A lack of controlled studies on the effect of cannabis in animals didn’t stop weed-friendly wellness maven Martha Stewart from launching a line of CBD dog treats.
On Tuesday, Canopy Growth Corp. (TSX: WEED) said four products from its new Martha Stewart CBD for Pet brand — a collaboration between Stewart and the Canadian producer teased in 2019 — were available on select e-commerce platforms in the U.S.
Developed by Canopy Animal Health, a division of Canopy Growth that’s conducted 32 studies examining the role of cannabinoids in pet health, has developed an initial product portfolio of oil drops and soft-baked chews in three formulations: Wellness, Calm and Mobility.
In a statement, the company said the products are designed to reduce the effects of everyday stress, as well as maintain joint health and mobility by harnessing the power of cannabidiol and other ingredients.
With an increasing number of cannabinoid-infused pet products available to consumers, the effects of cannabis in animals is an area of growing interest, and concern, for discerning pet owners and veterinarians. While more research is required, initial findings suggest cannabinoids in controlled doses are safe for pets, and produce minimal negative side effects in some cases.
Stewart says her treats were inspired by the benefits of incorporating CBD into her own routine, and wanting to pass them to her beloved pups.
“My dogs are not only my companions, but they are part of my family, and I prioritize their emotional and physical well-being as I do my own,” Stewart said in the statement.
“Just as CBD can support human wellness, it’s been shown to improve the quality of life for pets as well. With the help of the scientists and veterinarians at Canopy Animal Health, I’ve created CBD oil drops and savory soft-baked chews designed to support the health of dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds in delicious gourmet flavors that your canines won’t be able to resist,” she says.
As one of the world’s most influential lifestyle figures, the product launch and related her statements lend considerable credibility to CBD and its benefits for animals. And while research shows promising potential for cannabinoids in human health, less is known about if and how those benefits extend to our pets.
So, based on what we know now, exactly how effective is cannabis for dogs?
Does cannabis work for pets?
Apart from insects, all animals including dogs have an endocannabinoid system — an ancient biological network that plays a key role in the body’s response to stress. This means that cannabis interacts with them on physiological level, but researchers are still figuring out how and in what doses.
Despite the lack of research, people are widely using cannabis to treat their pets for a number of reasons.
A 2016 survey from Colorado State University showed that nearly 60 per cent of respondents used hemp products for their dogs. Pet owners reported positive impacts on pain, sleep and anxiety. In addition to anecdotal surveys, some clinical studies show benefits from CBD in dogs with osteoarthritis and epilepsy.
“There are still many important questions about CBD for dogs and cats, and our research team is continually working to find answers,” says Dr. Bob Menardi, director of veterinary technical and educational services at Canopy Animal Health.
According to Mendari, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work when it comes to dosing CBD in pets: efficacy depends on variables like weight and size. Martha Stewart for Pet was designed to be customizable to the size of each dog, ensuring the right dose for each furry friend, Menardi explained in an email.
The product descriptions offer a recommended serving based on weight: small breeds get 7–11 milligrams of CBD per dose, and large breeds get 19–32 milligrams.
“All of our pet products are designed to be given daily with precise recommended amounts based on the dog’s weight included on the packaging,” Menardi said. However, he didn’t elaborate on how they determined what dose of CBD was effective for each size of dog.
Are weed products safe for our furry friends?
When it comes to cannabis, veterinary medicine hasn’t had the same research and development as human medicine.
Even Canopy Animal Health’s website states that this is a new area of research and pet owners should consult with their veterinarian prior to starting any kind of cannabis treatment.
In terms of published clinical studies, there are two notable discoveries regarding the safety of cannabis use in dogs. A 2020 study appearing in Frontiers Veterinary Science found that healthy dogs tolerated escalating doses of CBD — with mild side effects — significantly better than THC oils.
And a 2018 study looked into adverse effects of cannabidiol, finding that diarrhea, sedation and serum alkaline phosphatase elevations were recorded in dogs receiving 10–20 milligrams per kilogram per day.
“To date, our work has focused mainly on demonstrating the safety of CBD and how it behaves in the pet’s body and on gaining an understanding of the impact of differing formulations and interactions with other cannabinoids,” Menardi says.
“In addition to our internal safety measures, Martha Stewart CBD pet products carry the NASC quality seal, which denotes strict adherence to manufacturing, labeling, testing, and marketing guidelines to guarantee a consistent and high-quality product for discerning pet owners,” he says regarding the products’ safety.
However the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved health claims for CBD, and Martha Stewart for Pet products carry fine print stating this: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.”
Martha Stewart for Pet is only available for sale in the U.S. with no specified plans to expand to Canada.
Top image: wellness maven Martha Stewart and her dogs (clockwise from top left) Crème Brûlée, Bête Noir, Emperor Han and Empress Qin. Press Photo