Can CBD oil help dogs with cancer?
Sadly, we all know someone who has been affected by cancer in one way or another - it is one of the biggest killers of both humans and dogs.
Hearing that your dog has been diagnosed with cancer is truly devastating. But there are effective therapies available and research is constantly discovering more about how we can better treat it.
Whilst there is currently no “cure” for cancer, this article will walk you through the ins and outs of treatment options and the ways in which CBD can be used as a supplementary therapy.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a disease that starts in the body’s cells. Normally, our cells are meant to multiply and divide in a controlled way.
However, sometimes cells become abnormal and keep on growing. Abnormal cells then lump together and form a mass called a tumour.
In other cases, the abnormal cells circulate in the bloodstream – these are known as blood cancers.
Cancer is not just one disease, it actually refers to around 100 different diseases, as cancerous cells can form in any tissue of the body.
The more we study cancer, the more we’ve realised that different types of cancer behave differently and require targeted treatments.
How does cancer affect dogs?
Cancer is relatively common in dogs, and is most likely to occur in their senior years.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that one in four dogs will develop cancer at some time in their life and that 50% of pets over the age of 10 will develop cancer.
Some strains of cancers common in dogs include:
- Malignant lymphoma – a disease that occurs in the lymphatic system and interferes with a dog’s immune system.
- Mast cell tumours – an accumulation or nodule of abnormal mast cells (a type of immune cell) that resembles a tumour.
- Mammary gland tumours – prevalent in female dogs, especially if they haven’t been spayed.
- Soft tissue sarcomas – a type of cancer that generally forms as a painless lump in any of the body’s soft tissues, but most commonly in the thigh, shoulder, arm, pelvis and abdomen.
- Bone cancer – common in larger breeds.
If your dog has been diagnosed with cancer, it is important to discuss a personalised therapy plan with your vet to safeguard your pet’s quality of life during the treatment process.
What are some traditional cancer treatments for dogs?
There are typically three approaches to treating cancer in dogs: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. This will depend on the type of cancer, its location, and how advanced the disease is.
Surgery is an approach that’s used when tumours or cancerous cells can be removed from the body. This type of treatment is often used in conjunction with chemo and radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy refers to a broad range of anti-cancer drugs that can be used to fight the disease.
According to Dr. Joanne Intile, ‘chemotherapy can be administered orally, intravenously (into a vein), topically, subcutaneously (under the skin), intramuscularly (into a muscle), intratumorally (directly into a tumor) or intracavitary (into a body cavity).’
Dogs, fortunately, do not suffer as many negative side effects as humans because the dose is a lot lower in a veterinary setting.
And according to Dr. Rick Chetney Jr., ‘radiation therapy is a localised therapy, like surgery. It’s often used for tumours that we can’t surgically remove because they’re up against necessary structures such as the heart or brain.’
Can CBD help dogs with cancer?
CBD can be used as a supplementary therapy to support your dog’s treatment. It can be prescribed to help treat the symptoms of cancer, as an adjunct to conventional forms of medication or treatment, or where those conventional methods have failed.
How does CBD help manage cancer symptoms?
Research has shown that CBD can help treat inflammation and pain – two common symptoms in cancer patients.
A study at Cornell University looked at how CBD could help people manage pain, using a topical gel containing CBD that was applied for four days. They noticed a significant drop in inflammation and signs of pain, without additional side effects.
Using CBD oil for inflammation may also help relieve animals of their pain. Many anecdotal stories have supported this, but more clinical research would also be beneficial.
The same study examined CBD use for general chronic pain. The researchers concluded that there is substantial evidence for cannabis as an effective treatment for chronic pain in animals, and that CBD may also reduce inflammation.
It has also been shown to help alleviate nausea and vomiting, which are common side effects of chemotherapy (drug treatments that use powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in the body).
CBD can help stimulate the appetite by increasing sensitivity to the smell and taste of food in dogs, making eating a more rewarding experience for your beloved pet.
Can CBD help slow the spread of cancer cells?
Although there is currently no cure for cancer, CBD is being studied on how it may aid in slowing the growth of cancer cells and make existing cells more susceptible to chemotherapy drugs.
Another 2012 study demonstrated ‘that co-administration of cytotoxic agents together with… CBD increases drug uptake and parallelly potentiates cytotoxic activity in human glioma cells’ – which are supportive cells that surround nerve cells and help them function.
While more research is needed to assess the role of CBD in slowing the growth of cancer cells, it may be a viable option for those looking for non-toxic cancer management tools for their pet.
How to use CBD to manage cancer symptoms in dogs?
Your vet will be able to develop a treatment plan and a dosing schedule for your pet.
Broadly, though, when it comes to the dosing of CBD for dogs the best approach is to “start low and go slow.”
CBD is reported to have a biphasic dosing curve, which means that there is a sweet spot where the dosage is just right. If you go beyond that point, then the benefits can be lost.
Careful monitoring is required and, for more sensitive patients, it is generally advised that the dose only be raised in small increments.
The dose may be accelerated in cases where your dog is experiencing a lot of pain or requiring palliative care, but this should always be on the recommendation and guidance of a vet with experience in prescribing CBD.
We recommend checking in weekly with your vet to monitor progression as it can take up to two weeks for CB receptors to up-regulate and for your dog to benefit.
Can CBD oil help improve quality of life for a dog with cancer?
Shackleton, an 8 year old cattle dog, had been diagnosed with a blood cancer which was incurable and progressively causing him more pain – to the point he was struggling to walk.
His response to CBD oil has allowed his owner Belinda and her family to enjoy precious extra time with their beloved Shackleton.
While they know his condition is terminal, the course of CBD oil has improved Shackleton’s quality of life and helped ease his pain for the time he does have left.
“After we started on the CBD oil, he was in no pain – there was no limp, nothing”, Belinda says.
“It’s just one minute he can’t walk, and then we started the CBD oil, and he was running around like a puppy.”
“The difference really was like chalk and cheese. It was just amazing. He was virtually pain free. You could see in his face he was just happy. He was moving almost like a normal dog.”
“Today, he’s still running off and playing with the new puppy we have. In all honesty, I don’t know how much longer that’s going to be for.”
“But it’s gone from, “hey, he might have two weeks (to live)”, to two months later, and he’s still going.”
Has your dog got cancer? Contact one of our experienced team at CBD Vets Australia or talk to your Vet about how CBD oil may help.