Stephanie Roach’s kitten was born with brain damage and suffered seizures—until Stephanie started giving her hemp-based cannabidiol, known as
CBD. Katherine Ann Howe’s 22-year old Siamese cat was crippled by arthritis. Since giving him CBD oil he is jumping on and off the bed without help. His mood is also better, which she credits to the reduction of pain. “CBD has been a saving grace for our sweet old fella,” says Katherine. “I don’t know how much longer he’ll be around, but his quality of life has improved greatly.”
CBD is hot right now, but humans have been using it for over 8,000 years. People are prescribed medical marijuana to support the treatment of a host of ailments and illnesses, including skin irritations and cancer. So, if humans are helped by a particular medication that is natural and safe, it makes sense that we wonder if it could help our ailing pets.
A Veterinarian Weighs In
Dr. Katherine Kramer, a veterinarian at Vancouver Animal Wellness Clinic, is not legally allowed (as per the College of Veterinarians of B.C.) to prescribe or even recommend CBD, unless she is specifically asked about it. “I should wear a button that says ‘Ask me about CBD,’ Kramer says with a chuckle. She welcomes this opportunity to increase awareness because for the past six years, her clients’ results are “nothing short of miracles.” Kramer’s practice focuses on geriatric and cancer patients, so she knows firsthand how CBD helps with pain and arthritis, with nausea, seizures, and anxiety.
“Some cats, before taking CBD, had such horrible behaviour problems, and in an urban environment anxiety can go through the roof,” says Kramer, “but soon after taking it owners tell me they ‘have their cat back.’ And pets with cancer have been able to get their quality of life back.”
If you told Dr. Kramer six years ago that she would “discuss” medical marijuana with her clients, she wouldn’t believe you. She had the ‘aha moment’ when a client, who worked with human patients treated with medical marijuana, suggested that his cat also try cannabis. “His cat had multiple health issues; prescribed opioids were knocking him out and affecting his appetite so he had nothing to lose. He was willing to try CBD so we worked out the dosage and in no time the cat improved; his appetite and energy came back and we reduced the conventional medications,” adds Dr. Kramer. “He lived a few more quality years after that. And I started looking at more worrisome cases.”
A few years ago Dr. Kramer would get a call about CBD about once a month; now her clinic is taking calls from vets and clients across North America. In a nutshell, this is her advice:
#1 Talk to your vet about anything you are thinking about trying; your vet also needs to get educated about these products. If enough pet owners ask, it will force the vet community to take further action.
#2 It’s important to use a quality-controlled product. Be careful about the products you use as they could be laced with THC (more about that at left) or maybe there’s not enough CBD in it to be effective. The FDA recently found that 90 percent of products they tested had little or no CBD or it didn’t match label ingredients. Ask the supplier for a certificate of analysis.
#3 Regarding dosage, the current catch phrase is “Start low, go slow.” And the rule of thumb .5 mg per lb of body weight. (e.g., 5 mg per 10 lbs) so a little goes a long way.
Dr. Kramer thinks that CBD’s therapeutic potential is enormous, but there’s the legality issue, mainly due to insufficient clinical trials. “I’m hopeful that with more research and studies the legal barriers will fall,” she says, “and then we will be allowed to prescribe CBDs.”
(Although the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association officially encourages research into the safety, dosing and uses of cannabis in animals, the American Veterinary Medical Association has not yet condoned the use of medical marijuana and related products with animals.)
What is CBD and how does it work?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, one of more than 60 nonpsychoactive compounds found in both hemp and cannabis (aka pot) plants. It creates beneficial physical changes to thebody’s endocannabinoid system—known to affect bodily processes such as digestion, mood, and sleep.
Endocannabinoids are the chemical messengers that tell your body to get these processes moving and when to stop; they help maintain optimal balance in the body, also known as homeostasis. When the body does not produce enough endocannabinoids or cannot regulate them properly, you are more susceptible to illnesses. CBD is known to have anti-anxiety, anticonvulsive, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor properties.
In British Columbia CBD is available in pet stores and every corner dispensary, and the rest of Canada is catching up. Starting October 17, 2018, Canadians will legally be able to use recreational marijuana, but it may take longer for Canadian pets to get their paws on cannabis derived treatments. Good news is that Health Canada recently approved a clinical trial to research the use of cannabidiol (CBD) to treat animal anxiety.
In the U.S., if you are in a hemp-legal state, you can order online. CBD aficionados, regardless of which state or province they live in, seem largely unconcerned with legal repercussions, as punishment for procurement has thus far proven unlikely.
To give you some idea of pet cannabis consumption in the US, sales of cannabis products marketed for pets at medical and adult-use cannabis dispensaries in 2017 totaled nearly $7 million in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, according to BDS Analytics. In Colorado, sales of CBD pet products grew almost 50 percent in 2017.
In British Columbia (and soon all of Canada) CBD is available in pet stores and every corner dispensary. In the U.S., if you are in a hemp-legal state, you can order online from a reputable company like Seattle-based Kat and Austin. Owner Kat Donatello says that most of her clients use CBD for pain management and anxiety. Her products, including CBD laced with salmon oil for cats, are sold in about 400 pet stores nationwide, rehab clinics and veterinarian offices. Her dog Austin was a puppy when she gave him CBD for anxiety. “He was like a kid with ADHD and CBD allowed him to focus on training,” she says. “These days he has CBD for aches after a long run. And the day will come when it will be used for end-of-life care—it is a relief to know Austin will enjoy his final days with family.
Products That Can Help
Want to Give It a Try? Here are Some CBD Products to Get Started With
Grizzly Pet Products’ CBD Calming Aid for Dogs and Cats is tailor-made for travel, vet visits, or relieving anxiety in other stressful situations without causing drowsiness. Grizzly uses a unique blend of organically grown hemp oil and wild krill oil to create this all-natural soothing supplement that also promotes emotional balance in pets. ($30, grizzlypetproducts.com)
Austin and Kat’s CBD oil is designed as a daily dietary supplement for both cats and dogs. Packed with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, this CBD hemp oil can help relieve your pet of pain and inflammation, anxiety, poor appetite, and skin irritations. Reviewers report that pets love the taste. ($65/300 mg, austinandkat.com)
CannaHemp Paws’ CBD Pet Tincture offers a concentrated form of CBD oil that’s great for cats that require a higher dose of CBD for their health needs. This tincture only contains three ingredients: certified organic hemp seed oil, coconut MCT oil, and cannabidiol (CBD). $30/30ml, Cannahemp.com)
Your cat will love these delicious hemp-powered whitefish-flavoured soft chews. Each chew contains 1.5 mg of Green Coast Pet’s full-spectrum proprietary hemp extract blend to support your cat’s immune system, inflammatory response, and neurological function, as well as a calm and relaxed demeanor. Easy to chew, they’re perfect for cats of any age. ($15, greencoastpet.com)
Medipet’s CBD Pet Spray is a helpful way to soothe your pets in stressful situations. Simply spray into your cat’s mouth before car rides or long journeys; it’s non-GMO and made in the USA. ($50, MediPetsCBD.com)