Does CBD Have a Role in Managing Dog Cancer?

Matt Weeks September 7, 2020 0 comments

One dog in three will develop some form of cancer as they age. Could CBD help alleviate the suffering?

How prevalent is dog cancer? In dogs over ten years of age, fifty percent will develop cancer, with large breed dogs at twice the risk of small breeds. Typically, cancer in humans is often due to the combination of a variety of factors. Some of these include genetic predisposition, alcohol consumption, exposure to environmental toxins, and a lack of exercise. But, what about canines?

A study published in BMC Veterinary Research (2017), found that as with humans, the causes are wide and varied. Common probable causes include secondhand smoke, exposure to lawns treated with herbicides and insecticides, hormonal imbalances in spayed females, overexposure to UV sunlight, poor diet, and excess weight.1)Baioni, E., Scanziani, E., Vincenti, M. C., Leschiera, M., Bozzetta, E., Pezzolato, M., … Ru, G. (2017). Estimating canine cancer incidence: findings from a population-based tumour registry in northwestern Italy. BMC veterinary research, 13(1), 203. doi:10.1186/s12917-017-1126-0

Importantly, the study noted that purebred dogs exhibit higher rates of cancer, something thought to be related to genetics. Researchers found that, “the incidence rate was 804 per 100,000 dog-years for malignant tumors and 897 per 100,000 dog-years for benign tumors.”

What are the Most Common Treatments for Canine Cancer?

The three established treatment options for dog cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. All three are invasive and painful for both dog and owner to go through. Further, the exact treatment will depend on the dog’s condition, the location of the cancer, and how quickly it spreads.

While the goal of any treatment is to eradicate the cancer, this is not always possible. In many cases, dog cancer is incurable. At this time, veterinarians do what they can to minimize the dog’s pain and distress, and enhance its quality of life.

little dog with cancer might need some cbd for pain

The Potential of Cannabis for Dog Cancer

A study published in the Journal of Basic Medical Sciences (2019), investigated the anti-cancer properties of several cannabinoids. Researchers reported that, “cannabinoids affect many essential cellular processes and signaling pathways which are crucial for tumor development.”

Fortunately, the potential benefits of cannabis are well-documented. CBD, in particular, has killed certain types of cancer cells in petri dish tests.

Pain Management

While all dogs with cancer can experience immense pain, it’s most with certain types of bone cancer. CBD may fight pain and decrease inflammation, and often works well in conjunction with conventional treatments to keep symptoms under control.

Appetite Stimulation

It’s often difficult for a sick animal to obtain the nutrition required to fight cancer. A study published in eNeuro (2018), investigated the effects of CBD on appetite and nausea. Researchers, “observed a surge in levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the rat interoceptive insular cortex (IIC)—a brain region responsible for nausea in humans.

Why Dogs Can’t Have THC

Research suggests that THC is not suitable for dogs. Accidental ingestion has led to death in the past and many emergency visits to veterinarians.

A study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal (2016), investigated how pets reacted to cannabis administration. Researchers discovered that dogs have “a higher number of cannabinoid receptors in the brain compared with humans.” With such a high concentration of receptors, their comparatively smaller bodies become intoxicated to a dangerous degree.2)Gyles C. (2016). Marijuana for pets?. The Canadian veterinary journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne, 57(12), 1215–1218.

Anyone using cannabis on their dog should do so with CBD as opposed to THC.

weiner dog with cancer might need some cbd for pain

More Research Necessary

While CBD is much more effective and safe, no research currently exists around its use on dogs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t yet approved CBD, so there’s little knowledge of optimal dosages.

The cost of traditional cancer treatments is prohibitively expensive in many places and costs many thousands of dollars. Even then, there’s untold suffering for many dogs dealing with the side effects of such treatments. While more research is needed on CBD and canine anatomy, for now, CBD use does seem safe and a lot less expensive than the traditional procedures.

Anyone thinking of administering CBD to their dog should first check in with their veterinarian. And even then, it’s advisable to begin with small amounts and gradually work up. Just like with humans, there are some minor side effects associated with CBD use, which include:

  • Dry mouth: CBD decreases the production of saliva, and any dogs experience increased levels of thirst after administration. Make sure they have access to plenty of water.
  • Drowsiness: CBD exhibits calming effects in dogs. As a result, many will experience drowsiness, something that’s very dependent on dose. If administering higher doses, be mindful of these effects.
  • Low blood pressure: High doses of CBD often provoke a drop in blood pressure. Dogs may briefly experience light-headedness as a result.

How to Administer CBD to Dogs

There are several ways to administer CBD to dogs. The most common method is via CBD oil, commonly mixed into the dog’s food to disguise the taste. Another way is through CBD treats. There are a myriad of commercially available solutions packed with all sorts of additional nutritional value. Finally, dogs have endocannabinoid receptors in their skin, so by using a CBD dog shampoo, you can also complement other forms of CBD.

Dog cancer is an eventuality that many pet owners will one day face. It’s never easy to watch a beloved pet suffer, but if CBD administration helps alleviate some of that suffering, then why not opt for cannabis to help them out.

References   [ + ]

1.Baioni, E., Scanziani, E., Vincenti, M. C., Leschiera, M., Bozzetta, E., Pezzolato, M., … Ru, G. (2017). Estimating canine cancer incidence: findings from a population-based tumour registry in northwestern Italy. BMC veterinary research, 13(1), 203. doi:10.1186/s12917-017-1126-0
2.Gyles C. (2016). Marijuana for pets?. The Canadian veterinary journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne, 57(12), 1215–1218.
Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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