Cannabidiol (CBD) products are enjoying wild success in the pet industry, with sales hitting $13 million in 2017 and predicted to jump to $125 million by 2022. And according to a recent survey by Packaged Facts, 39% of dog owners and 34% of cat owners have already warmed up to the idea of giving their pets CBD products.

So what’s all the hype about? And is it a territory worth venturing into?

CBD ‘treat’ments for pet health concerns

The Packaged Facts survey found that 29% of dog owners and 17% of cat owners bought pet supplements at some point within a year-long period. And while many of these supplements claim to treat physical ailments — like arthritis, allergies, and digestive issues — pet owners are seeking to alleviate emotional symptoms, too. Anxiety tops the list for emotional needs — 85% of dog owners and 38% of cat owners said their pets sometimes struggle with stress or anxiety.

This search for mental and physical support is what has helped CBD rise up in the pet community. Though it can be given in supplement form, CBD is often added to crunchy treats, chews, coconut oil, or peanut butter to make it easier for pets to consume. And there are many companies already taking advantage of the treat trend — this is just a starting list:

It’s not difficult to find hemp-based products claiming to treat or prevent everything from nausea to cancer. But backing up these claims with scientific evidence and federal approval is another story.  

The science behind CBD’s success

The CBD in pet products is derived from hemp plants. And because this CBD contains little, if any, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive element of marijuana — normal dosages have no associated “high.” So use in pets is generally considered safe.

Though there’s a wealth of anecdotal evidence in praise of CBD, little scientific research exists on its health benefits for animals. A few published studies suggest CBD has promise for pets:

However, veterinary research on this topic is still in its beginning stages and awaiting further studies to fully understand CBD’s impact on pet health.  

The legal limitations

Despite the medical potential and rising sales, CBD products technically aren’t legal just yet.

The FDA has taken steps toward regulating food products containing cannabis or its extracts, including health-related claims of such products. It’s still unclear what shape those laws will take and what kind of impact they’ll have on CBD pet treats.

So if you’ve been contemplating a venture into pet hemp products, here are some things to consider:

  • Although states are legalizing marijuana’s medical and recreational use for people, these laws don’t apply to pets.  
  • The 2018 Farm Bill permits the research, growth, and transportation of industrial hemp with certain restrictions. It does not, however, override the FDA’s authority on the matter.  
  • In an anonymous survey, 61.5% of veterinarians said they were comfortable discussing CBD’s use with their colleagues, and 45.5% felt that way about discussing it with their clients. However, veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe or even recommend cannabis products to clients at this time.

Though the substantial marketing potential of these products is hard to ignore, the uncertainty surrounding CBD for pets suggests that treat manufacturers tread carefully, at least until research and regulations can catch up to the trend.