Can Cannabis Help Dogs With Cancer?
Researchers at Canada’s University of Guelph hope to discover if CBD can help our furry friends beat bladder cancer
Many people wonder how much benefit cannabis can be to our furry friends. In an attempt to uncover whether CBD can help treat dogs with cancer, a three-year study is ready to begin at the University of Guelph, Ontario to answer this question.
Will Dogs With Cancer Benefit From CBD?
Professor Sam Hocker is the man charged with heading a three-year study to explore how cannabis can help to treat bladder cancer in dogs. The research is set to focus on using CBD to treat dogs with cancer.
The potential anti-cancer benefits of cannabis are nothing new. A study published in the Journal of Basic Medical Sciences (2019), investigated the anti-cancer properties of several cannabinoids. Researchers deemed that “cannabinoids were able to effectively modulate tumor growth in different in vitro and in vivo cancer models.”
Prof. Hocker hopes to pave the way for a greater understanding of the mechanisms of action for CBD. In particular, when it comes to treating dogs with cancer. One of the primary aims of the study is to understand the effects that CBD has on bladder cancer cell lines. Researchers firstly hope to determine if this non-intoxicating compound does in fact kill cancer cells. And if this is the case, investigate the mechanisms.
By understanding how the all-too-common form of bladder cancer — known as urothelial carcinoma — responds to CBD treatment, he hopes to help shed light on how our canine friends can also benefit from the wonders of medical cannabis. This is something both pet owners and veterinarians are eagerly awaiting.
Current Treatments For Dogs With Cancer
Urothelial carcinoma is responsible for two percent of cancers among dogs. It’s notoriously difficult to remove with surgery, and chemotherapy remains the only viable option for most pet owners. The results of such treatments are highly variable. So, survival times for most canines often land between two months and three years.
What Does This Study Mean For Humans?
This hard-to-treat form of cancer also commonly afflicts humans. Researchers hope that this canine study may help enable a better understanding of how to treat more aggressive forms of the disease in humans.
So far, such results have been inconclusive. A U.S. study by the International Society of Urology (2015), concluded that “although a cause and effect relationship has not been established, cannabis use may be inversely associated with bladder cancer risk.”
Although still early days, there is much hype around the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD as a treatment for this form of cancer. Science, however, is still a good distance away from reaching a definitive conclusion. However, there are expectations that the results from the University of Guelph’s study will advance our understanding.
What Animal Studies Suggest About Medicinal Cannabis
While cannabis may have “cure-all” label in many circles, this is not true. Many veterinarians are wary of using cannabis to treat pets. There is simply not enough science available yet to convince them otherwise.
However, several studies are underway and initial results are promising. For instance, a study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is investigating the effectiveness of cannabinoid therapy to relieve pain and joint-immobility issues within canines. The study is the first of its kind and is aiming to verify if indeed CBD is helpful in combating pain. Researchers have teamed up with a Denver-based cannabis producer to formulate an effective treatment.
Another study by a team of researchers, based in Israel, is aiming to investigate the effects of CBD on horse skin health. Results thus far are positive. In one particular case, a horse already administered steroids for a skin condition demonstrated improvements in skin health after starting CBD. It was over two years and eventually the animal no longer had a need for the steroid medications.
Researchers hope to formulate CBD products that are specially tailored for animals. At the time of writing, the biggest impediment to the use of medicinal cannabis for pets is the lack of knowledge about mechanisms of action. The majority of animal healthcare providers are waiting for reports on side effects and dosing recommendations.
How Dogs and Humans Respond to Cannabis
Since the legalization movement began to take hold across vast parts of North America, using cannabis to treat pets has always garnered a lot of interest. The available science suggests that extreme care is necessary when administering cannabis to dogs, especially when it comes to THC.
While dogs will commonly eat cannabis if they find it, that’s not to say that they’ll enjoy it. While we humans often revel in the effects of THC, the compound is toxic to dogs and many other pets. Accidental ingestion accounts for numerous emergency visits to the vet.
A study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal (2016) investigated why pets react so severely to cannabis. It was found that dogs have “a higher number of cannabinoid receptors in the brain compared with humans.” There are suspicions this abundance of receptors is why animals are highly susceptible to the intoxicating effects of THC. Nearly all mammals have an endocannabinoid system and these systems vary from species to species. So dogs likely have a more sensitive system due to an increased number of receptors.
The scientific studies in progress will help determine if cannabis is helpful in treating dogs with cancer. In the meantime, if administering cannabis to your dog, keep the THC to yourself, for your pet’s safety.