What the research says about treating cats with CBD

Vets can legally prescribe CBD to treat cats health concerns.

Research into how CBD can benefit cats is on the rise, with some recent research papers focussed on treating cats, rather than dogs, with CBD. The results highlight some potential benefits.

Until recently, much of the positive benefits of CBD oil for cats we have learnt from anecdotal and clinical veterinary observations. 

CBD oil is known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-epileptic actions, just to name a few. It influences a vast range of physiological processes, including interacting with the endocannabinoid system, found in both humans and animals.

Through acting on receptors and modulating homeostatic pathways, CBD can influence stress resilience, pain responses, digestion, immune and nervous system signalling.

Clinical trials translating CBD’s potent therapeutic actions for humans into the context of our feline friends is still in its infancy but in the past six months there have been some new studies published that are promising.

CBD, Chronic Pain and Cats

Vets are already treating pain in dogs with CBD, so it’s no wonder cat parents are interested in treating their feline friends with CBD for pain and mobility issues.

From human and other animal studies, including dogs with pain from osteoarthritis, we know that CBD oil can reduce pain scores and inflammation, as well as improving mobility and quality of life.

CBD is shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects as outlined in  “The role of cannabinoids in pain modulation in companion animals” published in 2023. So, we can presume then that it may also be beneficial for other health concerns causing pain in cats.

A recent placebo-controlled study was conducted to evaluate the clinical efficacy and safety of a commercially available cannabidiol (CBD) oral formulation as an adjunctive treatment for pain management of feline chronic gingivostomatitis (FCGS).

What resulted was cats owners involved in the study noticed a significantly higher level of comfort and activity following CBD being administered as part of a multimodal approach to FCGS. It concluded that CBD was beneficial and safe for cats when administered in vet prescribed doses for this condition. 

Another paper from 2023 reports on the efficacy of CBD and THC for a cat with chronic osteoarthritic pain.

CBD treating Anxiety in Cats

CBD interacts with hormones and neurotransmitters attributable to anxiety behaviours and may reduce anxiety in pets

Whether moving to a new home, travelling, adjusting to another animal or child in the house, cats may showcase anxiety as excessive vocalisation or grooming, arched back, urine spraying and destructive behaviour to name a few. 

When it comes to treating cats with CBD for anxiety there is still sparse research, with most knowledge coming from veterinary doctors clinical experience internationally.

However, recently (Feb 2024), a new paper was published following a study of 10 healthy domestic cats and their attachment to their caregivers using a Secure Base Test (SBT). 

As part of the study they administered CBD to some of the cats and a placebo to others. The aim was to see how CBD helped the separation anxiety felt by the cats when taken away from their caregivers. 

What they found, they believe, is the first demonstration of the anxiolytic effects of CBD on feline response to a brief separation. 

The findings offer some evidence for cat owners that CBD may be a useful option for anxiety in cats.

Cats may benefit from CBD oil for health concerns.

CBD for other Health Concerns

Of late, regulations have become less restrictive allowing for more research to be conducted in the arena of cats well-being and even CBD for feline cognitive dysfunction

CBD Dosing and Safety for Cats

In the past five years, there have been a handful of safety trials on CBD oil involving cats. Cats seem to show a poorer absorption, lower serum concentrations and faster elimination of CBD than dogs. 

At doses of 2mg of CBD oil per kilo bodyweight, twice per day, the main side effects cats showed were excessive licking and head shaking, and less commonly, pacing and chomping.

Food consumption and body weight weren’t affected by CBD in cats and although they can experience some vomiting, they don’t exhibit the same level of gastrointestinal side effects to CBD oil treatments compared to dogs.

This randomised, blinded, placebo-controlled study tested the long-term safety and tolerability of daily administration of CBD to cats. It was found that THC-free CBD at a dose of 4mg/kg body weight was absorbed into plasma and well-tolerated by healthy cats when given over a 26 week period. 

Further research is warranted to look at the effects of THC in cats, so considering current knowledge it would be prudent if cats were prescribed CBD isolate preparations. 

Many CBD products sold online, without a prescription, have not been tested for their cannabinoid content and may contain additives that could be harmful to cats. CBD may be prescribed safely but always under the guidance of a medical cannabis informed vet.

Administration of CBD to Cats

This recent study (2023) compared the oral administration of pure CBD in cats in a fasted and fed state. A statistically significant difference was noted between the fed and fasted absorption levels, suggesting that CBD should be given shortly after a meal. 

Prescribing CBD and Monitoring Cats

Many vets continue to be hesitant in considering medical cannabis as a veterinary medicine. This is understandable given decades of stigma and potentially hands-on experience treating pets who have accidentally ingested toxic amounts of cannabis.

Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence abounds on the internet and more vets are becoming educated on why and how to use CBD for a cats’ health.

While anecdotes and clinic observation may inform future research, for the safety and wellbeing of any animal administered CBD it’s important that it is prescribed and monitored by a vet.

CBD Vets Australia provides extensive education to veterinary doctors and vet teams on prescribing legally CBD oil for pets including cats. 

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