We have had several pet owners ask about giving CBD oil to their cats for various ailments. At the same time, many companies are popping up to sell hemp-based CBD online, and the oil can be found in many stores that sell herbal remedies and supplements. But, what actually is CBD oil? 

Scientifically speaking, CBD is an abbreviation for “Cannabidiol, a cannabinoid which is a class of chemical unique to the Cannabis species of plant.  Of course, the most commonly known cannabis plants are hemp and marijuana. Even though more than 100 unique cannabinoids occur, the most famous is THC: the compound in marijuana that produces a “high.” Unlike THC, CBD lacks the hallucinogenic effects, yet it maintains various positive medicinal properties. Unfortunately, it’s not currently clear exactly how CBD may be medically beneficial for pets.  


What medical conditions are treated with CBD products? 

In human medicine, pre-clinical and clinical evidence exists for antiseizure, anti-inflammatory, pain relief, anti-anxiety, and antitumor effects, including treatment of vomiting and inappetence. Currently, cannabinoid drugs (including CBD) have been approved in the United States to treat anorexia, inappetence and (soon) epilepsy in humans. For now, research has been slow due to the murky legality of cannabinoids in the U.S. 

As of January 2018, there are no published studies that have examined the effects of CBD in veterinary patients. Studies in mice and rats do exist but cannot be extrapolated to companion animals such as cats and dogs. Just as with humans, the legality of cannabinoids in the U.S. has made research rather difficult. 

The most likely conditions which MIGHT benefit from CBD are epilepsy and nausea or vomiting associated with chemotherapy. We just don’t know for sure. Again, it could take some time to reach a firm conclusion on the true effectiveness of CBD across a range of medical issues. 

In reasonable amounts, cannabinoids appear to be safe for dogs and cats. CBD products are considered safe in both humans and test animals. However, in the absence of scientific support of dosing regimens, there is no way to determine a proper dose for the various CBD preparations in animals. 


What is the status of CBD products? 

Currently, veterinarians cannot legally dispense, prescribe, or “instruct” a client to purchase CBD products. In the United States, CBD is a Schedule I substance, regardless of the source. Schedule I substances are defined by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) as being substances with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other examples of Schedule I drugs are heroin, LSD, marijuana, and peyote. 

Despite this, several companies market Cannabis products which contain primarily hemp-based CBD for veterinary use. As with any herbal product or dietary supplement, these products are not approved. Because quality control measures are not mandated by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration), quality, safety and efficacy of the products CANNOT be assured. For example, analysis of several products by the FDA in recent years revealed that the CBD content varied, and in many products, CBD was either nearly absent or absent entirely. 

However, in June 2018, a prescription CBD drug named Epidiolex was approved by the FDA for use in human patients to treat two rare forms of severe epilepsy. It still needs approval by the DEA, but it is probable that they will permit it. Epidiolex could be used as an extra-label drug in veterinary patients, but it’s all theoretical at the moment. So, we DO NOT recommend calling your vet to try getting this prescribed for your kitty! 

In short, CBD oil has many promising and exciting prospects for the future, but for now, it is mired in legal and scientific limbo.