Last Updated: September 2021
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), in 2020, American consumers spent a staggering $103 billion on their pets, up to $6 billion from the year before. What are we spending all that money on? Food and treats primarily ($42 billion), vet care ($31 billion), and supplies like beds, toys, and over-the-counter medicines ($22 billion). What else are we buying for Fifi the cat and Fido the dog? CBD!
If you have visited a pet store recently, you may have noticed numerous CBD products on their shelves, from tinctures to treats to topical sprays to shampoos. Over the past five years, people have become more curious about CBD and what it can do for our well-being — and with that comes an interest in how CBD can impact the well-being of our pets. If taking CBD can leave someone feeling less anxious, does that mean it will work for an anxious animal as well?
PUPPY, MEET PLANT: HOW THE ECS AND CBD INTERACT IN ANIMALS
Similar to humans, animals have an Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system in the body is responsible for building and sustaining health. Its primary role is to maintain and balance all of the other systems in the body such as the endocrine system, reproductive system, and immune system. The system consists of receptors throughout the body and in the brain, which helps maintain the biological balance in reaction to environmental changes. The ECS plays a critical role in regulating a broad range of physiological processes that affect our everyday experiences, such as our energy level, mood, and immunity, as well as how we experience stress, pain, and more.
The ECS involves three core components: Endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.
Endocannabinoids are molecules produced by the body which help keep internal functions running smoothly. Your body produces them as needed, making it difficult to know what typical levels are for each. They’re similar to the phytocannabinoids like CBD produced by cannabis plants. Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout your body. Endocannabinoids bind to them in order to signal that the ECS needs to take action.
The two main receptors are CB1 which is mostly found in the central nervous system and CB2, which is mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells. Lastly, enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function.
Phytocannabinoids are the active chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that interact with a human or animal’s body’s endocannabinoid receptors. CBD is one of over 85 different cannabinoids that reside in the flowers of the cannabis plant. CBD is purported to possess useful medicinal properties, which is why humans are taking it themselves and giving it to their pets.
WHY PEOPLE ARE GIVING CBD TO PETS
In January 2020, CBD researchers, Brightfield Group, conducted a survey on the pet CBD marketplace, and some of the results were jaw-dropping. First, the sales of CBD pet products in the United States quadrupled in 2019 to $32 million from $8 million in 2017. Second, 48% of pet CBD buyers reported that they stop using prescriptions for their pets once they try CBD. 74% of current pet CBD consumers have discussed CBD with their veterinarian, and 80% received an enthusiastic response during the conversation with their vet. That said, a vet cannot legally prescribe CBD because it has not yet been approved by the FDA. 64% of consumers buy pet CBD to reduce overall levels of anxiety or stress for their pet.
What explains this growth in interest in CBD for pets? Over the past 30 or so years, pet owners’ awareness of their animals’ health and well-being has changed significantly compared to their parents’ or grandparents’ generations. The 21st-century pet parent is looking more carefully at what their animals consume — from the food they eat to the medications they take. Because most consumers are more cognizant of some of the negative side effects of pharmaceutical medications, they are not afraid to turn to natural remedies to treat their pets’ ailments. 30 years ago, Baby Boomers likely wouldn’t have taken their dog to a naturopathic vet for acupuncture treatment, a chiropractic adjustment, or hydrotherapy, but nowadays, these treatments are available. Now more than ever, people see their pets as integral members of their family, and they will do whatever they can to keep them healthy and happy.
A holistic vet in Northern California reported that her clients are typically interested in using CBD for their animals’ general wellness as well as some of the following conditions: Cancer; epilepsy and seizures; stress and anxiety; digestion and nausea; pain and inflammation due to joint problems; aging and degenerative diseases; and skin inflammation and allergies.
Once a pet owner understands what CBD is and how it works with an animal’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS), they can have an informed conversation with their veterinarian about giving their animal CBD. Although vets can’t prescribe CBD, they can speak to the potential benefits and make suggestions on dosing. From there, the consumer can begin to research CBD companies and make informed decisions on what products will be best for the companion.
TALKING TO YOUR VET ABOUT CBD
Animal owners rely heavily on their vets to help with various injuries and ailments and to educate them on their animals’ health. With CBD products becoming more available, people are increasingly asking their vets if they are safe, effective and legal to give to their pets. In a survey conducted in 2019 by the Veterinary Information Network, almost two-thirds of the respondents said that their patients asked them about CBD at least once a month.
In most states, if you want to talk to your vet about CBD, you will need to initiate that conversation, because most state laws around cannabis do not address this type of use. Vets in most states can only discuss CBD if their clients bring it up. In California, legislation (State bill AB-2215) was passed in 2018, allowing vets the ability to discuss cannabis for pets without fear of being punished by state officials or state veterinary boards, but they can’t prescribe it or use it in treatments.
When asked about how she manages questions about CBD from her clients, a holistic vet in North California commented, “In terms of how I counsel humans and their animal companions, I feel I cannot do what I feel is best for my patients when our hands are tied recommending CBD. FDA approval would allow us to make sure our clients have guidelines for dosage and someone to consult with, as well as brands that have been confirmed as safe. I have found that CBD helps control anxiety and pain and seems to help dogs be more comfortable as they age. I tend to avoid recommending THC because dogs reach toxic levels at a much lower level than people.”
During the summer of 2019, the Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Janet D. Donlin, wrote a letter on behalf of the 93,000 members of the organization to the commissioner of Food and Drugs requesting the FDA engage in further research of cannabinoids, given their clients’ level of interest in CBD:
“The AVMA is a scientific organization that relies on evidence-based medicine. We support additional research on cannabis-derived and cannabis-related products, so that veterinary practitioners may be better informed about their potential therapeutic uses and potential counterindications. Should this research result in FDA approval of such products, this would provide the assurance we need that products made available for use in veterinary patients are efficacious and safe.”
TINCTURES, TREATS, AND TOPICALS: PET PRODUCTS ON THE MARKET
The best-selling products on the market for pets are oils or tinctures. They are easy for a pet owner to use since they can be given directly to pets using a dropper or spray or added to food or treats.
The second best-selling products are edibles such as biscuits, treats, or chews. They too are easy to use because the format is recognizable (what animal doesn’t love a treat!) and are priced relatively reasonably. For a consumer who is new to pet CBD products, treats are a great way to start incorporating it into the pet’s routine.
Some companies are producing capsules and powders, which you can either mix into the pet’s food or insert into a treat.
For skin issues, there are topicals such as balms, sprays and lotions, as well as CBD-infused shampoos.
TIPS FOR CHOOSING A PET CBD PRODUCT
For humans and animals alike, not all CBD products are created equally. It’s important to do your homework when you are trying to find the right product for Lenny the Labrador or Tina the Tabby.
If you are considering adding CBD to your companion animal’s daily routine, the best piece of advice we can offer is to consult with your veterinarian before doing so. How might CBD interact with other drugs or supplements your animal is taking? What do they recommend in terms of format and dosage? Most product packaging will recommend a dose based on the animal’s body weight. Your vet may suggest a slightly higher dose if your pet appears to be particularly stiff, stressed, or in pain. If you want to be able to easily adjust the dosage you are giving your animal, it makes the most sense to purchase an oil or tincture that is easily measurable.
If you are new to CBD, it can be dizzying trying to figure out what the difference between all of the products on the market is. Talk to your local pet store owner or employee about the CBD for pet brands they carry and why they carry them.
After talking with the pet store owner or employee and getting their opinions, do some research on the products they carry.
- Are the products made with organic ingredients?
- Are the products pesticide, fungicide, and solvent-free?
- Does the product have a Certificate of Analysis (COA)? This is a document provided by the manufacturer that tells you how much CBD is in that product. You want to get the CBD you pay for, and the COA will verify that.
If you can buy a product online or from a store that is not a cannabis dispensary, the product is hemp-based CBD. If you live in a state where cannabis is medicinally and/or recreationally legal, you may be able to find CBD pet products that are cannabis-based at a dispensary.
THE FUTURE OF CBD PET PRODUCTS
Given the growing number of consumers who are interested in CBD products for their pets, established pet companies may look to incorporate CBD into their existing product lines, and new companies may emerge with their own innovative products. SoRSE’s water-soluble emulsion in both liquid and powder forms is easy to incorporate into product lines, and our R&D team is well versed in production from concept to final product. If you have an idea for a CBD product for our four-legged friends or a product you would like to have #poweredbySōRSE, schedule an exploratory call today to get started on your infused pet product journey!