The budding marijuana industry has caught fire as states legalize cannabis use for humans—but the market for hemp-based products for pets has also seen significant growth.
- Damian Fagan
Botanically, hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant (Cannabis sativa). As an example, think of golden doodles and yellow labs; they're different varieties of the same species of dog (Canis lupis). For cannabis plants, the major distinction between hemp and marijuana is chemical.
The term "cannabinoid" covers a broad range of the more than 140 chemical compounds found in marijuana and hemp plants. The two most common compounds found in Cannabis sativa are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Whereas THC produces the psychoactive "high," CBD is considered nonintoxicating. Marijuana is grown for its THC content, while hemp, which is low in THC, is grown for CBD.
"While humans can handle THC—and I say that loosely—pets can't!" exclaimed Kim McCohan, chief officer of happiness for Bend Pet Express. "Hemp plants must contain THC levels at .3 percent or lower, based on a dry weight basis. Anything higher is considered marijuana, not hemp."
Industrial hemp has been grown for hundreds of years for its fibers and seed oil. In the U.S. colonies, landowners could pay their taxes in hemp until the early 1800s, and both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were hemp farmers. Industrial uses have paved the way for hemp to be included in the health and beauty care industries and nowadays, for pet care.
At least by some veterinarians.
"I do think CBD oil can be beneficial for dogs and treating certain conditions," said Steven Blauvelt, DMV and owner of Four Paws Wellness Center. Blauvelt blends Eastern and Western veterinary medicine and has incorporated CBD products in his patients' treatments for several years. "I would say the primaryuse in my practice is for middle-aged to older dogs with osteoarthritis, using a CBD product to treat inflammation and pain associated with that arthritis." Blauvelt also uses CBD products in treatments for anxiety, seizures and cancer.
- Damian Fagan
Traditional vets may be hesitant to prescribe CBD products due to a dearth of published scientific studies; however, a preliminary report from Colorado State University's College of Veterinarian Medicine and Biomedical Sciences study on treating dogs with epilepsy with CBD oil found a significant reduction of epilepsy in dogs.
As the hemp movement grows, funding for research will follow as shown by Oregon State University's new Global Hemp Innovation Center in Corvallis.
Both McCohan and Blauvelt stress that since there are a lot of CBD products in the form of edibles, gels, ointments and oils, consumers need to be informed. "The lack of regulations has allowed so many products to boast false claims," said McCohan. "As a pet parent it might be harder to get these answers, but you can ask the retailer or your vet and they should be able to find out."
Though CBD products are becoming more common, Blauvelt warns his clients, "CBD isn't a cure all or panacea for everything, but I could say that about a lot of medicinal products." Though much of the press for hemp is anecdotal, consumers report improvement in their pet's health by using CBD products, according to Blauvelt and McCohan.