have an Endocannabinoid System?

Yes, dogs have an endocannabinoid system. While researchers are still figuring out the exact function of the canine ECS, it’s generally believed to be very similar to the human ECS.

One thing that is known for sure is that dogs have more endocannabinoid receptors in their brains than humans do. This makes them more susceptible to CBD and THC, which is why it’s so important to choose THC-free* products for your pet.

Do Cats Have an Endocannabinoid System?

Yes – like dogs, humans, and all other mammals, cats have an endocannabinoid system. The ECS in cats has undergone even less research than the canine system, but there is still a general assumption that the system works similarly to the human ECS.

How CBD for Pets Interacts with the ECS

CBD is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid. CBD can interact with enzymes in your pet’s body to slow the breakdown of certain endocannabinoids that benefit your pet, allowing them to experience the benefits of those endocannabinoids for a longer time. Plus, as a phytocannabinoid, CBD can trigger your receptors, which send messages to the ECS to maintain balance in your pet’s body.

Other phytochemicals from the hemp plant, such as terpenes, have benefits, too. The entire hemp plant creates beneficial effects for your pet’s ECS – something known as the entourage effect. This is why Paw CBD’s parent company, cbdMD, created Superior Broad Spectrum CBD, a specialty formula that delivers all the best parts of the hemp plant in each of our CBD products.

CBD for pets can be administered in several ways to benefit the ECS, including as a:



CBD for Pets in Tinctures

One of the most popular applications of CBD for pets is through tinctures. Tinctures are usually made from hemp extract and a carrier oil like MCT oil. CBD tinctures for dogs and cats have a variety of applications, and their diversity makes them super popular for pet parents.

You can give the tincture directly to your cat or dog’s mouth or with a meal or a snack. However your pet consumes their tincture, the CBD will enter their bloodstream through digestion.

Regardless of how the CBD gets into your pet’s system, it will trigger the cannabinoid receptors in your pet’s body and initiate those balancing processes that the ECS is known for.


A dog eating paw cbd calming chews.


Edible CBD for Dogs and Cats

Like tinctures, edible CBD products for pets will enter your animal’s bloodstream through their digestion and create the same reaction in the endocannabinoid system. This is an ideal way to administer CBD to your pet – because both cats and dogs love a tasty CBD chew!

Topical CBD Products for Pets

Topical CBD for dogs and cats offers a wonderful delivery method that allows you to target the application of CBD to a certain part of your pet’s skin. When delivered this way, CBD doesn’t enter into your pet’s bloodstream, but it does seep into the dermal and subdermal layers of skin where applied and triggers the ECS receptors in the skin.

Topical CBD is great when applied to paws, noses, elbows, or other areas that need a little extra TLC. If your pet has a dry nose or rough paw pads, you might find a CBD balm that also features moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil. CBD balm can be a great addition to a massage for your dog or cat!

THC-free* Is Key With CBD for Pets

CBD for dogs and cats is a phytocannabinoid that generates benefits in the endocannabinoid system. While THC is also a phytocannabinoid, it creates a psychoactive effect that isn’t pleasant or healthy for your pet – so stick to THC-free,* pet-appropriate CBD for dogs and cats. Always make sure any CBD for pets you purchase is made from pet-safe ingredients and sourced, manufactured, and tested to be free from detectable levels of THC.