Tony Reeves

Medically Reviewed By

Piet Hellemans, DVM
Veterinarian & Veterinary Consultant

The term endocannabinoid system has become quite popular in recent times. It has gained extensive interest and popularity on the internet, social media, and across people from various walks of life.

But still, there persists some obscurity with this concept.

Why? Is it because we did not study the endocannabinoid system in school? But we did study human body systems such as the reproductive, respiratory, skeletal, excretory systems, etc. Why not the ECS?

Or did our science textbooks skip printing chapters on the endocannabinoid system?

Well, the answer is simple. Although the ECS exists in most species, we know about such a complex system only by the 20th century. Thanks to the plant that led to its discovery. Since then, significant inventions on cannabinoid science and its role in the mammalian body began to gain momentum.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) helps to maintain homeostasis in the body. It is a complex set of actions that help the body to attain homeostasis naturally. That is why research continues to progress to understand its regulatory functions.

This article could help you capture a fair idea about the profound role of ECS and its components. And also to understand the functional role of ECS in pets. 

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Who discovered the endocannabinoid system?

Three researchers at the Hebrew University, Raphael Mechoulam, William Devane, and Lumir Hanus, discovered the endogenous cannabinoids and receptors. 

Experiments on individual cannabinoids began in the early 1940s and 1950s. But, Raphael Mechoulam and his team’s contribution to molecular pharmacology was indeed a breakthrough.

What is the Endocannabinoid system and what is its role?

The endocannabinoid system is also called the endogenous cannabinoid system. The endocannabinoids are molecules made from within the body. It is one of the critical systems similar to our immune system, hormone system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, etc, and is engaged in maintaining health.

The three parts of the ECS are:

  • Cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) 
  • The endogenous ligands or a group of cannabinoid molecules placed in different cellular areas across the body
  • Enzymes for synthesis, reuptake, and metabolism

The role of the ECS is more like a chemical bridge that connects the body and the mind. It helps modulate and regulate homeostasis and brings about a dynamic state of balance within the body. And homeostasis is the most critical concept without which there is no health. 

The complexity in understanding the endocannabinoid system could be because of the involvement of mind and body. This mechanism explains the relationship between the activities of the brain activity and states of physical health. While matters concerning the body could fall under the purview of science and clinical research, the concept of mind extends beyond science.

What animals have an endocannabinoid system?

Research has identified the presence of ECS in most animals as well as its role in the neuromodulator system. In particular, its role in carrying out several brain functions such as learning, memory, mood, reproduction, eating, sleeping, creative generative, and degenerative processes. 

Therefore, fish, reptiles, earthworms, amphibians, birds, and mammals, except insects, have an endocannabinoid system. 

What does the Endocannabinoid system do?

The primary function of the ECS system is the modulatory role it plays in regulating homeostasis in the body. Therefore the endocannabinoids exert their actions throughout the body: brain, organs, connective tissues, immune cells. 

They enable seamless communication and coordination between cells and the various organs and tissues. They perform different tasks and help the body attain homeostasis naturally. 

Furthermore, irrespective of fluctuations in the external environment, the ECS helps maintain a stable internal environment (inside the body). Further, extending its positive influence on mood, behavior, humor, creativity, relationships, etc because of its role in the neurogenesis processes. 

On the whole, we now have an overview of the endocannabinoid system and its functions in animal and human physiology. But the vagueness in terms of its specificity of actions needs to be clarified with more conclusive studies.  

The effects of CBD & The Endocannabinoid System

The effects of CBD in dogs are currently known from references based on small pilot studies and university-initiated anecdotal pieces of shreds of evidence only. 

Although pet owners share their personal experiences for small case studies, it is difficult to generalize them.

Therefore, the results of the effects of CBD on the endocannabinoid system in pets is ongoing and inconclusive. But this subject is receiving significant interest in the research domain.

What naturally occurring chemicals are found in the ECS?

  • Endocannabinoids, the molecules produced by Cells and are present throughout the body
  • Anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol ( 2-AG) ( an Omega 6 fatty acid) 

What food promotes the functioning of  ECS?

A healthy diet, balanced lifestyle, and a happy state of mind is all that the ECS is trying to achieve. Although it sounds simple, practically implementing it involves a lot more effort.  

  • Eggs
  • Flax seeds or flax oil
  • Hemp oil and hemp seeds
  • Most of the herbs that contain rich beta-caryophyllene 
  • Essential fatty acids in food and dietary supplements

When it comes to pet diet planning, include a well-balanced diet, quality playtime, and treats that would help you train them and keep them happy. 

What disrupts the ECS?

  • Plastic contaminants
  • Harmful pesticides and chemicals
  • Synthetic substances or chemicals

Wrap Up

The study and understanding of the endocannabinoid system could play a decisive role in guiding us to plan the way we live and what we eat. Though the term homeostasis sounds too technical, mental and physical happiness is all that we seek.

Undoubtedly, this could be achieved only when the body and mind work together. That’s where our pets come in to play to fill our minds with all the feel-good chemicals to keep us joyful and healthy. 


David is our expert for all things concerning CBD and your four-legged friends. Animals often need special attention and care and that's David’s specialty, but he’s also an expert in all CBD topics, so whatever your question, he's happy to help.

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