Growing pet owner interest in CBD calls for research

More and more pet owners are using or considering CBD pet treats and other products, but to date, little scientific research backs their safety or benefits.

(rgbspace | BigStock.com)
(rgbspace | BigStock.com)

In an industry often awash in acronyms and abbreviations, pet food in 2019 seems particularly dominated by them. Think DCM, FDA and that little three-letter name taking the pet and human markets by storm – CBD (cannabidiol).

Despite its hazy legal status in both industries (see p. XX), CBD is capturing the attention, and often dollars, of pet owners, retailers, manufacturers and, perhaps belatedly, regulators. Consider a new report from Bigeye, an Orlando, Florida, USA-based advertising agency. Of 784 U.S. pet owners surveyed, 17% currently use CBD products on their pets and 42% said they would consider using them in the future. Just 24% would not consider using them, with 17% unsure.

Broken down by pet species, 20% of dog owners currently use CBD pet products, followed by 15% of cat owners. Not surprisingly, younger pet owners (those aged 25-34) are more likely to use CBD pet products, with 29% reporting they do so, compared with only 7% of owners aged 45-55.

All of this interest comes about mainly from anecdotal reports of CBD’s safety and benefits for pets (and humans); the Bigeye survey showed pet owners are most likely to use or consider CBD to treat their pets’ anxiety or stress, followed by conditions like seizures, nausea, cancer symptoms and gastrointestinal issues. Yet, to date there has been very little scientific, peer-reviewed research backing any of the reports or (probably illegal) claims.

That may be changing. Recently, Ellevet Sciences, which makes CBD-based chews and oils, worked with Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., DACVN, DACVSMR, a professor in the department of clinical sciences at Cornell University who often researches pet nutrition, on a study looking at the safety of its Mobility Chews for dogs and CBD-infused fish oil for cats.

Note that Wakshlag is now also chief medical officer for Ellevet. Acknowledging his potential conflict of interest in the study, published in Animals journal (2019), he and his co-authors concluded that “hemp-based CBD appears to be relatively safe in healthy populations of dogs and cats, and dogs appear to absorb CBD better than cats.”

Perhaps this is a sign that companies marketing CBD pet products are starting to see the need to prove their safety, efficacy and claims in step with growing consumer interest.

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