Are you wondering about CBD for cats?
Calico Callie had a rough start to life.
The Calico cat was living under a porch with her babies when Dawn Lamsa, who had been doing volunteer work to help chained dogs, got a call: Would she be able to help the cat and her kittens?
Dawn, an animal lover, immediately agreed. She found a rescue to take the kittens and adopted Calico Callie herself.
But despite Dawn’s best efforts to make Callie feel at home, the rescued cat suffered from high anxiety. “She was super scared,” says Dawn, who lives in Leonard, Michigan, surmising Callie was once a pet who had been dumped. Could CBD for cats be the answer?
On top of anxiety and fear issues, Calico Callie also had a multitude of physical ailments. She suffers from stomatitis, a debilitating oral condition that causes severe inflammation of the gums and painful lesions in the mouth. Some of her teeth were infected and had to be pulled. She also had ringworm, which necessitated a bath every other day for a couple of weeks.
“Of course, she started to not trust me,” says Dawn. “After working with her, she would allow me to pet her sometimes. But (if there was) any change in the home, or if I tried to clip her nails or put flea meds on her, it would take her weeks to let me pet her again. Then I went through a divorce and we moved. She was really scared then.
“It made me feel really sad for her. I tried everything,” Dawn says. “I want her to be comfortable in my home.” To make matters worse, Dawn’s other rescues began to pick on Calico Callie, and she started having accidents and hiding, emerging only to eat.
“I was at my wit’s end,” remembers Dawn. Determined to find a solution, she decided to try CBD oil at the start of November 2018. “I take CBD oil myself daily… it has helped me get off all kinds of ibuprofen for pain and it helps with anxiety.” CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabis compound derived from hemp. Unlike THC, it’s non-psychoactive, meaning it won’t get you or your cat high. What it does do is help with all manner of ailments, from pain to anxiety to seizures. Within a week, Callie started coming out of hiding and letting Dawn approach her.
“With the CBD oil, you get all of your cat back. You don’t just treat a piece of the disease, it really is like an entire body overhaul.”
Dawn is just one of the many pet owners out there turning to CBD to treat their cats’ ailments, despite the confusion and misinformation surrounding the compound.
The acronym is getting more recognizable, but misinformation is still out there. “Sure, it’s controversial, but unfairly so,” says Dr. Patty Khuly, a companion animal veterinarian at the Sunset Animal Clinic in Miami, Florida, and a pet health writer. “It’s only because of marijuana’s reputation as an illicit drug and the fact that this product happens to be derivable from the marijuana family of plants. The reality is that if this product came from any other plant family, it wouldn’t be controversial at all.”
Calico Callie has become a different cat since starting her CBD treatment four months ago. “I can clip her nails and put flea meds on her, and shortly after, she will allow me to pet her,” Dawn says. Sometimes, she will even emerge from hiding and play with the other cats. “Although it is a slow process, I know with continued CBD use, she will open up more and more.”
Cats and dogs are highly sensitive to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the principal psychoactive component of marijuana, but as mentioned CBD is derived from hemp and is non-psychoactive, so your pet won’t get high. It’s a natural product, says Dr. Khuly—its value is in its ability to offer relief from anxiety for patients like
Calico Callie, as well as treat pain and inflammatory diseases, including arthritis and bowel diseases, depression, stress, poor appetite, tumors and cancers, allergies, and nausea.
“The THC gets you high and is toxic to cats. CBD does not get you high and is perfectly safe,” says Dr. Khuly, whose blog, drpattykhuly.com, has won accolades from the veterinary community as one of the Ten Best Blogs in Pet Health by Fox News. She’s been voted one of the 25 People to Watch by Pet Product News, has won the Veterinary News Network’s Rising Star Award, and was selected by Veterinary Practice News as one of 13 Veterinarians to Watch in 2013. “In fact, we’ve learned that most of the effects of these plants aren’t related to the high at all. A sense of well-being, relaxation, and some anti-inflammatory effects are some of the CBD molecule’s effects on the body. These have nothing to do with the high we associate with marijuana.”
Hemp derivatives, including CBD, have been used in pets for as long as they have in humans. Hemp supplements, but not the purified CBD molecule, have been available for decades, says Dr. Khuly. “Now that we have a better understanding of how the CBD molecule works on the body, it’s being made available as a single-ingredient product.”
And according to Dr. Khuly, CBD oils, tinctures, and treats are here to stay. “For comparison, its efficacy has already been shown to surpass that of our ubiquitous joint supplements (containing glucosamine and chondroitin, among other additives), which means it’s no mere fad,” she says.
She sees more and more pet owners finding success treating an array of ailments with CBD. People like Alicia O’Toole, whose cat, Admiral, was diagnosed with stomatitis two years ago.
“CBD is the most promising drug that has come out for neuropsychiatric diseases in the last 50 years”
The nine-year-old Domestic Shorthair/Bengal mixed breed began having trouble eating, and would yelp out in pain when food would hit certain parts of his mouth.
“He became more socially anxious, lost weight, and began avoiding a lot of his usual family interactions,” says Alicia, who lives in Warrington, Pennsylvania. “After a complete work-up done at the vet, they decided to put him on an oral liquid antibiotic, something he would have to continue to take each day, to suppress his dental inflammations. This, however, was just getting him by, and we could tell he was still uncomfortable. The vets offered no other solutions. After a couple more exams, we were told this was just something he had to live with and to continue on the antibiotics. It broke our hearts to watch our cat, who was so used to greeting us with his signature licks and stealing our laps, disappear under the beds during the day, and avoid all contact with his other cat pals. He had even started hissing and swatting at them to keep them away.”
Alicia had heard about CBD oil for cats through various news outlets, so when Admiral’s condition wasn’t improving, she started thinking about trying it out.
“I had heard that it helped with inflammation, anxiety, and appetite stimulation,” says Alicia. “I started researching various companies who specialized in CBD for cats.” At the same time, Modern Cat magazine was running its usual Facebook Friday Freebie giveaway and a bottle of CBD oil from Austin and Kat was one of the prizes.
She won, received a bottle in the mail, and immediately gave Admiral his first dose. “It was simple enough, just a dropper full, squirted into the corner of his mouth by his back teeth, to make sure it went down. I had his plate of food sitting on the floor waiting for him. He ran off at first, as he usually did after getting his other medication. But the difference here was after five minutes, he came back down, went to his plate, and ate his food. All of it. Afterward, he started rubbing on our legs, looking for pets. I couldn’t believe it. This wasn’t just a minor change, this was Admiral back to being Admiral. Within a half an hour, he was laying on the couch with our other two cats, and took a nap curled up against them.”
Still, with all the positive outcomes being reported, many cat owners are hesitant to try CBD. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and it doesn’t help that many veterinarians, like Dawn’s and Alicia’s, are hesitant when their clients broach the subject. (“My veterinarian never even mentioned it to us,” says Alicia.) Dr. Khuly agrees. “Most veterinarians are not yet on board with CBD,” she says. She adds that “while it’s a popular topic, veterinarians continue to be more concerned with the product’s legality than with its potential medical uses.”
Alicia says she understands the skepticism. Many people she knows consider CBD oil to be a fad. “Unfortunately, I think CBD oil gets lumped into a lot of the marijuana debates and isn’t considered a viable option by many veterinarians, probably because traditional medicine demands precedent,” she says. “But I know I would use CBD oil if I had a pain that needed treatment.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that there are no adverse health effects from the use of CBD. You’re also safe from legal issues: both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana and marijuana-derived products like CBD are legal in Canada, and as of December 2018, with the passing of the Farm Bill, it is federally legal both to possess and use hemp and its derivatives (including CBD) in the United States as well. The Senate passed the bill 87-13 on Dec. 11, and it was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018. CBD still isn’t FDA approved, which limits its production and distribution, but there is no longer the possibility of federal criminal charges for the possession or use of CBD.
Even before that, Dr. Khuly says she’s never heard of any law enforcement action against any veterinarian or pet owner for using CBD.
For the growing number of pet owners for whom CBD has benefitted, doing their research has been worth it.
“The reason it is so promising is that it has a unique combination of safety and effectiveness across a very broad range of conditions”
Plenty of humans are using CBD too, and as New York University School of Medicine assistant professor Dr. Esther Blessing told The New York Times in an interview for an article titled, ‘Why Is CBD Everywhere?’ October 2018, “CBD is the most promising drug that has come out for neuropsychiatric diseases in the last 50 years,” she stated. “The reason it is so promising is that it has a unique combination of safety and effectiveness across a very broad range of conditions.”
Both Dawn and Alicia are adamant that CBD oil saved their cats, and agree that it is worth every penny. To Alicia, using CBD oil instead of a traditional antibiotic means that they aren’t pressed for an office visit fee and a stressful exam every time they need a refill. Dawn pays about $40 for a bottle of CBD oil that lasts eight weeks—and it has been so effective for Calico Callie that she wants to get all of her cats on it. “They are all rescues, and have their own issues and anxieties,” she says. “I think the CBD oil would help.”
For her part, “I would love to convince anyone with a cat living with stomatitis to try CBD oil,” says Alicia. “With the CBD oil, you get all of your cats back. You don’t just treat a piece of the disease, it really is like an entire body overhaul.”
Four months after his initial dose, Admiral is slowly but surely gaining back his weight. “It isn’t something we can take him off of, as he’ll always have stomatitis, but as long as we stay diligent on getting his doses to him as directed, he is just your average cat,” Alicia says. “It’s not an over-exaggeration to say that CBD oil has saved my cat. I was once worried about losing him. That I would find a full plate of food left sitting cold somewhere, and that would be it. I would have failed him had I just gone along with the usual. Today, Admiral gets to live. He’s got a full belly, no pain, and is back to stealing laps whenever he can.”
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