Despite almost no research, the pet CBD industry will grow to $1 billion

Veterinarians are concerned. Consumers appear not to be.

Despite almost no research, the pet CBD industry will grow to $1 billion

Charlie Gallacher, 35, gives a daily cannabis tincture to Dixie, his Catahoula, to treat her hip pain, in the Feeding Hills section of Agawam, MA on March 26, 2019.

Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
  • The pet CBD industry, valued at $8 million in 2017, is expected to grow to $1.16 billion by 2022.
  • Despite the hype, there have been few clinical studies conducted on pets.
  • While there is evidence of its potential therapeutic value, all evidence points to much higher dosages than offered on the consumer market.

In 1988, three researchers from the School of Pharmacy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem published a study investigating the effect of CBD on dogs. While the popular cannabinoid had shown efficacy in mice and rats through IV infusion, they wanted to know if oral administration would affect canine health. The dogs were given 180 mg of CBD orally. It turns out that CBD has low bioavailability when taken in this manner.

The researchers note that when ingested, CBD bioavailability is also low in humans—around 6 percent. Over three decades later and that still appears to be the case, though some studies have found bioavailability up to 15 percent. Your body (and your dog's body) wants to store the CBD as fat. Unfortunately that's where most of it stays, never passing the blood-brain barrier. NYU professor Esther Blessing, who researches clinical trials on CBD, puts it this way:

"There's no evidence that doses below 300 mg of CBD have any effect in any psychiatric measure. And in fact, dose-finding studies show that the lowest clinically effective dose of CBD for reducing anxiety is 300 mg."

Mayo Clinic Minute: Is CBD safe to use?

If taken orally, the most CBD you (or your dog) would get if ingesting such a high dose would be 45 mg. (Taking it intravenously or smoking it is another story, though it is not clear how much that story changes; a 2014 study on inhalation found 25 percent bioavailability.) To put that into perspective, consider Charlotte's Web Hemp Extract Drops 17 mg for Dogs. Retailing at $64.99, each prescribed dose contains 17 mg of CBD per mL. The dropper bottle is 30 mL, meaning it contains 510 mg of CBD. If you were to give your dog the entire bottle in one serving (which I don't advise), they would retain roughly 30.6 mg.

None of this is stopping the sales of pet (or human) CBD products, however. In 2017, the pet CBD industry was valued at $8 million. A year later it quadrupled to $32 million. By 2022, it is predicted to reach $1.16 billion.

None of this is to deny the potential therapeutic applications of CBD or any of the other hundred-plus cannabinoids found in cannabis. As a consumer since 1993, it's taken decades (and a move to California) for me to stop worrying about being caught—as ridiculous as this sounds, it's true—with a plant. I also know, anecdotally, what that plant has done for me.

The problem is that most evidence on the efficacy of THC and CBD has been anecdotal. Not all, mind you. Plenty of research has shown how effective CBD is in treating epilepsy, which is why the FDA scheduled Epidiolex for therapeutic use—the first cannabis-based medicine to be given a thumb's up by the agency. On top of this, the cannabis research field is vibrant, growing by the month. We should support that, as cannabis has many potential usages that are desperately needed.

CBD oil for pets on display at the Southern Hemp Expo at the Williamson County Agricultural Exposition Park in Franklin, TN on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019.

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Whether or not the current products on the market are efficacious is another story. First off, CBD is more effective when used in conjunction with THC. That makes sense given that nature doesn't separate out lipids when constructing plants. It's the reason why golden rice was initially such a failure: you can't remove beta-carotene from carrots and expect it to work in a new context. Researchers had to create a second version with 23 more times beta-carotene for it to become effective at fighting childhood blindness.

Suggested doses of CBD are mostly guesswork. Sometimes those guesses prove to be pertinent. In fact—and again, this is only anecdote—when I posted my skepticism of the booming pet CBD industry on social media, a number of people reached out with examples of it working for their dogs. When I asked if it was full spectrum (including THC), all responded that it was. A few replied that they didn't like the psychological effects (sluggishness, "out of it"), but it seemed to do the trick.

At least now the FDA appears to be taking these supplements a little more seriously. The agency sent out warning letters to 15 CBD companies for illegally selling their products. The agency also notes that CBD has not achieved GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status. Apparently a regulatory framework for addressing the quickly-growing field of cannabis products is in the works. This is important given that numerous products turn out to have questionable ingredients (or no CBD at all).

Unfortunately, our pets cannot speak to us. Most observations of the efficacy of CBD will continue to be anecdotal, and we well know that the placebo effect shapes how we view reality. That this could extend to our furry friends should not be surprising; nor should the fact that companies are exploiting this questionable science.

In five years, or two, another magic bullet will be all the rage. Right now it's CBD and we're paying a premium for dropper bottles filled with questions.

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Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His next book is Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy.

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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Research suggests that aging affects a brain circuit critical for learning and decision-making.

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
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The contiguous U.S., horizontally divided into deciles (ten bands of equal population).

Image: u/curiouskip, reproduced with kind permission.
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