Cannabidiol (CBD) for pets has remained one of the hottest consumer products on the market, and sales of CBD pet products has grown a whopping 946 percent in 2019, according to a 2019 report by Brightfield Group, from $32 million in 2018. The cannabis-focused research firm estimates the market could grow to $1.7 billion by 2022, driven by the products being available in more mass pet retail chains and supercenters.

This positive outlook is only bolstered by new data proving CBD helps pets. Past studies have shown CBD reduced the number of seizures in dogs with epilepsy and made dogs with osteoarthritis more comfortable.

More recently, a team led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in collaboration with Medterra CBD conducted the first scientific study to assess the potential therapeutic effects of CBD for arthritic pain in dogs.

Published in the April 24 edition of the journal PAIN, the study showed both in laboratory tests and mouse models that CBD can significantly reduce the production of inflammatory molecules and immune cells associated with arthritis. The study used Medterra CBD oil, which is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and GMO-free, and showed that in dogs diagnosed with the condition, CBD treatment significantly improved quality of life as documented by both owner and veterinarian assessments.

“CBD is rapidly increasing in popularity due to its anecdotal health benefits for a variety of conditions, from reducing anxiety to helping with movement disorders,” said corresponding author Dr. Matthew Halpert, research faculty in the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Baylor. “In 2019, Medterra CBD approached Baylor to conduct independent scientific studies to determine the biological capabilities of several of its products.”

Halpert called the results “encouraging” after he reported that “9 of the 10 dogs on CBD showed benefits, which remained for two weeks after the treatment stopped.”

Studies like this one reinforce the value of CBD pet products. And manufacturers are finding innovative ways to offer their CBD products, which can come in the form of oil tinctures, treats, gels, balms and shampoos, just to name a few.

Based out of Washington state, with its main manufacturing plant located in Woodinville, Washington, Grizzly Pet Products has been focused on the development of all-natural pet products for dogs and cats since the brand launched in 2002. Grizzly offers three hemp-enhanced supplements that uses domestically sourced, organically grown hemp for its beneficial cannabinoids, including CBD.

In addition to following FDA regulation in its manufacturing processes, Grizzly is an audited and certified member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), which represents companies that have successfully completed a lengthy and detailed facility audit for the implementation of quality standards. NASC-certified companies must pass an independent facility audit every two years and demonstrate ongoing compliance with regards to labeling, product testing and other criteria.

Like Grizzly, NaturVet is an NASC-audited member that carries the NASC seal on all of its products. Based in Temecula, California, NaturVet makes a hemp product line for dogs and cats that provides solutions for dogs and cats suffering from a wide range of ailments, including allergies, stress and joint issues.

The company has been manufacturing supplements for dogs, cats and horses since 1994, and its team of in-house scientists and veterinarians has helped create innovative products that are manufactured in the United States in a fully compliant, cGMP standard, FDA-registered facility. NaturVet products take advantage of the many benefits of hemp, which contains phytonutrients, antioxidants, Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids and 20 amino acids (including nine essential oils).

Among the brands hemp-derived options are its hemp shampoos, external sprays and hemp seed oils for dogs and cats. Most retailers will point to NaturVet’s Hemp Quiet Moments Calming Aid as being the brand’s most popular products with dog and cat owners. The veterinarian-formulated product features a unique blend of hemp seed oil and hemp seed powder with thiamine, L-tryptophan, chamomile, ginger, valerian, lavender and melatonin to reduce stress and tension while promoting rest and relaxation. The added ginger supports sensitive stomachs, which is important when traveling to a veterinarian or groomer. The product has also been effective for stressful situations, including such noise-related situations as storms, fireworks and loud parties.

Full-spectrum CBD is proving popular in the pet care industry, as it is not limited to just one cannabinoid (isolate), but rather includes other phytocannabinoids (complex) like CBDG, CBDC, CBDV, CBDA and CBDGA, natural terpenes and flavonoids, all bringing an array of additional therapeutic benefits and assist in absorption and bioavailability.

Chris Denicola is co-founder of Crappy’s Feel Better Hemp Co., which manufactures products formulated with CBD, cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN) and terpene blends (only for human products), including a line of formulations for anxiety and pain relief in pets. Since 2014, Denicola has worked in cannabis and hemp product development, quality control, manufacturing and innovation. All of his company’s products are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and manufactured in the United States.

Denicola recommends retailers not get too caught up in the confusion that accompanies full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, THC-free and CBD isolates, which he admits can become confusing. Instead, he believes the ingredients, bioavailability and results  are more important in identifying a superior product. He also values a brand making available a Certificate of Analysis (COA), which should be matched with the product label to help clarify concerns about a specific item. The COA will show the company name, product name, ingredients and volume of CBD. Also be sure to check the THC levels within the product to ensure it doesn’t exceed the legal limit of 0.3 percent THC, as THC in large quantities can be lethal to pets.

Despite that fact, Denicola says there’s great value for pets with CBG and CBN, which are minor cannabinoids that are produced by hemp and cannabis plants. They are not psychoactive like THC, but have benefits that CBD doesn’t offer.

“Specific, bioavailable ratios of CBD, CBG and CBN will lead to better, more reliable relief for dogs without the standard side effects of CBD predominant products like sedation and liver toxicity,” Denicola said. “The addition of CBDV to CBG and CBN has a significant  potential of reducing or eliminating seizures when CBD alone fails or when a dog owner seeks a more natural alternative to pharmaceuticals.”

Describing itself as a small, family- and friend-owned company, Earth Buddy manufactures its line of organic CBD pet products in Denver, Colorado, where it sources ingredients locally, including organic hemp extract. According to the brand, partnering with local farms and suppliers enables Earth Buddy to never sacrifice the quality of its products while maintaining a standard of excellence that is trusted by retailers and pet parents.

According to Earth Buddy co-founder Sean Zyer, the company harvests its hemp by hand and then hang-dies its plants in a temperature-controlled facility to ensure that the quality and purity of the hemp is preserved. The brand prides itself in “using science and innovation to preserve the full spectrum of nature” and keeping “every element in our products as close to their natural state as we can.”

Earth Buddy is not alone in the organic hemp farming sector, and it’s joined by several other popular brands, including Pet Releaf, Holistic Hound and Honest Paws.

According to Josh Awad, COO of Honest Paws, the company’s growing season is typically May to October on a USDA-certified organic farm in Colorado. The company adheres to regenerative organic (RO) agriculture, which is considered by many growers to be an effective way to fight climate change, provide food and keep the planet healthy. Instead of adding carbon to the atmosphere, RO farming draws carbon out of the air and stores it in the ground. The practice that comes with increased costs, but that also “is more beneficial for the environment and creates a higher quality finished product.”

Charlotte’s Web, the Boulder, Colorado-based pioneer in the CBD industry, introduced its first ingestible oil for dogs in 2016. The company announced in August that it is officially a certified B Corporation, which are businesses that have been verified by B Lab—a nonprofit organization—to meet the highest standards while considering the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.

The brand’s Certified B Corporation profile states: “Charlotte’s Web strives to ‘Improve Life Naturally’ by offering hemp-based personal care products. Charlotte’s Web leads the industry it created with patented genetics, vertical integration, superior product quality and a deep commitment to education and social impact.”

Charlotte’s Web is just one of approximately 3,500 B Corp companies around the globe to achieve the certification, which is made even more impressing when considering the fact that more than 60,000 companies have completed the B Corp Impact Assessment since 2006.

Retailers face a variety of challenges in the CBD sector, and must navigate through regulatory ambiguity that varies from state to state. However, the future of the wellness category remains promising, as CBD providers and manufacturers continue to report strong sales. While the pandemic has disrupted the pet care industry on many levels, the stresses of COVID-19 will contribute to the sales of CBD, including those for companion animals.