But Your Dog Could Get Healthy
All mammals have an endocannabinoid system, and that’s good news for you and me and my dog Jackson. The EC system, aside from enabling many important neurological functions, also allows all creatures great and small to receive the beneficial effects of cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
But while you and I may enjoy an occasional cannabinoid-induced buzz, when it concerns pets, it’s all about CBD. The first thing manufacturers of cannabinoid-infused medicinal pet treatments want you to know is that their products will not get your pet high. In fact, if you eat them, you will not get high, though some are pretty tasty (we’ll get to that in a minute).
“So, the most important thing is that it does not get their pet high,” said Dr. Tim Shu, DVM and founder/CEO of VetCBD. “That’s probably the most frequently asked question. Our product is a 19:1 CBD-to-THC tincture. We keep the THC low enough so that it doesn’t cause a high, but it still provides medicinal benefits and it provides a synergistic benefit with the other cannabinoids including CBD.”
Vet CBD is an olive-oil-based tincture infused with cannabinoids sourced from full flower grown for human consumption, as well as other natural ingredients. Dr. Shu developed the formulation beginning with research into case studies on the effects of CBD in humans.
“I’d been in practice for about seven years and during that time I did emergency medicine, critical care, general medicine, and I worked with specialists,” Dr. Shu explained. “So, I’ve seen a really wide range of diseases and how they’re treated. A lot of times what I see is that a lot of prescription medications have side effects owners don’t want, or that their pet just can’t deal with because they’re sedated the entire day or they’re out of their minds—just not themselves—and the owners really don’t like this. So, I’ve seen that struggle for owners a lot. I’ve also seen a lot of patients, when they are terminal or at the ends of their lives, owners are trying to offer them pain relief or provide them with something that might comfort them. I’ve seen the limits of a lot of prescription medications.”
For pet owners interested in finding a naturopathic, non-toxic treatment for seriously ill dogs near the end of life, CBD is emerging as a viable alternative for pain management. A tincture like Vet CBD can be added to food or administered by eyedropper in easily measured doses and is ideal for pets that won’t eat treats. Currently, Vet CBD is available only through medical marijuana dispensaries in California, though Dr. Shu may be contacted through the product website to answer questions for consumers and other veterinarians.
In various formulations and formats, CBD pet products promise to help with many common conditions including arthritis, anxiety, nausea, pain, and even skin problems.
“CBD is basically really, really good at one thing in particular, and that is the relief of inflammation. When you go to the source of what it is that’s causing problems in most animals and people, it goes back to some sort of inflamed something or other that causes the ailment,” said Frank Registrato, owner of YourCBDSource, an online resource for human and pet CBD products.
“So for people that use CBD, they use it to relieve the inflammation that’s causing the joints to be painful or some phantom pain that’s been there for a long time. They release the inflammation in those areas, so the brain doesn’t send those pain signals because the brain sees it’s no longer inflamed… It’s the same thing with the dogs, it’s the inflammation,” he added.
YourCBDSource’s cookie-shaped CBD treats are called Sweet Nibbles, marketed under the Benny’s Healthy Hemp brand. Benny, the logo Chihuahua, is a rescue-turned-therapy dog for Registrato’s partner, who is autistic. Both he and Benny are helped with CBD therapy, which keeps Benny “chill.” The treats are available at the YourCBDSource online store, in 4-16 ounce containers retailing from $24.99 to $74.99.
My own dog, Jackson, definitely enjoyed the “chicken soup” flavor, though it was hard for me to tell if he was more relaxed after he’d had one or two. His favorite things to do are eat and sleep. He seemed to like them, though, so I tried one, too. Pretty darn tasty, I must say! Animal nutritionist Kris Otto says she likes them better with a little butter for a smidge of saltiness.
“The yummy stuff is nutritional yeast,” explained Otto, who developed the Sweet Nibbles recipe. “That is a) very healthy and, b) it smells like yummy-yummy to dogs. It makes their noses go crazy. We knew going in that a lot of the dogs eating the CBD treats might be compromised health-wise—that’s why they’re eating them—but they might not want to eat anything. So, one of our goals was to make a treat that even dogs with no appetite would want to eat. Once you can get something to appeal to a dog’s nose, then you can get it to appeal to their tummy.”
Jackson and I also tucked into some Treatibles, by Auntie Dolores, which has specialized in cannabis-infused edibles for humans since 2008. Sweet and crunchy, the bone-shaped biscuits were really good with milk (Jackson had water). Vegan and gluten-free, a 3.25-ounce bag of dog treats retails for $24 and comes in regular or blueberry flavors. They’re available on the product’s website and in dispensaries.
“They’re all human-grade ingredients,” said CEO and founder Julianna Carella. “They’re all really healthy. We’ve got a couple of employees that eat them in the morning as cereal with milk on top. They’re quite good.
“We’ve always been a company that infuses cannabinoids into food products, so that’s really our specialty,” she continued. “Dogs are more likely to eat a treat where they like the taste than a pill or a tincture. So these treats are really medicine disguised as a treat, and it’s easier to get the dog to eat it because they love the flavor. There’s also a lot of superfood ingredients in the treats, so there’s a synergy that goes on there with, like, coconut oil. It has some of the same benefits as cannabinoids do, and because [the cannabinoids are] infused into the coconut oil it bumps up the efficacy of the product all together. There’s turmeric in there, which is very good for inflammation. There’s cinnamon and pumpkin, which are really good for digestion.”
All the manufacturers noted the dearth of information available about CBD products for consumers, dispensary operators, or even healthcare professionals. Carella pointed out that Auntie Dolores provides training for dispensary operators and budtenders, which is essential for introducing dog and pet-patient owners to CBD products.
“We do a lot of outreach with our stores that carry the product. We’ll do trainings so that their employees can understand the product. We’re big on education because we realize that there’s so much misinformation out there,” Carella said. “A lot of times, we have to sift through all that misinformation so that we can impart the information that’s necessary. So the trainings are really important.
“Then we work with a lot of pet owners directly through our website,” she added. “We have someone on staff full-time that answers emails and phone calls from pet owners to help them find the best way to use the product for their pet.”
Now, say you have a dog or pet that’s an extremely picky eater and refuses to be fooled when you try to treat-trick them into taking their medicine. The folks at Mary’s Medicinals offer a CBD gel that is applied via transdermal delivery—just rub a little on the inner ear or any other exposed skin. A 50mg pump pen retails for $40 and is available directly from the Mary’s Pet Shop website or at dispensaries in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.
“Research shows that transdermal delivery is the most effective method of delivering cannabis to the body, as it enters the blood stream directly,” said Graham Sorkin, Director of Business Development at Mary’s Medicinals. “When smoked or eaten, patients may lose from 50 percent up to 70 percent of the cannabis via air vaporization, metabolism, and stomach acid, which is inefficient and makes accurate dosing difficult. With transdermal delivery, nearly 100 percent of the cannabinoids are directly absorbed into the bloodstream.
“Additionally, getting an animal to take a puff off a joint or eat a medible designed for a human palate could be tricky,” he said.
Recognizing that consumers want the same quality in CBD products for their pets as they expect from their own medications, Mary’s took a top-drawer approach to research and development for the gel pen.
“We consulted with a veterinarian in the development of the product,” Sorkin said. “We also used our in-house research laboratory headed by Americans for Safe Access 2014 Researcher of the Year Dr. Noel Palmer to formulate a version of our award-winning transdermal gel that was specially dosed and terpene-enriched for maximum effectiveness in non-human mammals.”
A new product from Dixie Brands, the bacon-and-molasses-flavored Therabis, is a CBD-infused powder that comes in three formulations for different conditions: Calm & Quiet, Up & Moving, and Calm the Itch. Packaged in a sachet with bright graphics, the powder is formulated specifically for a dog and may be added to dry or wet food. A pack of five sachets ranges in price from $6 to $10 for small, medium, and large dogs.
Dixie’s pet products is creating a dedicated website, and the company plans to add a wider range for dogs as well as expand to medicinals for other animals, including cats, horses, and birds.
“There will be an entire section on education, so people can get a lot of good content from there,” said Dixie Elixirs CEO Joe Hodas, explaining website features, “but there will also be a way for people to contact us through the website, so we’ll have a customer service rep who will be able to answer questions, and if necessary or appropriate, connect them with Dr. Katz also. We’ll be selling this online, so [veterinarians] will have access. We’ll also have a wholesale program, where they can potentially sell this out of their offices.”
Dr. Steven Katz, DVM, the product’s developer and an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania, is collaborating with his alma mater to begin a clinical trial. He “formulated the product over the last ten years based on 20-plus years of experience,” Hodas said. “The formulation came from his practice, where he sees a lot of animals; he has one of the largest pit bull practices in North America. He treats animals that have anxiety, skin conditions, and began formulating some products using a base formula without the CBD about ten years ago. Leveraging the formulations culled from his own practice, we built from there.”
Formularies, manufacturers, medical professionals, retailers, and consumers hope the arrival on the market of more CBD-based products will result in increased openness to scientific research into cannabinoids, as well as more access to products for animal healthcare professionals, shelters, and the public.
“We just came back from the International Marijuana Conference, [where] it was unbelievable the amount of energy that was around this product,” Hodas remarked.
“People are interested in it now—so interested that we couldn’t keep up with the number of people asking us questions in the booth. So we know there’s consumer demand. On the veterinarian side, some are predisposed, just as there are in [human] healthcare. There are naturopaths and people who understand how CBD can benefit human beings, and the same is true in the broader veterinary community. We just have a lot of educating to do, even on the consumer side.”
By Joanne Cachapero