This company’s dog treats won’t get your dog high, but they will medicate it.
With a name reminiscent of “edibles,” Treatibles, based in Oakland, California, specializes in hemp-derived products infused with CBD, or cannabidiol — a non-psychoactive, medicinal cannabinoid, or active chemical compound, found in cannabis. And a pet store in Williamsburg, PS9 Pet Supplies (voted Best Pet Store by the Voice in 2014) is the first retailer in the state to carry the crunchy, pumpkin-flavored dog treats.
It took about a month for Joan Christian, the owner of PS9 Pet Supplies, to get a license to sell Treatibles — any nutritional pet treat needs to go through the proper channels, she says, but even more so with the CBD treats. “It is a political issue, people aren’t sure what cannabinoids are. I had to prove that the treats don’t contain any THC at all,” says Christian. THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.
Christian’s dog Minnie had been on Prozac for years to treat her anxiety. The dog was skittish and would lunge whenever she perceived a threat, but Christian was cautious about keeping her on Prozac and, before she even learned about Treatibles, weaned Minnie off because it can cause liver damage. “For me, to get animals off the pharmaceuticals is so nice. That can limit a dog’s life span.”
Treatibles began as an offshoot to its sister company Auntie Dolores Kitchen, which hand-makes gourmet cannabis edibles in San Francisco. About two years ago, customers started requesting products for their pets, says Marjorie Fischer, the director of Treatibles.
“We realized we could make something without THC, and provide animals all the beneficial cannabinoids without getting high,” she says.
The cannabis plant contains over 421 cannabinoids — the chemical compounds that act on the endocannabinoid system, including the cannabinoid receptor cells in the brain. All animals except insects have an endocannabinoid system that helps regulate the body’s homeostatic functions (for example temperature regulation, or the pH balance between acidity and alkalinity). Unlike THC, CBD is an antioxidant and neuroprotectant without any psychoactive properties.
Fischer is careful to distinguish that the ingredients in Treatibles are derived from hemp. While both hemp and marijuana come from the Cannabis sativa plant, hemp contains only .3 percent to 1.5 percent THC. (Marijuana contains 5 percent to 10 percent or more THC.) While in most cases growing hemp in the United States is Federally illegal, hemp products — including those rich in CBD — are legal.
CBD is useful in reducing pain, inflammation, anxiety, psychosis, spasms, seizures, and mediating the effects of chemotherapy — in humans, and in animals. The documentary Weed, by CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, helped popularize the use of CBD to alleviate epileptic seizures, and GW Pharmaceuticals are developing Epidiolex with CBD in it to treat children with epilepsy.
Many vets are now researching and using CBD for animals. Dr. Jonathan Block of the Worth Street Veterinary Center in Manhattan, sometimes recommends Treatibles to his patients and orders them to his office. Another vet at the University of Pennsylvania is doing trials on CBD, and several vets in California recommend Treatibles to their patients.
Jillian Conigliaro, a school teacher from Staten Island, began using Treatibles for her 14-year-old dog, Chloe, with cancer, after Dr. Block recommended them. Now she says Chloe has more energy in the wake of her oral chemotherapy routine. “I do attribute a lot of that to her being on Treatibles. She’s still really old, but she looks pretty amazing for a 14-year-old dog with a terminal illness,” says Conigliaro, “She’s enjoying life. She sits in my Jeep and sticks her head out the window.”
While CBD can be medicinal, Kyle DeMedio, patient support director at the cannabis extract company Constance Therapeutics, says the “CBD craze” can be problematic for humans and for dogs.
“It’s very easy to sell something that doesn’t have psychoactive effects,” says DeMedio. “But isolated CBD is nowhere near as potentially therapeutic as whole plant cannabinoids.”
There’s a common misconception that CBD is therapeutic, while THC is only psychoactive, he says. “But from our experience with serious diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, autoimmune disorders, and chronic pain, you can’t get the same result from CBD as with the whole plant.”
Fischer says Treatibles doesn’t make any claims, but that feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Still CBD for animals is not as prevalent as it could be or will be, says Fischer. “Cannabinoids, and CBD in particular are not something that everybody understands or has as much experience with,” Fischer says.
“I think the public is still getting used to the idea of what these cannabinoids are and being able to distinguish the difference between them. A lot of education is involved.”