The image of the stoned family pet has long been the butt of many a joke, but with the explosive growth in the pet medication market, no one on the business side of cannabis is laughing anymore.
US retail sales of pet medication are estimated to hit $8.6 billion by the end of 2017 according to Packaged Facts, making it a larger market than the entire Canadian marijuana industry, according to government and analyst estimates.
When cannabis is legalized in Canada and medical products begin to proliferate, the pet channel could represent a serious opportunity for marijuana companies to improve profits and grow.
We take a preliminary look at the size and growth of the pet medicine market to help companies, consumers and investors assess its potential.
Consumers Love Their Pets
Surveys show what every pet owner already knows, animals are basically another member of the family.
According to market research firm Snipp:
- 80% of pet owners report they treat their pets like their children
- 60% celebrate their pets’ birthdays
- 46% have purchased clothing or fashion accessories for their pet
- 43% reported buying non-essential items like toys and apparel on impulse
- 41% turn to the Internet for information on pet care services
Human’s love of their pets has translated into rapidly growing demand for many high-end food products and medicines to treat non-life threatening conditions.
Potential Uses for Canine Cannabis
New human medical treatments derived from the cannabis plant are being discovered every year and many of these discoveries could easily be sold into the pet market.
Certain mind altering effects of cannabis are being discovered that could be used to treat pet depression.
Marijuana’s calming effect could be synthesized and refined for use in pet anxiety treatments. The current market consists largely of human drugs repurposed for pet use, which can have serious side effects if taken in the wrong dose.
Chronic pain is much harder to diagnose in pets than humans but is no less prevalent. Opioids, the preferred method to treat pain, present the same risks of overdose to pets as they do to humans.
In what little trial data is available, cannabis has been shown to be an effective treatment for those suffering from chronic pain.
A Harvard-led systematic review of 28 studies on the pain-relieving benefits of cannabis found a significant improvement in pain symptoms.
Given the much higher overdose risk with opioids compared to marijuana, there’s likely significant demand for cannabis-derived pain relief for pets that are currently prescribed opioids.
Quantifying the Market
Pet spending has been growing rapidly, 6% a year since 2008, and is now a $70 billion market according to the American Pet Products Association.
US Pet Industry Spending
According to the Animal Health Institute, pet medicine, supplies, and veterinary services make up 55% of spending, or more than $42 billion a year in the US.
Drug spending makes up $8.6 billion of the total, according to Packaged Facts.
Consumers who own a cat or dog spend over $5,000 on medicine during the animal’s lifetime according to AHI. Assuming an average age of 12 years that equates to $427 a year of spending.
For reference, the parliamentary budget office of Canada estimates that Canadians spend less than $200 a year on marijuana products.
The Opportunity is Huge
Judging just by the size of the market, the pet medicine opportunity for marijuana is too large to ignore.
Consumers’ love of their pets translates into a greater willingness to pay up for the right drug, a lucrative opportunity for legal producers who can successfully enter the space.
The pet medicine market is yet another unique opportunity for the marijuana industry to grow their product offerings far beyond the current product list of dried bud, oils or pre-rolls.