CBD oil is a holistic way of addressing epilepsy and seizure episodes in cats whose effects although in their infant research phases are quite promising.
Affecting 1-3% of the feline population, seizures are the most common nervous system disorder in cats. They are also one of the scariest to witness for pet owners. In this article, we will review a relatively new but promising anti-seizure aid for cats – CBD oil.
Keep reading to learn how CBD oil for cat seizures can help your pet. We will explain everything you need to know about CBD and seizures, and epilepsy in cats.
Can CBD Help With Seizures and Epilepsy in Cats?
CBD can help with seizures and epilepsy in cats because its CBD components have antiepileptic and anticonvulsant properties. CBD can also enhance the effects of certain traditional antiepilepsy medications, and being a natural herbal medicine, it is linked with lesser side effects.
Just keep in mind that CBD oil’s effects on epileptic seizures are gradual and slow. Talk to your veterinarian if you suspect there is a reason your cat is not responding to the treatment as fast as expected.
What are Seizures and Epilepsy?
A seizure can be defined as a sudden and uncontrolled electrical brain activity accompanied by involuntary muscle movement.
On the other hand, epilepsy can be defined as a condition that manifests with repeated seizure episodes.
Usually, it takes at least two unprovoked episodes for the epilepsy diagnosis to be set. The episodes can occur unpredictably and randomly or in regular intervals.
What Causes Seizures in Cats?
Before discussing what causes seizures in cats, it should be noted that the exact underlying cause cannot always be pinpointed.
Exposure to Toxins
Many natural and artificial toxins can trigger seizure episodes in cats. The list includes:
Ethylene glycol (antifreeze), chocolate, xylitol (artificial sweetener)
Pyrethrin-based anti-flea treatments for dogs
Certain human medications (antidepressants, ADHD medicines)
Severe head traumas like car hits and tree fallings are sometimes followed by seizure episodes in cats. Head trauma is not always associated with physical insults. Tumors, parasites, and infections can also trigger brain damage followed by episodes.
Health issues outside the brain can also be linked with seizure episodes in cats. Common triggers include untreated hypertension, hypoglycemia, kidney and liver disease.
Cats are susceptible to specific sounds. Like some people, cats cannot stand the metal clinking on another metal, aluminum foil crinkling, pulling Velcro apart, and glass tapping. The seizure episodes triggered by these sounds are called “audiogenic reflex” seizures.
Idiopathic epilepsy is an inherited condition that usually affects dogs and is mainly a concern for dog owners. However, cat people should be aware of its existence as it can rarely occur in cats too.
Types of Seizures in Cats
There are two main seizure types:
Generalized seizures affect the entire body and are caused by unusual electrical activity in the cerebral cortex. The focal type, also known as a partial seizure, affects specific body parts caused by abnormal electrical activity in the cerebral cortex's particular areas.
In cats, there are two main types of epileptic seizures:
Petit mal seizure episodes are not associated with the characteristic convulsions. Instead, the cat suddenly loses consciousness and collapses. Before collapsing, abnormal vocalization and unusual behaviors are possible.
Grand mal seizure episodes manifest with muscle convulsions. Cats fall on the side and experience muscle convulsions of different intensities.
Symptoms like paddling, limb rigidity, loss of consciousness, unusual vocalization, and lack of bladder and bowel control are possible.
The grand mal type is much more frequently reported than the petit mal type.
The good news is neither type is associated with pain. However, both types will trigger confusion and disorientation once the episode is over.
What Happens During a Cat Seizure?
Several symptoms can be seen as warning signs a seizure is about to occur in your cat. Knowing those symptoms and understanding what happens during an episode is important in terms of providing your cat the proper help and support.
Preictal (aura) State: The preictal (aura) phase occurs moments before the actual seizure and lasts several seconds. It is manifested with pacing, circle walking, yowling, and sometimes vomiting.
Some cats seek out their owners while others hide. All in all, pet owners report their cats to act nervously just before the actual seizure.
Seizure Phase: Cats fall on their side, and the characteristic twitching, shaking, and convulsing begin. Additional symptoms like feet paddling, jaw snapping, urinating, and defecating are possible but not necessarily present.
This phase lasts between one and two minutes. If it lasts more than five minutes, seek immediate veterinary attention as there is a significant risk of permanent brain damage and death.
Postictal State: The postictal state occurs just after the seizure. Temporary paralysis and extreme confusion and orientation are expected in this phase. Cat owners often say it seemed like their cats lost their vision. This is normal and occurs due to confusion.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Cats?
Yes, when used adequately, following the manufacturers’ directions, and under your vet’s recommendations, CBD oil is perfectly safe for cats.
But let's quickly remind ourselves what CBD is. CBD stands for cannabidiol – a hemp plant derivative with potent medicinal properties. In addition to CBD, hemp oil contains other health-boosting cannabinoids.
And before you start worrying, the answer is no – CBD cannot make your cat “high” because CBDs are not the same as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) even though they come from different strains of the same Cannabis sativa plant.
CBDs are a group of compounds valued for their ability to interact with the cat’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), thus ensuring homeostasis. On the other hand, THC is a psychoactive compound that provides a “high” feeling and is extremely toxic to pets.
To help differentiate between these two, remember – CBD comes from the hemp plant (leaf, stalks, and flower) while THC comes from marijuana. CBD products formulated for pets are derived from hemp hence THC-free.
The Potential Side Effects of CBD Oil in Cats
As with any other medicine, alternative or conventional, CBD side effects in cats are possible. However, they are mild, rarely occur, and can be easily managed.
Dry mouth: CBD can lead to a decrease in the production of saliva. This typically presents itself as increased thirst and pronounced lip licking. Ensure that your cat always has access to fresh water.
Diarrhea: Diarrhea is an expected side effect when introducing a new supplement or food. The real culprit is not the CBD itself but the carrier oil (usually MCT coconut oil) used in the product. Slow CBD introduction and administration on a full belly can decrease the risk of diarrhea.
Lowered blood pressure: If you administer too high a dose of CBD to your pet, it may cause a temporary drop in blood pressure. The drop itself is small, but it can create a transient feeling of lightheadedness and nausea in your cat.
Delayed medication breakdown: CBD can inhibit the liver enzymes, which results in an altered metabolization of medications processes in the liver. This includes most prescription drugs and several over-the-counter meds.
Why Use CBD Oil for Cat Seizures
CBD oil is a good management choice for cats with seizures because it is a natural, herbal supplement that is efficient, safe, and has rare and mild side effects.
Let's briefly go through the scientific research and evidence supporting the use of CBD oil for cat seizures.
CBD for Seizures Research
CBD oils help maintain normal nervous system function by promoting normal healthy brain activity and supporting normal nerve conduction and memory recall.
In terms of seizure management, a study conducted in 2010 showed that CBD has potent antiepileptic and anticonvulsant properties.
In 2017, a study published in the Journal of Epilepsy Research comparing the anticonvulsant effects of CBD and THC discovered that CBD has a more defined anticonvulsant profile in animals.
In 2019, a group of researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine demonstrated the CBD’s role in normalizing brain rhythms in mice with Angelman syndrome. Cannabidiol (CBD) may work similarly in cats with epilepsy.
However, perhaps the most groundbreaking study in this field was conducted by Dr. Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist at Colorado State University. Based on her findings, 89% of the dogs treated with CBD oil experienced a "reduction in the frequency of seizures."
Finally, seizures can be defined as electrical outbursts between different neurons (brain cells). The abnormal distribution of electrical signals causes inflammation of those neurons (neuroinflammation). Since CBD oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties, it can help manage neuroinflammation.
What Effects Does CBD Have on a Cat with Seizures?
Hemp CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system or ECS (a system of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors). The ECS is a regulator system responsible for managing many body functions (metabolism, appetite, sleep, pain, inflammation, mood, memory), thus maintaining a state of health and balance (homeostasis).
More specifically, CBD exerts its effects by binding with the cannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain and nervous system, while CB2 receptors are scattered in several peripheral organs.
Studies suggest that the ECS is closely linked with epilepsy and neuroinflammation. To be more accurate, hemp CBD oil has two antiepileptic compounds – cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidivarin (CBDV). Cannabidiol and Cannabidivarin affect TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid 1) – a pain receptor located in brain areas linked with epileptic activities.
Based on current information, the working theory is that cannabidiol and cannabidivarin can prevent epileptic seizures by inhibiting the TRPV1 located in the hippocampus.
A recent study in rats showed that even synthetic forms of CBD could be used for managing seizures, decreasing both the frequency and severity of the episodes.
Is CBD the Right Option for My Cat With Seizures?
Before adding CBD oil to your cat's anti-seizure plan, it is advisable to talk to your trusted veterinarian. As mentioned, CBD can interact with certain medications, so it is always better to get your vet's approval.
CBD oil is generally a good solution for cats with seizures because it is natural and associated with fewer and lesser side effects than other conventional treatments.
Plus, CBD products are straightforward to use. For example, if you use CBD oils, you can mix them with the food and serve them during mealtime. Alternatively, the oil products can be administered sublingually (dropped under the tongue) or rubbed onto the kitty’s gums.
CBD oil treats are even simpler to administer. You can sprinkle the treat on top of a juicy and nice-smelling food (tuna juice will mask the CBD’s characteristic smell) or offer them to your cat as snacks.
How CBD Compares to Alternative Treatments for Seizures in Cats
Basically, the seizure treatments can be classified as conventional and alternative.
Sadly, a human study showed that conventional "epilepsy drugs fail nearly one-third of patients." Plus, registered anti-epileptic drugs (AED) like phenobarbital, potassium bromide, levetiracetam, zonisamide come with two major drawbacks:
Prolonged use is associated with tolerance development
Severe side effects like ataxia, loss of appetite, sedation, liver toxicity
On the other hand, alternative options (CBD products, herbs, and diet changes) show promising results and can be used in combination.
To ensure maximum health benefits, it is important to choose the best CBD oil for cats. Here is a shortlist the right CBD product must check:
Full-spectrum CBD. This form has more potent benefits than CBD isolate and broad-spectrum oil.
Hemp-Derived. CBD oil will only be safe for your dog or cat if it comes from the hemp plant and contains less than 0.3% THC.
Hemp CBD oil. The hemp oil should be extracted from the whole hemp plant and not just the seeds (hemp seed oil does not contain cannabinoids).
Organic. Non-GMO, natural, organic hemp farming practices are ideal for a high-quality CBD product.
No allergen and filler ingredients. Dairy, corn, soy, and gluten are of questionable quality ad should not be present in a high-quality, human-grade CBD oil for pets.
CO2 extraction. This extraction method ensures a pure CBD oil free from questionable chemicals while retaining all health-boosting cannabinoids.
Certificate of Analysis. A third-party lab results must confirm the oil's chemical makeup - proving its purity and exclusion (or low percentage) of THC.
What is a Natural Remedy for Seizures in Cats?
CBD as a plant hemp extract is a herbal remedy with antiepileptic and anticonvulsant features. CBD is the most frequently used alternative treatment for seizures in cats, but it is not the only one.
Passion flower, skullcap, and ginger have anticonvulsant properties that we can use to manage epilepsy in pets. Although these studies were conducted on mice, the endocannabinoid system works similarly in all mammals meaning we can expect the same effects in cats too.
Today, there are CBD oils enriched with extracts from passion flowers, ginger, and skullcap to achieve better results.
Additionally, the British Journal of Nutrition published a study showing the positive effect of keto-diets (high-fat, low-carbohydrate content) for managing dog seizures and epilepsy. It is postulated that the concept applies to cats too.
How Much CBD Oil Should I Give My Cat for Seizures?
The amount of CBD for cats depends on several factors, including the cat’s weight, overall health, age, diet, and lifestyle. Different brands have different dosing guidelines, and most give dose ranges instead of actual, precise doses. Based on those general guidelines, cats can receive between 1 and 5 mg of CBD oil per 10 pounds of body weight.
Since most cats are the same weight, it is always the same CBD dosage recommendation – 1 dropper a day, from a 125 mg potency, which translates to 4 mg of CBD a day.
As mentioned, body weight is not the only determining factor when dosing CBD products for cats. Therefore, it is best advised to consult with your trusted veterinarian before using CBD supplements.
As a general rule of thumb, the veterinarian will recommend starting with a lower dose and waiting for a positive reaction. When it comes to epileptic episodes, a positive reaction would mean fewer and lesser episodes. If the cat does not show a positive reaction, you can gradually increase the dose.
On the flip side, if the dose not only manages but the seizure episodes but also triggers side effects, it can be slightly decreased.
All in all, finding the correct dose of CBD oil for cat seizures takes a little bit of experimenting and regular consults with your trusted vet.
Our Final Thoughts: CBD Oil For Cat Seizures
Newer research and anecdotal evidence suggest that CBD oil for cat seizures is beneficial for two main reasons – it decreases the frequency of seizures and the intensity of each seizure episode.
With that being said, more and more veterinarians and professionals from the veterinary medicine field support the use of CBD products for managing seizures and many other conditions in cats and dogs.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved one CBD medication for managing seizures in humans. Perhaps soon, there will be a CBD medication registered for use in the field of veterinary medicine.