For most pet owners, animals are family. Many of us invest as much time and care into our pets’ health and quality of life as if they were our human children. Which is why, as medical and recreational marijuana becomes state law across the U.S, and public opinion shifts from stigma to openness and curiosity, more pet owners are exploring cannabis products for their pets. Here’s what you should know about cats and CBD.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of more than 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant (THC is the other most well-known). Because cannabis is still illegal under federal law, it’s been difficult to generate a lot of solid research on pets and CBD. The majority of existing research involves dogs, but those results are promising. Some studies, published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, are showing that osteoarthritic dogs given CBD become more active and comfortable.
Anecdotally, the evidence is strong as well. In a CSU survey of consumers’ perceptions of hemp products for animals, the majority of cat owners said hemp products relieved their cat’s pain and reduced inflammation, and almost half reported the products helped their cat sleep. Finally other studies from Colorado State University are showing potential benefits for epileptic dogs using CBD, where it made their seizures less frequent.
CBD and other cannabinoids, including THC, interact with our endocannabinoid system. This biological network of neurotransmitters and cannabinoid receptors is present throughout the brains and bodies of all vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish) and helps maintain the body’s homeostasis. THC connects with CB1 receptors and produces a “high” feeling, while CBD interacts with CB2 receptors to produce effects like calmness and pain reduction, without the high.
The first step in adding or removing anything from your pet’s health care is talk to your vet. Veterinarians in the U.S. can’t prescribe medical marijuana for pets, but you can still ask whatever questions you might have. If your vet isn’t willing to chat about cannabis — California just became the first state to offer vets protection if they do discuss medical marijuana with clients — look for a holistic vet who might be willing to help. VETCBD, a pet CBD company founded by veterinarian Dr. Tim Shu, also has nurses on staff to answer any questions via email or phone, regardless of whether you use the product.
Consider which kind of CBD you want to give to your pet. Hemp-derived CBD contains barely any THC (legally, hemp can only contain 0.3 percent THC), while cannabis-derived CBD contains a higher amount. Either could benefit your cat, but some research suggests CBD works better when paired with THC, forming what’s known as the “entourage effect.”
You’ll find hemp-derived CBD oils and pet treats all over the internet, in pet stores, and even in some veterinary offices. (The 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the production of industrialized hemp, will add an extra boost to the CBD market.) Cannabis-derived CBD, on the other hand, is only available at dispensaries in states where cannabis is legal.
Because CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA, hemp-derived products may be less rigorously tested for quality and safety than cannabis-derived products. Before buying, ask a lot of questions. Where do the product’s ingredients come from? How was the CBD extracted? Has the product been tested by a licensed, independent facility? If the product is for pets, did a vet help develop it? Also remember never to give your pet anything that might contain toxic chemicals. And just in case, keep your own stash somewhere safe.
Many CBD products include the recommended dosage or suggested serving size on the packaging. For additional help, Dr. Robert Silver, a nationally-renowned holistic vet, offers guidelines based on the product and your pet’s weight. Always start with the smallest amount possible, and keep an eye on your cat for changes in behavior or possible side effects. Cats might require more trial and error than dogs — and may need a higher or more frequent dosage — as they metabolize differently, says Kat Donatello, founder of Austin and Kat, which sells CBD treats and oils for pets.
The research and experimenting are worth it, Donatello says. Her clients have seen life-changing results with CBD, both for pets and owners. One client’s cat had a habit of peeing on its owners every night while they slept, most likely due to severe anxiety. After a bit of CBD, the bad behavior stopped completely — and everyone slept more soundly.
“The impact of the wellness of the family’s pet is integral to the family’s well-being,” says Donatello.