There are a lot of things I love about CBD oil, but perhaps my favorite is the science behind how it operates in the body. It’s so incredibly fascinating learning how CBD products work, and how they can improve the health of our pets in pretty much every single way.

Exploring Cannabinoids

Cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of 100+ phytocannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Cannabis plants, which includes both hemp and marijuana varieties, produce phytocannabinoids for self-defense and other major biological functions. All phytocannabinoids, not just CBD, have therapeutic properties for this reason. For example, the phytocannabinoid, CBG, has antibiotic properties because cannabis plants use it to fight bacteria growth.

The more you know: Cannabis plants are so good at protecting themselves that they rarely require pesticides, fungicides, etc. Other plants produce phytocannabinoids for protection as well, but nowhere near to the extent cannabis plants do.

Don’t be confused by the term “canna”

We know now that when an organism produces cannabinoids, they always play a vital role in most, if not all biological functions in some shape, way, or form. And can you guess who else creates their own cannabinoids for protection?

If you guess you, you’re right. You’d also be right if you guessed your dog or cat.

Around 600 million years ago, primitive animals started developing an internal regulatory system used for protection and promoting homeostasis — homeostasis is any process an organism uses to regulate and maintain stable conditions when adapting to their environment for survival.

This system is called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and is composed of endocannabinoids that act as neurotransmitters and activate cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, but CB1 receptors are mainly expressed in the brain, as well as the lungs, liver, and kidneys. While CB2 receptors are expressed in the immune system and in hematopoietic cells (stem cells that create other blood cells).

When I say that cannabinoids, and the receptors they attach to, have a role in everything, I mean it! Check out just a few things we know endocannabinoids and their receptors can do:

  • Mothers pass endocannabinoids along to their offspring through breast milk to promote nursing/suckling.This also boosts and protects their developing immune system.
  • Have you heard how runners feel almost euphoric after a long run? This is because intense exercise releases the endocannabinoid, anandamide, which activates serotonin 1A receptors. Anandamide is often called the bliss molecule.
  • Anandamide also plays a vital role in embryonic implantation. Scientists have seen how uterine anandamide levels can decrease pregnancy chances when too high or too low. This is why some women might struggle to get pregnant when using cannabis. However, if anandamide levels are too low, CBD could be administered to raise levels and increase pregnancy chances.

What CBD, The Molecule, Does

If you read the last part about embryonic implantation, you saw that I said CBD raises endocannabinoids levels in the body. This is the first and main way CBD works in the body.

You’ll often hear that CBD promotes natural health, and this is because CBD attaches to FAAH enzymes which break down and recycle endocannabinoids. When CBD temporarily deactivates these enzymes, endocannabinoids can build up and attach to more receptors — most notably CB2 receptors.

For the most part, the brain can create enough cannabinoids to stay healthy and does not need outside help. But the more threats, big and small, we put ourselves and our pets under, the more cannabinoids we need to stay healthy to meet the demands of our environment. The problem is these threats are everywhere and can look like anything: bacteria, poor sleep, pain, stressful situations, not eating, eating too much, etc.

It’s weird, but CBD can’t attach to either cannabinoid receptor, but it can attach to serotonin 1A receptors, as well as a few other therapeutic receptors — endocannabinoids attach to these receptors as well. When serotonin 1A receptors are activated, anxiety levels decrease considerably. Remember, the activation of this receptor is how people can be in such a good mood after exercising — I must be doing something wrong then.

But wait! When you’re looking for pure CBD phytocannabinoid oil for pets, you’re not just looking for CBD.

The Entourage Effect

If you go back to the beginning of this article, you will see in the first paragraph that I always said: “CBD oil” and not “CBD.” This is because CBD oil doesn’t just contain CBD, but all the 100+ phytocannabinoids found in hemp. CBD oil also contains the essential oils (terpenes) that give cannabis its infamous aroma — they also provide therapeutic and protective properties.

It’s important that the other cannabinoids and terpenes are in CBD oil too because they greatly help CBD out.

CBD, the molecule, has a much more pronounced role compared to the other cannabinoids and terpenes. The reason for this is due to CBD targeting and deactivating FAAH enzymes. However, CBD has a hard time deactivating those enzymes when isolated.

This is due to certain cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis that make it easy for CBD to pass through the blood-brain barrier and get absorbed into the bloodstream. Without them, CBD oil is incredibly difficult to dose and requires a high dosage that you can even be over hit — causing you or your pet to feel little to nothing. The synergic relationship between the cannabinoids and terpenes is dubbed the entourage effect. This time the entourage effect is a lot more helpful than the one from the early 2000s.

As well, those other phytocannabinoids will bring along their own unique health properties while also bringing along ones that CDB already has — but this reinforces the therapeutic property.

While our research on the other phytocannabinoids is still in infancy, we know that they act on some of the same non-cannabinoid receptors that endocannabinoids and CBD do.


I’m going to pause right here and quickly go back over all these weird receptors and what cannabinoid attaches to what.

  • Endocannabinoids — can attach to CB1 and CB2, 5-HT1A serotonin, TRPV1, GPR55, and PPAR receptors.
  • THC —  binds to CB1 receptors.
  • CBD — attaches to FAAH enzymes which influence endocannabinoids to attach mainly to CB2 receptors. Can directly bind to 5-HT1A serotonin, TRPV1, GPR55, and PPAR receptors.
  • Other Phytocannabinoids — may influence or bind to TRPV1, CB1*, potentially others.

*CBN will weakly attach to CB1 receptors, but it is considered non-psychoactive because the attachment is no greater than an endocannabinoid’s. THC strongly binds to CB1 receptors, and this produces the high associated with marijuana. THC will degrade over time into CBN, but instead of producing a high, CBN is known more for making you tired.

The more you know: CBD is often confused for CBN, and this is why many think CBD makes you tired, but this is not true at all. CBD has a stimulatory effect on the body.

In Conclusion

If you’re not totally confused right now, congrats! There is so much confusion over the cannabis plant, and as you have seen, much of it has to do with terminology. While I covered a lot in this article, there are a few things I missed or didn’t go into great detail. So here a few important things I want you to make sure you know before you leave:

  • Hemp and marijuana plants are different varieties of cannabis, and hemp has low levels of THC and can’t get you or your pet high. This is why you want CBD oil derived from hemp — it will have all the other great phytocannabinoids and terpenes. As well, it’s legal across the United States.
  • Second, expect the term “CBD oil” to be replaced with hemp extract, full spectrum hemp, or phytocannabinoid-rich (PCR) oil in the next couple of years. When we coined the term CBD oil, we didn’t fully understand how it works.
Jawad Ahmad is veterinary graduate from Asia's best veterinary university, University Of Veterinary And Animal Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan. He loves to blog and work as a freelance writer for biosciences niche. He joined "Veterinary Hub" in June 2013 as an author. He is currently a post-graduate student in Department of Pathology, University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Lahore.