My feline foursome never turns down a treat. But they all become animated when I surprise them with an unusual treat, such as chopped-up anchovies or scrambled egg yolks or commercial-bought bison treats. Cats benefit when you expand their palates by slowly introducing them to new, nutritious treats.
CBD treats: a growing trend
I have yet to introduce my foursome to a fast-growing trend — cat treats containing CBD oil. The explosive popularity in the use of cannabidiol (CBD) by people looking for ways to ease anxiety, pain and other issues in themselves is now finding its way into CBD treats, soft chews, sprays, tinctures and capsules for their cats.
What could be good for us, should be good for our cats, right?
For now, the answer from veterinarians and health experts is a big maybe. There are lots of anecdotal success stories, but no veterinary scientific studies proving CBD will improve a cat’s appetite, ease arthritic pain, slow down dementia or reduce stress during car rides and during veterinary visits. And the Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved cannabis products for pets.
“Cats are not small dogs or small humans,” cautions Dr. Mandi Blackwelder, a veterinarian who operates Healing Arts Animal Care in Beaverton, Oregon. “Their livers process differently than human livers. You need to be more cautious when introducing a novel protein or CBD treats to cats, especially ones susceptible to GI upset and itching due to food sensitivities.”
Like us, cats sport endocannabinoid systems in their bodies. But a cat’s physiology is far more sensitive than ours, says Dr. Blackwelder, who is also a certified veterinary cannabis counselor with Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting.
Adds Dr. Jean Hofve, a holistic veterinarian in Boulder, Colorado, who created the LittleBigCat.com website, “A lot of cats and dogs respond beautifully to CBD oil for stress-related situations. Go slow. Cats are little, and they have fast metabolisms.”
➺ Don’t be a bargain hunter. “Quality CBD products are not cheap,” Dr. Hofve says. “It costs a lot of money to produce liposomes at a decent level.” Liposomes are carriers of hemp oil that work as delivery agents in the body.
➺ Seek products with COA approval.
“A quality product contains a Certificate of Analysis (COA) provided by an independent third-party tester,” Dr. Blackwelder says. “This verifies the product is free of pesticides and heavy metals and says it has what it says it has. If the product does not have a COA, you have no idea what is in there.” Adds Dr. Hofve, “If the manufacturer fudges on a response or declares that their ingredients are proprietary, shop elsewhere.”
➺ Watch out for cure claims. Avoid products that claim that they are the best or promise to “cure” or “treat” specific health conditions on their packaging or websites. “These are illegal claims because they have not been approved by the FDA,” Dr. Hofve says.
➺ Recognize that a little goes a long way. “When it comes to using CBD oil on cats, more is not better,” Dr. Blackwelder says. “Appropriate concentration is key. For a quality product, you may only need a couple drops in your cat’s mouth. Those drops will absorb into the mucous membrane and into the bloodstream.”
Keep your veterinarian in the loop. “Depending where you live will determine what that state veterinary board will allow your veterinarian to talk to you about CBD,” Dr. Blackwelder says. “In Oregon, our state board allows us to talk about it as long as we do harm-reduction education — identify potential problems and require signed consent to do CBD consulting.”
“Right now, we veterinarians are trying to weed through all the information,” Dr. Blackwelder says. “As far as we know, CBD oil does not interfere with other medications because the endocannabinoid system does not use the same pathways in the body as other medications. But we have a lot more to learn. It is important to use CBD oil safely as you would with any other drug.”
Learn more about CBD oil: The Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting is a growing group of veterinarians who offer online educational and consulting on the use of cannabis in pets. Visit veterinarycannabis.org.
Top photograph: Ivan-balvan | Getty Image