How Are Veterinarians Approaching the CBD Industry?

Like almost everything in the world of cannabis, treating pets with CBD comes with several caveats. This is primarily due to the lack of clinical trials and steep, sometimes unmerited enthusiasm surrounding promising extracts. Still, the documentation that does exist is positive. Anecdotal evidence is also rolling in with optimistic results. 

Insofar as many of these products have yet to earn any kind of accredited stamp of approval, however, owners must consider some of the risks. 

CBD pet treats prove popular among owners

The CBD boom has managed to find a home in almost every industry. 

A 2019 survey in the United States revealed that a growing number of American pet owners would now also be interested in the idea of CBD for their pets. “CBD supplements are in high demand in human markets, credited with treating conditions ranging from anxiety to asthma,” said research director of Packaged Facts, David Sprinkle. He added: 

‘The use of CBD has crossed over into the pet market, with usage spiking after the passage of the most recent Farm Bill in December 2018, which took a significant step towards separating hemp and hemp-derived CBD from marijuana-based products.’

This crossover can also be attributed to owners’ growing preference for “functional treats,” or treats that offer some sort of benefit outside of just nourishment. Its part of a new wave of dog snacks, says Sprinkle, which offers organic or ‘superfood’ ingredients. Indeed, many pet owners are using CBD oil as a type of treatment for a laundry list of ailments. These conditions are not dissimilar to the human world and include epilepsy, arthritis, IBS, and many others.

This is because animals, like humans, also have an endocannabinoid system which helps regulate the body’s immune and nervous system. The discovery and study of this system along with the introduction of cannabis-positive regulations, has led to a landslide of interest exploring how the plant and Animalia interact to soothe a variety of problems.  

In the various states where CBD oil is available, for instance, some pet owners are even forgoing traditional medicines. This may be due to costs, unpleasant side effects, or simply because conventional treatment wasn’t working.   

In one unique case, a Florida man began feeding his 15-year-old Jack Russel terrier hemp oil treats after it became clear the dog was suffering from kidney failure. Veterinarians at the time even suggested putting the dog down.

‘I gave her every bit of medicine [that] science could give to us,’ Siegal told USA Today. ‘But either I tried [CBD] or the dog would die, and I’d always wonder, “What if.”’ After four weeks of eating a specific brand of CBD-based treat, the had fully recovered, according to Siegal. 

It cannot be understated, however, that very few of these treatment plans have undergone thorough medical trials. In success cases like the one above, the owners took matters into their own hands after only all traditional channels had been tested. 

Still, the pet world is nonetheless raving about anything infused with CBD. 

The team at Packaged Facts predicted that the American pet treat market would reach $6.7 billion (~€6 billion) by the end of 2019. These profits will primarily be earned via the introduction of hemp and CBD extracts into dog foods — regardless of their medical accreditation. 

Veterinarians, on the other hand, are proceeding with caution. 

An extract of last resort

If not for the legal grey zone that surrounds CBD-based pet products, health professionals in the animal world are worried that the enthusiasm may have outpaced real, measurable benefits. The Farm Bill mentioned above helped clear some of the regulatory haze, but the work is far from over.

Still, Dr. Steven Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, reminded veterinarians that his administration had not approved any CBD products for animal consumption. Legal issues aside, however, many are exploring, with caution, how such products could soothe common problems in certain animals. 

Dr. Robert Silver, a practicing veterinarian in the state of Colorado, has cited a specific study from Colorado State University, which indicates that small doses of 2.5mg per kilogram, twice daily has reduced epileptic seizures in certain dogs by 40%. 

Another trial is ongoing at a slightly higher dose, but Dr. Silver believes that if an alternative to anti-epileptic drugs is available, especially a natural remedy, owners should be made aware. 

An even earlier trial in the UK in 2012, also revealed similar results. Conducted by the British Epilepsy Association, they concluded that:

‘We report the effects of pure CBD (1, 10 and 100mg/kg) in two other established rodent seizure models, the acute pilocarpine model of temporal lobe seizure and the penicillin model of partial seizure. Seizure activity was video recorded and scored offline using model-specific seizure severity scales. In the pilocarpine model CBD (all doses) significantly reduced the percentage of animals experiencing the most severe seizures.’

The similarities to the human world are striking for many reasons. Although there has been a handful of promising anecdotal and clinical trials about the potential benefits of CBD; the body of knowledge is still lacking. Meanwhile, consumer demand, driven primarily by a trend for more natural and healthful pet products, has skyrocketed. 

This dynamic poses a unique challenge for medical professionals, regulators, consumers, and entrepreneurs alike. Of this group, one should first expect the medical community to drive research and help form regulators’ opinions via advocacy efforts. From there, accreditation and clear limits can help entrepreneurs serve consumer demand. 

In the latest on this front, Martha Stewart is leading the current charge. She has partnered with Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth to produce “a sensible line of CBD products for dogs, and hopefully cats, and then horses and larger livestock,” said Stewart 

This is the formula behind the majority of successful cannabis campaigns around the world, pets alike.  

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