Receiving a cancer diagnosis from your veterinarian is every dog owners’ nightmare. If you find yourself in this terrible situation, it is natural to search for ways you can help them to fight this battle and enjoy life as much as possible.
Unfortunately, there is no known natural cure for cancer in dogs. Aggressive treatment options such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy are currently the only ways to fight this illness with a chance of success.
But don’t give up hope just yet. There has been much research in recent years into the benefits of CBD for dogs with cancer, and the results have been very promising. Giving your pooch CBD during their cancer treatment can help to reduce their discomfort and may even enhance their chances of survival.
In this article, we take a closer look at CBD and how it can help your dog to enjoy a higher quality of life when facing cancer.
What is CBD?
‘CBD’ is an acronym for ‘cannabidiol’ – a type of cannabinoid found in plants of the cannabis Sativa and cannabis Indica species. Marijuana is the dried flower of female cannabis plant, either species, and hemp is only a member of cannabis Sativa family.
While many people automatically associate CBD with marijuana, the majority of CBD products are derived from the hemp plant. CBD doesn’t have a psychoactive effect – in other words, it cannot make you ‘high’.
The psychoactive effects of recreational cannabis use are the result of a separate compound known as ‘tetrahydrocannabinol’ or ‘THC’. Both marijuana and hemp plants contain a combination of CBD and THC, but hemp has a much higher percentage of CBD and a much lower percentage of psychoactive THC than marijuana.
A Farm Bill legalized the sale and production of hemp and hemp extracts in 2018, but all CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC. CBD products are readily available across most of the United States without the need for a prescription.
How Does CBD Work?
Scientists are not sure exactly how CBD works, but it is believed to interact with a complex cell-signaling system present in all mammals – known as the ‘endocannabinoid system’ or ‘ECS’. This system is made up of a combination of enzymes, cannabinoid receptors, and endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids).
The ECS is believed to play a vital role in the regulation of many metabolic processes and crucial functions, such as immune response, sleep, motor control, appetite and digestion, nerve function, liver function, mood, learning, and memory – among many others.
Researchers believe that CBD works with the body to prevent vital endocannabinoids from being broken down, thus helping the ECS to work as effectively as possible.
In recent years, the health benefits of CBD have become more well-known. Many people take this compound for various ailments on a daily basis. It is most often taken as an oil, but it is also available in the form of creams, gels or capsules.
Benefits of CBD for Dogs With Cancer
CBD has shown clinically proven benefits when used to fight both the symptoms of cancer and the troublesome side-effects of traditional cancer treatment.
As more people recognize the benefits of CBD for human health, the use of CBD for our pets is becoming more popular.
Here are the main benefits of giving CBD to a dog with cancer:
1. Reduces Pain
If your pup is fighting cancer, managing pain and inflammation will be a top priority to keep them comfortable. Pain may be caused by cancer itself, or as a side effect of the treatment they are receiving.
Unfortunately, many pain-relieving drugs come with troublesome side effects of their own. Opioid based drugs can lead to dependency issues, while the long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or ‘NSAIDs’, can result in damage to the liver and kidneys.
While you shouldn’t shun the use of traditional pain medications entirely, research has shown that CBD is an effective treatment for chronic pain and inflammation – without unwanted side-effects.
Additionally, studies have shown that, even with regular use, the human body doesn’t build up a tolerance to CBD. This means that, unlike some other medications, you may not have to increase your dog’s dose over time to achieve the same results.
2. Helps Fight Tumor Growth
The use of CBD for pain is well-documented, but can CBD oil shrink tumors in dogs?
It may sound surprising, but research has indeed shown that CBD has anti-tumor effects by triggering cell-suicide in diseased cells – especially when used in combination with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. One study, in particular, noted a threefold increase in the survival rates of rats who were treated with CBD alongside chemotherapy when compared to chemotherapy alone.
Not only does CBD show potential to enhance the effectiveness of cancer treatment for your dog, but it could also make it possible to reduce traditional treatment doses while achieving the same results.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are known to have troublesome side effects, which in many cases can be severe. By combining the use of CBD with these treatments, you may be able to reduce the side effects suffered by your pooch.
3. Aids Sleep
Adequate rest is essential to help your dog fight against cancer, as well as enjoy a happy life during their treatment. While CBD can improve sleep by reducing pain, some studies suggest that it can help your pooch get a good night’s kip in other ways, too.
Cancer and cancer treatments often lead to lethargy and a disturbed sleep cycle.
CBD acts as a ‘wake agent’, which stimulates your dog into a more wakeful state.
This may sound counterproductive at first, but increasing the amount of time your pooch is alert during the day may help them to sleep better during the night.
Due to its stimulating properties, working out the best time to give your dog CBD to promote sleep will likely require some trial and error before you find the perfect treatment schedule that works for them and their daily habits.
4. Improves Appetite
Perhaps one of the most commonly suffered side effects of cancer treatment in dogs is nausea and a lack of appetite – which often leads to extreme weight loss and further weakness.
CBD has been shown to reduce the intensity of nausea, as well as improve the appetite, thus helping your dog to maintain weight (and feel better, too!)
Are There Any Risks?
So long as it is sourced and used responsibly, CBD poses minimal risk to your dog.
THC is dangerous for dogs, so it is essential to check the quantities of THC in any CBD product before purchasing. Many products marketed to humans contain trace amounts of THC, even if they are not strong enough to create a psychoactive effect.
It is best to stick to CBD products manufactured from hemp, as these will have naturally low levels of THC than those made from marijuana.
How Much CBD Oil Should I Give My Dog for Cancer
While CBD is an all-natural product which can be easily purchased without a prescription, we advise you to discuss its use with your vet before proceeding.
If your dog is receiving other treatments and medications for cancer, there is a risk that CBD may interact with these.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot give CBD to your dog, but your vet may advise some changes to their treatment plan to accommodate its use.
For example, they may suggest reducing some of their pain medications if you are using CBD, or advise a particular time of day to use it so that it doesn’t interfere with other prescribed drugs.
The Bottom Line on CBD For Dogs With Cancer
If your pup is fighting cancer, it’s understandable that you’ll want to do all you can to make their life more comfortable.
This awful disease is bad enough in itself, yet traditional treatments such as strong painkillers, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy all come with their own troublesome side effects, leaving your dog feeling sick, tired and uninterested in food.
While CBD isn’t a cure-all for cancer, it shows great promise as a complementary treatment to help your pooch manage their symptoms and enhance the effectiveness of traditional cancer therapies.
So long as you purchase high-quality products with a minimal level of THC, and discuss its use with your vet first, giving your dog CBD can bring a wealth of benefits that will help your pooch live life to the fullest.
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World Health Organization. “CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Pre-Review Report”, https://www.who.int, 11/10/2017
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Wei, Xiong et.al. “Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors”, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 06/04/2012
Sayeda, Yasmin-Karim et.al. “Enhancing the Therapeutic Efficacy of Cancer Treatment With Cannabinoids”, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 04/24/2018
Ferro, R et.al. “GPR55 signalling promotes proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells and tumour growth in mice, and its inhibition increases effects of gemcitabine”, https://www.nature.com, 07/30/2018
Kelly Rowett is an animal lover and experienced full-time writer who’s passionate about creating high-quality content. When she’s not typing away at her laptop, you’ll find her hiking the coast path or playing endless seaside fetch with a pair of energetic Spaniels.