In the United States, CBD usage is increasing, both among pet owners and manufacturers of CBD products. In fact, according to market research by Packaged Facts carried out in August 2018, among those who said they had bought CBD products, the proportion of dog owners who said they had done so increased by 36 percent compared to 24 percent for cat owners.
The increased usage is mainly due to the widespread availability of CBD-based products marketed for animals now more than ever before, including treats and supplements that feature patented product technology.
Many pet owners seek CBD products for their beloved pets because of perceived benefits, even though there is still a lack of hard scientific evidence that CBD-based effects are beneficial to animals.
The Blossoming Hemp Trend
One trend gaining traction in the U.S. is hemp production, which has become legal at the federal level, but with complicated state-by-state regulations that vary depending on whether or not the plant being produced is marijuana or hemp. CBD products are typically derived from hemp, but it is important to note that under current federal laws, CBD can only come from hemp acquired through legal means.
In addition to being marketed for their natural calming qualities, CBD pet treats have been promoted as helping with muscle and joint pain. They provide relief from arthritis and other ailments common among older pets or those who put on more pounds than they can easily manage. A growing number of CBD products are also marketed to relieve anxiety, especially around events like fireworks.
The 2016 National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) found that one in five U.S. pet owners used either a dog or cat supplement that featured CBD oil and other cannabinoids and terpenes, up from just one in ten in 2015.
Nearly half of all CBD-related products were marketed as solutions to ease anxiety.
The Packaged Facts report also found that CBD-containing pet supplements were the most popular (salves, treats, and oils) and, with nearly 60 percent of those surveyed who bought these products saying they'd used them on their dogs. Only 12 percent had used them on cats, but because there are so many more cats than dogs in the country, that amounted to a significant number.
Effects of CBD on Pets: Unravelling Facts from Fiction
But what do we know about how and whether CBD affects the health and behavior of our pets?
According to some veterinarians, positive anecdotes are not enough. They urge pet owners to seek out veterinary guidance if they are considering using CBD on their animals. Veterinarians say that there is not enough research to show how CBD might affect animals — and they warn that sometimes the products might be harmful.
The FDA has not approved any product containing CBD for use in pets, and it cautions pet owners to make sure their veterinarians agree of any such products before trying them out on an animal in their care.
"Veterinarians must be cognizant that there are potential risks associated with the use of CBD in dogs, especially if these products have other active ingredients or additives that can cause side effects," said Dr. Jerry Klein, a veterinarian with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
"While it is true that pets experience many of the same medical conditions as people, they may also have other underlying diseases that alter the way their bodies respond to treatment," Klein said. "We recommend pet owners work closely with their veterinarians when considering CBD for their pets."
Many vets don't know enough about CBD yet, and some are still uncomfortable with its use in pets. Others say they don't want to put their patients on a new medication without first understanding how it might interact with other drugs the animal is taking.
Still, some veterinarians are turning to CBD products, including Colorado-based veterinarian Dr. Debbie Benson, who has switched her dog over to a daily CBD regimen. Benson said that she had seen positive results in several of her veterinary clients' pets since they began giving their animals CBD oil on top of other conventional treatments; they've been able to lower their pets' dose of pain medications or anti-anxiety meds.
In addition, some pet owners have reported CBD helped ease the side effects of chemotherapy in animals with cancer.
Some pet owners also use a hemp extract called Real Scientific Hemp Oil (RSHO), rich in CBD but much lower in THC. This extract has a known safety profile and is available by prescription from veterinarians.