ECS Series: Neurological System

When CBD first became the buzz word, many had never heard of an endocannabinoid system (ECS), let alone how important it is for the normal development of the nervous system. And while the medical community has learned volumes regarding exactly how the ECS interacts with and modulates neurological tissues, passing that complex information to pet parents … well, it’s left folks scratching their heads. Today we’re going to simplify things so you have an understanding of just how important a healthy endocannabinoid system is to the well-being of your pet’s nervous system. 

Let’s start with what makes up a nervous system in cats and dogs. Hint: it’s the same cells, tissues, and organs which make up the nervous system in humans … just like the ECS. The nervous system is made up of two main parts based on location: central and peripheral. The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system (PNS) encompasses all other parts of the body. 

Image from FourLeg.com

 

Central Nervous System

The brain has three main sections, each with its own special functions but not isolated from others. Cerebral tissues govern conscious decisions; the brainstem hosts nerve centers which oversee most of the critical life functions; and cerebellar input controls movement and balance. 

Within the cerebrum, nerve cells (neurons) transmit information via action potentials – electrical impulses which must meet a certain milli voltage threshold before messages jump to the next cell. Signalling for action potentials, whether initiation or cessation, is performed by neurotransmitters like endocannabinoids. If too low, no information is passed at all or is rerouted to nearby neurons which are capable of continuing the action potential. This happens all the time as part normal neurological functions. It can also occur after traumatic injuries, stroke, and other serious neurological imbalances. Sometimes those same imbalances can cause an action potential to be too high or continue too long, contributing to imbalances like seizures, insomnia and anxiety (runaway thoughts especially). 

The brainstem controls the flow of messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Bodily functions like breathing, swallowing, heart rate, blood pressure, and whether one is awake or sleepy. No, cats do not have a more developed brainstem which tells them to sleep 24/7; that’s their prey drive telling them to save as much energy as possible. When hunting, cats usually miss their targeted meal 7/10 times … that’s a lot of energy use and sleeping helps their body remain ever ready for an opportunistic chance to pounce. When balanced, the brainstem functions normally in the background, a part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Thankfully, imbalances are not common as they are often life-threatening. 

Cerebellar functions are markedly pronounced in cats when compared to dogs and humans. This is why they often land easily on their feet after catching birds, an adaptation that increases their chance of survival both from a meal perspective and in escaping injuries. It’s not foolproof and gravity affects us all when 10 stories high, so consider screening in balconies for safe outside time. When balanced, the cerebellum allows dogs and cats to navigate the world with more agility and us mere humans. When unbalanced, conditions like cerebellar hypoplasia occur, a congenital malformation in kittens whose mothers contracted certain viruses while pregnant. Despite the condition being permanent, CH cats often have very healthy long lives … and are adorable in their awkward playing

Frederico happily posing for the camera.

 

Spinal cord functions can best be described as a multilevel highway whereby certain information is transmitted in different anatomical locations. Like the brain, the spinal cord contains both white & gray matter, though the white matter of spinal cords is peripheral, whereas the brain’s white matter is centrally located. This makes sense when we consider white matter contains relatively few cell bodies and is composed mostly of long-range myelinated axons, a type of neuron which can speed electrical information across relatively long distances. 

In the spinal cord, peripheral white matter neurons are responsible for proprioception, the ability for dogs and cats to place their feet without conscious thought. Try this: with your dog standing quietly on solid ground, gently lift a front paw and place it furred sided down. Your dog will immediately turn it over so that his pads are ground-facing. A little deeper into the spinal cord’s white matter we find motor skill neuronal transmission. Simply put, information on this level allows your cat to make those amazing leaps straight up to catch birds, bugs and feather toys. The next level allows the body to recognize and respond to mild sensory stimuli, allowing dogs and cats to avoid thorny ground and similar pinprick like sensations.The deepest layer of spinal cord white matter transmits deep pain, that which really hurts, like traumatic injuries or severe soft tissue damage. Centrally located, spinal cord gray matter is the workhorse, transmitting all kinds of data between the body and brain.

From Today’s Veterinary Practice

Peripheral Nervous System

Neurons found within the PNS transmit both sensory and motor input, much like neurons do in the CNS. In this case, motor information directs muscle movement in tissues like the heart, intestines and skeletal muscles. Sensory input helps determine things like when to stop eating (stretch receptors in the stomach), when to use the litter box (stretch receptors within the bladder), and when to roll over during solar charging (temperature sensors within the skin). While it’s the CNS which tells the body to perform these tasks, it is the PNS which informs the brain of the stimuli, and the spinal cord which carries the information. The PNS is highly flexible and imbalance in any one area can often be compensated for elsewhere. For example, if your dog sustained an injury which severed a peripheral nerve in his paw, he may have areas of insensitivity … but nearby sensory and motor nerves are likely to take over allowing for a normal gait. 

 

Endocannabinoid-Neurological System

No, there’s not actually a system named that but the integration is so deep that it might as well be called such. Endocannabinoids and their plant-based counterparts (phytocannabinoids) like CBD, function as neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, and immunomodulators. In addition, the entire ECS integrates with a variety of other receptor systems, modulating their functions in order to maintain healthful homeostasis. Other neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, glutamate & gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are directly or indirectly modulated by the ECS. While this process is complex, the effects can be simplistic and drastic. 

 

Via influx of compounds like CBD & THC, cannabis receptors are able to calm action potentials attributed to imbalances within any tissue containing neurons. In other words, all tissues within the body are modulated by the ECS. This means a healthy, well-supported ECS is able to quickly cause peripheral vasodilation, bronchodilation and release of compounds which are soothing, all during times of anxiety. In addition, balanced cannabis receptors are vital in helping the brain’s action potentials remain healthy, working with the body when action potentials become too great. In order to help them remain balanced, supplementation with ratioed hemp supplementation is important as CBD only products only address a part of the complex system. 

I know we’ve covered a lot today, but I hope you are left with a better understanding of the nervous system and how the ECS supports its normal functions. Furthermore, providing the ECS with balanced compounds it can use wherever chemical messengers signal, can help your pet remain in top shape for years to come. We’ll see you next time when we discuss the ECS and behavioral responses. 

 

ECS Series: GI Tract & Immune Support

Trust is no small thing and it’s sometimes hard to know who to trust when it comes to your pets’ health care. Your dog is a member of your family, and your cat allows you to be a member of hers. As family members, our cats and dogs hold special places in our lives, so we want to be extra careful when choosing supplement companies. We are humbled to have your trust that Canna Companion products are grounded in science and made with love, providing the best hemp pet supplement for your family member. 

Today we’re continuing our discussion on how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) helps the body remain balanced, specifically within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and immune system. Did you know 70% of the immune system is found in the GI tract, and that the ECS is integral to the normal development of GI tract motility? In addition, the balance the ECS always strives for has significant homeostatic effects on the immune system. Supporting the normal functions of that system with hemp supplements, a healthy diet and regular exercise, ensures your pet remains balanced and happy. 

The Immune System

The immune system, like the endocannabinoid system, is quite complex in action, yet simplistic in function. And like the ECS, the immune system functions relatively the same between species. Immune systems aim to protect the body from all things and do this by incorporating three key types of immunity: physical barriers (skin, mucous membranes), innate immunity (certain white blood cells and their responses which are present at birth) and adaptive immunity (responses based on exposure to threats, whether perceived or real). They enlist the help of chemical messengers (interleukins), entire cell lines (immunoglobulins, white blood cells), and organs (spleen, thymus, GI tract) in order to protect the body from harm. When harm does occur, these same helpers go into overdrive, helping the body return to a healthful homeostasis.  

Adaptive immunity is perhaps the most familiar aspect of the immune system as it deals with microbial exposure, which triggers a cascade of cellular events starting with chemical messenger release and culminating in memory cell formation. Interleukins alert the body that an invader is present, while memory cells help the body mount an appropriate immune response should exposure occur in the future. It is during this process that antibodies are made, either via vaccination or actual exposure to microbes.

When balanced, this system may produce mild fevers and malaise as the body defends itself with adaptive immune responses, a very active process. If unbalanced, responses from initial or subsequent exposure can be inappropriate relative to the inciting factor. Allergic responses are an example of an unbalanced state, whereas mild fevers in kittens during their first exposure to common upper respiratory tract viruses indicate a balanced healthy immune response. 

Innate immunity is essentially the inflammatory responses which help the body repair minor damage like bruising and lacerations, and their associated mild/superficial infections. Inflammation ensures delivery of white blood cells specializing in eating or otherwise destroying invaders and dead tissues. When your puppy barrels around the corner, playing chase with your human child, and catches his hip on the hallway corner, innate immunity immediately goes into effect. Interleukins again alert the body something is awry and the acute inflammatory cascade is triggered, bringing white blood cells which can repair the damaged tissue. The process is clearly visible in the form of a large bruise which fades over time. This too can become unbalanced though there are often a variety of causative factors which result in runaway inflammation (and are beyond the scope of this discussion).

Physical barriers are arguably the most important aspect of the immune system as they are the first line of defense. They are also the largest aspect of the immune system covering the body inside and out. Externally our pets rely on fur and skin, and even ocular tissues like the cornea, to physically protect deeper, more delicate tissues. Internally mucous membranes cover all non-furred areas, offering both a physical layer and an antibody rich liquid covering (mucus) which sheds potential invaders while bathing them in defensive cells.

In addition, commensal microbes make up a large portion of physical barriers, greatly contributing to the overall immune system’s appropriate response. They challenge the immune system on a regular basis, keeping it on it’s toes and ready to respond to more aggressive threats. Lastly, commensal microbes compete for valuable housing space, preventing harmful organisms (pathogens) from colonizing and causing disease.   

 

Gastrointestinal Tract

It is both the liquid covering (mucosa) and commensal organisms (microbiota making up the microbiome) that greatly contribute to the immune system. But the gastrointestinal tract has a few more tricks up its sleeve which makes it the workhorse of the immune system: digestive enzymes which can be lethal to pathogens, extremely large surface area (more than the skin) and highly muscular “tubes” designed to expel toxins quickly (when needed). The GI tract begins in the oral cavity, extends into the stomach and small & large intestines, then into the rectum and finally anal tissues. Along the way, the neurological system is deeply involved, as are the spleen (reservoir for many immune cells) and the gallbladder and pancreas (digestive enzyme excreters). 

Tying It All Together

Now that we understand a bit about how the immune system works, and how the GI tract is included in that system, let’s bring things back around to the ECS. A healthy, normally functioning endocannabinoid system is necessary for the normal functions of the GI tract. It accomplishes this task primarily via modulation of nerves at various stages and junctions throughout the body, including mucosal cells and blood vessels. That modulation occurs via cytokines, chemical messengers like interleukins. 

We’ve learned that interleukins are involved in all aspects of the immune system, serving as an alert system that something is unbalanced, or signaling the all clear – balance is restored. The ECS is also listening to those same interleukins and responds via down or upregulation of cannabis receptors in those areas, whatever the body needs to maintain balance. It does this via alterations in intracellular and extracellular concentrations of compounds like CBD & THC at receptor sites. When in balance, receptors are better able to respond to interleukins and thus to the needs of the gastrointestinal tract and immune system. Supporting the endocannabinoid system with similarly balanced supplements, provides the body all it needs for healthful homeostasis. That support translates into more quality time with your favorite lap warmer or running enthusiast. 

Thank you again for placing your trust in Canna Companion. We continue our ECS Series with the neurological system, the foundation for all ECS actions.

Top Health Tips for Your Cat

Cats are often thought of as solitary animals and low maintenance pets. Those of you who share your lives with feline companions know, however, that they’re incredibly social and love to play and cuddle. This bond between cats and their people is extremely beneficial to both. Here are a number of ways that you can keep them protected and with you for a good, long time.

Nutrition
Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores. This means that they need meat to survive. There are certain amino acids and other vitamins that they cannot produce on their own, such as taurine and arginine, without which they can lose their sight or even die. Other obligate carnivores include axolotls, salmon, and raptors. As a result of their need for meat, there are many benefits that can be provided by a raw diet. First, raw diets contain those precious organ meats that offer the things that they need the most. Second, raw diets tend to be processed less, which means fewer opportunities for contamination. Thirdly, raw diets do NOT contain the numerous fillers that traditional diets do, which can cause weight gain and a number of other health issues.

Entertainment and Exercise

Have you ever had a cat who scratched your carpet, paced incessantly, or destroyed furniture? They’re likely in need of activity. It’s important to make sure that there is plenty for your cat to do around the house so that they don’t direct their abundant energy elsewhere. Do you have plenty of appropriate scratching surfaces for them, both horizontal and vertical? If you find that your cat is turning their back on scratchers you’ve gotten for them, but still going after your favorite chair, it’s time to consider alternatives. The type of material makes a difference, too. Sisal, driftwood, carpet, cardboard, and more are available these days. Make sure they have plenty of options. 

Cats may sleep a lot, but they still need plenty of exercise. Food puzzles can be good options for cats who eat too fast or who are food motivated. Toys that they can wrestle with and kick are often hits. Automated or remote toys may be tempting if you are gone for a significant period of the day, but see if there is somewhere you can try them out with your cat before committing. Some cats will adore these, especially older cats who cannot get around as easily as they did when younger. Others will be afraid of the sounds they make and avoid them at all costs. There are so many options for ways your cat may entertain themselves and for ways for you to play with them. And an active cat is a happy, healthy cat.

Feline-Human Bond

No matter how often people say that cats are aloof and solitary, those of us who share our lives with them know better. Cats bond very closely with their people and both benefit as a result. People can provide cats with a healthy diet and plenty of activity while in an indoor environment that will keep cats (and local birds) safe and healthy for a lot longer. Meanwhile, the benefits of cats’ company to their humans are myriad. They reduce stress and risk of heart disease, they can actually make it less likely for your children to have allergies, they can help you sleep better, and they provide essential companionship. People integrate cats into all parts of their lives and the more we learn about them, the longer we can provide them with a good quality of life.

Bonus

Among the things that people and veterinarians are becoming more aware of are the potential beneficial impacts of certain essential oils on your cats’ health. Essential oils can be used safely in cats, helping provide another layer of immune system support (for wounds) and calming effect (for anxiety), among other health benefits.  Make sure to choose oil brands which source and extract responsibly, and where possible, contact a certified veterinary aromatherapist or holistic doctor comfortable in using essential oils.  Simple steps like placing 1 drop of lavender oil around wounds can assist in microbial control, or petting your cat with blends containing chamomile can provide soothing effects.   

And of course, we are now much more aware of the ways in which hemp can help support your pets’ health. A whole plant hemp product, such as Canna Companion, supports healthy digestion, neurological function, mobility, immune system function, and demeanor. While endocannabinoid systems support is usually not needed in kittens and young adults, mature and senior cats often have a more difficult time adjusting to their new forever home, and hemp can help reduce that temporary anxiety. Kittens and young adults may benefit during times of physical stress, like spay/neuter procedures and injury recovery. If you have any questions about which hemp product is best for your cat’s needs, feel free to contact us

cats

ECS Series: Joint Support

When it comes to the health of your pets, you want them to have the best food, medical care, toys, bed, treats, supplements … the best, period. We believe the only way for you to determine what exactly is ‘the best’ is through education. How can you choose from all the products on the market; which one is best for your beloved furry friend?

These questions are especially true when considering hemp supplements. In an exploding market during uncertain times, everyone seems to have an opinion, but those opinions, while well intended, may not be rooted in fact. In our Endocannabinoid System series, we’ll provide the facts about how hemp can support the body in a variety of ways, beginning with the system’s normal functions and how that relates to mobility during injury (short term support) and the normal aging process (long term support). 

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

By now you’ve probably heard cats and dogs, like humans, have a receptor system which responds to cannabis administration, called the endocannabinoid system. That response can be positive (reduced anxiety during times of high stress) or negative (overdose of single compounds like CBD and THC), and the difference is sometimes a complex thing incorporating individual response, relationships between compounds, health status, route of administration, dose of compounds, and more. But at its core, the ECS is a simplistic receptor system whose sole purpose is to maintain healthful homeostasis within the body.  

Researchers have known for some time the ECS is integral to normal development of nervous tissues from embryo to adulthood, and it performs such actions via DNA-directed chemical release at key times during cell differentiation, division and migration. In short, genes signal protein development within cells, essentially waiving chemical ‘flags’ in front of cannabis receptors to get their attention. Depending on the type of flag being waived, the cannabis receptor responds in a number of ways, all with the express goal of normalising that one cell. Applied all over the body, the ECS helps the body develop a normally functioning nervous system, including nerves which integrate with muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joint tissues. 

 

The Normal Joint

Joints develop during embryonic stages and continue until physical maturity, about 2 yrs of age for most cats and dogs. The structure of joints is made up of a variety of tissues including bone, cartilage, joint fluid, ligaments, tendons, and the connective and muscular tissues surrounding them. Each tissue has specific uses and limitations. For example, ligaments are designed to be somewhat flexible for normal range of motion, but are limited in that capacity so they can support the heavy bones on either side of the joint capsule. Inside the protective joint capsule are compounds (synovia) and tissues (cartilage) which provide lubrication for normal range of motion. Via the same chemical messaging system as above, the ECS helps direct and is directed by the cells within these tissues so that joints grow and develop normally, including changes found in healthy senior dogs and cats. 

The Normal Senior Joint

Nothing can stop the aging process, but having an understanding of what’s going on can allow you to better support your pets’ aging joints, allowing your older cat or dog to maintain healthy range of motion during all stages of life. Normal daily activities, which differ greatly among species, place stress on all aspects of the joint. Twisting motions of chasing agile prey (toys) test the limits of ligament flexibility, and jumping onto / off of surfaces places significant impact on bones, cartilage and joint fluid. Over time, and as genes are less able to instruct bodily repairs, ligaments become less flexible, cartilage thins and joint fluid lessens, making the joint overall less mobile. Does this mean no more feather toys for your small lioness or that you should forgo agility classes for your Border Collie? Definitely not! The benefits of gentle and sustained exercise over a lifetime far outweigh any negative impacts on aging joints; this is especially true when combined with a healthy diet and ideal body condition score

 

The ECS & Normal Aging Joints

Let’s recap what we’ve learned today: the ECS is vital to normal development; the ECS responds to the body via chemical signals; normal joints have tissues supporting flexibility and strength; and older joints have less flexibility and less cushioning ability during impact. In order to respond to the body’s ever-changing needs, the ECS must remain highly adaptable and has developed the ability to make and activate receptors within a short period of time (< 72 hr in most cases). Up/down regulation is not a new concept in veterinary medicine as many receptor systems do this. However, what is especially adaptive regarding the ECS is its ability to up and down regulate using both internal signaling and externally administered compounds. 

We know there are cannabis receptors within joint tissues, not just from current research, but from a developmental perspective as well. Because the ECS is required for normal nervous tissue, and nerves integrate with other tissues like bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons, there must be cannabis receptors within those tissues. Receptors listen and respond to chemical signaling from cells found within and around joints, helping it maintain normal flexion and extension motions. Whenever an imbalance is found within the joint, like a temporary knee sprain, the ECS will upregulate receptors until balance is restored, then downregulate so it doesn’t waste resources. Long term, however, the ECS simply cannot keep up with upregulation signals without external support. 

It’s all about balance.

Supplements providing multiple compounds from which the ECS can choose, are often more beneficial than single only ones. This is due to the complex nature of the ECS and how it serves as a homeostatic receptor system in the body. Simply put, its job is to maintain balance, and it cannot do so unless it too is balanced. In this case, cannabis receptors appear balanced when the primary endocannabinoids (anandamide & 2-AG) or their external phytocannabinoid counterparts (THC & CBD), are also in balance.  Currently it appears ratios of 1:1 – 10:1 provide the ECS with compounds which allow maintenance of normal functions without unbalancing itself. Furthermore, because we want to avoid dysphoria (“high” from THC) and liver value elevation (from excess CBD), ratios CBD:THC 3:1-7:1 are preferable in cats and dogs. Using small amounts of both compounds also allows for lower doses, lessening the risk of minor adverse effects like mild sedation and soft stool. 

How does this apply to long term ECS support and normal aging joints? If we want to offer the best support possible so that it can better maintain joint homeostasis, we need to provide compounds in ratios and amounts the ECS can use without unbalancing itself. Signaling from normal older joints occurs more frequently and with more “oomph” than in normal adult joints, putting more strain on the ECS internal reserves. Less flexible ligaments send signals indicating a less balanced state and the ECS responds, encouraging more normal joint mobility as a result. The same happens with worn cartilage and the signals it sends out, and with all other joint-related tissues. When you administer a low dose, multicompound, CBD-rich external source of phytocannabinoids, the ECS can more quickly respond to joints, and you can rest assured your beloved senior friend can chase her prey and run his trial in comfort for a bit longer. 

 

We look forward to continuing your ECS education in our next segment: GI Tract and Immune System Support.

Pet Guardianship Responsibility

When I was in college, I called my roommate one day to let her know I was on my way back from my weekend visit at home and to ask her to pick up some kitten food. “We have cat food,” she replied. I repeated my request and she said, “What have you done?” What I had done was to pick up a kitten out of a feral colony that lived in the neighborhood. She was from a litter of only two, her sibling had died, and her mom was sick. I was sure I could handle this. There are a lot of things that you should consider before adding a new animal to your household. I considered precisely none of these when I first brought Foxfire home.

Over a decade later, when I brought Tori home, it was after over a year of research into whether I was able to provide a household appropriate for her needs. Among the things that I learned during that time was the fact that the most common reason corgis are surrendered to shelters is behavior. People often get corgis because they’re cute and they give no thought to the fact that they are high energy, stubborn, herding dogs. When things don’t work out, everyone is unhappy, including the animal who is frequently surrendered or rehomed. Today we’re going to discuss some of the many things that you should look into and prepare for before you welcome a new pet into your life.

Tori modeled for our Extra Strength Medium Dog packaging.

 

Different animals have vastly different needs, but they all need veterinary care. If you already have animals in your house, consider speaking to the veterinarian you take them to for information on introducing a new pet to the household, but also what type of pet might fit well with the ones you already have. If not, ask any friends or family in the area who they take their pets to. Find out if they are taking new patients, then schedule a tour to get a feel for the place and people. Make sure that you consider how you will pay for the veterinary care for your new addition. Veterinary insurance is widely available with many different types of plans that can help you cover costs. Consider setting up a savings account to pay for any routine care, accidents, or illness.

Cats and dogs have social needs. If you aren’t at home for long stretches of time, it’s important to ensure those are met. Many places have daycare for dogs where there is a controlled environment for them to interact with other dogs. This will also help with their need for exercise. If you are getting a cat and don’t already have other animals at home, consider adopting two together so that they have a companion. Tech is also providing us with a growing number of ways to interact with our animals even when we are away. Cameras allow you to watch your pets, but now some of them also allow you to speak with them, offer them treats, or even activate toys with play routines that actively learn what your pet’s preferences are.

Another critical thing to consider is what temperament you are looking for in a companion animal. If you want someone to keep you company while you’re reading all day long, consider adding an older cat or dog to your household. Whereas, if you’re looking for a running buddy, a puppy and a high energy breed might make more sense. And be sure to check with their veterinarian about how to safely train a dog to run with you. If you have children, you may want to avoid herders, since they can have a tendency to nip. There are so many different pets who need homes, ensure that you’re getting one who fits with the pace and style of yours.

Chihuahuas like Allie Lou prefer plenty of warm place to snuggle.

The floorplan of your home, the amount of time you have available, and even the local weather are all things that you need to take into account. Food, exercise, access to litter boxes or yards, all of these are things that you should take the time to review before bringing a new pet home. Some breeds don’t tolerate cold climates well and will need sweaters and warming beds. Some have high grooming needs and will require a lot of time, money, or both to keep them comfortable. If you have your heart set on a specific breed, talk to other people who own them (either in person or online) and see what it’s like. And take that information into account when deciding if they are, in fact, a good fit for your life.

 

Animals enrich our lives in so many ways. We owe it to them to consider their needs and whether we are prepared to meet them before we make the decision to bring them home. Doing this research in advance can ensure that you and your companion have a long, healthy, happy time together.

Monty, a Belgian Malinois, is happiest after a long day on the trail.

Lilies and Cats

 

Please note a faux lily plant was used for this photograph.

The beginning of Spring just arrived and with it comes a significant hazard for our feline friends: Lilies. While there are plenty of plants which are toxic to cats, we often find that many people are unaware lilies are among them. Beyond that, they don’t just cause simple GI upset like some plants might. Lilies can be deadly to cats.

It is important to know that, for the purposes of this, we are discussing specifically the members of the Lilium family. There are many plants which are called lily without falling into that classification. Some of these, such as the peace lily or calla lily, are still toxic but usually with less severe effects often limited to drooling & GI upset. Others, such as the canna lily or plantain lily (hosta), are non-toxic. 

Pictured below: Lilium (true lily), Peace lily, Calla lily, Canna lily & Plantain lily.

 

Ingestion of true lilies can cause renal failure in a cat and even result in death; as little as a few grains of pollen have been seen to cause this effect. For many plants, we know the toxic compounds that cause whatever the resulting symptoms are. With lilies, however, the specific substance is unknown. Additionally, many plants only produce toxins in specific parts of the plant; true lilies produce their toxic principle in all parts, from the roots and bulbs to the petals and leaves. This is true even in minuscule amounts. 

Example of true lily belonging to genus Lilium. Not safe for cats.

Should your cat get into true lilies, it is important that you contact your veterinarian or local emergency veterinary hospital and get your pet treated immediately. Lily ingestion is absolutely an emergency and should be treated as such; do not wait until the next morning. If aggressive IV fluids are administered within a few hours of ingestion, the kidneys can sometimes be spared. The combination of an extremely low toxic “dose” and the severity of the resultant toxicity mean that we always advise not having lilies in any household where there are cats, including those which are less or non-toxic.

 

That’s the best way to keep your feline friends safe.

First Aid Tips for Cats

We always hope that we won’t face an emergency, but it isn’t something that can ever be guaranteed. In the event that we do, though, a little first aid knowledge can go a long way. It is especially important during times where there is a lot of change, such as the holiday season. There are numerous threats that our feline friends face during this time such as potentially toxic decorative plants, ribbons and other gift wrap, bones from a holiday meal, and burns from candles or Christmas lights.  (Quick tip: keep your cat away from packaging until all ribbons are thrown away in a cat-proof trash bin; bones should go in there too before letting your cat enjoy the festivities.)

The best thing we can do to protect our feline friends in these circumstances is to be prepared

  1. Make sure you always have the number for your regular veterinarian and for the closest emergency vet clinic posted in an easy to find place, as well as affixed to your cat’s carrier.  Consider making this a laminated card or luggage tag, which includes hospital name, regular doctor’s name, hospital phone number and physical & website addresses. On the other side, have your cat’s information: name, age or date of birth, breed, sex, known conditions or special handling needs, and medication/supplement list.   
  2. The Red Cross offers an app which provides first aid information which you can download here. This app provides quick access to first aid information for your cat. 
  3. Have an emergency kit ready to go, and keep it next to your cat’s carrier.  Be sure to include food, water, and other items that they would need in the event that you had to evacuate.  

What to Include in Your Cat’s ER Kit

In addition to medical information, have a minimum of 3 days worth of basic supplies: collapsible food & water dishes, favorite food & treats, unopened bottle of water, security items (soft blanket, toys, catnip), pee pads (accidents happen!) and cat litter box (plus litter).  If your cat eats raw food, always have an unopened package in the freezer which you can quickly grab and place in its own insulated container.  Having a few cans of high quality cat food or favorite freeze dried raw food mix may also be a good idea.

Include a list of what symptoms might indicate ingestion of a commonly found toxic substances like mistletoe, lilies, acetaminophen, and antifreeze.  A cat who has eaten something toxic may exhibit signs such as lethargy, drooling, tremors, vomiting, dilated pupils, and more. Contact your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency hospital immediately in the event that you think they might have ingested a toxin. If you are able, inform them what was consumed, when it was eaten and how much you think they ingested. They may advise you on how to induce vomiting or they may recommend you come straight to the veterinary hospital, depending on how far your pet’s symptoms have advanced.

In a smaller, labeled, container within your kit, include items like medications, supplements, rescue therapies, non-stick bandages, nitrile gloves, and an unopened bottle of artificial tears (great for flushing out eyes and wounds).  Talk with your veterinarian regarding which medications should be on hand for your cat’s specific needs. For older cats, this may include supplies for fluid therapy, preventatives for feline herpes viral flares, and additional support for older joints.  

Multipurpose Supplements 

  • Honey: in the event that your cat experiences a burn, it is important to note what burned them (candle, stove burner, electric cord) and get them veterinary care as soon as possible.  That said, there are a number of steps that one may take on their own first, particularly with thermal burns. It is vital to remember to cool them slowly, as doing so too quickly can cause shock.You can run cool water over the burn or use covered cool compresses.  Never apply cold compresses or ice without wrapping in a towel first. If possible, shave the fur around the burn so it’s easier to treat and monitor progress.  (This may be easier done at the vet’s office after pain medications are administered.) If the wound is not too painful, clean with warm soapy water, pat dry and apply Manuka honey.  Honey has been used for thousands of years in wound care and is safe for cats.  Make sure to cover the burn with a moist cloth when you are transporting your cat to the veterinarian, to keep the area clean and cool.
  • Hemp supplement: the stress of holidays, people coming over or having to travel can be lessened with calming supplements like hemp derived CBD. When supported the endocannabinoid system (ECS) excels at managing temporary stressors.  Your cat’s ECS is in high gear during these times and giving a dose of hemp oil 2-3 times daily should help him feel calmer. If your cat is already taking capsules, you may need to increase the dose or give hemp oil in addition to his maintenance support.  Contact us if you have any questions; we’re happy to help you with your cat’s individual needs. 
  • Essential oil blend or kit: yes, essential oils can be used safely in cats, helping providing another layer of immune system support (for wounds) and calming effect (for anxiety), among other health benefits.  Make sure to choose oil brand which source and extract responsibly. A drop of lavender oil around wounds can assist in microbial control, while blends containing chamomile provide soothing effects.   If you want to learn more, these resources can get you on the right track: First Aid with Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy (great to have in your first aid kit) and Animal Desk Reference II (very detailed).
  • TCVM or other herbal blend supplements: if your cat already takes such supplements, be sure to pack them in the kit.  If not, contact your holistic or integrative veterinarian and ask which first aid herbal blends they recommend. American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s Find a Vet function can help you find a holistic practitioner in your area.  

 

Traveling with Your Cat

Traveling with your feline friend, whether going to the veterinarian or visiting friends or family, can be stressful. It is safest to have them in a kennel or carrier, with soft bedding or a pad to lay on.  Ideally the kennel should be seatbelted in the back seat (like you would a child’s car seat) and many kennels and carriers have a place to secure the seat belt. It is not safe to have your cat roaming freely in your vehicle while you are driving. Your cat could become frightened and dart under the brake pedal or accelerator, possibly causing an accident. In addition, having a free roaming the vehicle is a dangerous distraction. Experienced feline travelers can wear a harness or seat belt harness. It is a good idea to make sure the lead or leash is short enough that if you have to stop, your kitty will remain in the seat.  

Make sure your destination is either cat friendly like these hotels, or that you’ve spoken with your host about your cat’s needs.  In general, keep your cat in the room in which you’ll sleep. Set the room as best as possible to a layout similar to one at home — anything which is familiar will greatly reduce your cat’s stress.  Most of these security items can be included in your ER kit. In addition to providing familiar smells, keeping your cat in one room gives her a place to hide from curious children and pets … and from bolting in an unfamiliar environment.  Just in case, have your cat microchipped prior to travel if this wasn’t done earlier in life.   

Please seek veterinary care as soon as possible following any use of first aid.  They can guide you on next steps and place the whole incident in your cat’s medical records. Take notes regarding what therapies were provided and when they were administered.  This will ensure that your feline friend receives the best care and is able to recover with less risk of additional complications. Emergencies and accidents may be unavoidable, but you can help your cat get through such tough times with a little knowledge and preparedness.

CBD & Situational Anxiety in Cats

Situational anxieties are something none of us want to face. As pet parents, it can make us feel powerless when we cannot protect our furry companions. After all, they look to us to keep them happy and safe. Many of the situational anxieties cats and dogs face are the same, but individual pets and their responses to various therapies can differ greatly — what benefits one may not help the next, especially with our feline friends. The first step in treating situational anxiety is to identify the cause.

 

Causes of Situational Anxiety in Cats

As you can imagine, and perhaps have observed first hand, cats can seemingly ‘freak out’ over the smallest things.  They love their routines and any deviation from such can create a lot of stress. Let’s take a look at common changes to your cat’s routine and how it might cause anxiety. 

  • Traveling by car — to the veterinarian, groomer, or vacation home — offers loud noises, vibrations, and usually a destination low on the list of cat favorites.  
  • Traveling by plane — to anywhere; cats generally can’t stand noisy places and these are the loudest.
  • Separation from preferred humans — applicable year round but especially when humans like to take extended vacations over the holidays.  Your cat loves you and is loath to be apart. 
  • Addition of extra humans in the home — common during holidays and school breaks — while your cat may love attention, sometimes it can simply be too much. 
  • History of traumatic experiences — PTSD is especially common in shelter adoptions, cats with feral histories, painful events, and of course, overt abuse.  These experiences often trigger cats in extreme ways; be cognizant your cat may need extra care if she has such a history.  

 

Fortunately many of these events can be anticipated and thus allow us to provide treatment in advance.  If the event itself cannot be avoided, there are steps we can take to ease anxiety for our stressed kitties, once we recognize their stress.  

 

How Do Cats Show Their Anxiety?  

Many will simply run and hide, preferring quiet dark places which are out of the way from traffic.  You can take advantage of this instinct by providing your cat with a safe getaway including soft, warm bedding, low light, gentle music and the basic necessities (water and litter box).  No animal likes to be cornered so always make sure that your cat has plenty of options for exits particularly around their litter box. This can help prevent anxiety associated with litter box use if your cat shares her house with other cats, dogs or small children.  

If hiding doesn’t ease their stress, cats may over groom, particularly in the upper arms, flanks and tail base.  They may become vocal, either yowling at night or hissing at offending targets. If matters worsen, or your cat is extremely stressed, elimination outside the litter box (urine or feces) may occur.  In the cat world, this is akin to shouting, “Help me! I am extremely unhappy!,” and often won’t occur until after running/hiding, hissing/vocalizing, or even clinging to your side, doesn’t resolve your cat’s distress.  

 

Tips to Ease Your Cat’s Anxiety

We talked about providing safe space for your kitty to run and hide, but what if you’re leaving town?  It is always a good idea to speak to your veterinarian prior to any travel so they may advise you on ways to keep your cat safe and healthy during their trip.  They can help you determine if leaving your cat at home is best vs a cat-friendly boarding facility, or even taking them with you. If you take her with you, check out these packing tips.   

 

If you leave your cats at home, never underestimate the comfort that choice provides to a cat — some will want comfortable beds as hiding spots and others will prefer high perches where they can get out of the way. Warm sunny spots, quality time with you, and music can also help calm an anxious cat.  Make sure a variety of safe places are present for your cats’ needs. And since you’re gone, make sure to leave a pillow case, blanket or T-shirt with your smell on it for added comfort.  

 

If your cat’s fear is something that cannot be avoided, like severe weather or a houseful of family members, consider adding a Thundershirt, calming essential oils (diffused in small amounts, essential oils can be quite helpful for cats), pheromone plug-ins, and herbal cat treats with l-theanine, chamomile and/or catnip.  

 

Can CBD Help My Cat’s Anxiety?

Absolutely!  Let’s talk about how … When we administer cannabinoids like CBD, they support your cat’s natural cannabis receptor system, called the endocannabinoid system (ECS for short).  The ECS has one main function: listen to and correct cellular stress signals.  It accomplishes this task by changing the levels of CBD and THC at the receptor level, causing a variety of chemical reactions which lead to your cat feeling calmer.  In short, administration of hemp-based CBD, can have a calming effect on the mind, and is soothing to the body, particularly when situational anxieties arise.  

Which CBD Product is Best for My Cat?

Developed by veterinarians, Canna Companion offers three different feline supportive supplements, all differentiated by CBD:THC.  When a whole plant product is administered, CBD helps mitigate the negative effects of THC, while allowing THC’s health benefits to shine — one of which limits the sedative effects CBD can have on your cat.  We want your cat stress-free, not a cute little furry lump on her favorite bed!  

 

We typically recommend our Regular Strength Feline capsules as the low CBD:THC supports the cannabis receptor system quite well for most conditions.  Start once daily administration ideally 10-14 days prior to the known stressor, continuing for a few days after the stressor is gone.  There is no need to continue hemp supplementation if your cat is no longer anxious and stopping “cold turkey” is acceptable.  

 

For those cats with multiple stressors or who need a punch to the ECS for high-stress times, our higher ratioed Extra Strength Feline capsules are preferred.  Begin administration as above, and if your cat needs more during times of extreme stress, it’s okay to give either formulation twice daily.  

 

What if your cat will not take pills or you’re leaving in a few days?  Try our Whole Plant Hemp Oil;  with a CBD:THC between the capsule formulations, it’s a great choice for smaller patients and those with strong opinions about capsules.  In addition, most cats only need 1-2 drops (0.05-0.1 ml) twice daily with or near a meal, and oils work very quickly … a few days to onset of action in most patients.  

 

Whatever your kitty’s needs, Canna Companion is here to help. Contact our Customer Service team or schedule a professional Consultation today.  Our passion is helping your cat feel her best no matter what routine changes come her way!

Winterize Your Home for Senior Cats

The days are growing shorter and the nights are growing colder. And as many of us know that can mean more aches and pains. Not just for ourselves, but for our elderly feline companions as well. Fortunately, there are options that can help us make the chilly weather more comfortable for our dear ones. Supplements, including Canna Companion, that help your cat maintain both joint and overall health are just one of many ways you can ease their discomfort.

One of the most obvious options, clothing, also seems like it may be the least likely to work. After all, cats are notoriously fussy about what they will or will not tolerate. Believe it or not, there are some cats who have to wear sweaters year round in cooler climates. There are plenty of others who won’t mind, especially those snuggler cats who burrow under every blanket.  Senior pets are often more slender and need that extra warmth the most. Choose soft material that won’t inhibit movement.  

Another excellent option is to offer a heated cat bed. There are many different options here, but the most important thing is going to be taking your cat’s own preferences into account. If they like to hide themselves when they sleep, try to get something that has a cover so that they may do so. Always look for heating pads designed specifically for animals. There are a number of different varieties available from ones that go in the microwave to electric ones that only heat up when they have weight on them. 

Additionally, even without a heat pad, there are ways to make their rest more comfortable. Elevate their beds so that they are away from cold floors, using stairs and ramps for older cats where needed so they can readily access favorite sleeping spots. Make sure they have access to what sunny spaces are still available. And double check their favorite perches to ensure that any nearby windows aren’t drafty. Doing this can also help your heating costs.

A few final precautions include keeping litter boxes out of cold basements or garages. In fact, there are a number of other good reasons to restrict access to garages. Antifreeze and deicers are both very toxic to cats. A little work and a lot of love can help your feline friend have a safe and comfortable winter.

National Cat Day

NATIONAL CAT DAY: October 29, 2019

Celebrate all things cat and spoil your fur baby a little more on National Cat Day.  We cannot say enough about our love of cats and all the wonderful things they bring to our lives: unconditional love and companionship in the form of fur, purrs, cuddles and the occasional bit of mischief.  Buy them a new toy; give them something extra delicious to eat; or just set aside extra time to spend with them. In other words, love your cat as the human servant you are! That love can be the most powerful tool you have to keep her happy, and recent studies show the bond which develops is no different from human children to their parents. Domesticated cats crave human attention and crave receiving it from their pet parents. 

Often the most effective way of keeping your indoor cat happy is to just lavish attention. Snuggle pet, and play with your cat every day.  This not only strengthens the bond between you two, it also helps you watch out for any changes in behavior which could indicate something is off. Plus, keeping your favorite feline on her toes helps prevent boredom and weight issues from lack of activity, and it goes a long way towards reducing emotional stressors.  If you do notice something amiss, hemp supplements like Canna Companion, may help get your kitty back on track. 

 

TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR INDOOR CAT HAPPY AND HEALTHY.

  1.       An active cat is a happy cat.  It is easy for an indoor cat to go stir crazy if they cannot get out internal energy. There are toys that look like mice, toys with feathers, battery-powered toys with flashing light and sound, laser pointers, toys that move and the simple toys on strings.  Watch what your kitty pounces on most, and get toys which mimic that behavior. Rotate the toys to keep her even more entertained.  
  2.       Help your cat model some of their natural hunting instinct by hiding their favorite treats around the house. Use special cat treat toys which make your cat work to extract the reward thus offering hours of mental stimulation.  Play toss the treat using dehydrated meats and watch your cat skitter down the hallway in hot pursuit. 
  3.       Consider getting a second cat as a companion. Having a buddy to run and play with can go a long way in keeping indoor cats happy and stimulated.  This tip is usually best limited to younger cats who need another set of teeth and claws to play with, or for those extreme extroverts that could tire a toddler. 
  4.       Spay and Neuter.  Always spay and neuter your cats as hormones can be drive them to try to escape outside to try and find a mate.  By spaying and neutering, this added stress is eliminated while at the same time eliminating any chance that it could contribute to the unwanted cat population.  Removing those hormones also drastically reduces some forms of cancer; breast (mammary gland) cancer is one whose risk drops dramatically in spayed and neutered cats.