Dogs, horses, humans and cats are mammals. That means we have the same nervous system and neurochemical transmitters so animals experience pain in the same manner as humans. Since we know pharmaceutical options are limited when it comes to pain in humans, it stands to reason that many non-pharmaceutical pain management techniques could be considered for our pets when we know or suspect they’re experiencing pain.

As with people, before starting any new therapies or instituting changes, consult with a veterinarian to discuss any impact on an individual pet.

CBD Products

The human medical field is finally legitimizing the use of medical cannabis to treat chronic illnesses and disease. More states are authorizing medical marijuana dispensaries for humans, but medical marijuana is not an option for pets because the live/dried plant is considered toxic.

 The alternative to medical marijuana for pets is CBD, derived from the hemp plant. Hemp is the same plant species as marijuana. They are both Cannabis sativaL. The difference lies in the variety. Hemp has been used historically in the manufacturing sector to make rope and textiles, while marijuana was bred for the intoxicating resinous glands that grow on the flowers and leaves.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has not yet taken an official stand on the use of CBD products; it is currently under “discussion”.

There are 3 key differences to understand between hemp and marijuana:

  1. Hemp does not contain THC.

Any trace amounts are removed during production. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s the THC that’s responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana, leading to its appearance on the Scheduled 1 Controlled Substance list.

While THC has many medical benefits, it is not the only part of the plant that has medicinal properties. Both marijuana and hemp also produce CBD. CBD is cannabidiol.

CBD has medicinal benefits because it binds to the body’s endocannabinoid system through the CB1 and CB2 receptors found in every tissue. The endocannabinoid system is connected to the brain, central nervous and peripheral systems. It also maintains and manages homeostasis within the body, neural activity, pain, memory, emotions, carcinogenesis and embryonic development.

As these binders are throughout the body, it accounts for the wide range of therapeutic properties. Essentially, it does what the body needs it to do. The medical benefits of CBD can help with a wide range of conditions, ranging from seizures to diabetes to pain management related to arthritis or cancer. Dogs have the highest concentration of CB receptors of any mammal, which is why dogs are highly sensitive to the effects of both THC and CBD.

  1. Hemp is legal.

CBD is made into treats, oils, topical creams and capsules. Not all CBD products are created equally. As with any new booming market, there are companies looking to cash in by producing it as cheaply as possible. They use industrial-grade hemp, grown for quantity using factory farming, pesticides and fertilizers. On the other hand, there are companies dedicated to the well-being of pets. In addition to growing organically, these companies spend thousands on research and development of different strains to pinpoint specific chronic conditions.

Hemp can be purchased online and in stores. It can be transported across state lines. Nothing in the pet industry is well-regulated, so CBD products for pets are a “buyer beware” purchase. Research the companies to ensure the product is the best.

  1. Toxicity.

While both the live plant of hemp and marijuana are toxic to dogs and cats in any form, CBD derived from hemp is safe. However, dosing is done based on the pet’s weight. As with any substance, any pet can have an allergic response and go into anaphylactic shock. While a pet can overdose from medical marijuana, the same is not the case with CBD.

Veterinarian Chiropractor

Veterinarian chiropractors focus on the pet’s neuro-musculoskeletal system. Like their human counterparts, they manipulate and align joints and spine to reduce or eliminate misalignments that may interfere with the central nervous system resulting in joint degeneration and other chronic joint conditions.

Low inflammation diet

Foods that contribute to inflammatory responses include highly processed meats, such as those found in delis and hotdogs; poor quality proteins found in cheaper pet foods; potato pasta; white rice; dairy; omega 6 oils; carbohydrates; sugars; processed grains; and fruits.


Acupuncture is a centuries-old practice from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that entails stimulating certain energy points on the body, usually by the insertion of needles. The premise is that this stimulation will open up blocked energetic channels so the pet’s energy flow is unencumbered and can naturally restore the body to better health. It has been studied and used in pets for many chronic medical conditions including pain management.


Regular exercise helps to reduce weight, which in turn helps overstressed joints. In addition, increased exercise releases happy endorphins, which makes the pet feel better.

There are numerous studies that the presence of pets in human lives results in many health and quality of life benefits. Shouldn’t pets get the same commitment from us to make them feel better when they are feeling pain?

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master tech pet first aid instructor. She is the owner of Hands and Paws Reiki for All. She can be reached at