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CBD vs. THC: What's The Difference

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CBD vs. THC: What's The Difference


In the last decade, cannabis and the various products that come from the notorious plant have taken both holistic and modern medicine by storm with its health benefits. Cannabis has done this in several major ways, from helping cancer patients cope with the harsh side effects of their treatment to giving pet parents a new way to care for their furry friends.

However, many would say it’s the crop's ability to help treat drug-resistant forms of epilepsy that truly let it break into the mainstream — along with it being the driving force behind legalization in many places. Where it was once only suitable for adults to use cannabis to control their seizures — due to the side effects of the high — thanks to research and modern technology, this is no longer the case. Now, we have cannabis products like hemp-derived CBD oil that can help treat those drug-resistant forms of epilepsy without causing a high. This makes it safe to give kids and pets cannabis, and this is fantastic because there are so many places where this crop can benefit health.

The difference between CBD and THC


The reason you no longer have to get high to enjoy the many health benefits of cannabis is that the benefits are not all due to a single compound. Instead, the effects are a result of hundreds of unique compounds. These compounds have both individual and synergistic effects on the body. They individually interact with a group of regulatory receptors in the body that, when activated, promote homeostasis, encouraging stability in the part of the body they are located. For example, by bringing balance to the immune system, excessive inflammation that causes everything from swelling to arthritis will start being alleviated.

For the most part, we can break down cannabis’ therapeutic compounds into two groups: cannabinoids and terpenes. Today, we are talking about the two most well-known cannabinoid compounds: cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), their health benefits, along with what makes them different and the same.

Now, while a CBD company, both THC and CBD have their pros and cons, and this article intends to take an honest look into the subject. We want pet parents and others to have what they need when making important decisions concerning their and their furry friends' health. Whether you’re interested in CBD for yourself or CBD for dogs and cats or another pet, this article is going to guide you into making the best choice for you and others while explaining the differences between CBD and THC. As well, there are traces of THC in the majority of CBD products, and while it is too little to cause a high, therapeutic benefits are engendered from it.



While there are hundreds of therapeutic compounds in cannabis, without a doubt, the two most popular are CBD (Cannabidiol) and delta-9 THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).

The first thing to know about the difference between CBD and THC is one is not inherently better than the other. They both serve important roles in medicine. In fact, while there is one major difference between CBD and THC, they can both be used to treat many of the same issues. They are both used to help with anxiety, pain, appetite, epilepsy, etc.



Both THC and CBD happen to be cannabinoids, and they are abundantly found in cannabis. As well they interact with both CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are the two cannabinoid receptors with the biggest influence on the therapeutic effects cannabis gives us and other mammals. This happens because all mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a regulatory system that spans the entire body. The ECS is composed of endocannabinoid receptors and neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids that interact with them.

Now there is that one major difference. When enough THC is consumed, it will cause a high that can bring along notable side effects. Again, this isn’t denying the cannabinoid’s therapeutic strengths, which for many can surpass CBD’s.

CBD, on the other hand, is awesome because no amount will trigger the high associated with THC. However, its effects are greatly dependent on the synergistic nature of the other compounds found in cannabis, including THC (The entourage effect).

While both THC and CBD offer therapeutic benefits, THC often provides a more immediate sense of relief due to its psychoactive properties. When an optimal dose of THC is consumed, many individuals report a noticeable reduction in symptoms such as pain or nausea. This immediate relief can be attributed to THC's ability to induce psychoactive effects, which may distract from discomfort or alter the perception of symptoms. In contrast, CBD's effects are typically more subtle and gradual, often requiring consistent use over time to experience significant relief. Despite this, both cannabinoids play important roles in cannabis therapy, with THC's ability to deliver swift relief standing out as a notable strength.


Marijuana vs. Hemp 

Both hemp and marijuana are terms we used to describe the two main varieties of the plant cannabis. The main thing used to separate them is the amount of CBD vs. THC naturally found in them. The marijuana variety naturally carries more THC than the hemp variety does. So much so that if you smoke it, you will get high. Hemp, on the other hand, won’t get you high because there isn’t enough of the psychoactive intoxicating compound.

In the United States, as outlined under the 2018 Farm Bill, any plant with no more than 0.3% THC by weight can legally be defined as industrial hemp, allowing for legal sale and consumption in all 50 states. Because the only reason difference between a hemp and marijuana plant is the amount of THC, many experts in the field are recommending we move away from these terms in favor of terms such as “high-THC”, “high-CBD”, and “balanced THC/CBD”.


What Is THC?

When most people think of delta-9 THC, they immediately associate it with marijuana or getting high. In truth, while it’s not the cleanest association to make, it’s a decent starting point. Despite cannabis producing hundreds of therapeutic compounds (some of which are THC analogs), delta-9 THC is the culprit behind marijuana’s high for two reasons. 

First, THC can cause a high because of how it attaches to CB1 receptors, which are prominently found in the nervous system and brain. As an agonist to CB1 receptors, by attaching to these receptors to a greater degree than our self-created cannabinoids can, which overstimulates them, the regulatory response of the cannabinoid receptor is greater, creating a “high” feeling. 

The more CB1 receptors activated by delta-9 THC, the greater the high. And this is a key point, and the second reason delta-9 THC is the sole culprit behind marijuana’s high. While some other phytocannabinoids can do the same — potentially to a greater degree than delta-9 THC — they appear in such low amounts, they can’t activate enough receptors. They can also be blocked from activating CB1 receptors by another phytocannabinoid like CBD.



Cannabis items such as delta-8 and Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) are semisynthetic products, as these cannabinoids appear naturally in just traces. To create these items, manufacturers will take more commonly occurring cannabinoids, such as CBD, and modify their molecular shape to resemble a trace cannabinoid.  

On its own, a cannabis plant produces more delta-9 THC than any other cannabinoids found in these crops, and with modern agricultural practices, that ratio is greatly extended. Marijuana and THC products are typically anywhere between 20-90% THC now. On the other hand, you can find high-CBD products with less than 0.3% THC, preventing a high because there isn’t enough. As well, hemp-derived CBD products — also from cannabis plants — are often boosted with more CBD, which is one of the cannabinoids that block other cannabinoids from overstimulating CB1 receptors. 

How Does THC Work?

The psychoactive properties of THC are due to its affinity for CB1 receptors found in nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and many of the regulatory health effects of the systems are greatly increased. Not only does this result in euphoria due to the system's ability to mediate anxiety, but it can also have positive, non-intoxicating results. To better understand how THC affects the body, we can simply take a look at what the nervous system does to get a good idea.


Innovet Pet Products - CBD vs. THC


The nervous system controls: 

  • Brain growth and development
  • Sensations (such as touch or hearing)
  • Perception (the mental process of interpreting sensory information)
  • Thought and emotions
  • Learning, memory, and memory loss
  • Movement, balance, and coordination
  • Sleep
  • Healing and rehabilitation
  • Stress and the body’s responses to stress
  • Breathing and heartbeat
  • Body temperature
  • Hunger, thirst, and digestion
  • Puberty, reproductive health, and fertility


As you can see, THC can regulate sleep, healing, perception of pain, and appetite. And because of its abundance in cannabis and its ability to activate CB1 receptors to a degree not naturally achievable in the body (causing a psychoactive response that’s intoxicating), THC’s ability to help is often unmatched by any other cannabinoid. However, it’s THC’s strength that also leads to its downfall and many side effects. 


What Are The Side Effects Of THC? 

By taking a look at the role of the nervous system, you’ll start seeing the picture of how THC can really help and hurt. The nervous system is responsible for perceiving anxiety, pain, etc. Up until a point, THC can help reduce that, however, its ability to overstimulate the nervous system can increase reaction to anxiety, pain, and on. 

Then, while there are safe cannabis products for dogs, cats, and other pets like CBD oil, it's important to note that not all mammals are the same. In fact, dogs have significantly more CB1 receptors than we do, making their response to THC greater. So much so that while THC is considered non-toxic to us, it is toxic to dogs and can even kill them. As such, this means giving your dog or any pet any form of marijuana or a high-THC product isn’t a good idea until we know more.


Side Effects of THC

How To Avoid THC’s Side Effects 

Fortunately, there are many ways to successfully reduce many of the scary side effects of tetrahydrocannabinol. 

First, we can reduce the overall amount of THC, which we already see thanks to hemp-derived CBD and medical marijuana products. This can help keep THC’s positives positive by preventing it from strongly attaching to too many cannabinoid receptors, preventing it from creating the intoxicating effects we commonly associate with it. 

Second, when consumed with cannabinoids like CBD, we can prevent CB1 receptors that promote calm when lightly activated from becoming overactive — where it changes their psychoactive effects to increasing anxiety.  

Third, because this system plays a role in brain growth and puberty, we really don’t want something that can mess with that ever, so imposing age limits on high-THC consumption is a good way to work around the side effects.


What Is CBD?

CBD can be quite a confusing term as it stands for two things. We learned above that CBD is a cannabinoid like THC that has significant therapeutic effects on the body. But we also learned that it greatly relies on many of the other compounds found in the cannabis plant to achieve this, one being THC. This is called the entourage effect. 

When CBD is first derived from hemp plants, the extract will contain all the various cannabinoids and terpenes these plants produce. By manipulating the CBD-rich hemp extract to remove non-CBD compounds, you can create one of three products: Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate. 

Because CBD needs the assistance of some of the other compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes), both Full Spectrum hemp-derived CBD and Broad Spectrum are the most popular forms.


Full Spectrum CBD 

Full spectrum means the product contains all the cannabinoids and terpenes naturally found in cannabis sativa hemp plants. The amount of each cannabinoid and terpene preset can vary, but they must be present and this includes THC. However, because the amount of THC present doesn’t affect its status, only a very little amount needs to be included. Full spectrum CBD products are legally required to contain no more than 0.3% THC if they want to fall under the CBD hemp federal law and not marijuana laws. And this completely reduces the risk of a high but can help the cannabis product retain some of the health benefits of THC. 


Broad Spectrum CBD

Next, we have CBD Broad Spectrum. A cannabis product becomes broad spectrum the second an individual cannabinoid or terpene is removed. There are several reasons for doing this. The biggest reason is to remove all traces of THC, as even small amounts can appear on a drug test if large dosages are frequently consumed. Not really a concern for most dogs and cats. 

As well, while terpenes like pinene, myrcene, and limonene and cannabinoids like CBG and CBN have been looked into for their role in allowing the body to better absorb and utilize CBD, THC may overwhelmingly help the most. This means you may need higher doses of broad spectrum vs. full spectrum, which is already more expensive due to it requiring additional manufacturing processes.  

Another reason to create a broad spectrum CBD product is that not all cannabinoids are created equal. Some, like CBD, along with CBG and CBC, have more therapeutic effects, and the goal of broad spectrum CBD is to increase the potency of CBD by eliminating the less effective cannabinoid while retaining the entourage effect. This form of CBD broad spectrum isn’t anywhere as popular as the CBD broad spectrum that removes all traces of THC.


CBD Isolate

Our last form of CBD is CBD isolate, which is pretty uncommon to see when it comes to pet CBD products. A CBD isolate is pure CBD and does not contain any of the other therapeutic compounds produced by cannabis. As a result, CBD isolate effects tend to be uneven, where it really helps with one issue but does nothing for another. This does not occur with full spectrum CBD. 

Then, dosages can be hard to nail down as the blood-brain barrier will block CBD cannabinoids from passing through. Again, this does not occur with full spectrum CBD as some of the other compounds will promote the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to allow CBD to pass through (permeability), which is needed for CBD to have its full range of therapeutic effects on the body. 

This makes CBD isolate tricky to give to our pets since they can’t tell us how CBD isolate is working for them compared to full spectrum and broad spectrum. CBD isolate is best for those who need to avoid all traces of THC due to drug test concerns. Even then, it’s best to combine CBD isolate with a cannabis product that includes multiple cannabinoids and terpenes. 

How Does CBD Work?

Cannabinoid Receptors 

Like THC, CBD is able to work with both CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. Where THC is an agonist (activates) at CB1 receptors and an antagonist (blocks activation) at CB2 receptors, CBD is the opposite. By modulating the shape of CB1 receptors through negative allosteric modulation, CBD can weaken CB1 receptors' ability to bind to cannabinoids like THC, preventing them from overstimulating them. This can allow THC to produce therapeutic effects on the body, but block it from causing an intoxicating high. 

However, this allows THC to block CBD and other cannabinoids from binding as strongly to CB2 receptors. This doesn’t sound desirable at first because overstimulated CB2 receptors won’t result in a high due to their location in the body. However, there can be some undesirable effects from over-activation of CB2 receptors. It can result in too much immune suppression and mediate pain in an unhealthy way. This is another reason we usually want some THC in our CBD products (full spectrum). 

Non-Cannabinoid Receptors 

Serotonin Receptors - By directly activating 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin receptors, research has found CBD can promote a greater anti-anxiety effect than it could if it was just activating CB2 receptors. Additionally, this may allow CBD to better help with issues related to anxiety, addiction, appetite, sleep, pain perception, nausea, and vomiting.  

Vanilloid Receptors - CBD can directly bind to TRPV1 receptors, which when activated, mediate pain perception, inflammation, and body temperature. This means CBD can have some overlapping effects with capsaicin, the spicy compound found in chili peppers. 

GPR55 Orphan Receptors - Similar to CB1 receptors, CBD has an antagonist effect on GPR55 receptors, which potentially allows CBD to prevent overactive GPR55 receptor signaling, which is associated with osteoporosis and cancer cell proliferation.  

PPARs Nuclear Receptors - By activating PPARs (peroxisome proliferator activated receptors) CBD is given an anticancer effect. Additionally, PPAR-gamma activation degrades amyloid-beta plaque, which is directly linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Due to PPARs effect on insulin sensitivity, research speculates CBD may be a worthwhile treatment option for the disease. 

GBBA Receptors - Where CBD weakens the binding affinity of CB1 receptors, it increases the binding affinity of GABA-A receptors, which gives CBD an additional layer in its ability to reduce anxiety. 


CBD can additionally help promote homeostasis and various therapeutic benefits by directly increasing the number of natural endocannabinoids found in the body. It does this by delaying the rate at which the endocannabinoids are recycled by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) enzymes. 

An endocannabinoid deficiency can result in mood disorders, heightened sensitivity to pain, appetite imbalances, and increased inflammation in the body. Endocannabinoid deficiency has been implicated in neurological disorders like epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis.

All this means CBD has yet another way it can help with several health issues, giving the ability to tackle them on multiple fronts. 

CBD vs. THC Influence On Receptors 

Research is showing that CBD works with a wider range of receptors and in different ways than tetrahydrocannabinol does. However, it appears CBD is never able to bind to the various receptors greater than the endocannabinoids. This results in no high and no abnormal feelings. 

This makes the feeling of CBD much more intangible than THC, and why it's described as non-psychoactive (it is but it’s not intoxicating). While many of the benefits of CBD vs. THC overlap, how they heal and what they feel like is very different. 

For example, if you’re feeling pain or intense anxiety, large amounts of THC can very apparently and immediately take that away. But at the cost of a high, that might affect memory, motor control, and potentially cause a greater awareness of the anxiety or pain. If you consume CBD instead, the pain is gradually dulled, still resulting in pain relief. Unlike THC, you or your dog may still feel some pain, but CBD can make it significantly manageable. 

What Are The Side Effects Of CBD? 

While CBD cannot cause a high, and research backs its low side effect profile with studies showing it can help treat certain illnesses just as effectively as some prescription drugs without the harsh side effects, there are still some risks to using CBD. 

Drowsiness and dry mouth have been reported, though at a much lower rate than they are with marijuana products. Another one of the godsends to choosing a high-CBD product over a high-THC product. 

The biggest concern with CBD is its ability to inhibit CYP enzymes, which are responsible for breaking down a large number of prescription medications. While this may sound scary, there are many foods that do the same, from grapefruit to kale. This actually makes it easy to tell if CBD or any cannabis product is even appropriate for you in the first place. If you or your pet are on a prescription drug that warns you about consuming CYP inhibitors like grapefruit, please consult your doctor or your veterinarian before using any cannabis product.  

Unlike THC, the cannabinoid CBD isn’t deadly in any amount to dogs, and giving them CBD has become popular as such. 


 #1 CBD Oil For Pets - Innovet Pet Products

CBD vs. THC for Dogs, Cats, Horses, and Others

Choosing the best cannabis product for yourself can come with some challenges if both CBD and THC-rich cannabis products are legal in your area. However, it’s an easy decision when it comes to our pets. 

At the moment, it is only recommended to give your pet a CBD product that contains no more than 0.3% THC. 

Marijuana and high-THC items are completely off the table. Dogs, in particular, are very sensitive to THC. Instead of getting them the normal high associated with THC, it can cause a dog to fall into a drunken stupor, leading them to become very ill. And while very rare, extremely high levels of THC can kill them. Small breed dogs and puppies are particularly at risk of this happening. 

The small levels of THC found in legal high-CBD items are completely safe for all mammals and will likely bring some additional therapeutic support. 

CBD For Pets and Pet Parents

Where at times we just focused on the health benefits of CBD for humans, CBD can just as much help our pet out as it does us. 

Many pet owners, including all of us at Innovet Pet, have personally seen CBD help with a myriad of issues. It’s helped some of our best furry friends when they were going through cancer treatments. For our dogs, Gordon and Pearl, CBD has also been a big help in reducing their fear and anxiety during fireworks and thunderstorms. Then we’ve heard from thousands of others who have seen CBD help their furry friends with arthritis, epilepsy, pain (both chronic pain and temporary pain), and so on. 

In multiple surveys, a majority of pet parents said CBD improved their dog’s condition with anxiety, stress, joint pain, and inflammation being touted as the biggest reasons they gave their dogs CBD. 

CBD for pets comes in pretty similar forms as CBD for humans does. As well, the medical benefits of CBD are the same for dogs, cats, and us. There are pet CBD oils that completely resemble the ones we take. And you still have CBD snack options like CBD dog treats. 

Buying Legal CBD, CBD Treats, And Others

Because different parts of the plant cannabis are legal while others are still illegal, along with THC for dogs being dangerous in high amounts, finding the right CBD oil for dogs can seem daunting. That’s why we are here to help walk you through choosing a high-quality CBD product for your pet.



    • Certificate of Analysis (COA): First, in many states, a high-CBD product is only legal when it has no more than 0.3% THC. As well, this amount ensures it is safe for dogs and cats who are more sensitive to THC. Because of this importance, a great CBD company will always provide a Certificate of Analysis (COA). This is awarded to a company that has had their CBD oil extract tested by an independent lab for potency and accuracy. Not only ensure the CBD product is safe and legal, but that it contains the accurate amount of cannabidiol advertised. 
    • Mother Nature Approved: Second, you always want your CBD product derived from non-GMO, organically-grown cannabis plants. In most cases, those crops are hemp. However, a legal CBD product can be derived from marijuana as long as the product itself contains the legally required trace amounts of THC. 

    Hemp Oil

    We’ve discussed both CBD and THC, but there is one more that needs mentioning. Where both CBD and THC are taken mainly from the flowers and leaves, the seeds can be used to create their own unique product. Meet hemp oil, sometimes called hempseed oil. 

    Rich in protein, a perfect ratio of omega fatty acids, and antioxidants, hemp oil makes its appearance in a variety of healthcare products, from skincare items to even CBD products, where it helps promote absorption of the cannabinoids and terpenes that are fat-soluble. Hemp seeds are largely absent from cannabinoids like THC and CBD, but they still have great health benefits and have no intoxicating effects.

#1 CBD Oil For Pets - Innovet Pet

Final Words

So which is better for you, CBD or THC? In truth, both are incredible compounds that have a world of benefits for health that we’re still discovering so much about. But just because they both can improve health conditions doesn’t mean they should be used irresponsibly. 

So while we can use marijuana and high-THC products responsibly, it’s currently off the table for our pets. THC for dogs can be particularly dangerous, as they are significantly more sensitive to it. This means giving your dog marijuana is off the table. 

However, that doesn’t mean all cannabis items are unsafe by far because CBD for dogs and other pets is A-OK! CBD for pets has been an incredible tool for many pet owners, giving them the ability to care for their pets’ health to a greater extent. Pet parents all around can rejoice! 

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