As the world went into lockdown and working from home became the norm, our pets grew accustomed to having us around. But as some places open up and humans return to work, our furry friends are left behind with only separation anxiety for company. Which is where CBD comes in. Emma Castle reports. 

Covid-19 has had some weird economic impacts, not least on the price of cavoodles. If you have a cool $8k lying around, you could snaffle one of these highly sought-after pooches. 

But it’s not just cavoodle breeders who are cashing in on Covid. 

The cannabis pet product market is set for growth as pet owners seek out ways to assuage the separation anxiety of their newly acquired charges. 

As the humans return to work, the fluffy ones will be left wondering what to do all day. Should they bark? Should they tear the couch to shreds? Should they sit whimpering by the door for nine hours until the humans return?

According to Google Trends, the search term ‘CBD for pets’ reached an all-time high in the last week of June in the US this year, indicating that interest is increasing.

But is it legal?

In a word, no. CBD for pets is not legal in Australia and yet many pet owners are rolling the dice and ordering it in from the US where it’s legal in 10 states, namely Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

And they’re not just ordering it for separation anxiety. A small clinical trial at Colorado State University found that CBD oil reduced seizures in epileptic dogs after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, to treat seizures in humans. There is also a lot of interest generally in cannabinoids for joint health. 

Australian research and development company, Cannpal, is leading they way in seeking US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a product with the prototype name CPAT1, but although the process is quicker than for human drugs, it can still take time. 

Cannpal founder Layton Mills says: “Animal drugs take three to five years to develop whereas human drugs can take as much as 10. We expect another couple of years in development.”

So why do it? 

Mills says: “It’s a US$90 billion market with four to five per cent year-on-year growth. The pet market is a large and growing market with the middle classes in India and China adopting Western trends towards pet ownership.”

CPAT1 is not the only product Cannpal is forging ahead with. Mills says they are getting close to an Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) approval of an oral medication for atopic dermatitis called Dermacann. 

In an Australian first, Cannpal is currently seeking registration for Dermacann to be prescribed by vets. Currently vets are not even allowed to recommend cannabis-based products beyond nutraceuticals like hemp seed oil.

Mills hopes Dermacann will become available next year, pending all the necessary approvals.

This will be Cannpal’s second product to hit the Australian market after MicroMAX by Cannpal, a joint health nutraceutical chew that was developed in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

What do vets think?

John P. Buchweitz, a toxicologist at a major veterinary lab in the US, cautions against giving your pet anything that hasn’t been fully researched or approved for use in animals. 

In this article he explores the topic at some length, but the upshot is that THC – the psychoactive cannabinoid – is toxic to dogs, so you can disregard giving your old, arthritic pooch a pot cookie because sugar and chocolate are toxic to dogs too.

Buchweitz argues that CBD oil and other cannabis-based products haven’t been through the necessary approval processes and manufacturers can’t be 100 per cent sure of the stability, efficacy and potency of what they are putting into the marketplace. 

Australian vet Dr Edward Bassingthwaite from The Healing Vet in Melbourne says CBD products used to be available and legal for animal use prior to the medical cannabis legislation passed in 2016.

While it is now illegal for him to prescribe cannabis-based products, he insists: “It is the safest, most effective herbal medicine on the planet and humans and animals should have access to it.”

When Cannpal listed on the ASX in 2017, it raised $6 million without cracking a sweat. 

Mills says: “Medical cannabis was a big trend in the US and the market was excited.”

With products like a green-lipped mussel extract for joint health outselling some of the leading pharmaceuticals in the animal health space, Mills is excited about what could happen if you combine natural health with an APVMA and FDA approval. 

“A blockbuster pharmaceutical drug can make USD$500 million in a year. We’re not saying we will do this, but we do think it will be significant,” he says. 

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