What’s the deal with cannabidiol (CBD) pet treats? Are they really a thing?

YES, CBD-INFUSED pet treats are definitely a thing. They are often marketed to “all pets, large and small,” and you can order them online from any number of manufacturers. As with any product, some of the websites look better than others. Some even contain product testimonials from pet owners, which can make for delightful reading.

Pet treats are pricey little morsels designed to relieve ill and aging animals. Sellers also promote them for anxiety and “bonding” issues. These treats are infused with non-psychoactive CBD and they are marketed to the humane souls among us concerned with arthritic rabbits, not the guy who blows smoke in his cat’s face.

These websites make many claims about the products’ benefits and results. I have no idea if any of them are true. The federal government has ignored these claims, mostly, although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned one manufacturer about overly enthusiastic language a while back, stating that “[Canna Companion] is an unapproved new animal drug and your marketing of it violates the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.” Apparently that manufacturer has dialed down its language and continues to peddle its snacks.

Warning letters from the FDA are not unusual in the food and drug world, especially when it comes to CBD. Still, it is interesting that the feds have not taken meaningful action to restrain this booming market—even though the FDA has not approved cannabis for animal-related use and even though these treats are sold nationwide. This is perhaps because CBD is arguably legal, so long as it is derived from imported hemp. Which is convoluted legal nonsense.

Note that the process of extracting CBD from industrial hemp is more involved than from high-resin marijuana plants. Thus, these products “lack the full spectrum of aromatic terpenes and other cannabinoids found in high-resin” weed, according to the folks at Project CBD. This means that if CBD pet treats are being made lawfully, they may lack some of the pharmaceutical properties that you and your Pekingese both deserve and expect.

It also seems unlikely that all or even most of the CBD pet treats are made with CBD derived from imported hemp. Verifying the true origin of CBD oil is difficult for customs officials, and federal law is opaque. Here in Oregon, the Department of Agriculture has taken a hands-off approach on this item, and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has narrowed its focus to pet owners, not pets.

The bottom line is that CBD pet treats are available and you probably won’t get in trouble for buying them. However, there are no standards in place to ensure you are getting what you think, or even that the CBD ratios are accurate. Your vet will likely disapprove. All that said, if your hamster seems to dig it, maybe that’s enough.