Cannabinoids and Pets: Promise or Problem?

by Sebastian Krawiec

Nutritional Outlook Volume 25, Issue 8

October 25, 2022



Hemp-derived cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) are rapidly making their way into the pet health space, capitalizing not only on the popularity of the cannabinoids themselves but also the ongoing trend of supplement companies more broadly creating products for companion animals...


According to 2020 data from brand strategy firm Finn Cady, one in four dog owners and one in four cat owners report having fed their pets hemp-derived CBD products. Two in three dog owners and three in four cat owners report that they would do so again. SPINS data states that 68% of dollar growth in CBD in the companion-animal market is coming from the subcategory of treats, and 32% of dollar growth is in vitamins and supplements. Also big: 60% of dollar growth in the pet supplement category can be attributed to CBD...


That is not to say that everyone should jump on the pet health CBD bandwagon. There’s a lot you need to understand about the pet space first.


Benefits


Hemp-derived CBD and other cannabinoids have many potential benefits that compel consumers to buy and use these products. For one, the endocannabinoid system is believed to be physiologically involved in the regulation of many bodily functions, including appetite, pain, mood, memory, inflammation, insulin sensitivity, as well as fat and energy metabolism. Therefore, cannabinoids such as CBD, through activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors, may exert benefits in these areas...


Research on the effects of CBD and other cannabinoids in companion animals such as dogs, cats, and horses is somewhat limited, but there are promising results here as well.


For example, studies have found positive results for relief from osteoarthritis-related pain. One 90-day study published in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association found that 30 out of 32 dogs with osteoarthritis that completed the study benefited from supplementation with the CBD oil product, ending the study with reduced pain scores, improved mobility, and improved quality of life. At the start of the study, 23 dogs were taking gabapentin as part of their pain management protocol. Ten of these dogs were able to discontinue use of gabapentin following the introduction of CBD oil, and 11 were able to have their daily dose of gabapentin reduced. However, among this study’s limitations is the absence of a placebo group.


One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 20 dogs with osteoarthritis found that CBD significantly decreased pain and improved mobility in a dose-dependent manner after four weeks of use. On the other hand, a different prospective, double-blinded, crossover, placebo-controlled study of 23 dogs found that there were no differences in osteoarthritis between groups at any point during six weeks of treatment in that study. This study also saw some adverse events among the dogs, including elevated liver enzymes in 14 dogs and vomiting in two. Ultimately, larger, more comprehensive studies need to be conducted to determine the effects of CBD on these and other outcomes more definitively.


That said, many animals may stand to benefit from hemp-derived CBD and cannabinoid products as CB1 and CB2 receptors have been identified in multiple animal species, with dogs having a particularly high density of CB1 receptors in their cerebellum...


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