In the world of environmentally-friendly products, there is a term called “greenwashing”. Greenwashing is the practice of using deceptive marketing or labeling to imply that a product is environmentally friendly when that feature is marginal or missing all together. When companies saw that people wanted “green” products, some adjusted their marketing to put a green spin on their product or created pseudo-eco-friendly products to cash in on this trend.
Hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) supplements for pets are all the rage right now. CBD is one, and the most abundant, of at least 113 active cannabinoids identified in cannabis. It is considered to have a lot of potential medical benefits. While CBD is derived from hemp, not all products containing hemp also contain CBD.
I feel like everywhere I turn, a new CBD supplement or product for dogs is popping up. No doubt this is a marketplace trend that a lot of companies want to cash in on.
I had the privileged of attending one of the biggest pet product trade shows in the U.S. a few months ago – The Global Pet Expo. Up until then, I had only heard of 3 CBD products for pets but I must have seen at least 10 at the trade show. I’ve done a lot of research on CBD products and, in my opinion, some of the treats and supplements I saw there were marginal at best. Much of the marketing of “hemp” products I see is confusing, if not outright deceptive, and designed to cash in on the trend of hemp-derived CBD for pets.
One particular product I saw at the Global Pet Expo used the word “hemp” in their name and displayed a hemp leaf prominently on their label. Their marketing copy says, “The health and medicinal benefits of hemp are quickly becoming recognized by researchers worldwide, and we at *company* are proud to announce the arrival of our functional hemp-based dog chews”. While they go onto to explain the difference between THC from marijuana and CBD derived from industrial hemp on their website, they do not make it crystal clear that their product does not contain CBD.
They ARE clear that their product only contains hemp seed oil and ground hemp seed. Hemp seeds do not contain CBD (see the next section) but I wouldn’t expect the average consumer, looking into a product that already has a lot of confusion and controversy around it, to know that. To me, being so ambiguous can be determined as deceptive marketing. At best, it’s merely confusing.
I’m not calling this company out because I think they are good people with a quality product, their hearts are in the right place, and their products do contain the right ingredients to provide the potential benefits they claim on the package. However, most of the benefits their treats provide are currently (they did say they might incorporate CBD in the future) due to the traditional ingredients they include like glucosamine, turmeric, chamomile, etc – not the hemp.
The Term “Hemp” on a Package Can Mean Two Different Things
The hemp plant is made up of many parts including seeds, stalk, leaves, and flowers. If you see a product labeled “hemp”, it’s important to know which part of the plant the “hemp” in the product is derived from. This matters because you want to know what kind of benefit your pet might experience from consuming it.
In the case of the current market trend, the majority of people are seeking hemp CBD products for their pets for serious therapeutic benefits like potential cancer fighting properties, to help control seizures, and to control pain and inflammation.
Some products labeled “hemp” may contain only hemp seeds. According to the Hemp Industry Association , “CBD is not a product or component of hemp seeds, and labeling to that effect is misleading…” (Source: MintPressNews.com). To be crystal clear, HEMP SEEDS DO NOT CONTAIN CBD.
That same article goes on to say, “CBD extracts are produced either directly from cannabis flowers… or indirectly as a co-product of the flowers and leaves that are mixed in with the stalks during hemp stalk processing for fiber” so it’s important to make sure the CBD is sourced from the whole plant. Sure, you could seek out a product that contains ONLY hemp flowers and leaves but 1) I haven’t seen any of those for pets and 2) products derived from the whole hemp plant contain the complete spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenoids and have the potential to provide the most theraputic benefit.
Benefits of Hemp Seeds for Dogs
Don’t get me wrong, ground hemp seeds, or hemp seed oil, as a food or supplement does have some benefits. Hemp seeds are often claimed to be one of the most nutritionally complete food sources in the world and are great protein source. Dog treats made with hemp seed protein may be a good option for pets with allergies or people who prefer to reduce or eliminate meat in their dog’s diet due to moral beliefs (Just sayin’… let’s not get into the argument about dogs being carnivores and needing meat).
Hemp seeds contain gamma linolenic acid, omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, and a large number of vitamins and minerals including: phosphorus, calcium, potassium , magnesium, zinc, iron, copper, iodine and vitamins E, C, B1, B2, B3 and B6 . Hemp contains 49% more magnesium than broccoli and 16% more iron than spinach.
Benefits of hemp seeds for your pet include:
- Improvement in itchy skin
- A healthier coat
- Reducing inflammation
If you want a great treat that contains plant-derived protein and may help your dog’s skin and coat, or reduce minor inflammation, then a product containing only hemp seed will suffice.
Benefits of Hemp-Derived CBD for Dogs
Hemp CBD products derived from the whole plant provide the benefits of the hemp seeds listed above plus all of these benefits. It’s CBD that is getting press lately for it’s potential cancer-fighting properties, help in controlling seizures, controlling stress an anxiety, and more…
THE Most Important Thing You Need to Know When Shopping for CBD Pet Products
The bottom line is, unless a products says “CBD” or “cannabidiol” (the full name of CBD) on the label, it doesn’t most likely doesn’t contain any. Do your homework and be sure that what you are buying contains the ingredients you are looking for.
Ideally, the CBD in a product should be extracted from the entire plant including stalk, leaves, flowers, and seeds. Furthermore, unless the product is tested by an independent 3rd party and the amount of CBD delivered per dose is clearly provided on the label, you should question whether the product contains a consistent amount of CBD and/or enough CBD to get the therapeutic benefits. (note: It’s been found that CBD is not dangerous even in high doses so the concern is not “is there too much?” but rather “Is there enough?”)
The Confusing Legality of CBD Products
There is a lot of confusing information out there about whether CBD products are legal. While the CBD in pet products is derived from industrial hemp that is supposed to contain very, very low levels of THC – the substance that makes the user feel “high” and is a regulated drug – it can contain trace amounts.
According to the article Some Facts About Industrial Hemp-Derived CBD by Leafly, the world’s largest cannabis information resource, “There is a strong legal argument that production and distribution of CBD oils/products derived from imported raw material industrial hemp IS NOT a violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA); in fact, one Colorado law firm has published a written opinion making the case.”
See that there though? The statement days “strong legal argument” not “is totally legal”. Still confusing, right?
To get to the bottom of the legality, I went to the experts. I spoke at length with one of the very knowledgeable founders of Pet Releaf, Steve, about this issue. Steve started researching CBD in early 2000 when his dog Mattie was suffering from debilitating arthritic pain. His veterinarian said that opiods were the only option for relieving Mattie’s pain. Steve and his wife noticed that Mattie became distant and “absent” after taking the drugs and they missed their friend. They rigorously started researching natural alternatives and they discovered CBD. They decided to create a “better way” to help Mattie and dogs like her.
The bottom line is yes, CBD products are legal in all 50 States as long as it’s sourced from Imported Industrial Hemp.
Do you have any questions about CBD products for pets? Leave them in the comments.
Disclosure: Since discovering Pet Releaf I’ve had several conversations with them. I love their passion and how knowledgeable they are. They initially sent me a few treats for Chester and Gretel to try. I was convinced this was the product for us and have continued a relationship with them since. In the last several months, I have both purchased their products and they have sent us some in exchange for me telling you about them.