Cannabis dog-treat mak­ers bark­ing up the right tree

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Polly Mosendz

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.

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