Nature’s Dynamic Duo: Cannabinoids, Mushrooms Play Important Roles in Pet Wellness

By Pet Age Staff//March 1, 2024//

Nature’s Dynamic Duo: Cannabinoids, Mushrooms Play Important Roles in Pet Wellness

By: Pet Age Staff//March 1, 2024//

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While many people have embraced medical marijuana for health ills, the concept of treating pets and zoo animals with cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is still in its early years. The New York Times recently published an article, Curing Animals with Cannabis, that tells the story of a captive elephant, Nidia, and the suffering she was enduring from chronic foot problems. Nidia was in constant pain, had lost her appetite and was losing weight.

In an act of desperation, the veterinarian in charge of Nidia’s care decided to try CBD, the nonintoxicating therapeutic compound found in cannabis. The dosage was small, 0.02 milligrams of CBD per pound of Nidia’s weight and, within days of starting the treatment, her appetite returned, and she gained more than 500 pounds in a little over a month. Her abscesses also began to heal, likely due to CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects.

In the pet care industry, a steadily evolving health category involves products containing CBD, which is one of the 150+ phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. With a goal of administering is for the cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream, CBD products come in a wide range of applications, from oils, tinctures and topical sprays to balms, gels and chews, pet CBD continues to be a growing sector that has a strong following among pet parents.

Dave Merrell is the founder of CEO of Healthy Hemp Pet, established in 2014. As one of the pioneers in the “hemp for pets” market, Merrell takes pride in producing the cleanest hemp products using a vapor distilled extraction process.

His preferred form of CBD is full-spectrum CBD, an extract in which as many as possible of the naturally occurring cannabinoids, terpenes and essential compounds are left intact. While there are thousands of cannabinoids and terpenes present in each plant, and it is not possible to preserve every single one during the manufacturing process, full-spectrum means that none of the cannabinoids were purposefully removed.

Merrell describes full-spectrum hemp as a symphony of cannabinoids.” Full-spectrum has the benefits of the entourage effect (the term for all of the cannabinoids and terpenes working together), making the cannabinoids pack more of a punch.

Full -spectrum hemp products boast a treasure trove of over 100 different cannabinoids, with CBD, CBG and CBN taking the spotlight,” he noted. “These cannabinoids offer a range of potential benefits: CBD or cannabidiol, the potential benefits include anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and pain-relieving properties. CBG or cannabigerol is known for anti-inflammatory prowess and potential antibacterial effects. CBN or cannabinol is associated with potential sedative effects, offering a serene touch for pets in need.”

Holistic veterinarians are turning to medicinal mushrooms to support the well-being of their animal patients. Not only are mushroom extracts safe for pets and supportive to their health, but they are easy to administer.

As with cannabinoids, there is an abundance of functional mushrooms. Fungi have been used for their health benefits for thousands of years and more than 1,500 pieces of research exist – with much of the studies being conducted on animals – showing well over 100 therapeutic actions of medicinal mushrooms.

Bradley Kerrick is co-founder and CEO of Pawse, a pet CBD brand whose mission has been to “improve the lives of pets, daily,” which means offering non-CBD options as well.

According to Kerrick, the more tested and common fungi for their health benefits are the following:

Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum): Reishi mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties and can help balance the immune system. They may support gastrointestinal health and contribute to a healthy microbiome in pets.

Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor): Known for its immune-boosting properties, turkey tail mushrooms contain prebiotics that can nourish beneficial gut bacteria. This can support digestive health and improve the microbiome balance in dogs and cats.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus): Lion’s mane mushrooms have been studied for their potential to support digestive health and reduce inflammation in the gut. They contain compounds that may help maintain a healthy gut lining and support the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes): Shiitake mushrooms contain polysaccharides that can support immune function and improve gut health. They may help regulate the gut microbiota and contribute to overall digestive wellness in pets.

Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa): Maitake mushrooms have immune-modulating effects and contain polysaccharides that may support gut health. They can help promote a balanced gut microbiome in dogs and cats.

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus): Chaga contain polysaccharides, beta-glucans, and other compounds that may help support the immune system. This could potentially help pets fight off infections and diseases. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant effects, improve digestive health, potential anti-cancer effects and aid in skin and coat health.

Most mushroom products come in either pill or powder form. However, many of these mushrooms are very bitter and not very palatable, so Pawse homogenizes its mushrooms with a delicious meat-based freeze-dried bite that dogs and cats love to consume. In doing so, it reduces the stress for pet and owner alike.

Pawse’s Mighty Mushrooms are freeze-dried bites of immune-boosting functional mushrooms — chaga, maitake, reishi, shiitake and turkey tail — that are organically cultivated and naturally grown. Pawse describes its Mighty Mushrooms as a non-CBD, immune boosting complex of functional mushrooms, organically cultivated and naturally grown, concentrated into a form that provides antioxidant and immunity benefits.

As pet owners increasingly gravitate towards natural solutions for their furry companions, the fusion of full-spectrum hemp and functional full-fruited mushrooms takes center stage. Merrell sees great promise in the combination of CBD, CBG, CBN and the wide array of mushrooms, unveiling their potential shared benefits for dogs and cats and shedding light on the diverse products that harness their healing properties. In addition to them addressing inflammation and providing a common ground for diverse health issues, he sees them unifying against free radicals and fostering a holistic approach to well-being.

As a pioneer in the integration of full-spectrum hemp and functional full-fruited mushrooms in pet products, Healthy Hemp conducted a pharmacokinetic and toxicity study for dogs in collaboration with Purdue University in 2019. According to Merrell, plans for an oncology clinical trial, combining cannabinoids and mushrooms, are on the horizon, showcasing a commitment to advancing the understanding of holistic pet wellness.

Kerrick agrees with Merrell that cannabinoids and mushrooms can have benefits when used in concert. However, Kerrick notes that there is an issue when combining them.

“The difficulty with combining them in the same product is the ratio of each required based on pet weight,” he explained. “It’s not a 1:1 ratio and makes administration in the same product a challenge because you sacrifice a bit of precision in dosing but can make up for it in convenience.”

Kerrick says cannabinoids and the majority of the mushrooms seem to have immune system regulation components. There is a growing amount of research that is indicating that both the cannabinoids and some of these mushrooms can assist in inhibiting tumor growth and anti-cancer properties.

“There has been a lot of research conducted on cannabinoids and mushrooms for their effectiveness and benefits to animals,” he explained. “The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) just completed a study that showed very favorable results to dogs while noting little to no adverse effects.”

Recent studies that have taken place reveal great promise for medicinal mushrooms and cannabinoids for treating a wide range of ailments while showing little to no adverse effects. However, current studies have just tapped the surface of the potential for cannabinoids and functional mushrooms; additional studies are very much needed. As Kerrick points out, the nature of scientific studies using plant-based medicine vs. lab-produced compounds is inherently more difficult to study in a controlled manner, and typically underfunded compared to pharmaceuticals.

As the curtain rises on the potential of full-spectrum hemp and functional full-fruited mushrooms, Merrell feels pet owners should be excited about their potential for a harmonious symphony of natural wellness.

“The ongoing research landscape holds promise, urging us to remain attentive to emerging insights that continue to shape the holistic well-being of our beloved pets,” he said.

The health and wellness category in the pet industry is a source of constant innovation, and the study of medicinal mushrooms is a burgeoning field, with research suggesting potential benefits in various areas. Retailers should be prepared to research the latest offerings with the goal of carrying a wide variety of products that best serve their customers’ pet needs. After all, the health and well-being of companion animals will never decrease in importance among pet parents. If anything, the number of holistic health products containing cannabinoids and functional mushrooms will surely expand as brands continue to discover more innovative and effective uses for these ingredients.