Helping veterinary science turn over a new leaf

By Chris Still

28 June 2018

3 minute read

Australians really love their pets. With around 24 million of them spread across 62 per cent of Australian homes we have one of the highest rates of domestic animal ownership in the world.

It’s an expensive relationship. Taking care of them all costs Australians more than $12 billion a year, with vet fees one of the leading expenses. Arthritis, for instance, affects 61per cent of cats over six years old and 20 per cent of dogs over one year old. Half of our older dogs are affected by cancer.

But for all that money, many current pet medications have negative side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite, depression and internal bleeding. Resistance to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other pharmaceutical therapies is also increasing.

Now pet pharmaceutical company CannPal and working with us to research a new way to avoid these side effects and improve our pets’ quality of life. Central to it all is one of the fastest growing areas in medical science: medicinal cannabis.

Just like humans; animals such as dogs, cats and horses have a biological and neurological system designed to receive and process cannabinoids – one of the main classes of chemical compounds in cannabis. The endocannabinoid system is involved in physiological processes such as appetite, pain-sensation, nausea, mood and memory. This makes it a great choice for combating symptoms in pets resulting from diseases such as arthritis and cancer; as well as other joint, skin, and digestive disorders.

To ensure medicinal cannabis achieves the best result it must be optimised for the specific animals’ body and digestive system. A horse, for instance, absorbs medicinal cannabis in an entirely different way to a dog.

That’s where we come in. We’re researching new production processes for CannPal to optimise the way it delivers its proprietary compounds to companion animals. Central to this will be our patented MicroMax™ technology, a production system that creates a potent powder, containing high levels of therapeutic cannabis oils. MicroMax is a microencapsulation technology, meaning the powder can be optimised and analysed down to the particle level, to ensure the most potent and easily manufactured product possible.

Electron microscope image of a Micromax product

Electron microscope image of a Micromax product

In this case, we’re looking to see if MicroMax is an effective way to mix cannabis oils with other beneficial oils in a way that maximises the amount of medicinal cannabis that can be included, and protects its potency all the way from manufacture through to when it finally gets absorbed in a pets’ stomach. Using MicroMax means it may be possible to determine where in the stomach the powder dissolves, to ensure maximum effect.

This research project was made possible through CSIRO Kick-start program, providing CannPal with access to our research expertise and capabilities and dollar-matched funding to undertake the research project. CSIRO Kick-start is designed specifically to support the growth of start-ups and small businesses that are on their way to becoming Australian success stories.

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