People love their pets. From specially designed baby strollers to handcrafted organic food, there is not anything that pet owners would not do to ensure their pet’s health and happiness. It is only natural, given the rise of cannabidiol (CBD) as a health and wellness product, that people would turn to the substance as a possible aid for their pets.
In 2018 alone, consumers spent $48 million on hemp-derived CBD for their pets. The Hemp Business Journal estimates that by 2022 that total will grow to $298 million. CBD for pets represents a multimillion-dollar industry, but is it actually effective, or are people just buying into a new health craze?
While some might dismiss the idea out of hand, there is a small but growing body of evidence to support that CBD may benefit animals as much as it does for humans. Cannabinoid receptors are common among most animals, including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and even invertebrates. Thus far, the vast majority of scientific studies examining the effect of CBD on animals have focused on dogs and mice, toward positive results.
In 2018, a study conducted by Colorado State University found that CBD could help reduce seizures in dogs. A Cornell University study found that 2 milligrams of CBD per pet’s weight in kilograms given twice daily could help increase comfort and activity in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. CBD may also help improve survival rates of mice with pancreatic cancer, according to a study published in the journal Oncogene.
Nevertheless, such anecdotal evidence notwithstanding, pet owners are advised to exercise caution and consult with a veterinarian before buying Fido any CBD oil online or from a retail shop. In the absence of any federal guidance, the CBD industry is loosely and unevenly regulated, and there is no guarantee that unsubstantiated CBD is free from contaminants (or even that it indeed contains CBD).
Earlier this year, NBC News investigated 35 CBD products from seven different companies and had them tested at an independent laboratory. Among those samples, 20 (57%) had less than half the amount of CBD advertised on the products’ packaging.
So, what to trust? Though not every CBD company shares their lab results, several pet-focused, hemp-CBD companies do.
King Kanine is a popular brand which offers CBD products for cats and dogs. While it is not prominently displayed, the company’s website features a page where consumers can view test results for several of the company’s leading products.
Pet Releaf also allows customers to view lab results by product type, though not for individual products. Honest Paws is one of the best pet-focused CBD companies when it comes to transparency: Consumers can scan a QR code on the product packaging, or search for an individual product and view its certificate of analysis (similar to many of the top hemp-derived CBD products on the market for human use).
Pressure is mounting on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clarify policies for regulating CBD, and the continued growth of both the pet-focused and the broader CBD markets will largely depend on what the FDA decides over the next three to 12 months.
Last month, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was asked about it during a House hearing about the FDA’s budget, but he was vague about specifics, other than noting that CBD posed novel questions since (during federal prohibition) it was never previously allowed into the food supply.
As quoted by The Hill newspaper, Gottlieb said “There was an intent to provide a regulatory pathway that allowed for lawful marketing of products derived from hemp, including CBD. So, we’re trying to work expeditiously to create a pathway… We don’t have a really modern proxy for where this has happened [but] that doesn’t mean we can’t create such a framework.”
The FDA is slated to hold its first public hearing about CBD uses on May 31.