CBD for Pets: What the Science Says and What Are the Market Estimates

With such a great success of CBD in the treatment of human diseases, it’s no wonder that pet owners want to share this healthy natural medicine with their best friends. CBD for pets is getting increasingly popular, and there is a growing need for scientific research in this field.

According to the Consumers’ Perception of Hemp Products for Animals, published in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (JAHVMA) in 2016, most dog owners (77,6%) who already buy hemp products for their dogs use the product for an illness or condition diagnosed by a veterinarian. The most common conditions are seizures, cancer, anxiety, and arthritis. Fewer pet owners indicated they use hemp products for their cat (11.93%), with 81.8% of that number using the product for a veterinarian-diagnosed illness or condition, most commonly cancer, anxiety, and arthritis.

In the same survey, the dog owners reported that the hemp products were moderately or very helpful in numerous areas. The areas felt to be positively impacted by the products were a relief from pain (reported by 64.3% as helping moderately or a great deal); helping with sleep (reported by 50.5% as helping moderately or a great deal), and relieving anxiety (reported by 49.3% as helping moderately or a great deal). When queried about side effects, those reported most frequently included sedation (with a moderate or significant effect reported by 22.0%) and over-active appetite (reported as having moderate or significant effect by 15.9%).

Can CBD prevent seizures in dogs with epilepsy?

We know about the high efficiency of CBD in the treatment of epileptic symptoms in adult humans and children. But what about dogs? When it comes to CBD for pets, there is not much scientific research yet. One highly cited study is that conducted by Dr. Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. To assess the use of CBD in dogs, McGrath led a study with 26 pet dogs suffering from intractable idiopathic epilepsy.

In this study, dogs were randomly assigned to a CBD or placebo group. The CBD group received CBD-infused oil (2.5 mg/kg) twice a day for 12 weeks in addition to existing antiepileptic treatments, and the placebo group received non infused oil under the same conditions. McGrath found that dogs who received CBD in the clinical trial had a 33% reduction in the frequency of seizures. This research, published in 2019 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, is seen as a big breakthrough in the field.

Can CBD treat arthritis in dogs?

In 2016, a group of scientists from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA conducted a study on the pharmacokinetics, safety, and clinical efficacy of CBD treatment in osteoarthritic dogs. Twenty-two client-owned dogs with clinically and radiographically confirmed evidence of osteoarthritis were included in this placebo-controlled, veterinarian, and owner blinded, cross-over study.

Dogs received each of two treatments: CBD oil (2 mg/kg) or placebo oil every 12 h. Each treatment lasted for 4 weeks with a 2-week washout period. A significant decrease in pain and an increase in activity was observed in a group of dogs treated with CBD oil, and veterinary assessment showed decreased pain during CBD treatment. No side effects were reported by owners. However, serum chemistry showed an increase in alkaline phosphatase during CBD treatment. This pharmacokinetic and clinical study suggests that 2 mg/kg of CBD twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with OA.

The finding was confirmed by research published in the journal PAIN this year. In this 4-week study, 20 large dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or different CBD dosages. As a result, CBD significantly decreased pain and increased mobility in dogs. Interestingly, liposomal CBD (20 mg/day) was as effective as the highest dose of non-liposomal CBD (50 mg/day). This presents evidence that liposomal formulations are easier to absorb into the bloodstream and could be considered as more efficient way of administration. In this study, even two weeks after the dogs stopped taking the CBD, those in the higher dose groups were still showing improvement. “This would tell us that the CBD was, in fact, addressing the underlying inflammatory issues”, as Matthew Halpert from the Faculty with the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine, who designed the study, explained to Forbes

Can CBD help with anxiety in dogs?

Although many dog-owners who treat their dogs with CBD report they perceived it helps relieve anxiety (reported by 28.01% as being helpful great deal and 21.28% moderately), there is no scientific evidence for this so far. Recent research using a fireworks model of noise-induced fear in 16 dogs of various mixed breeds given 25mg CBD (1.4 mg/kilo) or a combination of CBD and trazodone for seven days didn’t bring expected results. Future research should investigate the effect of a higher dosage of CBD for dogs above the dose tested in this study.

What could be the side effects of CBD in dogs?

When speaking about the higher dosages, Dr. Stephanie McGrath published a report two years ago, which sheds a light on the possible adverse effects associated with the administration of CBD in healthy dogs. These findings show what will happen to the dogs in case you give them a ten times higher dose than recommended.

In this trial, a group of 30 healthy Beagle dogs was randomly assigned to receive CBD in the form of microencapsulated oil beads (capsule), CBD-infused oil, or CBD-infused transdermal cream at a dose of 10 mg/kg/day or 20 mg/ kg/day for 6 weeks.

Throughout the 6-week study period, the gastrointestinal upset was the most frequently recorded adverse clinical sign. All of the dogs in the study (100%) developed diarrhea, and 6/30 (20%) dogs had single episodes of vomiting.

Furthermore, 36% of dogs developed erythematous pinnae (reddened or inflamed skin of the outer ear), mostly in dogs who received transdermal formulation. Other abnormal clinical signs included ocular discharge in 10/30 dogs (33%), nasal discharge in 10/30 dogs (33%), salivary staining of the feet or ventral abdomen in 5/30 (17%), intermittent, spontaneously prolapsed glands of the nictitans in 2/30 dogs (6%), transient elevated body temperature (104.2°F) in 1/30 dogs, and mild, weight-bearing lameness in 5/30 (17%) dogs. 

CBD for pets: CBD for cats

When it comes to CBD for cats, there is even less scientific research than with CBD for dogs. The evidence of its benefits is considered to be anecdotal for the most part. However, the areas felt by the owners to be positively impacted were a relief from pain (reported by 66.0% as helping moderately or a great deal); reduction of inflammation (reported by 56.3% as helping moderately or a great deal); and help with sleep (reported by 44.0% as helping moderately or a great deal). When asked to report on side-effects, the ones reported most frequently were sedation (with a moderate or significant effect reported by 19.2%) and over-active appetite (reported as having moderate or significant effect by 16.0%).

What could be the side-effects of CBD in cats?

Cats appear to absorb CBD differently than dogs. Single-Dose Pharmacokinetics and Preliminary Safety Assessment with Use of CBD-Rich Hemp Nutraceutical in Healthy Dogs and Cats showed the main adverse effects in cats (the total dose per 24 h period was 4 mg/kg, for 84 days) were licking (35.4%) and head shaking (25.2%). Other adverse events were pacing (11.1%), chomping/chewing (6.5%), gagging (2.1%), vomiting food, bile, or hairballs (1.1%), salivating, drooling, or foaming (1.2%), jumping (0.45%), being uncooperative (0.4%), and grimacing (0.4%). Interestingly, the loose stool, the most common side-effect in dogs, was not observed in any of the cats during the study. 

How big is CBD pet market?

According to the Brightfield Group, a consumer research group focused on cannabis, the US Pet CBD market alone expanded by more than 10 times its 2018 size in 2019, producing $321 million in sales. In 2020 it is projected to reach $563 million in sales. CBD for pets is expected to make up a $1.7 billion market by the end of 2025, driven by more knowledge of and discussions about CBD’s potential benefits, combined with ongoing product innovations from CBD companies. 

According to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc., the global CBD pet market size was valued at USD 27.7 million in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40.3% from 2020 to 2027. The perceived benefits of cannabis, high awareness among pet owners, and preference for natural pet supplements have led to an upsurge in market growth. The benefits of CBD based products in fixing physical and mental issues in pets are driving the market. Pet CBD treatment has been found useful in treating diseases like cancer, anxiety, sleep disorders, and epilepsy. Rising incidences of anxiety disorder in pets, especially dogs, is another growth propelling factor for the market.

How big is the CBD pet market in Europe?

As New Frontier data analysis shows, Europe’s pet market generates substantial income. According to FEDIAF, Europeans in 2018 spent €18.5 billion (USD $20.6 billion) on pet-related products and services. At the time, there were at least 132 European producers of pet food.

However, so far, CBD represents only a narrow slice of the market. In 2019, less than 3% of CBD consumers and less than 0.5% of nonconsumers reported having purchased CBD for a pet or animal. Among those CBD consumers purchasing for their pets, nearly 3 in 10 (29%) purchased CBD oil or topicals; CBD pet food or treats were about half as popular (14%), though on par with hemp-based pet food (14%) and twice as popular as livestock feed (7%). 

Reviewed by Sasha Bajilo, founder of ILESOL Pharmaceuticals, an industrial scale producer of CBD products and formulations. Expert on Hemp/Cannabis policy, member of the Croatian Ministry of Health regulatory commission for medical cannabis.