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Anxiety appears to be on the rise, and not just in people.

The dog and cat anxiety-relief category has been on the rise for years, but the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic might be having an additional effect on sales and awareness of these products.

“The Kradle brand and product portfolio launched in June 2020, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we have seen firsthand the dramatic impact the pandemic has had on most of us and our pets,” said Lee Mayberry, chief quality and regulatory affairs officer for Minneapolis-based Kradle, maker of calming cannabidiol (CBD) products for dogs. “We’ve enjoyed spending more time with our pets, but they are sensitive to the increased stress that we’re all experiencing and can’t help but be impacted as well.”

Derek Archambault, director of marketing for FoodScience Corp., a supplement maker in Williston, Vt., agreed that more recent success in this product category can be partially attributed to the idea of “anxiety up and down the leash.”

“There is plenty of evidence that people are feeling more anxious in general,” and this anxiety can be passed on to their pets, he explained.

Hemp and CBD products continue to boom, despite complete market saturation, said Shelby Flinn, education manager for Pet Releaf, a Littleton, Colo.-based manufacturer of pet CBD products.

Flinn anticipates seeing more regulation of these products.

“We are finally going to see some regulation in this highly unregulated space,” she said. “This is really exciting. With vetted brands on the shelf and companies producing studies, we only imagine that our veterinarians will be more willing to consider and recommend CBD if it is truly deemed as being safe and legal. Science backing studies and licensed professionals giving the green light gives this side of the cannabis industry more hope for being welcomed in some homes that might not have considered it as an option before.”

Nicci Cammack, owner and founder of Northpoint Pets & Co., a retailer in Cheshire, Conn., agreed that more regulation would be a good thing.

“Personally, I would like to see some regulation and benchmarks for companies to meet,” Cammack said. “Most retailers are exhausted with the multiple new CBD products that are no different than the rest. In order to rock the category, we would need some real innovation or … some legitimate benchmarks removing some of the lesser-quality players.”

Addie Schuhle, buyer for Pet Food Depot, which has stores in Arizona, noted that the entire anxiety-relief category is booming—not just CBD.

“This category is way up in all areas including CBD, hemp, calming collars and treats, supplemental chews and sprays,” Schuhle said. “I really think it is because of [the COVID-19] pandemic. Many people are home with their animals and are watching them more.”

Dogs continue to dominate the anxiety-relief market, but there are solutions for cats, too. In anxiety-relief supplements, the biggest differences between options for dogs and those for cats are flavor and size, Archambault said.

“Anxiety supplements work in very similar manners in both dogs and cats,” he said. “At the most simplistic level, it is about reducing the stress signals and increasing the happiness signals in their brains. And their brains work not only similar to each other, but pretty similar to ours, as well, which is why you see a lot of familiar ingredients between products.”

Flinn said most of Pet Releaf’s products are safe for both cats and dogs.

“There is not a huge difference between how a dog’s endocannabinoid system works over a cat’s,” she said.

While fireworks season is over, other stressors are coming up that retailers can help customers prep for.

“Halloween is right around the corner and can be a very stressful occasion for pets,” Lee said. “What us humans describe as trick-or-treaters our pets see as strangely dressed children ringing our doorbells all day and night.”

Many pets have become comfortable with their owners being a more constant presence around the house during the coronavirus pandemic, Archambault said.

“At some point, schedules will return back to normal, which means both new and old pets that were used to having their people home all day long will go back to having separation anxiety, and it may be worse than before,” he said.

Mayberry agreed that separation anxiety is one of the most common anxiety triggers for pets. While pets’ issues and triggers can vary, Mayberry noted that other common triggers include loud noises such as thunder or fireworks; stressful situations, such as visits to the veterinarian, mail/package deliveries and meeting new people or pets (on walks or at the dog park); and even car rides for many.

Schuhle said separation anxiety is where her store is seeing the most need for relief. She recommends puzzle toys as a non-supplement alternative to distract dogs and cats from separation anxiety and keep them occupied.

“I could see traveling as a concern, especially since most people have not gone anywhere for quite some time,” she said. “Or going back to the grooming shop.”

Retailers should be mindful of area-specific factors, such as weather. For example, monsoon season is a concern for Pet Food Depot’s clientele, Schuhle said.

On the Market

Calming Options for All

Manufacturers offer an assortment of anxiety-relief solutions for dogs and cats, and varying formats mean there are more convenient options to suit pets and owners.

Minneapolis-based Kradle, maker of calming cannabidiol (CBD) products for dogs, launched in June with three delivery forms that make it easy and convenient to give dogs the stress-reducing help they need, said Lee Mayberry, chief quality and regulatory affairs officer. The company offers Quick Calm CBD Melts, Calming CBD Chews and Calming CBD Toppers.

“All our products incorporate our unique patent-pending BotaniTek formulation, along with broad-spectrum CBD derived from the highest-quality American-grown hemp, to deliver reliable results,” Mayberry said.

BotaniTek is a proprietary blend of ingredients, including Shoden ashwagandha root extract and L-theanine, that naturally interacts with a dog’s endocannabinoid system to reduce stress, according to the company.

Kradle has other products in the works, too.

“We are currently working on some new and innovative products that will provide pet owners more choices and dogs more variety in their de-stressing routines,” Mayberry said.

Honest Paws in League City, Texas, offers cannabidiol (CBD) products for dogs across four lines: Calm, Mobility, Relief and Wellness.

“We feel that we have a product that is right for all dogs,” said Min Lee, president of brand development and co-founder. “Personally, I’m partial to the [Calm Peanut Butter] because I’ve yet to meet a dog that doesn’t absolutely love it.”

For cats, Honest Paws offers Wellness CBD Oil. Lee said the oil is very effective for cats compared to non-CBD anxiety-relief options, as cats’ endocannabinoid systems are very receptive to CBD. The main difference between the oils for cats and dogs is the terpene profiles, he said.

FoodScience Corp. in Williston, Vt., sells anxiety-relief products under two different brands.

The Pet Naturals brand offers Calming Chews for both dogs and cats that feature L-theanine, thiamine (vitamin B1) and a calming complex from colostrum as active ingredients. It also sells Calming with Hemp for dogs, which contains organic hemp seed powder, broad-spectrum hemp oil, L-theanine and lemon balm herb powder.

FoodScience Corp. offers the Composure line under its VetriScience Laboratories brand. Composure features the same active ingredients as Pet Naturals’ Calming Chews and is offered in a variety of sizes and flavors for dogs and cats, as well as liquid formulas that are given via syringe.

Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo., offers both Hemp Oil and Liposome Hemp Oil for cats alongside its full suite of hemp products for dogs, which includes items such as hemp oils in varying formats, and crunchy and soft chew Edibites.

“Preference is the biggest challenge we see with cats, so that’s why we offer our Liposome Hemp Oil that can be mixed directly in their food,” said education manager Shelby Flinn.


“This category is way up in all areas including CBD, hemp, calming collars and treats, supplemental chews and sprays. I really think it is because of [the COVID-19] pandemic. Many people are home with their animals and are watching them more.”—Addie Schuhle of Pet Food Depot


Pricing Trends

The Cost of Relief

Well-researched, responsibly sourced anxiety-relief products often have a premium price tag attached. Different delivery methods, such as treats or chews versus oils or tinctures, can vary widely in price, even within the same brand.

“Most of [Honest Paws’] products average about $30 [for 30 doses],” said Min Lee, president of brand development and co-founder of the League City, Texas-based cannabidiol (CBD) manufacturer. “That amounts to $1 per day, which, in terms of ‘bang for the buck,’ is pretty amazing value.

“If you have a large dog, I would probably recommend the tincture products as the most cost-effective,” Lee added.

For less severe ailments or general maintenance, Pet Releaf recommends its Edibites, which are available in a crunchy or soft chew format.

“For those experiencing something a little more intense, we recommend our oils,” said Shelby Flinn, education manager of the Littleton, Colo.-based CBD manufacturer. “The higher potencies, of course, are a bit higher in price point, but those looking for the most cost-effective product in our line will want to check out our Liposomes.

“Since we have that protective liposomal layer, we don’t have to account for any of the CBD going to waste,” Flinn explained. “The Liposomes have the most value when you break down the price per day.”

At Pet Food Depot, which has stores in Arizona, Pet Releaf is the bestselling anxiety-relief brand, said buyer Addie Schuhle, adding that the store also stocks NaturVet Quiet Moments [made with chamomile, thiamine, L-tryptophan and melatonin], which offers “an easy, cost-effective answer to anxiety.”

Northpoint Pets & Co., a pet store in Cheshire, Conn., is very picky about the brands it carries and has high standards for quality, sourcing, safety, ethics and transparency, which leads to higher prices, said owner and founder Nicci Cammack.

“When you look at various products through these lenses, there are few that meet the standards to be on my shelf,” Cammack said. “Unfortunately, the ‘less expensive’ brands generally do not meet these standards. Our customers understand that because we have taken the time and effort to educate them.”

Ingredients

A Recipe for Calm

When it comes to formulating anxiety-relief products for pets, manufacturers have a variety of ingredients to consider.

In addition to cannabidiol (CBD), L-tryptophan, L-theanine, thiamine and melatonin are all common active ingredients in anxiety-relief products, said Nicci Cammack, owner and founder of Northpoint Pets & Co., a retailer in Cheshire, Conn.

Minneapolis-based Kradle, maker of calming cannabidiol (CBD) products for dogs, emphasizes its use of “the highest-quality broad-spectrum, hemp-based CBD instead of the full-spectrum CBD that many companies source,” said Lee Mayberry, chief quality and regulatory affairs officer. “Full-spectrum CBD contains THC [tetrahydrocannabinol], which many veterinarians advise against giving to dogs in any amount, due to the potential negative impacts. We also have the unrivaled efficacy of our patent-pending BotaniTek formulation, which leverages decades of safe and effective use in humans and other animals to deliver results.”

BotaniTek is a proprietary blend of ingredients, including Shoden ashwagandha root extract and L-theanine, that naturally interacts with a dog’s endocannabinoid system to reduce stress, according to the company.

Pet Releaf, a manufacturer in Littleton, Colo., carefully controls the sale of its hemp products “from seed to sale, and plant to pet,” and it is also very intentional with the ingredients it pairs with CBD, said education manager Shelby Flinn.

“Our team that includes our executive chef, chief scientific officers and manufacturing partner dive deep into every ingredient to make sure it serves a purpose,” Flinn said.

The company’s Liposome Hemp Oils are mixed with sustainably sourced wild Alaskan red pollock oil, giving pets the full profile of necessary omegas, she said.

Honest Paws uses coconut-based medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil in all of its CBD tinctures. The oil helps with the absorption of CBD and also provides cognitive and physical benefits for both cats and dogs, said Min Lee, president of brand development and co-founder of the League City, Texas-based company. Honest Paws also incorporates chamomile into the products in its Calm line.

Supplement manufacturer FoodScience Corp. in Williston, Vt., focuses on ingredients that work together to calm and soothe in formulating its products, said director of marketing Derek Archambault.

FoodScience Corp. includes its Colostrum Calming Complex biopeptide blend in both Pet Naturals’ Calming Chews and VetriScience Laboratories’ Composure liquid and chews. The complex is a mix of proteins produced from microfiltration of bovine colostrum, according to the company’s website.

“When we formulate our products, we focus not just on individual ingredients, but how they work together to make the most effective product,” Archambault said. “Our combination of Colostrum Calming Complex biopeptide blend, thiamine (vitamin B1) and L-theanine works together to help calm the pet without changing their personality.”

Pet Naturals also offers Calming with Hemp, made from organic hemp seed powder, broad-spectrum hemp oil, L-theanine and lemon balm herb powder.

“Not all animals respond to the same ingredients the same way, so by combining hemp and CBD with other ingredients, it should work better for more pets,” Archambault said.