Updated: Sep 17, 2021
A Nevada law going into effect October 1 will make it legal for veterinarians to treat pets with cannabinoids including CBD. They’ll also be able to recommend hemp products to pet owners.
This makes Nevada the first state to explicitly allow use of cannabinoids as a veterinary treatment, reports R. Scott Nolan for the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The state’s support of hemp-derived cannabis for pets is, perhaps, unsurprising. Voters approved medical use of THC cannabis for humans in 2000 and recreational use in 2016.
Still, before the legislation was passed, veterinarians were unsure whether they could recommend hemp products for pets or even discuss them with pet owners, according to State Assemblyman Steve Yeager, who sponsored the bill.
“Because of the ambiguity in our law, I learned that many veterinarians chose not to talk about CBD with pet owners for fear of being disciplined."
— State Assemblyman Steve Yeager
“Because of the ambiguity in our law, I learned that many veterinarians chose not to talk about CBD with pet owners for fear of being disciplined,” Yeager told the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “This left pet owners in a tough spot because CBD products are generally unregulated, and it would be difficult for a pet owner to know exactly what to purchase or administer without the professional advice of a veterinarian.”
Bill could be used as a model for other states The bill passed the state Assembly and Senate with unanimous approval, Yeager said, noting that the bill could be used as a model for other states. It was written with help from the Nevada Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, with the support of the Nevada VMA, Nolen reports.
Questions remain, but cannabinoids are a promising treatment option for pets
While there’s a lack of scientific research offering guidance in this area, many pet owners say they see changes in their pets’ behavior that leads them to believe CBD eases pain and anxiety.
Still, there are reasons a body of research would be helpful. Writes Nolen, “there are questions about what constitutes a therapeutic dose of cannabinoid in a particular species as well as which formulations actually deliver that dose to the animal patient.”
Then there’s the issue of product safety, especially when it comes to consistency. Because all hemp products are currently sold outside of FDA regulation, products and labels vary from high-quality and transparent to opaque and possibly dangerous. Some may even contain harmful additives including fentanyl or synthetic cannabinoids, according to Dr. Dawn Boothe, a professor of veterinary physiology and pharmacology at Auburn University who is studying cannabis’s potential as a veterinary treatment.
“If you’re looking for a product that has a certificate of analysis that you can have faith in—as I would—go to the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) website and look at the laboratories that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has approved as being appropriate for analysis of hemp crops,” Dr. Boothe told the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “That at least can increase the level of validity for that product.”
In spite of the risks, Boothe sees promise in cannabinoids.
“I am excited about CBD,” Boothe told the journal. “I think it’s a very safe compound. I think it’s claim to fame is going to be largely in combination with our traditional therapies—if the indication or if the disease is very mild, maybe sole therapy, but as the disease progresses, adjuvant therapy is going to be important.
“And I do think that therapeutic drug monitoring should be an important tool to make sure that therapeutic concentrations have been achieved.”
A growing industry
Awareness and acceptance of pet CBD are growing, evidenced by increased sales. Those increases are likely to continue, say market research firms looking at data from the pet CBD industry.
NielsenIQ recently projected pet CBD sales would grow from $300 million in 2021 to $500 million by 2025.
Research from another analytics firm, Brightfield Group, predicted pet CBD sales would grow from $629 million in 2021 to $1.1 billion in 2025.