CBD has just recently exploded with popularity over the past few years, but CBD is not new at all,” says Dr. Lindsay Butzer, a Zesty Paws spokes veterinarian from Boca Raton, Florida. “CBD was extracted from the hemp plant in the 1940s and was recognized as a completely different substance than the psychoactive substance we all know as THC. That means CBD has been around for 80 years! That is a very long time. It was not until the late 1990s when the step toward legalizing marijuana in the United States began that the popularity of CBD followed right after it. Around this same time, CBD was being used in cats and dogs.”
Dr. Joseph K. Rosentel, vice president of product development and supply chain at Pet Releaf, based in Littleton, Colorado, adds “CBD for cats is a growing category and may help support a normal inflammatory response and joint discomfort,” plus also help with a variety of situations.
2021: What’s Happening
The most significant update may not be with CBD itself but with public perception. The biggest transformation over the last few years in the pet space and, specifically with cat parents, is how much more accepted CBD is, says Jon Neveloff, partner with King Kanine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Every day we are seeing more and more cat owners use CBD as part of their overall wellness program.” Jon points out that major retail chains prominently displaying CBD products for people helps build general awareness and recognition.
Another difference Dr. Angie Krause, with Boulder Holistic Vet in Boulder, Colorado, has noticed with CBD products is that “They are becoming more concentrated, and that helps kitties get a therapeutic dose with less volume of oil.”
Another development is that more veterinarians and their customers will consider CBD for pets. “The acceptance by veterinarians varies widely; I think often by region and perhaps demographics of the veterinarian and their client base,” reports Dr. Diana Drumm, medical director of The Animal Healing Center and president-elect of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. “Here in California, I regularly have clients start the conversation about CBD use for their pets. This is not only by my millennial clients, but even octogenarians who may be benefiting from CBD themselves.”
Dr. Drumm, also a Pet Releaf partner, adds, “I feel the reluctance by some veterinarians to educate themselves and in turn their clients about CBD use are mostly due to fear/ambiguity surrounding the cloudy legal landscape.”
And that legal issue is very real for veterinarians. “Veterinarians are restricted by state licensure laws,” explains Joey DiFrancesco, CEO and founder of LolaHemp in New York City. “In addition, there are issues with liability for veterinarians who would not be covered by insurance in cases where CBD products are recommended.”
Geography is clearly part of the hurdle. “Currently, only four states — California, Colorado, Michigan and Oregon — allow veterinarians to discuss CBD with pet parents,” says Jodi Ziskin, director of communications with Treatibles in Nashville, Tennessee. “We are confident this list will grow exponentially over the next few years.”
But that doesn’t mean vets can’t learn about it. “CBD is becoming more accepted by veterinarians every year,” Dr. Krause confirms. “Most veterinary conferences are instructing veterinarians on the medicinal benefits of CBD and how to use it in practice.”
CBD, THC — OMG!
“One of the things that people new to CBD for pets are often confused about is the terminology,” Joey says. “In fact, some of the terms for different CBD pet products overlap, so customers should know how to dig a little deeper into any CBD products they buy for their pets to be sure they are getting what they want.
He explains, “CBD or CBD oil is a broad term that can apply to just about any product that contains cannabidiol, one of hundreds of compounds found in hemp. CBD itself is not psychoactive, meaning it does not create the ‘high’ associated with THC, a compound found in trace amounts in hemp and much larger amounts in medicinal and recreational strains of cannabis.”
Dr. Butzer explains specific totals. “‘Hemp’ contains no more than 0.3% THC and any plant with more than 0.3% THC is considered to be ‘marijuana.’ Because even small amounts of THC can have a very negative effect, it is important to understand the composition of cannabinoid-containing products before administering them to your pet.”
More on hemp oil: “CBD hemp oil, typically extracted from the stalks, flowers and leaves of the hemp plant, is full of cannabinoids (natural compounds) that are only found in the cannabis plant family,” Dr. Rosentel explains. “CBD coming from hemp plants (and not marijuana hybrids) are extremely high in CBD and extremely low in THC.”
Hemp oil also contains properties that support cannabinoids: terpenes, antioxidants and fatty acids, Jodi says. “Full-spectrum hemp CBD oil means that all of these compounds are present in the oil. This results in the ‘entourage effect,’ which refers to a boost in the therapeutic benefits of CBD when these compounds work in unison.”
In contrast to full-spectrum oil is isolate. “CBD isolate products are made by first refining the compound CBD into a pure isolated crystalline form,” Joey says. “All of the other compounds found in hemp are stripped away. Some research has shown, and many industry experts agree, that full-spectrum oils may have better healing properties as the trace elements found in whole plant extracts seem to support each other in synergistic ways”
“An area of confusion for some pet parents is hemp seed oil,” Jodi adds. “This is oil extracted from the seed, not the plant or flowers. Hemp seeds do not contain any cannabinoids. It is often used as a carrier oil in CBD products because it is rich in omega-3 and omega6 fatty acids.”
Finally, just how does CBD work? “We humans and cats both have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is made up of cannabinoid receptors that CBD can bind to that may help regulate a variety of processes in our bodies,” Dr. Butzer says.
“One of the ways that the CBD for cats market has expanded in the last few years has been the development of a range of products,” explains Joey. Most CBD for cat products fall into one of three categories: Tinctures, treats and topicals. Joey explains the distinctions:
“CBD tinctures (sold as an oil in a bottle with an eyedropper for precise dosing) for cats provide a lot of flexibility for use. They can be added to food and taken orally. They can be given directly to the cat in the mouth, which allows for faster relief and the most efficient absorption rate since it bypasses the digestive system. It can also be used topically for areas of dry skin or irritation.”
“CBD treats for cats offer convenience because each treat has a specific dose (which will vary by manufacturer). Some pet owners find the ease of giving a few treats each day to be faster and more convenient than using tinctures. They are also a great option for travel.”
“CBD topicals for cats are designed for use on the skin. They are often formulated to include other beneficial ingredients to help soothe and heal the skin.”
An additional dosing tip from Dr. Butzer, “Start with half the amount, and once you know how your pet responds to CBD then you can start to increase to the full amount. Recognize any new supplement you give your cat may impact their GI tract (soften stool).”
According to Jodi: “While all forms are equally beneficial, we do find that CBD oil administered directly into the mouth offers the fastest results for most cats because the oil absorbs into the bloodstream by capillaries in the cheek, gums and under the tongue. CBD products mixed with food enter the stomach, go through the digestion process and absorb into the bloodstream through the digestive tract. It takes a bit longer for the benefits to be experienced.” She points out that CBD is fat soluble, “So it is best taken with fat for maximum absorption.”
Jodi adds that topicals may be the best route for “super finicky cats. Gently rub into the tips of the ears. The cream absorbs quickly and can help calm a frightened or anxious kitty.”
As with many things that pertain to picky pussycats, there is no single best way — it may take some trial and error to determine what’s best for your cat.
Buyer Must Beware
While new companies in a particular space can help drive innovation, there can also be a negative side: those looking to jump on the bandwagon to make a quick buck. That’s where your due diligence comes in. Experts give some tips on what to look for and what to avoid.
“Sales of CBD pet products are skyrocketing in the United States, from $8 million in 2017 to $32 million in 2018, according to the Brightfield Group,” Dr. Rosentel says. “The firm estimates the CBD pet market could reach $1.16 billion in the United States by 2022.”
Jodi confirms: “Over the last few years, there has definitely been an influx of companies producing CBD for pets. Unfortunately, many of these bandwagon companies are offering inferior products that truly hurt all of us that are dedicated to high-quality, consistent and compliant product lines. In some states, regulators have been removing items from store shelves. The FDA is also starting to crack down on false claims (which is a good thing for consumers and legitimate CBD companies).
“The saddest part of all this is when cat parents try out these inferior ‘bandwagon’ products and desired results aren’t achieved, many decide CBD doesn’t work instead of moving on to a reputable brand. In the end, the cat is the one that suffers.”
Six for Safety
Experts for this article shared their top recommendations on what buyers should look for to get the best CBD for their cats:
- Make sure the product is third-party lab tested and can provide the consumer a certificate of analysis to prove that. This COA should certify the amount of CBD and THC in the product. The COA is usually shared through a QR code on the label to follow state regulations.
- Look for a 100% human-grade product.
- Was the product grown in the United States? Hemp is like any other botanical and picks up a lot from the soil in which it is grown, so non-U.S. sourced hemp may be high in heavy metals.
- Look for a CBD product grown without pesticides or chemicals.
- Confirm the product is and the hemp was organically grown and that each batch has a certificate of analysis.
- Look for the NASC logo. The National Animal Supplement Council has specific requirements in place for pet products containing hemp, including required labeling standards.
And, just one more thing about the product — sometimes sharing is caring and sometimes it isn’t. While you can give your cat a CBD product made for your dog (at different doses, of course), never give your cat CBD oil or hemp products made for people. “Not only can these products contain dangerous amounts of THC, they can also contain potentially deadly ingredients, such as xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is safe for people but deadly to pets,” Joey warns. “We recommend that owners work with their vet or consult with a holistic vet to make sure they give their cat CBD oil safely.”
So while your cat may prefer a tuna flavor instead of your dog’s peanut butter version, that’s subjective. CBD oils for people include flavorings such as peppermint that can be an actual health hazard to pets.
If you think CBD might help your cat, there’s no better time to make use of the vast sources of products — and research. Your cat might experience less pain, and you might be rewarded with a few extra purrs.
Paws for Relief
Here are just a few examples of CBD and Hemp products in tinctures, treats or topicals.
- CBD Liposome Hemp Oil 100 for Dogs & Cats; petreleaf.com, $54.99
- Hemp Elements Salmon Omega Oil for Dogs and Cats; zestypaws.com, $35.97
- Lolahemp Balm Full Spectrum Hemp Topical for Pets; lolahemp.com, $30
- King Kalm CBD Mange & Mite Management Spray; kingkanine.com, $24.99
- Marystails Hemp Extract Transdermal Gel Pen; marystails.com, $35
- Medterra Pet Joint Support; medterracbd.com, $34.99
- Soft Chewables Chicken Liver Flavor 1.5 mg CBD for Cats; treatibles.com, $32
- Pet CBD Kidney Support Soft Chews for Cats; cbdmd.com, $29.99