You may not realize it, but many users of cannabidiol (CBD) are of the furry four-legged variety. As the market for both recreational and medicinal cannabis for humans is increasing, so is the demand for therapies designed for cats and dogs.
Cannabis products designed for pets do not get them high. They are made from hemp, the stem of the cannabis plant, which is low on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive component that produces the feeling of getting high. CBD is the chemical compound that alleviates pain.
There are billions of reasons why cannabis companies are catching on to the trend. The latest figures show that in 2017, $17.07 billion were spent on veterinary care, treatments and supplies in the US alone. This figure is estimated to rise to $18.26 billion this year. Hemp CBD accounted for 19% of total US-based hemp product sales in 2016, worth $130 million, and it’s increasing. The Hemp Business Journal reports that Hemp CBD was the lead in channel sales in natural products, and declared that CBD pet care products were a “growth category to watch”.
Given the expense of pet medication and veterinary fees, it’s hardly surprising that CBD for pets is something that is gaining traction. In Canada, the medical expenses attached to owning a puppy in the first year of its life average at $710, with kittens costing $621. Given that both animals can have a lifespan between 15 to 20 years, the numbers soon start to rack up.
There are around 16 million dogs and cats in households across the country.
If we look at the number of cats and dogs in Canada, it gives us a perspective of the potential market. There are around 16 million dogs and cats in households across the country, which is driving an annual $5 billion expenditure. Scaling that up to an estimated global number of pets of 350 million indicates a huge potential market to be tapped by companies making CBD therapies.
What’s Driving the Trend?
The gradual acceptance of the medicinal aspects of CBD has fuelled curiosity, and the decision taken by the federal government to legalize its recreational use has helped to legitimize this aspect. While there’s little scientific backing to measure the efficacy of the treatment, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence. This is partly fuelled by the notion that pets have no idea what you’re giving them, or what it’s supposed to do. The remedies either work or they don’t, and the growing consensus of pet owners is that they do.
In some ways, pet owners have followed the word-of-mouth model that has been a feature of cannabis culture for years. There is some evidence to suggest that they have been connecting with CBD producers online and recommending products, which is feeding the trend. Speaking to hempindustrydaily.com, Brian Tasker, Director of Sales for Vancouver-based MYM Nutraceuticals, which makes Dr. Furbaby CBD tinctures, said, “People might have a high-stress, high-anxiety dog, then they give them CBD and within seven days, they’re walking with them. It’s like a different animal. And people tell everyone they know.”
Attracting Big Players
Although veterinarians are the go-to source for medical advice, at present it’s unlikely that they’re willing to supply or recommend CBD products, given the lack of studies supporting their efficacy. However, this may change as Canadian producers are entering the market. CannTrust, a leading licensed producer, announced in April that it has entered a letter of intent with Grey Wolf Animal Health Inc. Established in 2015 by veterinarian Dr. Ian Sandler, Grey Wolf is an animal health company focused on licensing products for the Canadian and global markets. According to CannTrust, the partnership will aim to provide pet owners with “a trusted avenue to support the well being of their beloved pets.”
Licensed producer True Leaf Medicine is also fuelling the trend with its True Leaf Pet division, which opened in 2015. The company reports that it has experienced “remarkable growth” and its products can now be found in over 1,500 stores in Canada, the US and New Zealand, as well as across Europe.