cbd oil for cats with liver problems

CBD Oil and Cats

The information below was written for the Cats with Multiple Medical Conditions group on Facebook. This is a science-based support group which does not promote or accept the use of untested and unproven therapies for cats. The group post has been reproduced here with the original author’s permission.

OK everyone. It’s time to address the potentially huge issue that is CBD oil. We seem to spend a lot of time reiterating on various posts that we don’t recommend it and that no advice can be given. That still stands; however, we feel it’s time to explain why.

As you are all probably aware, little real research exists into the use of cannabis/hemp/CBD products in cats. We don’t really know what it does, if anything, to help our cats. Some of the claims that are made for relatively low doses are pretty outrageous and have no real backing scientifically. The market is completely unregulated, creating the possibility that many of the currently marketed products for cats may contain something completely other than CBD oil, may not contain enough to have any real effect beyond a placebo, or may in fact contain so much that they are actively dangerous on their own. They may also, in some cases, contain high levels of THC which is also a known toxin for cats. To add to that, there are compounds within CBD oil that are known to potentially be problematic for cats – terpenes are known to cause toxicity in cats, yet are what CBD oil relies on as that is where the allegedly active ingredients are contained. So we have a real potential issue there before we even get any further into the science of how the body processes CBD.

Next, we have to look at how CBD is processed in the body. We see recommendations on an almost daily basis that state that separating CBD oil from other meds by 2 hours will make it all safe and that there won’t be any interactions with other prescribed meds. However, none of the available evidence backs this up. Cannabis compounds are detectable in human urine up to 30 days after last use. Even if we assume that cats metabolize twice as fast as humans (and that’s not necessarily an accurate number although does appear to work for some medications like insulin), that means that CBD oil is active in a cat’s system for around 15 days…as long as the Convenia shot that so many refuse to consider for their cats due to it’s longevity in the system. And for all of that time, it has the potential to cause drug interactions. Separating it from other meds by just 2 hours is, honestly, a pointless exercise given that information.

Cannabis/hemp compounds, including CBD are cleared from the system using the cytochrome P450 mechanism. Unfortunately, the majority of commonly prescribed drugs are also cleared using this same mechanism. This means that, given that CBD is a strong P450 inhibitor (increasing concentrations of other drugs more than five-fold, while potentially decreasing clearance rate by 80%), there is a very real risk of a cat being overdosed on their prescribed meds if CBD oil is given concurrently. And by concurrently, I mean within days of the prescription meds given how long CBD lasts in the system. To give just one example, if you then add in a dose of amlodipine which is both processed by cytochrome P450 AND further inhibits it, you could find the situation where the cat actually has active levels of more than 100% higher than intended in its system – and those levels could very easily take days to clear…by which time more doses have been added potentially leading to a life threatening overdose over the course of several days/weeks. Many types of anesthesia drugs are also processed by the P450 mechanism – do we really want to take the chance that a cat is either overdosed on anesthesia should an emergency surgery be required, or that they cannot clear the anesthesia drug from their system following surgery?

On yet another note of caution, using cannabis compounds when there is kidney, liver, cardiovascular disease or any degree of immune system suppression is not recommended. There is potential evidence that these compounds can actually cause renal issues…not something we want for our cats who are already prone as a species to kidney failure.

In light of all of this, and pending further research, we have to take the decision that we cannot allow CBD oil to be recommended currently within the group. We cannot permit dosing recommendations to be given for it, especially in conjunction with any other medications. If your vet is prepared to make a recommendation then you are, of course, free to follow it but there is not enough information currently available for us to be able to offer any advice or help with its use.

Hepatic Lipidosis and How CBD Oil can Help

Hepatic Lipidosis in cats, or fatty liver disease, is a common and severe disease in cats that requires prompt attention. This post will tell you everything you need to know about hepatic lipidosis so you can prevent it, detect it, and help a cat who’s been diagnosed with it. We’ll also go over how CBD oil can help.

What is Hepatic Lipidosis?

Hepatic lipidosis occurs when the cat’s liver collects too much fat. This often happens when the cat’s body goes into starvation mode, due to undernourishment or refusal to eat, and begins using fat for energy rather than protein as it normally would. A cat’s body isn’t made to run off of fat or metabolize that much fat in that period of time, so their liver can’t process it fast enough. When overloaded this way, the cat’s liver collects the fat and they can develop fatty liver disease or hepatic lipidosis in a pretty short period of time.

Hepatic Lipidosis Symptoms

Hepatic lipidosis can occur suddenly or gradually over time, depending on the extent of the lack of protein. It isn’t wise to rule out the disease based on how quickly they came down with it or how fast their symptoms have progressed.

Symptoms that your cat could develop hepatic lipidosis:
  • stress
  • behavior changes
  • lack of appetite
  • picky eating
Hepatic lipidosis symptoms include:
  • weight loss
  • muscle wasting
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • tiny amounts of poo
  • excess saliva
  • hiding
  • downward cast to the head
  • jaundice
  • lethargy
  • collapsing
  • death

Loss of appetite, depression, and occasional vomiting are the first signs a cat owner can usually detect and should be taken very seriously. The sooner you can get your cat to the vet, the better the outcome.

Causes of Hepatic Lipidosis in Cats

Hepatic lipidosis can be caused by a wide variety of factors.

Malnutrition, either from a slightly insufficient diet for a long period of time or from anorexia in the short term, can cause the cat’s body to start metabolizing fat and lead to a fatty liver, or hepatic lipidosis.

Malnutrition has many potential causes:
  • chronic anxiety
  • acute stress from a new pet, a new living arrangement, a new family member
  • food the cat doesn’t like
  • getting lost
  • another disease that causes lack of appetite or difficulty eating

Conversely, obesity can cause fat to collect in the liver because the cat’s body isn’t made to handle that much fat processing.

A cat that has been overweight who suddenly loses their appetite is at particular risk of developing hepatic lipidosis as they have more fat to process. Be particularly proactive with them about getting them to eat and taking them to vet at the first signs of illness.

Other diseases like diabetes, liver disease, cancer, kidney disease, and pancreatitis can also lead to hepatic lipidosis.

It is not uncommon for the doctor to not be sure about the cause or to find that several factors went together to cause the disease.

Preventing Hepatic Lipidosis in Cats

Be mindful of your cat’s weight to ensure your cat doesn’t become overweight or obese and because of that doesn’t increase their chances of developing diabetes. If your cat is already overweight or obese, discuss their diet and feeding routine with the vet to ensure you don’t overdo any weight loss attempt. It can be tricky finding the right diet for an individual cat’s needs.

Ensure they are getting enough food. Your cat should have access to a moderate amount of healthy food at all times so they can eat small portions as needed. This is what their bodies were made to do in the wild. Try to have at least a rough estimate of how much food they are eating in a day so you can tell if they start eating less. You might think of bowlfuls or measure out specific amounts, whatever works for you.

When introducing your cat to a new food, do so gradually. Cats can have trouble adjusting to change and you don’t want an abrupt change to involve their diet, if you have any control over it.

Be mindful of stressors. Some cats have no problem with you having human guests over, but others will hide or exhibit odd behaviors. They may hide so long they don’t come out to eat, or they may suffer lingering stress from it that lowers their appetite. Monitor your cat’s behavior when you bring home a new pet or baby. When moving or making changes in the home, try to keep normalcy where you can to limit their stress. Make a mental or physical note of potential stressors so you can recognize that they may be the cause should your cat stop eating.

Diagnosing Hepatic Lipidosis in Cats

If your cat stops eating or becomes super finicky, try giving them their favorite food to see if they will eat that and if they have any difficulty doing so. There is a profound difference in not wanting to eat, being too nauseated, or having difficulty chewing or swallowing, and all three are important clues for determining the cat’s diagnosis.

Reduce any stressors in the cat’s environment that you can possibly control.

If your cat does not very quickly resume their normal eating habits, contact the vet for advice or to schedule an appointment.

When you take your cat to the vet, you’ll need to tell them the cat’s symptoms, potential or known stressors, and how long it’s been since the cat ate normally. You might make notes to ensure you don’t forget any symptoms and that you remember times or amounts of food.

The vet may perform a urinalysis, a blood test, or both, to check for hepatic lipidosis, and they may want to do an ultrasound to look at the cat’s organs. It may be necessary to perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Depending on the cat’s symptoms, potential causes, and the cat’s health history, the vet may also look for other diseases that may have caused or be interrelated with the hepatic lipidosis. For instance, another disease may be causing nausea, lack of appetite, liver disease, or sores in the mouth. This will have to be treated as well. When and how it’s treated may depend on whether the cat can eat with the disease or how dangerous the other disease itself is, meaning it may have to make top priority if the cat can’t eat, or it might wait until after the fatty liver is treated if it is secondary and/or less threatening.

Treatment for Hepatic Lipidosis in Cats

If the cat cannot or will not eat voluntarily by mouth, the vet may keep them in the hospital and feed them through a tube while their liver clears the fat. They may also require fluids for dehydration and to help the liver process the fat.

They may need anti-vomiting medications, appetite stimulants, or other medications for secondary conditions. It may be possible for the cat to come home and be fed via a syringe. When the cat can eat on their own, the vet may prescribe a special diet for them.

After the cat’s immediate health is secured, the vet will then want to make sure there are no long-term damages from the disease. This will, of course, require more tests.

Outlook for a Cat with Hepatic Lipidosis

The sooner you notice and address the lack of food or beginnings of hepatic lipidosis, the better. It’s possible you can catch the eating problem before it becomes hepatic lipidosis, but even if you can’t, prompt vet care will make the cat’s condition much easier to treat.

How to Help Manage Hepatic Lipidosis with CBD Oil

CBD oil for cats may help with hepatic lipidosis in several ways:
  • reduce stress
  • provide additional nutrition
  • improve mood
  • foster a healthy appetite
  • relieve nausea and other digestive issues
  • reduce the number and severity of seizures

Science has found that both human and cat bodies have an endocannabinoid system. Yes, that’s right. Fifi is generating and relying on their own cannabinoids right this minute. If their body isn’t producing enough cannabinoids or they could use a boost to address a problem, an external cannabinoid like cannabidiol from hemp helps the body better produce its own cannabinoids. This isn’t like many other drugs that force a body to do something unnatural that happens to be beneficial, cannabidiol is promising to help regulate the body’s natural functions, generating a gentler but powerful result.

Using CBD Oil

There are many CBD oil products to choose from:
  • oil tinctures
  • extract concentrates
  • capsules
  • treats

Oil tinctures are a great way to combine ease and control. They mix cannabidiol with a carrier oil for easier delivery and often mix in a flavor to cover the distinctive taste of hemp that many humans and cats aren’t fond of. If you’d like to skip the flavor, you can get an unflavored one and mask the taste in food. Oil tinctures come in droppers or sprayers to be delivered straight to the cat’s mouth or put in their food. It is easy to measure complex doses with droppers and sprayers. Droppers offer the most control.

Extract concentrates are just cannabidiol, and the product comes out in little beads. These beads can be measured to find a specific dose. There is no flavoring, so you’ll have to mask it yourself if the cat doesn’t like it, but it’s the purest and most cost-effective way to get CBD oil.

CBD Capsules for cats are easy for cats who don’t mind pills. Just pop; there’s no taste or measuring. If you need a different dose than can be found in one capsule, you just have the option to give them another capsule, which amounts to a double dose.

Treats are the easiest way to give a cat CBD oil because they’re treats. They even come in crunchy and chewy varieties to match the treats your cat already loves. Like capsules, you can only measure by the number of treats.

Dosing CBD Oil

Dosing CBD isn’t an exact science. You can research the ailment and symptoms your cat has to discover what is touted by manufacturers, scientists, or vets and read user accounts to see what is supposed to work.

Then you’ll want to start with the lowest recommended dose. This is because some ailments actually respond better to a lower dose, and because when you’re tweaking the dose to find the right one, it’s easier to work up than down.

With tweaking, you’ll want to go slowly. Wait a few weeks, if possible. If it’s not possible, at least try to wait 2 to 4 days. Some results from CBD oil can be seen immediately, but the full effects of a dose can take a few weeks to appear. If you change too frequently, you’ll never see what an individual dose does before moving on to another and you’ll never figure out which one is right.

Be aware that very young, old, small, large, and sick cats will have special dosing requirements. Ask your vet for help with your cat’s individual needs.

Risks associated with CBD Oil

One of the benefits of CBD oil is that it poses very few risks. That being said, there are still some things you should know to keep your cat as safe as possible.

While there’s never been an account of a cat overdosing on CBD oil, they can experience sedation, loss of appetite, and diarrhea if they consume very large doses. You don’t want to add any of that to their list of issues. Thankfully, it’s not easy to do.

CBD oil impacts how the liver absorbs medication, making the dose work differently than would normally be expected. This means that if your cat is currently taking a medication, you should ask the vet if giving your cat CBD oil will impact their medication. When you take your cat to the vet, you’ll also need to tell the vet you’re giving them CBD oil so they can treat them accordingly.

CBD oil has not been approved by the FDA at this time. So, while traditional medications may have scary side effects and risks, they also are more well-known and provide a certain level of guarantee when it comes to effectiveness that CBD oil can’t just yet. Scientists are proving exciting things about CBD oil, but this process is in its infancy and not enough for guarantees yet. CBD oil promises a viable, gentle way of helping cats who can’t take traditional medications or who are finding the side effects of traditional medications too much to bear without assistance. Your vet should be willing to discuss CBD oil as a primary or secondary treatment option, but if they aren’t, you can look for a holistic vet.

Purchasing CBD Oil

When purchasing a CBD oil product, look for the following information.

Is it full-spectrum or CBD isolate?

CBD isolate is powered by just the cannabidiol. Full-spectrum cannabidiol includes other cannabinoids, terpenes, and nutrients found in the hemp plant. Most people prefer full-spectrum, looking to the broader factors as promise of more benefits, but some people say CBD isolate actually worked best for them. If your cat is suffering from poor nutrition for any reason, full-spectrum CBD oil may provide the added benefit of supplementing their nutrient intake brought by the entourage effect. You can try full-spectrum first, and if it doesn’t work for you, try CBD isolate before giving up on CBD altogether.

Has it been tested?

Any reputable CBD oil manufacturer will provide third-party lab test results for each of their products on their website. You’ll want to check, first, that they provide them and, second, what they say. This is necessary because, tragically, some CBD oil manufacturers do not sell what they claim. There may be unsafe cannabidiol, too little cannabidiol, or no cannabidiol at all in their products. Even if the product is legitimate, you should still look at the test results so you are informed about what you’re giving your cat.

Where did it come from?

You should check the manufacturer’s website to ensure they say where they acquired their hemp and/or cannabidiol. Some manufacturers grow and extract the hemp themselves, others acquire one or the other from someone else. Either way, you should be able to educate yourself as to whether it was grown in a country with safe regulations.

How was it extracted?

No matter who extracted it, you should be told the method. CO2 is the safest and purest method of extracting cannabidiol, so look for it.

What is in it?

It’s always a good idea to look for products with as few ingredients as possible. The fewer ingredients, the less likely something unsafe, unnecessary, or potentially allergenic is in there. Most CBD oil products claim to be all-natural because the target market likes that, but it’s also possible to get all organic products.

Innovations from Innovet

Innovet strives to provide relief for pets suffering from hard-to-treat ailments. If your cat with hepatic lipidosis isn’t helped by traditional methods or current CBD oil products, let us know so we can try to find a solution for your cat’s individual needs.


Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM was raised in north Louisiana. She graduated from LA Tech in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She then moved to Grenada West Indies for veterinary school. She completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University and graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University. Since veterinary school she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband Greg, bake yummy desserts and spend time with her 4-legged fur kids, a dog Ruby, a cat Oliver James “OJ”, a rabbit BamBam and a tortoise MonkeyMan.

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The Innovet Team

Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

Please share your experiences and stories, your opinions and feedback about this blog, or what you’ve learned that you’d like to share with others.

Liver Supplements for Dogs & Cats

The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. It is a crucial part of the digestive system, as well as playing a role in the immune system. Most blood from the intestinal tract is routed through the liver for detoxification. The liver can operate effectively with only 20% of its cells working, so it has a large reserve capacity. Without the liver, the body is doomed within days. But the good news is that, with proper support, the liver can completely regenerate itself after injury or disease. These traits make the liver truly remarkable; and mean that even serious liver disease is survivable and has a much better prognosis than similar damage to other organs.

“The liver is one of the most important organs in the body.”

The liver is also one of the few organs with key differences between dogs and cats. The dog’s liver is very similar to that of humans and other mammals. However, a cat’s liver contains fewer metabolic enzymes and has a diminished ability to handle toxins. The development of liver disease is also due to different causes between dogs and cats. In dogs, liver failure is commonly due to congenital problems, traumatic injury, infections, or other disease. Cats, on the other hand, can develop liver disease not only from infection or trauma, but also from seemingly minor stresses, such as not eating enough for whatever reason.

Keeping the Liver Healthy in Dogs & Cats

Preventing liver disease is a whole lot easier than curing it. A high-quality diet, including at least some wet food for both dogs and cats, is the first and most basic step. Additionally, there are herbal and nutritional supplements that can support and strengthen the liver so that it can handle damage and disease more efficiently. Supportive supplements with specific benefits for the liver include:

“Preventing liver disease is a whole lot easier than curing it. A high-quality diet, including at least some wet food for both dogs and cats, is the first and most basic step.”

Supportive supplements with specific benefits for the liver include:

Probiotics to balance the digestive system Only Natural Pet Probiotic Blend Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes Pet Naturals Digest Support for Cats and Dogs

Antioxidants to prevent and reduce inflammationOnly Natural Pet Whole Food Antioxidant Blend Vetri-Science Antiox

Omega-3 Fatty Acids such as those found in fish oil, also have strong anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Only Natural Pet Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil

Co-Enzyme Q10 to enhance cellular metabolism and prevent the formation of damaging oxygen free radicals. It is best absorbed in an oil formulation, such as:Vetri-Science CoQsol

General Liver Health Support for liver health and nose-to-tail wellness. If you want keep things simple and give just one terrific supplement to your pet, these products contain milk thistle, taurine, antioxidants, digestive enzymes, and Omega-3 fatty acids, along with important vitamins and minerals:

  • Only Natural Pet Ultimate Daily Canine Senior
  • Only Natural Pet Ultimate Daily Feline Senior

Supplementing your pet’s diet with a portion of cooked organic calves’ or chicken liver once or twice a week will provide all the ingredients needed to keep the liver in good repair. It’s important to buy it fresh and organic because the liver is the body’s main detoxifying organ, and there may be stored toxins in non-organic that could harm your pet.

“If you want keep things simple for liver health and nose-to-tail wellness, give just one terrific supplement to your pet.”

Does Your Dog or Cat Have Liver Issues?

In dogs with liver disease, a precise diagnosis is important. This usually involves blood tests, and possibly also ultrasound or even biopsy of the liver. Different causes need different treatment. For example, in a puppy with a liver shunt (an abnormal blood vessel that bypasses the important detoxification processes of the liver), a high protein diet—which is normally fine for the liver—could be deadly. Cats have a less diverse potential problem list, mostly involving either inflammation or hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease). Signs are similar, and treatment in cats nearly always comes down to: “feed the liver,” although specific treatment with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be needed, depending on the cause of the problem. Unfortunately, feeding an animal with liver disease both crucial and difficult, since these pets tend to not want to eat at all. Force-feeding or even surgical placement of a feeding tube may be necessary components of treatment. Just mix the supplements with a little blended canned food, and force-feed the mixture by syringe or via tube. Here are a few tips to make this process easier:

  • Mix up the whole day’s worth of food in the morning, with all the supplements in it.
  • Set aside a portion for the first feeding, and put the remainder in the refrigerator.
  • For subsequent feedings, take out the appropriate portion, mix a little hot water in to warm and soften it, and you’re ready to go.

The herb milk thistle is an important healer for the liver in times of stress or disease. It protects the liver from toxins and helps it regenerate. The active ingredient of milk thistle, “silymarin,” reaches high levels in the bile and liver tissue. It can be used in the treatment of hepatic lipidosis, chronic hepatitis (generalized liver inflammation), cholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts), and pericholangitis (inflammation of the tissue around the bile ducts). It may be useful in preventing or treating some liver problems, as well as gallstones, by thinning the bile. It is very safe. You can give up to 250 mg of milk thistle daily for every 10 pounds of your pet’s body weight. It is most effective when given in smaller portions throughout the day than in one big dose. Two of our favorite milk thistle products are:

  • Super Milk Thistle X
  • Only Natural Pet Liv-Herb Herbal Formula

Omega-3 fatty acids can be given at higher doses for a sick animal. Give 2 or 3 times the normally recommended amount; up to 3,000 mg per day for a large dog.

Carnitine, an amino acid, is extremely important for cats with hepatic lipidosis, but is helpful for all dogs and cats, especially those who eat a lot of high-carbohydrate dry food. Give 250-500 mg/day for a cat. Carnitine is also important for heart muscle function in both dogs and cats. Our highest potency products are:

  • Vetri-Science Cardio-Strength
  • Vitaline L-Carnitine

“A pet with liver disease needs professional care from your veterinarian, but you can greatly help the healing process with the right supplements, and of course plenty of TLC!”