CBD Oil Update

September 12, 2019

The question continues to be asked, “Can I use CBD oil in my cat?”

The answer is the same. We don’t know yet.

Unfortunately, we are living in a CBD-can-cure-everything era and we do not have much data on its effectiveness for specific diseases. There is a distinction that needs to be made about the CBD source. CBD can be from marijuana or from hemp (both come from the cannabis plant). Since marijuana is still labeled as a Schedule I drug (same classification as heroin), studying CBD from the cannabis plant is still illegal. Only California veterinarians can discuss cannabis.

CBD derived from hemp is the type that you see on websites and in stores. These products currently exist in a legal grey zone. Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill which made hemp “legal,” there has been a huge influx of CBD oil products on the market claiming treatment for a number of ailments and diseases. However, its use must be in the form of a supplement and not used as a food or drug. You will often see a claim at the bottom of a product that states something along the lines of “this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Technically speaking, as long as the hemp product is a supplement, it is fine. Once hemp is used as a drug or in food, the hemp product becomes a legal issue. To make matters worse, the supplement market is not standardized and not well regulated.

I cannot legally discuss, recommend or prescribe
CBD oil to your cat.

Here’s the dilemma: You can only buy CBD as a “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease” supplement, but most people are looking to purchase a CBD product as a drug (i.e. treat a condition or disease in their cat). The FDA must approve any health claim, especially if a CBD product’s use is intended to treat, cure, or prevent a disease. The FDA does not regulate CBD products from hemp that are designated as a supplement because there are no health claims to regulate. For example, when a website or product claims that it will help with arthritis, they don’t actually know if it will help with arthritis.

What’s the big deal? CBD oil is safe. Potentially, however we just do not know enough about CBD yet. When doctor’s think about drugs, here’s a short list of some things that enter our minds:

Efficacy – What do we know about CBD’s ability to produce a desired or intended result in the body? What effect will CBD have when it binds to a tissue’s cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2)? Is CBD derived from marijuana different and/or more effective than CBD derived from hemp? What dose is needed to treat a specific disease?

Thanks to Cornell and Colorado Universities, these questions are starting to be answered. However, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

Safety – What dose is safe for cats? What dose is too much? Is the dose different for marijuana derived CBD versus hemp derived CBD? Are there any side effects? Can this medication be used long term? Is the label correct (i.e. does the CBD product contain the actual amount of CBD on the label)? Are there undeclared substances in the CBD oil that are not on the label? Does the CBD product contain traces of THC (the component in marijuana responsible for the “high”)?

Since CBD as a supplement is not standardized or well regulated, there could be anything in the CBD oil you bought online. The FDA has sent many warning letters to companies marketing and selling CBD products because their tests were not consistent with the claims on their label.

Drug interactions – Will CBD interact with other medications your cat may be on? We haven’t a clue. In humans, there is some evidence that CBD may adversely interact with some anti-depressant, blood pressure and anti-seizure medications. We know even less about possible drug interactions in cats.

A 2017 Penn study showed 70% of CBD products
on the market are mislabeled.

Current proposed uses of CBD may include treatment for certain cancer, seizures, pain, inflammation, arthritis, anxiety and counteract chemotherapy side effects. It is a huge legality to even discuss the use of CBD in your cat, let alone recommend or prescribe it. The laws are constantly changing on this topic and California and New York have bills proposed that would allow veterinarians to treat with CBD. Cornell University is studying the effects of CBD oil for arthritis in dogs. Colorado State University is studying CBD treatments for dogs with epilepsy. There appears to be some promise for the use of CBD in veterinary medicine. However, until laws change and enough studies are conducted, we cannot recommend (or discuss) the use of CBD for your cat.

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