Can CBD Help Cats With Kidney Disease, and if So, How?
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD) commonly occurs in cats upon reaching old age and felines that have it suffer from progressive symptoms that gradually worsen over time. In most cats, CKD is idiopathic, which means that they happen spontaneously and without a clear cause (1).
- The traditional treatments for kidney disease in cats focus on reducing its symptoms, with strong evidence proving that renal support diets can help with the condition. Restricting the amount of sodium, protein, and phosphorus in meals while increasing omega-3 have shown to reduce the symptoms of feline CKD (2).
- A growing number of reports from pet owners claim cannabidiol (CBD) as a potential treatment for easing symptoms of chronic kidney disease. Several studies have shown that CBD oil is a natural anti-nausea agent while providing relief for pain, inflammation, and anxiety, all of which are symptoms of CKD (3-4).
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautions against the use of CBD products on animals while advising pet owners to consult a veterinarian before application.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is one of the most prevalent conditions that affect cats upon reaching old age. In most cases, felines with CKD experience progressive symptoms wherein there is a gradual worsening of the disorder and a decline in the cat’s health.
Common symptoms of CKD in cats include frequent urination, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, bacterial infections, and loss of appetite.
The disease is commonly observed around the age of 12 years and happens more frequently in felines than canines. CKD in the majority of cats is also idiopathic, which means that it occurs spontaneously and does not have a clear cause (5).
Conventional treatment of feline chronic kidney disease focuses on reducing the symptoms that arise due to hampered renal function. There is strong evidence that proves renal diets can help with CKD.
Rather than provide felines with standard cat food, kidney support diets contain less sodium, phosphorus, and protein. Cats are given increased omega-3 in their meals since studies have shown that this fatty acid can reduce the symptoms of CKD.
A review in 2016 investigates four studies on the potential health benefits of omega-3 for patients with CKD. The scientists confirmed that this particular fatty acid could help improve the quality of life in CKD patients, making it an attractive treatment option to alleviate its symptoms (6).
However, there is also another option that could potentially benefit felines with kidney problems. A growing number of anecdotal reports and testimonials from pet owners claim that CBD may help ease chronic kidney disease symptoms.
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of two primary active compounds present in Cannabis plants. It is said to have numerous therapeutic applications, which include providing relief for pain, inflammation, and anxiety.
Symptoms of CKD, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and appetite loss, can be dangerous since these three combined can lead to rapid weight loss. Aging felines with kidney disease are particularly sensitive to losing weight, which can significantly affect their quality of life.
A study published in 2012 aims to investigate reports of how CBD can bind to human serotonin receptors and produce anti-nausea effects. The research results show that CBD is capable of suppressing nausea and vomiting in rats upon targeting the said receptors (7).
One study that was published the following year shows the antiemetic and anti-nausea effects of CBD along with other cannabinoids such as cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabigerol (CBG). Researchers further confirm that these non-psychoactive compounds can inhibit anticipatory nausea and toxin-induced vomiting in shrews and rats (8).
The clinical trial once again targets the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which significantly affects emesis (vomiting) in the animal model.
A study on CBD extract being given to treatment-resistant epilepsy patients shows that it improves appetite while stimulating body weight gain (9). Although the test was made on human subjects, the benefits of CBD can translate to animals since both models are commonly used in clinical trials.
These preliminary findings exhibit CBD as a promising treatment for nausea, vomiting, and appetite loss, which are all common symptoms of CKD.
How CBD Oil Works to Help Cats with Kidney Disease
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system that regulates normal bodily functions in mammalian species, including humans and cats (10). Since the ECS works similarly in all mammals, many cat owners believe felines can benefit from using CBD the same way humans do.
Cannabinoids, such as CBD, bring about their therapeutic effects by the way they interact with the ECS and its neurotransmitters. The CB1 and CB2 receptors are the two main transmitters that are available in the ECS.
The CB1 receptors are the primary transmitters involved in modulating the central nervous system and the brain, but it is also found in other parts of the body such as the kidneys. Meanwhile, the CB2 receptors are present on cells that affect the body’s immune system (11).
CB1 receptors play a crucial role in appetite, sleep, mood, pain sensation, motor regulation, and the processing of memory. Studies show that the CB1 receptors have a vital part in attenuating and suppressing pain in the body (12).
The CB2 receptors, on the other hand, bring about an anti-inflammatory response while preventing tissue damage. Activation of these CB2 receptors leads to the reduction of inflammation and oxidative stress (13).
In 2019, a study published by Wolters Kluwer Health showed that CBD’s interaction with serotonin receptors does possess properties for relief of anxiety and pain. The scientists in the research found that consistent low-dose treatments of CBD induce analgesia while reducing stress by activating the 5-HT1A receptors (14).
Serotonin is also the same chemical that mediates nausea and vomiting, with this relationship being the basis for pharmacological therapy on both symptoms (15).
Experts believe that by targeting the ECS with external cannabinoids like CBD, they can trigger the same therapeutic responses from its receptors, thereby improving the patient’s quality of life.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Cats
- The therapeutic benefits of CBD in felines may be attributed to how the ECS works in a similar fashion for all mammals, including humans and cats.
- CBD affects the 5-HT1A or serotonin receptors in the body, which helps control nausea and vomiting, two primary symptoms of CKD.
- Many veterinarians claim that CBD hemp oil products are generally safe for use in cats, so long as they are applied according to veterinary instructions (16).
- As of March 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet received any reports of life-threatening side effects associated with Cannabis use in animals (17).
- Numerous manufacturers are offering CBD products for cats, with industrial hemp-derived cannabidiol being legal in many states.
- There are no in-depth studies on specific CBD use in cats, along with data on its long-term effects.
- The FDA does not approve of using Cannabis or any of its related products on animals, warning pet owners against the possible adverse reactions from these compounds (18).
- Most of the studies on CBD were either done on humans or rodents, and there is no clear indication that cats can genuinely benefit from its therapeutic effects.
- There is a possibility that CBD will have interactions with supplements, diets, and drugs that are presently being taken by a cat with chronic kidney disease.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Cats with Kidney Disease
Some cats may require initial intravenous fluid therapy to help them cope with dehydration. Since CKD is irreversible, the primary means of treatment for the condition aims to support kidney function while minimizing its complications.
Managing kidney failure disease in cats often requires repeat clinical visits to identify treatable concerns such as urinary infections, hypertension, nausea, and weight loss.
Making dietary changes is essential for cats with CKD to slow the disease’s progression while improving their quality of life. A typical diet for CKD patients involves reducing sodium and protein presence in meals while increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Likewise, CBD can also be included in a cat’s daily regimen through various delivery formats. The compound can be inserted as capsules during mealtime or applied directly via oral intake by way of cat treats.
Tinctures, creams, and other edibles are also some of the most popular CBD products available in the market.
CBD is capable of inhibiting the sensation of nausea that is prevalent with chronic kidney disease. Doing so helps prevent vomiting and, thus, weight loss, especially when it happens regularly.
Furthermore, cannabidiol also provides relief for pain and anxiety, which are possible symptoms of feline CKD.
How to Choose the Best CBD Products for Cats
CBD extract is often obtained from the hemp plant due to its high presence of the cannabinoid. There are at least three main types of CBD oil, which are known as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.
Full-spectrum CBD is the variety that contains all of the cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and other chemical compounds that are naturally available in Cannabis sativa. It also includes the other major component of the plant, which is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
THC is known as the psychoactive chemical that brings about the “high” in medical marijuana. CBD products containing THC are also not recommended by some veterinarians for animal use.
Broad-spectrum CBD oils are very similar to full-spectrum in that they also contain the same cannabinoids, except for THC. Meanwhile, the CBD isolates are made purely of cannabidiol extract and nothing more.
Out of the three options, the isolates are perhaps the safest choice in terms of administering CBD on cats with kidney disease. It is equally important to purchase only the highest quality of pet CBD oil available to get the most effects.
To help pet owners ensure that their CBD oil is safe and of good quality, the following should be considered:
- Buy CBD pet products that are made from organic CBD oil and other holistic ingredients. Keep an eye out for CBD for cats that could contain herb extracts, minerals, and essential oils.
- Purchase GMO-free CBD oil derived from organic hemp. Legitimate and reputable CBD companies grow their own hemp or source them from licensed providers.
- Ask for the Certificate of Analysis for the desired CBD products or their lab results. Pet owners can compare the potency of CBD oil with third-party lab test results to verify its quality.
- Administer CBD oil only after consulting with a veterinarian and follow their instructions carefully.
CBD Dosage for Cats with Kidney Disease
There is no recommended dosage of CBD oil for cats with chronic kidney disease since the product is not approved nor regulated by the FDA. Although there may be no specific dosing guidelines, some veterinarians may suggest applying CBD based on the age, weight, diet, and wellbeing of a cat.
The golden rule surrounding CBD use at this time is to start with small doses on a pet and observe its reactions. Owners can eventually increase the dosage until they are able to achieve the desired effect in their cats.
Although CBD is considered by veterinarians to be safe for cats, the results are not guaranteed since there are no in-depth studies on it yet.
Always consult a veterinarian before deciding to apply CBD oil in a pet’s diet or daily regimen to avoid health issues.
How CBD Oil Can Be Given to Cats with Kidney Disease
CBD is available in different formats, with the most common being in the form of tinctures, treats, and capsules.
Cannabidiol sold as tinctures often come with droppers as these are usually applied under the tongue and are easier to measure compared to other CBD products. Pet owners can also add the CBD oils from tinctures directly into their cat’s food or water if they find it difficult to administer by mouth.
CBD cat treats are the easiest and most enticing for feline companions to consume. These contain CBD and usually other natural flavorings such as tuna or catnip, which can be very irresistible to cats.
The treats have the highest caloric content out of all CBD oil products, which may or may not be beneficial to felines that need to maintain a certain weight. Also, applying CBD cat treats according to exact dosing instructions can be harder than tinctures.
CBD oil is also available in capsule format that, although not as appealing as treats, can be inserted into cat food during mealtimes. These CBD pills are an alternative delivery format in case tinctures or treats are unavailable.
The CBD hemp products available today are not equal and may have a different reaction to individual cats. CBD consumed by way of tinctures works the fastest as they enter the bloodstream directly, mainly when applied under the tongue.
Providing a cat with a CBD treat or capsule means that the product needs to travel via the digestive system first before it arrives at the ECS. This route indicates that it is going to take this approach longer.
Ultimately, it is up to the owner to decide how quickly they want their pet to experience CBD’s effects, as one format may be better than the other.
How Chronic Kidney Disease is Diagnosed
CKD diagnosis usually involves a collection of urine and blood samples during the time of analysis.
The conventional approach is to analyze two substances in the blood, which are blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine, since these are byproducts excreted by the kidneys. A cat that has increased concentrations of these two products in their blood often means they have CKD.
Since other conditions can also cause heightened levels of these substances, urine samples are also taken with the blood tests. CKD typically shows an increase in urea and creatinine concentrations, including poorly concentrated urine (positive or negative proteins in the urine).
A new approach in blood testing has recently become available that could be of value in diagnosing feline CKD.
Symmetric Dimethylarginine or SDMA, which is six times more sensitive than creatinine, allows earlier CKD detection in some cats while allowing a more precise diagnosis of CKD staging in others.
Chronic kidney disease is a widespread type of disorder that affects geriatric cats. In most cases, felines may experience CKD’s progressive symptoms, as well as a gradual worsening of their condition.
Nausea, vomiting, bacterial infections, diarrhea, and loss of appetite are the most prevalent symptoms of CKD. In cats, many kidney disease instances are idiopathic, which means that they happen spontaneously and without a clear cause.
Traditionally, feline CKD is treated by reducing its symptoms since there is no cure for the said disorder. However, it is important to test and treat CKD because cats can have an “acute on chronic” form if they develop a secondary problem like an infection, which is treatable.
Diets that support the wellbeing of kidneys, such as providing less sodium, phosphorus, and protein, are often the recommended approach.
Many reports and testimonials from pet owners state that CBD is also capable of easing the symptoms that come with chronic kidney disease. According to several studies, the phytocannabinoid affects the serotonin levels in the body, which regulates the feeling of nausea and vomiting, two common symptoms of CKD.
Furthermore, research studies have also shown that cannabidiol can provide relief for pain, inflammation, and anxiety, which are all sub-conditions of kidney disease.
The FDA does not approve nor regulate the use of CBD on animals and warns pet owners about the potential side effects the extract may have. They also suggest that they consult with a reputable veterinarian before deciding to implement CBD in their pet’s daily regimen.
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- Panahi Y, Dashti-Khavidaki S, Farnood F, Noshad H, Lotfi M, Gharekhani A. Therapeutic Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Chronic Kidney Disease-Associated Pruritus: a Literature Review. Adv Pharm Bull. 2016;6(4):509‐514. doi:10.15171/apb.2016.064
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- Pamplona FA, da Silva LR, Coan AC. Potential Clinical Benefits of CBD-Rich Cannabis Extracts Over Purified CBD in Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy: Observational Data Meta-analysis [published correction appears in Front Neurol. 2019 Jan 10;9:1050]. Front Neurol. 2018;9:759. Published 2018 Sep 12. doi:10.3389/fneur.2018.00759
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- Remitz, J (2018, April 16). CBD Oil for Cats: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from: https://www.petmd.com/cat/care/cbd-oil-cats-what-you-need-know.
- US Food and Drug Administration (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd.