CBD Oil for Seizures & Epilepsy in Cats
Posted by Michael Jones on January 22, 2020
Updated at: April 06, 2021
If you have never seen what a seizure looks like, you may be terrified to witness your cat having one. They aren’t easy to watch because you can’t do much for them except keep them from hurting themselves.
What you can do is protect them from the dangers around them. Move them away from potential hazards like stairwells or drop-offs and keep their head away from furniture or rocks that could harm them. After you do this, it’s just a matter of waiting for the seizure to pass.
If your cat suffers from seizures and epilepsy, a suitable alternative that may help manage them is CBD oil. It’s worth looking into as it has the potential to help your furry friend.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What Is CBD Oil?
CBD is the acronym used for cannabidiol. While other cannabinoids may be present in several types of plants all over the world, CBD is unique in that it is only found in cannabis and accounts for up to 40% of the plant extract. Therefore, being a cannabinoid has nothing to do with whether it derives from marijuana; it depends on the molecular structure.
CBD oil derives from hemp. The reason is that hemp has the least concentrations of THC (the cannabinoid that marijuana is famous for as it causes you to feel the head high). THC, however, is toxic to animals such as dogs and cats. Therefore, hemp-derived CBD is preferable for two reasons.
- It is naturally low, almost devoid of THC. In most states, CBD oil sales are only legal if the product contains less than .03% THC.
- CBD is legal in all 50 states because it is low in THC and cannot make anyone high.
Is CBD Legal for Cats?
As mentioned above, when CBD derives from hemp, it is low in THC and perfectly legal. You need to ensure you are buying CBD extracted from hemp, as it can come from marijuana as well. This type should only be for sale in a legal marijuana dispensary in a state that has legalized medical marijuana. It will not be safe for pets, however.
What Effects Does CBD Have on a Cat?
CBD can trigger the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS) to work more efficiently. The process improves the body’s response to pain, tremors, appetite, metabolism, and more.
The ECS is responsible for bringing balance back to the body. Its primary job is to maintain the status of homeostasis within the body. Homeostasis improves the efficiency of every body system, with the ECS working as a “supervisor” for these systems. All mammals have an ECS, and scientists believe it is the most critical system of the body.
We have only known about the ECS since the 1990s, and researchers are still learning much about it. Many people have never heard of it because information about the ECS didn’t exist when we were in school.
Are There Any Negative Side Effects for Cats?
If your cat is rubbing their head, they may have a headache. The most common of the three is diarrhea. If you notice it, reduce the amount of CBD you’re giving your cat or skip a dose entirely. Reducing or stopping treatment will typically mitigate the problem. Reduce the amount of the doses going forward until they’ve had a chance to adjust.CBD is not addictive. There have been very few reports of side-effects, and they have never been life-threatening. The worst side-effects may be extreme tiredness, diarrhea, or headaches. You do not need to have any concerns about your cat getting high from using CBD. It will not impair their ability to function normally. Nor will it cause them to have any issues with dependency.
How Can I Get a Hold of CBD Oil?
CBD is available in many places, especially on the internet. Please, do some research to learn the difference between a quality CBD oil and one that may be questionable. It’s also essential that you speak to your veterinarian and keep them in the loop when it comes to decisions about your cat’s care. They should agree with whatever you decide to do and know about it.
Is CBD the Right Option for My Cat?
It’s important to understand that CBD is not a cure. It is an excellent tool for managing many different conditions, such as epilepsy and seizure conditions. Whether it’s the best option for your furry friend, is something only you can answer.CBD may be the right choice for your cat, but only you can determine that. It requires you to do a fair amount of research and learn the pros and cons. You should understand the general way in which it works within the body, and you should prepare for the good and the bad.
You must run it by your veterinarian, especially if your cat is already taking other medications. CBD can be a natural blood thinner, and this means that it could interact with other medicines that also thin the blood. Your veterinarian will be able to inform you properly, as will your own research.
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade
Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.
Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. We Love You!
The Innovet Team
Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments . Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
Please share your experiences and stories, your opinions and feedback about this blog, or what you’ve learned that you’d like to share with others.
If you have never seen what a seizure looks like, you may be terrified to witness your cat having one. They aren’t easy to watch because you can’t do much for them except keep them from hurting themselves. What you can do is protect them from the dangers around them. Move them away from potential hazards like stairwell
CBD for Dogs and Cats—What’s New?
Donald Vaughan is a freelance writer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. His work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, Boys’ Life, Military Officer Magazine, Today’s Veterinary Business, and numerous other publications. He is also the founder of Triangle Association of Freelancers.
C annabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive molecule derived from cannabis, is increasingly being t outed as an effective treatment in humans for conditions ranging from chronic pain to anxiety to insomnia. As a result, public interest in the use of CBD on pets has also grown, industry analysts report. But whereas research on the effects of CBD in humans has been ongoing for many years, similar research on dogs, cats, and other species is just beginning. Many questions remain regarding safety, efficacy, dosage, and more.
However, that hasn’t stopped eager pet owners from turning to their veterinarians for information and advice regarding the use of CBD. In many cases, the owners have successfully used CBD to treat their own medical conditions, and believe it would be equally beneficial for their animals. This places veterinarians and veterinary nurses in a difficult position because, while the sale and use of CBD are legal in many states, the regulatory landscape for veterinary professionals is unclear and varies from state to state.
CBD is one of two major phytocannabinoids found in cannabis—the other being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the component that gets users high—says Jeffrey Powers, DVM, chairman of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents, and owner of Veterinary Clinics North, which has clinics in East Jordan and Beaver Island, Mich. “CBD has received quite a bit of interest recently in veterinary medicine,” Dr. Powers notes. “It has been shown to be an effective analgesic, and a strong anti-inflammatory as well.”
To date, CBD research has focused primarily on seizure control and pain reduction in companion animals. In 2018, researchers at Cornell University published a study in Frontiers in Veterinary Science on the pharmacokinetics, safety, and clinical efficacy of cannabidiol in osteoarthritic dogs. 1 The results showed no observable side effects and a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity based on Canine Brief Pain Inventory and Hudson activity scores.
More recently, Stephanie McGrath, MS, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology), assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, investigated the potential benefits of CBD in treating idiopathic seizures in dogs, a study funded by Applied Basic Science Corporation. 2 Though the study group was small—16 subjects—the results found a significant 89% reduction in seizure frequency in dogs receiving CBD at 2.5 mg/kg q12h compared to a 43% reduction in the control group. Both study groups were concurrently receiving conventional anti-epileptic drug therapy. 2
“The study had a small number of dogs, so we have to be careful how much power we give it,” Dr. McGrath notes. “We have started another larger study funded by the AKC Canine Health Foundation. That allowed us to enroll a larger group of dogs, and we are doing a crossover study so every dog gets the placebo during one arm of the study and CBD during the other. If this were to show there is a significant difference when the dogs were on CBD versus not, I think that would add a lot more weight to CBD as an anticonvulsant.”
Additional studies are ongoing in a number of areas, including the use of CBD in species other than cats and dogs, but their findings won’t be available until they are completed. “From my connections in the veterinary world, I know there are studies out there that are looking to further describe the pharmacokinetics of CBD as well as look at varying doses of CBD for different conditions,” says Gary Richter, DVM, owner of Holistic Veterinary Care and Rehabilitation Center in Oakland, Calif. “They are also looking at CBD for other clinical indications beyond seizures and arthritis pain,” including anxiety.
GRAY AREA Hemp products were descheduled under the 2018 Farm Bill, but the U.S. DEA lists cannabis and cannabinoid products—under which CBD products fall—as Schedule I controlled substances. This iffy legal status can pose a significant challenge for veterinary professionals. igorstevanovic/shutterstock.com
Though clinical research is just starting to rev up, anecdotal evidence regarding the therapeutic use of CBD abounds. Dr. Powers, for example, has used it on his own pets, including a St. Bernard named Ella who was afflicted with arthritis and experienced severe storm anxiety. “I tried almost all of the products available for the treatment of those conditions, but found them ineffective,” he recalls. “I decided to try hemp CBD oil and chews and Ella has done extremely well from several standpoints. CBD may be a good alternative to NSAIDs, which can cause problems in some pets.”
Casara Andre, DVM, cVMA, founder and director of Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting in Wheat Ridge, Colo., is another advocate who has used CBD on her pets. Her cat Mattie was afflicted with kidney problems, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and arthritis. “I really didn’t have any good options for her, so I tried a CBD-dominant tincture, which offered more scalability,” Dr. Andre says. “I saw a difference, but it took about 6 weeks. I noticed small improvements in her appetite, willingness to interact, and small play attempts. When I began to incorporate a product with more even ratios of CBD to THC, I saw dramatic improvement. Mattie started eating better, playing, and no more IBD. It gave me my cat back, and gave Mattie 4 more amazing years.”
Dr. Andre used a CBD-dominant product that also contained a small amount of THC. While many pet-specific products contain CBD only, some studies have suggested that it works more effectively when paired with other molecules, such as THC.
“The problem we’re running into is that some research shows that hemp extracts, which have, say, a 1:20 THC to CBD ratio, along with other components such as terpenes and other minor cannabinoids, actually may be more effective at preventing seizures than purified extracts,” notes Dr. Powers. “I believe as a nation we need to develop more knowledge in the whole area of cannabis medicine from a widespread standpoint.”
Until recently, cannabis research has been all but impossible due to the plant’s status as a Schedule I drug, which puts it in the same category as heroin and LSD. For decades, the positions of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been that cannabis has no medicinal value but does have a high risk of addiction and abuse. There is a movement to reclassify cannabis, and demands that the cannabis grown at the government’s only grow facility at the University of Mississippi be of the same potency as cannabis strains now available in states where medical and recreational use of cannabis is legal, such as Colorado, Oregon, and California.
The iffy legal status of cannabis across the United States can pose a significant challenge to CBD researchers who, depending on where they live and who they work for, could find their studies shut down or dramatically diminished in scope. “I’m hoping the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill [which legalized industrial hemp production and sales nationwide] will help move along some of the research by descheduling hemp, but on a state by state basis it might be a challenge,” says Dr. McGrath.
As noted, the legal issues surrounding medical cannabis also affect veterinarians, whose hands are tied by their state veterinary boards regarding even the discussion of CBD with their clients. This places veterinarians in a difficult position when it comes to harm reduction education, Dr. Richter says.
“I have people coming into my practice asking about cannabis, sometimes bringing in cannabis products they have purchased at dispensaries or online, and asking, ‘How do I give them? How much do I give?’” he reports. “My question to the veterinary medical board has been, do you honestly want me to turn those people around and send them out the door to get information from someone with no medical training, like the guy who works at the dispensary or the kid who works in the pet store? That’s a question the veterinary medical board has never been able to answer to anyone’s satisfaction. I believe that as a veterinarian I have an enormous responsibility to safeguard my patients and provide accurate information to my clients. They have put us in a position where we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”
That may soon change in California thanks to AB-2215, legislation passed in 2018 that, effective January 1, 2020, allows veterinarians to legally discuss the use of cannabis with clients. The law required the state veterinary board to release guidelines confirming what veterinarians can and cannot do in regard to cannabis education ( cvma.net/marijuana-and-pets ).
The AVMA has expressed support for stronger research into the medical benefits of cannabis, and in July responded to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) request for public comment on the topic with a lengthy letter outlining issues and areas of research it would like to see, including dosage, efficacy, and safety.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has also publicly endorsed sensible government regulation of cannabis with the goal of better research. In September it was announced that the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health would be funding 9 grants totaling $3 million for CBD research in humans. “The science is lagging behind the public use and interest,” explained deputy director Dr. David Shurtleff in a release. “We’re doing our best to catch up here.”
To help educate veterinary nurses about the medical use of CBD and more, Veterinary Cannabis Education and Consulting offers a veterinary cannabis counselor certification course, notes Dr. Andre. She believes strongly, however, that veterinary professionals still have an ethical obligation to educate their clients when able.
“No matter in which state they live, the ability to provide harm reduction education is implicit in being a veterinarian or any member of the veterinary profession,” she notes. “We are all in this industry to help animals stay safe, and there is so much happening in product development on the human side that we need to be able to at least say, ‘Don’t do these things. If you are going to use cannabis on your own, do it safely and avoid these particular pitfalls.’ It’s important to realize that answering a client’s question has nothing to do with the substance itself. It has to do with us keeping our oath and protecting our patients and being their advocate. Telling clients not to give their pets products containing xylitol or to be sure it’s not contaminated with pesticides—that absolutely is in the veterinarian’s domain. Education is always what we’re allowed to do.”
1. Gamble LJ, Boesch JM, Frye CW, et al. Pharmacokinetics, safety, and clinical efficacy of cannabidiol treatment in osteoarthritic dogs. Front Vet Sci 2018;5:165.
2. McGrath S, Bartner LR, Rao S, et al. Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of oral cannabidiol administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. JAVMA 2019;254(11):1301-1308.
As a result of public interest in the medicinal use of CBD in human medicine, interest in its possible use for pets is growing as well.