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A pair of local entrepreneurs—Karen Broad and Sarah Coombs—are hoping that next week’s legalization of cannabis in Canada will bring some positive relief to dogs and their owners.
They’ve developed a dog treat infused with cannabidiol, or CBD, a cannabinoid compound that offers some health benefits without the high.
It stemmed, as many things do, from need. Coombs’ aging dog, Spike, was having mobility issues and she’d heard that CBD could be helpful for dogs. But trying to find a trustworthy source of CBD proved difficult—many of the suppliers she contacted made claims that sounded good but that they couldn’t back up when pressed for details.
She spent weeks researching and, when she found a source she was happy with, started hand-making treats infused with a dose of CBD. “I saw an improvement in him to the point where it bounced his behaviour back to basically like a puppy,” Coombs recalls. “So I took him off of them and I waited a month or so and then put him back on and the same thing happened.” She saw similar results with dogs owned by family members, and over the course of a year refined the recipe and continued to see its positive effects. But it wasn’t until she told her friend Karen Broad about it that she realized it might be a business opportunity.
“I thought, ‘This is genius,'” says Broad. “I have many friends and family that take CBD on a regular basis and it’s been a tremendous help to them. But it didn’t occur to me that this could be something that I could be applying to my pet as well.” The pair became business partners and carried on with research into sources so that they could find the highest-quality CBD possible.
They could have made the treats with hemp oil, which was already commercially available, but the results wouldn’t have been the same due to the low-level, low-grade CBD it contains that is sourced from cannabis stems and stalks rather than from its leaves and buds. So they elected to wait to bring their product to market after cannabis is legalized on October 17, 2018.
After many calls to many suppliers, only a few of which were able to provide a certificate of analysis which indicates their product has been third-party lab tested, and plenty of conversations with Health Canada’s controlled substances office, they found sources of high-quality CBD that they could trust. And they are in talks with producers in Muskoka with the intent of having a 100 per cent locally produced treat. As the company grows, they hope to be able to employ local people to help make them.
There will be high-quality CBD oils on the market, too, but Broad and Coombs have stuck with treats for ease of use—if you’ve ever tried to give medication to a reluctant dog, you’ll know where they are coming from—and for accuracy of dosing. And there’s an important distinction between CBD that’s safe for people and CBD that’s safe for dogs.
“Many humans can and do tolerate THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the element of marijuana that gets you high,” notes Broad. “But pets are very intolerant to THC. They process it in a very different way. You never want to give a dog CBD with more than trace amounts of THC—it can be dangerous for them.”
And if you’re a cat-lover, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for a similar product for your feline friends. “Cats can actually handle a higher dosage than dogs, and we’ll be developing something for them, too,” says Coombs. She adds that they’ll also be researching CBD use for larger animals like goats and horses.
There is a dearth of research on CBD use in pets and the veterinary community has thus far had mixed reactions to its use for animals, but with cannabis legalization pending there will likely be an increase in studies on its effects. However, anecdotal evidence for CBD use is positive. A survey of pet owners by the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AVHMA) showed that of the respondents who were giving some form of animal-grade CBD to their pets, a majority perceived a moderate or significant impact on symptoms and little to no negative side effects. The AVHMA has called on the wider veterinary community to support science-based education, regulation, and research into the use of cannabis products for animals.
So how do you know if CBD treats could help your dog? It is suggested for several behaviours and conditions, including anxiety, aggression, pain, inflammation, digestive issues, and seizures, as well as general well-being in elderly dogs. But it’s not a miracle-worker, cautions Broad.
It’s really, really effective in a lot of conditions but we don’t make the claim that it’s guaranteed to cure everything. If you’re looking for a natural way to try to control symptoms, something that’s very safe, it’s an excellent thing to try.
Karen Broad, PawsitiveReleaf co-owner
Depending on your dog’s weight, age and metabolism, and the dose you use, you could start to see results the same day, or it might take a couple of weeks. Broad gives the treats to her elderly, three-legged dog, Hunter, and saw almost-immediate results similar to those Coombs experienced with Spike.
The pair hope PawsitiveReleaf will become a trusted source for other pet owners who want another option for treating some of their pets’ ailments.
“I really caution people to do their research, especially when you are buying online. The quality can vary so much,” says Broad. “You want to deal with someone that you know and trust. We’ve done that legwork for you.”
After October 17, you can find PawsitiveReleaf dog treats online at pawsitivereleaf.com, in Huntsville at Gus & Gigi’s on Main Street or the Muskoka North Good Food Coop, and in Novar at The Little Cabin. They will also have a booth at the inaugural Weedstock in Toronto on October 26.
“We are really excited and proud to be part of (cannabis legalization),” says Broad. “It’s really a historical change in Canada and it’s a big deal that has been a long time coming.”