Cannabinoids are molecules that have the capacity to interact with the endocannabinoid system (I’ll explain this below!), which is present within the body of all animals (except for insects) and helps maintain a stable internal environment.
Some of these molecules can be produced (synthesized) within our body when needed and are called “endocannabinoids”. Certain plants, such as the Cannabis Sativa, can also produce cannabinoids but are different to the ones produced within our body – these are recognised as “phytocannabinoids.” However, all cannabinoids can interact with specific “receptors” that allow them to have different effects.
The endocannabinoid system produces these molecules when there is a need to promote balance. For example, when the body encounters a stressful situation either physiological or emotional. At the same time, this system increases the number of receptors where the cannabinoids are more needed. For example, on tissues with inflammation, cancer cells, and in the nervous system.
And when the endocannabinoid system is overwhelmed with the need of endocannabinoid production, the use of phytocannabinoids (i.e. cannabinoids from the cannabis plant!) can become the only effective solution.
Cats can benefit from cannabinoids
Cats have an endocannabinoid system that is involved in the regulation of sleep, pain, temperature, metabolism, appetite, digestion, inflammation, cardiovascular and immune function, emotions, stress response, memory, cognition, neuroprotection and neural development. So, they can really benefit from the use of these molecules.
CBD helps cats under stressful situations
Cats are especially sensitive to stress and can become anxious just by the arrival of new neighbours, especially if there is another furry family member that they can see, smell or hear. Even just a simple rearrangement of the furniture in your home can make them feel uncomfortable for a few days. Not to mention if you introduce a new human or animal member to your family.
Most importantly, cats can have physical issues due to stress. This is the case in Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). FLUTD is an important condition related to certain urinary diseases where the cats struggle to urinate and keep relapsing into this issue if we (vets) do not take the proper approach.
CBD helps cats suffering from Feline Chronic Gingivostomatitis
Cats are also quite prone to dental issues related to chronic inflammation of the gingiva. In this case there is not a lot of hope for them other than using anti-inflammatories and strong pain relievers. In most cases they need to have many of their teeth removed to help them cope with this problem, but not even that is a complete solution.
Recent research conducted by an Italian university shows that the number of cannabinoid receptors increases in the gingiva of cats suffering this disorder. Furthermore, some of our veterinary colleagues from overseas are already using cannabinoids, locally/orally, with great success.
CBD helps cats with cognitive dysfunction
Cats have been chosen as models for the study of Alzheimer’s disease in humans due to the similarities shared with feline cognitive dysfunction.
As cats get older many of them start developing behavioral issues such as disorientation, house soiling, changes in their social interactions with the rest of the family, changes in sleep wake patterns, and excessive vocalisation, especially at night. Many of these cats respond really well to the use of cannabinoids.
Since these behaviours can lead to the euthanasia of cats because of the difficulty for the owner to maintain the quality of life of their furry friends, I find cannabinoids are especially indicated in these cases.
CBD helps older cats with kidney issues and arthritis
Older cats are more prone to have kidney issues while also having to deal with arthrosis or arthritis due to their age.
As a consequence of the pain and inflammation many older cats experience, they will need to be on medication, usually some NSAIDs. However, due to the kidney issue there is a great risk associated with the use of these type of medications.
Medicinal cannabinoids can be a great option for these cats, since the side effects of them, if any, are much lower than those from the use of all the other pain relief medications and are not contraindicated at all in kidney failure.
A veterinarian with expertise and knowledge would be certainly able to adjust and combine any other medications to the new dose of medicinal cannabinoids. Whether you are a vet or a happy cat owner, you should keep all of this mind next time you need to deal with one of the above-mentioned situations. I am sure our little furry friends would really appreciate it.
Polidoro G, Galiazzo G, Giancola F, Papadimitriou S, Kouki M, Sabattini S, Rigillo A, Chiocchetti R. Expression of cannabinoid and cannabinoid-related receptors in the oral mucosa of healthy cats and cats with chronic gingivostomatitis. J Feline Med Surg. 2021 Aug;23(8):679-691. doi: 10.1177/1098612X20970510. Epub 2020 Nov 11. PMID: 33174485.
Zadik-Weiss, L., Ritter, S., Hermush, V. et al. Feline cognitive dysfunction as a model for Alzheimer’s disease in the research of CBD as a potential treatment—a narrative review. J Cannabis Res 2, 43 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-020-00054-w
Sordo L, Martini AC, Houston EF, Head E and Gunn-Moore D (2021) Neuropathology of Aging in Cats and its Similarities to Human Alzheimer’s Disease. Front. Aging 2:684607. doi: 10.3389/fragi.2021.684607
About Dr. Marta Calvo Blanco received her Veterinary Degree with Honours in Spain over 25 years ago and ran her own practice with her veterinary surgeon husband for 15 years. Marta worked for highly recognised international small animal nutrition companies and pursued further education in Homeopathy, Flower Essences, Essential oils, Food Supplements and Animal Communication. Marta is also a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist since 2012 (IVAS). After coming to Australia in 2015, Marta worked as an Animal Naturopath and Vet Technician and founded her own company “Holistic Animal Naturopath”, learning and treating animals with medicinal cannabis. She joined CANNect Veterinary (now eCS Vet in 2019 to help educate veterinary professionals about using cannabinoid medications with animals. Marta is currently the Head of Veterinary Education at eCS Vet.