Q. I have been reading about the use of CBD oil for problems in people, and I have a 12-year-old cat that doesn’t eat very well and has arthritis that appears to be causing him some discomfort. I know that CBD has been used for pain control in people. Is this something that I can consider treating my cat with?
A. Thanks for getting in touch and for your reasonable inquiry. We get many questions about cannabidiol (CBD) use in cats. Perhaps a few points about what it is, what we know about it, and what the future may hold for its application in cats would be helpful to you.
CBD is a one of the hundreds of compounds found in the cannabis plant, some of which cause psychoactive effects (i.e., a “high”). CBD itself, though, has not been shown to exhibit these effects in people or in animals, and there is currently no evidence that either people or animals can become addicted to it.
While research is ongoing and necessary to better define the risk and benefits of CBD therapy in both people and animals, it has been shown to possess a broad range of potentially beneficial effects in a number of studies, including anxiety reduction, antimicrobial properties, antineoplastic (anticancer) properties, antinausea effects, antiseizure activity, and pain control.
As with any potential therapy, it is important to reiterate that any potential benefits of CBD therapy must be weighed against the risks of its use, and while the risks of CBD therapy seem to be relatively manageable based upon studies carried out thus far, this issue must be addressed via further study.
It is also important to note that demonstration of benefits in one species does not guarantee a similar benefit in another species. Cats are quite unique from a metabolic/physiologic standpoint, and there are many examples of therapies that are safe and effective in other species that are not in cats.
It is important to keep this in mind when reading about CBD research in non-feline species.
The transition from the demonstration of potential benefit in a laboratory to its use in whole animals (rather than in cells in a culture dish, for example) requires studies in the species of interest to first demonstrate safety and then show efficacy.
If a potential therapy is shown to be unsafe in a species, it is rarely pursed further in that species. If it is shown to be safe, then effectiveness must be demonstrated, ideally using placebo controlled, blinded studies in patients with the naturally occurring disease for which the therapy is being investigated.
Based upon studies carried out thus far, CBD appears to be relatively safe in cats, provided that appropriate dosing (which is still being worked out) is utilized. The efficacy of CBD for treating any feline disease is thus far lacking, however, so we cannot recommend its use until such a benefit has been demonstrated in controlled studies. Finally, as our nation and individual states work out legalities surrounding its distribution, CBD usually cannot be prescribed by your veterinarian.
We are carefully monitoring the literature for studies addressing the issue of CBD use in cats and will certainly inform the public of any news on this front as it becomes available.