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CBD for pets grows in popularity as FDA weighs regulations

  • Buffy Boyce of Montpelier treated her dog Russell with CBD treats to treat his anxiety. Seen on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

  • Vermont-made CBD dog treats for sale at The Quirky Pet in Montpelier. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Published: 8/10/2019 9:48:57 PM
Modified: 8/10/2019 9:48:55 PM

MONTPELIER — Hemp isn’t just for humans in some Vermont stores.

At Quirky Pet in Montpelier, cannabidiol — or CBD, the compound derived from the cannabis plant — comes in walnut-sized cookies. AroMed Essentials, across the street, stocks several CBD options for pets, including a joint supplement.

Many of the products are the same as those targeted to humans, a clerk explained, but bacon-flavored.

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is gathering comments from the public about a proposed rule governing products that contain cannabis compounds, many people are sharing not just their own personal experiences with CBD, but their pets’.

And some Vermont businesses are not waiting for the forthcoming regulations to start catering CBD concoctions to four-legged consumers.

Included in the nearly 5,000 comments posted so far are dozens of stories about how CBD has helped pets overcome seizures, anxiety, and arthritis pain — the same ailments some human users seek it out for.

“I use CBD (no/low THC) for my dog with cancer, and cats who have high anxiety (used to be feral),” said Bonnie Altman, whose comment was posted July 3. “I am very thankful that I am able to at least do that and hope I can continue. I don’t use it for myself because I don’t have the medical need.”

“I gave my dog CBD oil in the last year of his life,” wrote Sharon Sloan in a comment posted July 19. “He was able to walk again, smile again, eat again, and stay awake. I believe it took his pain away.”

The FDA is still working to come up with rules for marketing products derived with cannabis, which is not officially permitted to be included in dietary supplements or food. But human CBD users are way ahead of the process. They’re purchasing the compound in foods and personal products in the states where it’s legal in the hopes of treating chronic pain, anxiety, obesity, and an array of other ailments.

And the FDA comments show that people are also forging ahead with CBD treatment for their pets. Several companies, including many in Vermont, make CBD products for animals, usually treats aimed at addressing the same pains that afflict humans.

Buffy Boyce, who uses CBD to help her anxious dog Russell, said her veterinarian helped her come up with a dosage to try.

“The vet said to give it six weeks to work,” said Boyce, who has a business making pet treats and pet apparel. “It calmed him a little bit.”

It’s well-known that the country’s pet market is huge; the American Pet Products Association estimates U.S. pet owners spent more than $70 billion last year on supplies, treatments and medical care for their pets. CBD is very new to all markets, including pet stores, but it is rapidly becoming mainstream, and is carried in some stores of the national chain PetSmart.

“Pets are becoming millennials’ children in a way,” said Will Billings, CEO of the Vermont-based HEMPVET Pet Health Remedies, which makes formulations from hemp that contain other active ingredients and target specific health conditions in pets.

“They are treating them more and more like humans, spoiling them with high-quality foods and pet supplements and high-end accessories,” Billings said. “They are much more willing to invest and spend for high-quality care for their pets as well. It’s a big trend and a big change from the last 10 to 15 years.”

Most of the pet owners who submitted comments to the FDA said they gave their pets — mainly dogs — CBD for problems like anxiety and pain.

“CBD had helped curb my arthritis pain,” said Judy Hoover. “I also give it to my dog who is 20 years old and could not go up and down the stairs. She now runs up and down the stairs.”

As with CBD products for humans, there isn’t much completed research on the efficacy of CBD pet products. The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation is paying about $2 million for clinical trials that will examine the use of CBD for drug-resistant epilepsy in dogs, and a scientist at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has examined the efficacy of CBD for dogs with arthritis pain.

Erik St. Croix, who owns the CBD store Elevated State in Stowe, said he thinks some customers try CBD products on their pets before using it themselves.

“Their dogs and cats are their guinea pigs,” said St. Croix. “People who are timid about trying it gauge their dogs’ and cats’ reaction and that gives them the confidence to try it.”

He added that cat owners sometimes mention they’re using CBD in the hopes it will change their pet’s behavior.

“They want their cat to not be such a jerk,” he said.

He hasn’t seen any evidence CBD is effective in this area, but the store is in a tourist area and St. Croix noted he doesn’t necessarily get a chance to catch up with satisfied customers.

“I haven’t had them come back and say that it relieves the jerk cat,” he said.

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