Cannabis For Critters

Photo Credit: San Diego Reader

Adult marijuana use restrictions across the state were loosened this month, but one company launched in San Diego this week is offering cannabis products targeted toward animals.

Phyto Animal Health, a subsidiary of Medical Marijuana Inc., which already produces cannabidiol (CBD) oils used to treat epilepsy in human children, is now marketing products for pets and livestock.

Phyto founder Ian Quinn and his pitbull Dante, a certified service dog, settled into a downtown 20th-floor conference room overlooking San Diego Bay on January 27th to pitch their products.

“This is a full-spectrum, CBD-rich hemp oil — we’re coming from certified, non-GMO hemp seed, which means we’re legal across the country and in 40 other countries as well,” Quinn said of his edible supplements, stressing the absence of tetrahydracannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Quinn rattled off a list of benefits of CBD oil: stress management, gastrointestinal health improvements, and anti-inflammatory properties that support healthy hips and joints in aging animals and larger ones like horses.

“When an animal is stressed out from fireworks, or in situations like that, it helps with calming your pet down,” Quinn continued. “This isn’t getting your pets high. It’s simply helping manage stress and providing these other physical benefits — they’re not going to be thinking they’re talking to butterflies and dolphins.

“There are studies out there about the quality, safety, and efficacy of CBD — some of these actually go all the way to the mid-’60s. Most of them involve lab animals like rats, mice, guinea pigs, sheep, some dogs. More recently, there’s an ongoing pilot study at Cornell University and they’re finding that providing two milligrams per kilogram of animal weight for geriatric dogs suffering osteoarthritis, they’re more comfortable and they have more stamina and activity.”

Feeding cannabis oil to pets has actually become a popular practice in recent years, though some question the practice and it remains technically illegal in some states due to many CBD extracts containing trace amounts of THC. Medical Marijuana Inc., though, says their product differs due to research to create a true zero-psychoactive formula in order to gain permission to market it abroad in places like Mexico.

In addition to the edibles, Phyto also offers a line of hemp bedding for agricultural use that Quinn says has been shown to reduce the presence of the E. coli virus in chicken coops by up to 90 percent.

“Because the bedding is so soft, it absorbs four times its own body weight. And that absorption factor is important because, let’s say in a chicken coop where urine can turn to ammonia, that absorption reduces the ammonia present in the air and helps manage moisture and humidity,” Quinn explained. “The Kentucky Derby uses this type of bedding exclusively because it’s really strong and doesn’t kick up dust when the animals are moving around. Like hay, which can turn into sawdust if it’s full of chemicals, mold, and fertilizer — animals can breathe that in, creating respiratory infections.”

While we talk, Dante alternates between napping under the conference table and wandering around the room, nudging hands and chairs in a quest for attention.

“Dante’s the inspiration for the company and all of our product lines,” said Quinn. “Dante and I volunteer together at local VA housing facilities with veterans, teaching anger management and meditation. He supports several veterans with PTSD during those classes, kind of honing in on them before they go down the rabbit hole emotionally and mentally.

“Over time, what we started to see is that the veterans themselves were benefitting not only from the classes, but from CBD supplements, specifically non-THC cannabis because any THC would impact their benefits.”

Quinn says he adopted Dante about three years ago and, in an effort to control both anxiety and joint pain common in the pitbull breed, he began feeding him CBD oils after a year.

“Dante suffers from many of the same issues these veterans do — he’s a rescue from a kill shelter and he has exhibited PTSD-type behavior. If I leave the house and don’t crate him he’d eat my couch, so we went through several crates before realizing that CBD would be able to help him.

“Now, I can take my five-year-old son to the pool and leave Dante lounging on the couch without fear he’ll tear the place up.”

Currently sold online, Phyto intends to eventually distribute its products to retail stores nationwide. Quinn declined to comment on what appeared to be a package of dog treats included as part of the Phyto display, preferring to focus on the oil and bedding.

While Quinn says he’s trained service dogs in the past with the intention of offering them to veterans as companions, Dante will remain a part of the family, helping other dogs attain their certifications.