Cannabis dog-treat makers barking up the right tree
Even for a puppy, Kat Donatello’s black Labrador, Austin, was hyperactive. After experimenting with natural supplements on her older dog, Donatello slipped a special biscuit to Austin. “It just kind of took the edge off of him,” she recalled.
The treat contained Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, a chemical compound extracted from the marijuana plant.
The CBD supplements were expensive, and options for pet treats were limited, Donatello said. “So I started spending my winters baking dog biscuits.” She tinkered with the recipe before launching her CBD-laced biscuit company earlier this year.
Austin + Kat, along with Therabis and Treatibles, are among several Cannabidiol-for-dogs businesses that have popped up in the past two years, a period during which CBD pet product sales nationwide doubled, according to data kept by cannabis industry analytics firm MJ Freeway. It’s the newest trend in America’s booming half-billion-dollar animal supplements market, which is expected to grow by more than $150 million in the next four years.
CBD is one of more than 80 active cannabinoid chemicals in marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t create a euphoric sensation. In other words, these biscuits won’t get your dog high. But there is debate as to what effect the compound has on furry friends and whether they should be consuming it at all.
Academic research about CBD’s affect on animals is nearly nonexistent, and the Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana use in animals. Still, some veterinarians recommend its use, and producers say pet stores are beginning to carry CBD treats. Treatibles is in talks for its products to be sold at a big-box pet store, though an executive wouldn’t reveal which one as the deal is pending.
Veterinarians views on the supplement vary. Asked about CBD’s effectiveness on dogs, Robert Goggs of Cornell University said there is “virtually no evidence in the veterinary literature.”
Veterinarians Robert Silver and Gary Richter recently hosted a course on the cannabis learning website Green Flower titled the “Cannabis for Pets Masterclass.” Contacted by phone, Richter said scholarly literature is lacking.
“A lot of what we’re using is extrapolated data from humans, as well as just realworld experience on what works,” he explained. If it works for humans, he argued, it could work for dogs.
In lieu of research, the CBD-for-dogs industry cites supportive veterinarians and customer testimonials as evidence of the products’ effectiveness. On the website for Treatibles, which makes edible hemp products for animals, an October interview with the owner of a mixed-breed pup named Shelby described how the dog, plagued with anxiety and fear, settled down after eating a Treatibles product.
Treatibles founder Julianna Carella said sales have exploded “like wildfire” over the past two years. “I’m not surprised at all,” Carella said. “There’s so many pet owners that would do just about anything to relieve their animals suffering.”
Since February, Therabis has seen revenue quadruple, with sales growing 30 percent month-over-month, according to Joe Hodas, chief marketing officer of Therabis’s parent company, Colorado-based Dixie Brands.