Dog and cat owners are increasingly turning to cannabidiol (CBD) products for relief from issues such as anxiety and joint pain, but awareness of the CBD category doesn’t necessarily equate to adequate consumer knowledge and education.
“Pet parents still have a lot of questions about CBD and what it can do for their dogs, and we view our No. 1 job as making sure pet parents have clear and confident answers to those questions,” said Bryan Radtke, CEO of Minneapolis-based manufacturer Kradle.
Kradle has spent significant time researching demand for pet CBD.
“We spoke to and surveyed thousands of consumers, and, first and foremost, they want to see results,” Radtke said. “This sounds obvious, but there have been some bad actors out there who’ve given consumers really bad first impressions of what CBD can do for their pets.”
Kradle found that about 40 percent of U.S. dog owners report that their pet suffers from stress or anxiety, though that number is probably higher, as some owners may not recognize the symptoms or behaviors that indicate stress or anxiety, Radtke said.
The research also found pet owners want easy dosing methods that can be used quickly or while on the go, which is why Kradle has diversified its portfolio to include chews, toppers and soft bakes, as well as Kradle Melts—chicken-flavored strips that quickly dissolve on a dog’s tongue.
“Consumers are loving how easy to use Melts are in the moment,” Radtke said. “When their pup is suddenly placed in a highly stressful situation and unable to calm down, pet parents want something that their dogs will take without a hassle and will work instantly. Melts come in a handy container that’s small enough to be kept in a wallet or back pocket.”
Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo., produces chews, oils, capsules and topical CBD options for dogs and cats.
“The method of administration should be tailored to the individual pet depending on condition, weight, required dose and the product used, among other things,” said co-founder and president Stephen Smith. “Chews may not be very practical for small pets needing a tiny dose or cost-effective for a giant dog needing a large dose. On the other hand, a finicky small dog may not allow administration of a liquid directly into the mouth, even though it is the best choice for exact dosing, and a concentrated extract may be an excellent economical choice for a large dog.”
Nicole Cammack, owner of NorthPoint Pets & Co., a store in Cheshire, Conn., said most customers are overwhelmed by the number of CBD options, advertisements and claims. She worries about the unregulated state of CBD in the pet industry and quality control issues. The store sticks to just a couple brands of CBD products, of which oils tend to be the most popular, she noted.
Oils are also in demand at Bend Pet Express, which has stores in Bend, Ore.
“Dog owners love oil first, and treats come in second, while cat owners love the treats first, then the oil second,” said senior manager Kim McCohan. “Sometimes cat owners will do both when the volume of CBD they need for their cat may lead into a high level of oil resulting in a possible upset kitty tummy.”
While CBD is becoming a more common household product and the stigma around cannabis is dissipating, in-depth consumer knowledge about CBD still seems to be missing, McCohan said.
“The deeper knowledge on what CBD stands for, why it helps and other more in-depth knowledge isn’t as common,” she said. “We discuss the quality in the products we carry and what to ask from fellow companies that may make the same claims.”
Chews, Drops, Bars and Balms
The cannabidiol (CBD) product space is filled with options, and manufacturers continue to release products designed with both pets’ needs and consumers’ convenience in mind.
In May, Minneapolis-based manufacturer Kradle introduced two new products: Bliss Bar CBD Soft Bakes and Chillers Relaxing Hard Chews.
Bliss Bars are soft, peanut butter-flavored chews that are especially ideal for seniors or other dogs that struggle with tough foods. They are individually wrapped and can be split into three pieces for easy dosing.
Chillers are long-lasting, bacon-flavored chews for use during prolonged stressful situations, such as road trips or fireworks. They keep dogs busy and relaxed and can be split in half to adjust the dose for dogs of different sizes.
“Our Kradle Chillers are our first-ever relaxing hard chew,” said Kradle CEO Bryan Radtke. “They have an irresistible chewy texture that keeps dogs occupied and chill for an extended period of time, so perfect when you’re headed out the door, getting in the car or before bedtime to help settle them down.”
Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo., launched Peppered Bacon Edibites soft chews earlier this year. In addition to CBD, the chews contain black pepper, which is rich in piperine, an antioxidant that supports a normal inflammatory response, brain function and blood sugar levels, according to the company.
Peppered Bacon joins four other CBD-infused Edibites formulas that were updated at the end of 2020 to target specific ailments: CBD Calming Edibites with Peanut Butter & Carob; CBD Hip & Joint Edibites with Peanut Butter & Banana; CBD Digestive Health Edibites with Sweet Potato Pie flavor; and CBD Immunity Boost Edibites with Blueberry & Cranberry
Kadenwood is actively launching its new Purity Preferred Pet CBD brand nationally after initially launching online and with select specialty retailers. The brand’s offerings include Calming and Hip & Joint relief drops, balms and soft chews that feature a proprietary broad-spectrum CBD with 0 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
“In this highly unregulated space, we have seen a gold rush mentality, with many novice players jumping headfirst into the space with visions of quick money and high profit margins,” said Scott Link, vice president of sales for the Newport Beach, Calif.-based company. “Many have failed, and this is now leading to a rebirth of second-generation CBD brands such as Purity Preferred Pet CBD, launched by consumer packaged goods and pet product experts … and backed by industry-leading investments in education and in consumer and retailer marketing support.”
With so many cannabidiol (CBD) pet products on the market, manufacturers are distinguishing themselves with products that combine CBD with other functional ingredients.
Bryan Radtke, CEO of Minneapolis-based manufacturer Kradle, said the company is proud of its BotaniTek blend, a formulation of calming ingredients used in the manufacturer’s chews, toppers, melts, Chillers and Bliss Bars:
• SAMe, a supplement that promotes joint health and cognitive performance while slowing aging, according to the company.
• GABA, which is used to aid with stress and focus.
• Ashwagandha, which is used to reduce stress and promote calmness, focus, relaxation and quality sleep.
• L-theanine, a common ingredient used to reduce stress and anxiety.
“No other brand on the market leverages this proprietary blend of ingredients, and that’s why we feel our Kradle calming products are second to none,” Radtke said.
Kradle is exclusively focused on creating products that reduce stress and anxiety in dogs, while other manufacturers pair CBD with ingredients to create formulas designed to address a variety of issues.
Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo., adds glucosamine, chondroitin and noni to full-spectrum hemp extract in its CBD Hip & Joint Edibites chews in order to maintain mobility and support a normal inflammatory response. The company’s CBD Immunity Boost Edibites are made with blueberries and cranberries, which are believed to support the immune system and overall health, while CBD Digestive Health Edibites feature ginger and marshmallow root to support a healthy digestive tract. In its CBD Calming Edibites, Pet Releaf uses baobab and chamomile to promote calmness.
Co-founder and president Stephen Smith explained that hemp extract must be mixed with something else in order to create a usable oil.
“CBD hemp oil by itself is very concentrated and has a consistency similar to molasses, so it must be mixed with something in order to be used as an oil,” he said.
Pet Releaf adds coconut oil to its USDA Organic Hemp Oils, and the company adds sustainably sourced wild Alaskan pollock oil to its Liposome Hemp Oils. This helps appeal to cats and provides omega-3 fatty acids, Smith said.
Kadenwood adds moringa and krill oil to its Purity Preferred Calming Drops to support calmness and ensure the products’ potency, said Scott Link, vice president of sales for the Newport Beach, Calif.-based company.
“Avoid CBD oils that are mixed with ethanol or propylene glycol, or contain flavoring such as peppermint—all of which are potential health hazards for your pet,” Smith warned. “Those are much cheaper but actually significantly reduce and even destroy the living and active cannabinoids present in CBD hemp oil.”
CBD Reminders for Retailers
While many customers are going online to learn more about cannabidiol (CBD), they also continue to turn to retailers for their expertise.
“It seems like almost every day a new CBD brand is entering the marketplace, and we’ve never seen so many different forms and applications, from oils to drinks to skin creams to food,” said Bryan Radtke, CEO of Kradle, a Minneapolis-based manufacturer. “That type of activity naturally increases consumer curiosity, and they head online to learn more. This is a net good thing, and we’re glad to see consumers doing their homework and getting educated on what’s important when looking for the right CBD product. … But there’s still a lot more brands and retailers can do to help.”
Retailers should be able to confidently communicate the differences between CBD, hemp, cannabis and marijuana. Radtke provided a simple summary:
• Cannabis is the specific type or genus that all hemp and marijuana plants are identified as, regardless of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that produces a “high.”
• Marijuana is a cannabis plant with more than 0.3 percent THC.
• Hemp is a cannabis plant with 0.3 percent THC or less.
• CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid extracted from a hemp plant.
Ryan Yamka, a pet nutrition expert and independent consultant who founded animal nutrition research and development company Luna Science and Nutrition in Trumbull, Conn., said retailers need to be careful about the CBD products they carry, and a National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal on a product’s packaging is a helpful indicator that it meets the organization’s specific standards for testing and analysis.
However, retailers should also not assume that just because a CBD product from a particular company has the NASC seal that all of the company’s products do, Yamka said. While a company may have the seal on a tincture or a chew, if it makes a food product that is no longer considered a supplement, that product cannot have the seal.
Retailers should also review their state laws regarding CBD sales.
“Just because someone can sell it to you doesn’t mean you can sell it [to your retail customers],” he said. “A lot of people forget that. Does your insurance company cover you for selling CBD? That’s a question that a lot of people don’t realize [they should ask].”
Stephen Smith, co-founder and president of Pet Releaf, a manufacturer in Littleton, Colo., provided some other factors retailers should consider when vetting CBD products for their shelves:
• Is the hemp sustainably sourced in the U.S.?
• Is the hemp free from herbicides or pesticides?
• Is the CBD oil full spectrum, meaning it includes all of the cannabinoids from the hemp plant?
• Are the products tested regularly by third-party laboratories to ensure quality and potency? Manufacturers should have product tests and certifications available on their websites.