Giving your pet cannabis might not seem like a good idea, but a Kiwi company sees it as a lucrative business opportunity.

New Zealand cannabis firm Helius Therapeutics has announced the launch of a medicinal product range targeting ailments suffered by pets.

The East Tamaki-based firm has spent $2.5 million to establish Helius Animal Health, which will be led by managing director Leila de Koster.

The aim of this side of the business isn't to get any pets high.

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Inside Helius Therapeutics' cannabis-manufacturing lab in East Tamaki

The organisation will only use non-psychotropic CBD to develop therapeutic products that help to alleviate anxiety, stress, nausea, skin conditions, arthritis and seizures in pets.

De Koster said that the immediate objective is to get off-the-shelf nutraceutical products into vet clinics and pet retailers.

"We'll be starting with a range of premium supplement products made from natural ingredients, then we'll be moving to deliver cannabis-focused products, including clinically-proven animal medicines," de Koster said.

The barrier for entry for such products is lower than it would be for humans, which in turn opens an immediate source of revenue for the company.

However, when the company goes on to develop animal medicines, it will need to meet strict standards and go through a number of clinical trials.

Leila de Koster and Paul Manning in the East Tamaki facility. Photo / supplied
Leila de Koster and Paul Manning in the East Tamaki facility. Photo / supplied

De Koster said the company aims to work with regulators to gain ACVM (Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines) registration for New Zealand's first prescription medicinal cannabis products for animals.

Helius chief executive Paul Manning says that while novel, the pet sector has become a major growth opportunity for cannabis firms internationally and expects to see similar demand on a local level.

With New Zealand home to 1.1 million dogs and 1.5 million cats, Manning says pet owners already spend $1.8 billion on pet products and services every year.

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"To have high-quality, locally-produced therapeutic cannabis products readily available in New Zealand will be a game-changer for many Kiwi pet owners, desperate to alleviate their companion's pain and suffering naturally," he says.

"Our team, which includes scientific experts from the animal health sector, have already completed substantial product development and regulatory groundwork in this space."

Manning actually intended to launch the business far earlier, but faced major delays due to Covid-19.

He says that the impact of the pandemic pushed out deadlines and interfered with his business plans.

"We actually wanted products on the shelf by this stage," says Manning.

CBD products are already available on US shelves. Photo / Getty Images
CBD products are already available on US shelves. Photo / Getty Images

The loss in revenue opportunity saw Helius claim $91,384 through the Government's wage subsidy scheme.

"We've seen much of research and plans put on hold due to the pandemic," he said.

"The timing was really terrible for cannabis firms because we actually had New Zealand's cannabis law come into effect in the middle of lockdown."

Manning says that with the restrictions now relaxed, he decided the time was right to take the next step with the business.