Area residents seeking alternative medicines for their ailing pets may be able to seek over-the-counter relief in the form of hemp-derived cannabidiols (CBDs).
According to store manager Justin Smith, the CBDepot, located at 530 Margaret St., Pekin, has been stocking products for pets since the store opened last year. He said cannabadials (CBDs) for animals were the first products that CBDepot owner Eric Sweatt began stocking.
"All living things, except for most insects, have an endocannabanoid system," said Smith. "What it will do for me, it will do for (pets). He started carrying it because, a lot of times, people do not believe the effects of things until they see it tested on animals. If a person wants to see an effect, give it to your dog, and then you'll know exactly what it will do to you, too. It's weird that people experiment on their (pets), but that's how it started."
The CBDepot carries dog and cat treats and various CBD oils for pets. Smith, who has rescued a variety of stray cats over the years, puts it out with cat food for his four-legged tenants and reported that not only have the cats he cares for been eating it, but so have neighborhood raccoons and possums. The oils can either be mixed into pet food or administered directly.
"You can put (CBD oils) in anything," Smith said. "You can just stick it in their mouths, and they'll take it because most of it's bacon-flavored or salmon-flavored. It's very tolerable for a dog or a cat."
Steven Edward Streight of Peoria has purchased CBD oil treats at the Co-Op Shop in Peoria for his dog to help reduce his pet's anxiety when thunderstorms were predicted. He added that he gives his pit bull terrier, Bessie, one treat per thunderstorm.
"One thing (my wife and I) noticed in this short experiment (thus far) is Bessie did not pant a lot, which is a sign of stress, nor did she look around alarmed during the storm as it happened," said Streight. "She still seemed a bit concerned and stayed by my side all the time, but there was significant positive change in her stress-related behavior."
The use of hemp as food and medicine for animals has a history in the United States dating back to before the Revolutionary War, Smith said. Throughout his lifetime, George Washington, hero of the Revolutionary War and first President of the United States, cultivated fields of hemp at Mount Vernon, his farm in Virginia. According to an article on the George Washington's Mount Vernon website, the hemp Washington grew was primarily for industrial uses like rope, sail canvas, clothing and fishing nets. He also regularly mixed hemp into the feed he gave to his livestock.
"In high doses, it's an antibiotic," said Smith. "It also helps the immune system. Everybody has an endocannabanoid system. It wasn't discovered until the 1990s, so (Washington) didn't know there was a system dedicated to it. He just knew that it worked for his animals. So, it's been going on forever."
According to a Feb. 5 article for the American Kennel Club (AKC) by Randa Kriss, research on the efficacy of CBDs for pets is in its early stages and remains inconclusive.
"Currently, there has been no formal study on how CBD affects dogs," AKC Chief Veterinarian Dr. Jerry Klein said in Kriss' article. "What scientists do know is that cannabanoids interact with the endocannabanoid receptors located in the central and peripheral nervous systems, which help maintain balance in the body and keep it in a normal healthy state."
Klein added that while there is no definitive scientific data on using CBD to treat dogs, there is anecdotal evidence from dog owners suggesting it can treat pain, especially neuropathic pain, as well as helping to control seizures.
Smith said the benefits of cannabanoids are not restricted to humans, dogs and cats. As Washington discovered, livestock will eat feed laced with hemp plant material. Livestock will also eat feed into which CBD oil has been mixed.
"For livestock, you would use a bigger dosage and then you wouldn't care about flavoring," he said. "You'd just be giving it to them."
Because cannabanoids controls the immune system and modulate the nervous system, they can treat a variety of conditions ranging from anxiety to cancer, according to Smith. He added that cannabanoids also treat chemical imbalances, regulates blood sugar and helps control seizures and arthritis, and stressed that cannabanoids are a valuable treatment for cancer because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Klein appears to concur, saying that CBD is used because of its anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety impact, and for possible anti-cancer benefits. Klein cautioned that there is no conclusive data on CBDs efficacy as a cancer treatment.
"Every cancer is based in inflammation, and CBD is the best anti-inflammatory you'll ever take in your life, whether you're a human or an animal," he added. "You just have to keep upping the dosage. You can even put (CBD oil) directly on skin cancer and it will diminish it."
Ultimately, Smith believes, a course of cannabanoids can help pet owners delay that dreaded trip to a veterinarian to have a beloved dog or cat put down. They promote homeostasis, a state of steady internal and chemical conditions, in the body and keep animals out of pain. Smith has chosen cannabanoids over euthanasia for the cats he has rescued over the years.
"I have cats that are now four years old that should have died," he said. "CBD stops these things from happening."
Smith urged people with ailing pets who have not tried cannabanoids as a treatment to do so.
"Every time you think your animal is too sick for this or too sick for that, I guarantee you have not tried hemp, CBD oil or marijuana," he said. "You're not selfish when you try to extend their lives. CBD gives them less pain and a better quality of life."
Marijuana-derived CBDs are legal in Illinois only for medical patients with qualifying conditions. Hemp-derived CBDs are fully legal.