By Cheryl Craig
IBDKitties cannot endorse the use of CBD products for cats as of yet for several reasons. There have been many questions and discussions in the IBDKitties Facebook group about its use, so we felt it was appropriate to explain why, and provide you with some information before you consider using it for your cats (or yourselves). I am stating the obvious here, but cats are not humans. We know they have different nutritional needs, their systems operate differently, and that many plants and medications that are deemed safe for humans are highly toxic for cats. There is limited research on the short and long term effects of CBD on humans, and virtually none on cats. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that it can be helpful in some human conditions, but not much scientific evidence to back it up, let alone valid information on dosing and potential drug interactions.
Drug interactions have only recently been addressed, but are an important consideration. After reading articles and research, there seem to be a lot of variables including dosage (of both CBD and other drugs), how it is ingested (IV, orally, sublingual) and other factors. All sources agree that CBD affects the CYP450 enzymes which are responsible for metabolizing and eliminating toxins through the liver. Over 60% of prescription drugs are processed through the liver which opens up the potential for a lot on interactions and increased activity of some drugs to a dangerous level. This is particularly worrisome because in some human research CBD has increased the level of the other drugs to an overdose level. Some of the most concerning are drugs that we commonly use for our cats including:
Anti-Anxiety/antidepressant Drugs (such as Prozac, Amitriptyline, Mirtazapine)
Any type of blood thinners
This is far from a complete list but if your cat is on ANY medications, ask your vet if they affect the CYP450 enzymes. Given our cat’s size and sensitivity, even a small dose could have a significant effect. There hasn’t been enough research to know for sure.
CBD has become a very lucrative business based on its popularity and many companies and even celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon with various products. It’s become increasingly difficult to know what you are getting. There are a lot of variables to consider, and since they are sold as supplements, there is no regulation. Grabbing a product off the shelf without doing your research is playing Russian roulette with your cat’s health.
The only product that is actually legal in all of the US comes from industrial hemp. The difference between cannabis or marijuana and hemp is that they are grown be high in THC and low in CBD. Hemp is raised to be high in CBD with no or only trace amounts of THC. There are 100 different cannabinoids in hemp, and not enough research to show how each one interacts with our own endocannabinoid system or with other supplements and medications, and no research on cats. Recent research has shown a potential for liver and kidney disease, which is the last thing we want to chance in cats who are already predisposed to those issues. Terpenes, which are prevalent in CBD products, may also have negative effects (especially in cats) which have not been thoroughly researched. The bottom line here is that we really don’t know the safety of these products in combination with certain existing conditions or various medications and supplements. And be aware that in many, if not all states, veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe, recommend or even discuss CBD on more than a very general level, so you may not be able to depend on them for any detailed advice.
Products that have been scientifically analyzed have shown that in 84 products from 31 different sources, over 70% did not match what was shown on the label. Some were less potent, some more potent, some actually contained THC (which we know is toxic to cats), and some contained other questionable ingredients that are potentially harmful. Other considerations are where it is grown. Hemp and cannabis pick up toxins and heavy metals in the soil that become part of the plant. There are several methods of extracting CBD from the plant. CO2 extraction is considered the cleanest and safest method. Other methods can leave other residues in the product, or destroy some of the cannabinoids, rendering the product less effective. Most are based in some type of oil such as coconut or olive. Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride that cats cannot process in their liver. Ingested on a regular basis it can cause problems.
If you are considering purchasing a CBD product, your best bet is to buy from a vertically integrated “seed to sale” company, meaning they control the entire process of growing and extracting, bottling and labeling the product. They should always have 3rd party testing done regularly and make it available to the consumer. That will help you get a quality product, but it still won’t answer the many questions about dosage, safety and interactions. We understand the desperation of trying to find something to help a sick cat get well, or at least feeling better. But our goal is to only recommend products that we are reasonably sure are safe and will not cause harm. We always advise to check with your vet who knows your cat’s health history and medications to avoid interactions. When even the experts don’t have all the answers, we certainly are not qualified to give that kind of advice.