Pupdate: Pet CBD Sales Are on the Rise

Pupdate: Pet CBD Sales Are on the Rise

Our furry friends have been sleeping better, relaxing more, and are slightly less anxious about our arrival home from work — at least that’s the promise from skyrocketing sales for cannabidiol (CBD) pet products.

As the cannabis industry flourishes in Arizona, pet owners are turning to CBD as a viable alternative medicine for their pet’s ailments. And with the uptick in pet ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic and the normalization of CBD usage across the nation, CBD sales are only expected to grow.

There's a big difference between hemp-derived CBD and cannabis products which include high levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient that makes mammals feel stoned. In short, CBD for pets is generally considered safe though not regulated while THC is toxic to animals and owners should understand the difference.

In 2020, U.S. consumer spending on pet CBD reached $426 million, according to Brightfield Group, a cannabis consumer data and market research company based in Chicago.

Since humans aren’t the only ones stressing out during the pandemic, pet CBD sales are expected to double in the coming year. Researchers predicted sales to balloon to a whopping $910 million in 2026. 

Felicia Castro is the owner of AZ Hemp Health in Mesa. Her CBD shop sells a variety of pet products, including soft and hard chews, tincture oils, and topicals. She estimates about 25 to 30 percent of her sales come from her CBD pet products.

Hempful Farms in Phoenix also has a range of pet CBD products designed to reduce inflammation, anxiety, pain, and increase mobility.
AZ Hemp Health sells CBD products in Mesa. - FELICIA CASTRO
AZ Hemp Health sells CBD products in Mesa.
Felicia Castro

“With return to work and school outside of the home for the first time in two years, people are going back to work, or they are getting busier, so these pets are having bad separation anxiety when their owners are leaving the house,” says Selena Moore, the vice president of IncrediPets Market, in an interview with Pet Product News. “People are researching [and finding] that CBD really helps with that problem.”

Also, more pets are finding homes where they can pine for their owners these days.

Between March and September of 2020, when the pandemic was in its early stages, the number of foster pets in U.S. homes soared by 8 percent, according to PetPoint, which collects industry data on pet adoption.

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimated that 70 percent of U.S. households, or roughly 90.5 million families owned a pet in 2021. Of those families, 69 million own a dog and 45.3 million own a cat. The number of U.S. households with a pet is dramatically higher than any number recorded since the APPA survey was first conducted in 1988.

Total U.S. pet industry expenditure also reached its highest numbers in a decade. In 2010, total pet expenditure (including food, pet supplies, medicine, and veterinary care) was $48.4 billion. In 2020, that figure ballooned to $103.6 billion.

With more pets at home than ever, owners are looking to the CBD industry for their pet ailments that include joint pain, inflammation, and anxiety.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the effectiveness of CBD in pets because they can’t tell us, the “owners see a difference in their pet's demeanor,” says Teddy Christensen, sales director at Conklin and Chemist Fine Oil Makers, a wholesale manufacturer of CBD and natural oils in Mesa.

Andrew Conklin, owner of Conklin and Chemist, has been making fine oils for more than 10 years and finds their usage most helpful in pets experiencing anxiety and pain, especially for older pets.

“All mammals have cannabinoid receptors in their body, so it works exactly for pets as it works for us; stress, pain relief, and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Christensen. Conklin and Chemist is unique in its oil production of hemp, which is heated and hand-pressed rather than distilled. This allows the body to digest it slower and draw out more nutrients from the hemp plant.

Jean Weldon of Fountain Hills began using hemp chews for her dog Skye, a 13-year-old hound who suffers from joint pain, and says, "I saw a difference in her with a week. She’s always had energy, but she’s been climbing stairs her whole life, which has caused a lot of joint pain.”

The chews were recommended to Weldon by a friend, and she decided to try them. Both Weldon and Skye seem to be pleased with the results and are out for their afternoon stroll.

Veterinarian influence over pet CBD usage has also become more prevalent in recent years. According to the Brightfield Group report, the number of consumers discussing CBD brands with their vet doubled to 31 percent in 2021, marking a significant interest in these products.

With the exception of the state of Michigan which passed a law in 2020 allowing veterinarians to consult with pet owners about the benefits of CBD, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not allow products containing CBD to be sold under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

“Veterinarians cannot bring up the topic of pet CBD,” the Brightfield report explains, “but they can enthusiastically express what CBD has done for other pets.”

According to the American Kennel Club, the official registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the U.S., the benefits for CBD are wide-ranging but most often used for its anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, and appetite stimulation.

The AKC website states that side effects from CBD in dogs include dry mouth, low blood pressure, and drowsiness, and suggests following the proper dosage of CBD to minimize any potential problems.

A recent randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study suggests that CBD may help dogs with canine osteoarthritis, an inflammatory condition that affects their mobility. The study, published in the journal PAIN in September 2020, included 20 large dogs who were diagnosed with osteoarthritis and randomly assigned to receive a placebo or one of three different CBD options over four weeks.

The study found that "CBD significantly decreased pain and increased mobility in a dose-dependent fashion among animals with an affirmative diagnosis of" osteoarthritis.

A similar randomized, blind placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2019 found that a significant reduction in seizure frequency was achieved for dogs diagnosed with one form of epilepsy.

There is sparse data on CBD for cats, so interpreting research results in dogs is sometimes necessary.  According to PetMD, with special attention on proper dosage, CBD is as safe for cats as it is for dogs. Outside of cats and dogs — and even horses — in the forms of oils, chews, and treats, scientific studies are lacking to underpin the benefits of CBD for other animals.

Despite federal legislation on CBD, many veterinarians still provide consultation with pet parents on the possible benefits of CBD. According to Brightfield’s report, which surveyed 1,550 pet owners, 70 percent of pet CBD buyers discussed pet CBD with their veterinarian in 2021, and 85 percent received an enthusiastic response.

As cannabis legalization widens across the country, pressure on the FDA to loosen the leash on prohibiting CBD’s application for pets has risen. But while CBD popularity grows among pet owners, many are still wary of its benefits.

“Anything that they’re trying to extrapolate from human medicine you gotta be concerned about,” says Dr. Gary Thrasher of Hereford Veterinary Clinic, who has been in the business for 51 years. “Getting the right dose is important, and a little more can be catastrophic.”

His interest in animals developed at an early age on the farm in Amish communities in Ohio. He has studied plant toxicities in livestock throughout Arizona, witnessing animal deaths due to overdosage of plant-based medicine that is typically safe to consume in appropriate doses.

One Phoenix-based CBD dispensary, azWHOLEistic, says that pet CBD should be no different from the CBD that humans use for their own nutritional benefit, but simply at a lower dose. The dispensary stresses the fact that pets and THC are not friends and can cause an imbalance in brain chemistry for dogs, and may cause neuroinflammation.

click to enlarge Doga, AZ Hemp Health's favorite mascot. - FELICIA CASTRO
Doga, AZ Hemp Health's favorite mascot.
Felicia Castro

Caring for a pet's anxiety or sore bones is important, but it's crucial to keep them away from our own supply of cannabis. According to a 2018 topical review in the Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, the most common source of THC exposure for pets is their owner's supply. The review stated that the minimum lethal oral dose of THC for dogs is more than 3 grams per kilogram of body weight. The lethal dose of THC for cats has yet to be studied.

While no lethal dose of CBD has been recorded, it's important to keep personal stashes away from curious pets.

The FDA is steadfast in its disapproval of CBD for pets as the government cannot ensure the safety or effectiveness of such products. So CBD remains an unregulated medicine that allows states to determine their own laws; in Arizona and 31 other states, CBD is legal for purchase. However, vets can only discuss its usage and can’t actually prescribe it.

Research from Brightfield Group shows that 90 percent of surveyed pet owners who buy pet CBD agree that vets should be allowed to prescribe CBD for their furry friends. Pet owners get their most trusted insight from local vets, but until the FDA provides further deregulation for CBD, they are finding ways to make it work for their pets.

“Almost all of the medication that we’ve used for years that are now synthetic originated from plants,” says Thrasher. “We’ve gotta be careful, that’s all.”

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