Pets are an important part of many lives. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association from 2018, 38.4% of households have one dog or more, and 25.4% have at least one cat. Not including other types of animals, the amount of canine and feline caretakers amounts to over 80 million households. Cannabis also plays a key role for many Americans. With medical legalization in 36 states as well as recreational use legalized in 17 states, the District of Columbia, four tribal nations, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, cannabis for pets and pet cannabis laws are hot topics.
Pets, Cannabis and the FDA
On a federal level, the FDA has not approved cannabis for any use in any animal. Therefore, the agency cannot ensure the safety or effectiveness of these products. Due to this stance, the FDA recommends pet owners conference with a trusted veterinarian regarding appropriate options. The FDA has not directly received any reports of adverse events associated with animals given cannabis products, however, adverse events from accidental ingestion are well-documented in scientific literature. If a pet accidently ingests cannabis, watch for stumbling, urinary incontinence, lethargy, heavy drooling, vomiting, agitation, tremors and convulsions. If any symptoms are present within 30 minutes to an hour after ingestion of the drug, or sooner if inhaled, immediately consult a veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital, regardless of marijuana legality in your state.
In recognition of the presence of cannabis pet products in the market, the FDA is working to curtail inappropriate labeling. Companies that receive warning letters from the FDA must take “prompt” legal action to correct the identified violations, and are subsequently warned that failure to make a corrective change could result in additional legal action. Further, the FDA and Federal Trade Commission have issued several joint warning letters to cannabis pet product companies who are producing misleading and inappropriately labeled products.
Veterinary Cannabis Laws
Per the new standard, individual states are working to address the topic by instating pet cannabis laws. Florida currently permits pet food and pet treats to contain hemp (manufactured for both traditional and specialty pets), as long as the product does not contain more than 0.3% THC. Currently, only California allows veterinarians in the state to discuss cannabis treatments with pet owners. Recently, Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan signed a bill that allows veterinarians to consult with pet owners about the therapeutic use of marijuana and hemp-derived products such as CBD. In Rhode Island, Rep. Patricia Serpa has introduced a bill that would allow pet owners to purchase medical marijuana from the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries — provided they have a valid prescription from a “certified” veterinarian. Serpa says only those veterinarians who would like to offer cannabis to their customers’ pets would have to become certified in marijuana dosage and various forms of the medicine.
While the pet cannabis aspect of the industry is still on shaky ground, the world of pet CBD products is booming. Sales are estimated to hit $629 million in 2021; the previous year saw $426 million in sales. A new study conducted by CBD and cannabis-focused market researcher Brightfield Group projects $1.1 billion for the market by 2025. The study found 73% of consumers who buy pet CBD also use CBD themselves. It is important to note the critical difference between CBD products for humans and those for pets. Human CBD products are not suitable for animals, and could do more harm than good.
Of the study’s findings, Jamie Schau, who leads insights at Brightfield, was especially intrigued by the influence veterinarians are wielding over the selection of pet CBD brands among consumers. This is significant because vets risk defying the Food and Drug Administration and their State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners when they discuss possible benefits of CBD with pet parents. They cannot broach the topic of pet CBD, but they can enthusiastically express what CBD has done for other pets. “In a space where veterinarians in their majority have their hands tied with limitations not only on recommending, but bringing up CBD, consumers have taken the wheel and started bringing it up themselves, en masse,” said Schau. Another study, currently ongoing, is specifically examining the efficacy of CBD on treating canine epilepsy. Through the Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the AKC’s Canine Health Foundation is discovering via research promising results on dog seizures, inflammation, nausea and anxiety.
Follow the evolution of cannabis for pets, pet cannabis laws and the cannabis industry in general via CannaCon conferences. Upcoming dates are May 27-28 in Oklahoma City and June 25-26 in Detroit. These events are the nation’s leading business-to-business cannabis conferences. Trade shows feature a large exhibition hall with exhibitors from around the country as well as seminars delivered by industry experts. The mission of CannaCon is to grow the cannabis industry by educating cannabis business owners on all things related to cannabis and CBD.