Pubdate: Fri, 23 Dec 2016
Source: Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA)
Copyright: 2016 The Times-Picayune
Author: Polly Mosendz


Dog treats containing Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, a chemical
compound extracted from the marijuana plant, are a growing business as
owners seek ways to treat hyperactive and nervous canines.

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 last two
years, a time 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 over 80 active cannabinoid chemicals in marijuana,
according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Unlike
tetrahydrocannabinol (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 our 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's College of
Veterinary Medicine said there is "virtually no evidence in the
veterinary literature."

Veterinarians Robert Silver and Gary Richter recently hosted a course
on the cannabis -dedicated learning website Green Flower titled the
"Cannabis for Pets Masterclass." Contacted by phone, Richter
acknowledged that scholarly literature is lacking.

"A lot of what we're using is extrapolated data from humans, as well
as just real-world 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.

Human studies have linked CBD to anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory, and
anti-anxiety effects. In findings presented to the Senate Caucus on
International Narcotics Control in June of last year, Nora D. Volkow,
director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said CBD could
potentially aid those suffering from Alzheimer's, stroke, multiple
sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. Despite the largely positive
feedback in Volkow's presentation, she warned that additional research
on CBD is necessary. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agrees
and hopes to review further scientific studies on CBD.

CBD is often purchased online, which is technically a violation of
federal law, according to DEA spokesman Russell Baer. "Extracts or
derivatives from the cannabis plant are Schedule I controlled
substances-just like the plant itself," Baer said in an e-mailed
statement. "There is widespread illegal distribution of purported CBD
products-regardless if they are derived from the marijuana plant or
hemp plant," he added.

At a time when the nation faces an opioid crisis, the DEA's attention
is not on CBD, and sterilized cannabis seeds can be legally used in
animal feed mixture. Asked about the legality of the business,
Therabis called it a "complex situation." Austin + Kat's Donatello
expressed frustration with the DEA's position in light of the federal
Controlled Substances Act and her ability to buy CBD products at

Silver, the vet and a consultant to Treatibles, said on behalf of the
company that the law is murky and referenced the Farm Act, a 2014
document passed by Congress to reform agricultural programs. The act
mentions industrial hemp research and defers to state laws on
industrial hemp cultivation.

There's also the matter of ethics. Humans can express discomfort
verbally when trying a new treatment. Man's best friend cannot.

"If the proper administration of marijuana can truly relieve dogs'
pain, then they should be given the same consideration that humans in
pain are given, with regular doses to help reduce their misery," said
Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals. "But it's an entirely different matter to amuse
oneself by getting the cat drunk or the dog high."

While the researchers debate what, exactly, CBD can do for Fido,
investors are excited by its increasing popularity, which has been
buoyed by the legalization of cannabis for humans and increased
dialogue about marijuana's medicinal properties.

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

Troy Dayton, co-founder of the Arcview Group, an Oakland,
California-based investment firm, was a skeptic before he saw the
sales numbers. "If humans are noticing in droves all the different
ways where cannabis products can have utility for them, then surely
there will be a massive application" for animals," he said.

For two years, Arcview has been involved in fundraising efforts for
two CBD pet-product companies. Dayton anticipates that additional
capital will follow, particularly from investors leery of getting into
the recreational cannabis market, which is legally murky. "There's a
lot of opportunity" in the CBD market, Dayton said.
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