by Faye Sakellaridis
CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana that's been shown to have many medicinal properties for humans, isn't just for us. Many household pets, like dogs and cats, are also mammals, and they too can benefit from its healing properties. Now that our country's drug policy regarding marijuana has shifted, businesses are emerging with the aim of helping both humans and pets have access to this all natural healing remedy.
As with any pet food, not all brands are created equally. Pet Releaf is a line of CBD products for pets founded by Alina and Steve Smith that boasts a hyper-conscious approach to sourcing. As their site states, their CBD hemp oil is grown organically, non-GMO, derived from the whole plant, independently tested, and extracted by a "super critical" CO2 method. They offer CBD oil, treats, and topical cream.
I spoke with Steve about how his own experience with a sick pet lead to the creation of Pet Releaf, what makes Pet Releaf different than other CBD-for-pets companies, when to use the different Pet Releaf products, how it compares to CBD for humans, and more.
How did Pet Releaf get started?
My business partner Alina and I were living in Florida at the time, and we had a collie mix, Mattie. As she was getting older, just like with us humans, things started creaking and breaking down. It’s part of the life cycle. As humans, we have natural ways to deal with these issues. We can try to eat as organically as possible, exercise, meditate, or try the thousands of natural, plant-based vitamins available at local stores.
Unfortunately, with Maddie, there was no true natural way to help her. Her pain started getting so bad that instead of being able to run two miles to the end of the beach, she was barely walking half the time. Our vet gave her Rimadyl. When we researched it, we found that Rimadyl is not even approved for humans anymore. Why were we giving this to our dog? When we started with the opiate painkillers in the later parts of her life, she was so doped up she was a zombie.
I’ve used cannabis recreationally and medicinally — in college we used to called it “god’s medicine,” so we had an intuition about it. I started researching medical marijuana to see if there was truly scientific backing. Things took off from there.
Where is your CBD made? Where are the ingredients sourced from?
We’ve set up long term contracts with a farm in France and two farms in Hungary where we buy all their excess plant material. They are organic, European union farms. There’s consistency and top quality every single time.
We take the plant materials from the farms, and then we have it Co2 extracted. I import bulk hemp paste under a DEA license. Now, after three years, we’ve been testing different strains here in Colorado, so we now have a Pet Releaf hemp strain, USDA Organic. We’re the only pet company that has a USDA Organic product.
So you are the only company making CBD pet products that is sourcing in such a comprehensive and safe way?
Yes, nobody else goes to the farm.
In what way is CBD the same for pets and humans? How does it differ?
The effects can last longer. For example, if a human has too much THC and they have a two hour freakout, a proportionately equivalent amount for a dog will last twice as long. The dog is getting longer use of the cannabinoids. That’s a potential negative example.
On the positive side, we’re seeing higher rates of success in pets than humans with the different health issues that CBD helps with, like pain management. They’re getting more bang for the buck, so to speak. For a proportionally equivalent amount, the dog gets less CBD but a better benefit. We’re seeing an 85-90% success rate.
Why is that exactly?
There is no good science to tell you that answer right now. Vets think it’s the dog’s liver enzyme that takes longer to metabolize it, so instead of being burned up quicker, it’s used more effectively.
What’s the difference in how it’s prepared for pets than humans? Is there a difference between cat and dog preparations?
With the oil, it’s exactly the same for cats and dogs. Our hemp oil 100 can be used for both. As far as preparation goes, if you’re not going to cut any corners and do it the best way — which is Pet Releaf’s way — then you could do it the same way for humans and just give a little more CBD. My products are completely human grade. I’ll take my CBD oil. It’s not like there’s a dog hemp strain and a human hemp strain — it’s from the same plant. Humans could eat them but they’re not super tasty because there’s no sugar in them. The flavor is like a rice cracker.
Is this just for cats and dogs, or can it work for other mammals too, like a rabbit or a ferret?
The house of one of the directors of the Boulder Valley Humane Society in Colorado is basically like a ferret rescue. Some of them are having issues. She’s been giving them the oil with great success. All mammals have an endocannabinoid system.
What about reptiles?
I’m not convinced that it has a big impact on reptiles. We’ve had a few people who swear it’s changed their whole life. If you look at the science, their endocannabinoid system isn’t as advanced. My gut, and this is just my opinion, is that it’s not nearly as effective as it is on mammals.
CBD has anti-anxiety effects on humans. Does it for dogs and cats too?
If it’s externally induced anxiety, something outside of the animal that’s causing it, it’s wonderful. But if it’s something inside the animal, instinctual, learned fear, then CBD has limited success. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it has no effect. With humans and PTSD, for example, sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t because they need additional therapy. The conditions are similar with humans and cats and dogs.
You carry biscuits, oils, and topical creams. How does someone choose which one’s right for their pet?
That’s a great question because there’s lots of confusion about it. We call the treats massive super food smoothies, a top shelf super food smoothie for your dog. If your dog is generally healthy, that’s when the treats are recommended. If your dog is dealing with an issue, that’s when you want to use the oil, because it’s the whole plant in its most raw, pure form. You have to have the whole plant in that raw, pure form to get the maximum benefit. CBD is wonderful but can’t do the work alone — it needs all those other cannabinoids to help. Using the whole plant is called the entourage effect.
Because the treats are baked, they’re slightly less effective than the oil. The CBD is still there and active, but some of the other cannabinoids are no longer there. CBD-A becomes CBD and THC-A becomes THC, so you don’t have all those 100+ cannabinoids.
So the biscuits are something your pet takes regularly to stay healthy, whereas the oil is better suited for a specific ailment. What about the topical cream?
The topical cream is most effective for pain outside the body, like joint pain. You want to put it on the area and then introduce something orally so that you’re fully firing up the cannabinoid system.
How do you administer the oil?
Sublingually is best but some dogs won’t let you, so you can put it on a treat. You can also put it on a small amount of food. A lot of people will squirt it onto the bottom of a feeding bowl with nothing else in it, and the dogs will lick it up because they like the taste. Don’t try it mixing it in a big bowl of food because it won’t all get utilized.
You can order Pet Releaf products from their website, or, if you're in NYC, stop by The Alchemist's Kitchen in the East Village, where we sell Pet Releaf hemp oil, topical cream, and treats for cats and dogs.
This interview was transcribed by Terra Celeste.