A few years ago, I was in the same position as you:
I still remember the day my vet told me that Rosie, my beloved Golden Retriever, had cancer.
Instantly, my mind went to the darkest of places.
But here’s some good news:
While cancer is a very serious condition, I soon learned that there are a variety of alternative treatments and supplements that can help your pet cope with their condition.
One of those supplements is CBD, a compound derived from cannabis and hemp plants.
In this article I’ll explore some of the research currently being done on CBD and how it could help you and your pet deal with cancer.
Cancer, although very common in humans and animals, is a very complicated disease.
Below I’ll take a brief look at cancer, how it affects dogs, and how it is traditionally treated.
Then I’ll take a closer look at how CBD can potentially help dogs with cancer.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a characterized by the abnormal growth of cells in various parts of the body.
These abnormal cells grow uncontrollably and, over time, begin destroying body tissue and hinder the body’s ability to function properly.
The term cancer doesn’t refer to a single disease.
Instead, it refers to a wide variety of diseases, all of which spread and affect the body differently.
While cancer can be terminal, it’s also important to note that some cases are treatable.
In fact, some cancers are completely benign.
What Kinds of Cancer Most Affect Dogs?
Cancer is a common disease among dogs.
In fact, according to The Veterinary Cancer Society, it is the leading cause of death in roughly 47% of dogs.
Here are some of the most common types of cancer affecting dogs:
- Skin: Skin cancers are very common in dogs. Luckily, most skin cancers are benign.
- Mammary gland: Female dogs are also susceptible to breast cancer. Roughly 50% of breast cancer cases are malignant.
- Head & Neck: Dogs are particularly prone to mouth cancers. These are very malignant, and usually need to be caught quickly and treated aggressively. They may also suffer from tumors in the nose or neck. Symptoms of mouth cancers include abnormal growths on the gums, bleeding, and bad odour, while nose cancers can cause facial swelling, breathing difficulty, and bleeding.
- Lymphoma: Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes. It is usually caught by an abnormal enlargement of one or more lymph nodes. Lymphoma can be very aggressive and quickly spreads to various parts of the body.
- Testicle: Testicular cancer is also common in dogs. Dogs with retained testicles (testicles that may be lodged in the abdomen or between the abdomen and the scrotum).
- Abdominal Tumors: Abdominal tumors are also common but usually hard to diagnose early. Common signs of these tumors include abdominal swelling and/or weight loss.
- Bone: Bone cancers typically affect large breeds of dogs and dogs over 7 years old. They tend to affect the leg bones, and common signs include swelling, lameness, and chronic pain.
Traditional Cancer Treatment
Treating cancer in dogs usually involves chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or a combination of the three.
The exact type of treatment will depend on the type and stage of cancer your dog has.
Following diagnosis, your vet will usually come up with a treatment plan based on your pet’s condition.
Wherever possible, vets tend to favour using surgery to remove the tumor or at least a part of it.
However, some cases will require chemo and/or radiation therapy, too.
The exact type of chemo or radiation therapy used on your pet will vary depending on their condition and their overall health.
Chemotherapy: Understanding The Risks
If your dog is dealing with cancer, I know you’re probably extremely worried about starting them on chemo.
And I get it. I was like that too.
I still remember the day my vet first suggested chemotherapy.
I completely froze and my mind started conjuring up images of my Rosie losing her fur and slowly becoming frail and fragile.
But I soon learned that that’s not exactly accurate.
Sure, chemotherapy does produce side effects for dogs.
However, in many cases these side effects aren’t what we expect them to be.
For most healthy dogs, the side effects of chemo kick in roughly 3-4 days after treatment and last for roughly 24-48 hours.
For some dogs, these side effects are pretty minor, and they might just seem a little lethargic and “under the weather.”
Some dogs, however, are more sensitive to chemotherapy and may experience harsher side effects, including:
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, like vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite.
- Drops in white blood cells.
- Minor hair loss. Most dogs will only experience mild hair thinning but some breeds (like the Poodle, Old English Sheepdog, Schnauzer, Puli, Lhasa apso, Shih tzu, and a few others) are more susceptible to hair loss.
- Skin irritations (like swelling, ulceration, and inflammation) can occur if chemotherapy drugs leak outside of the vein during injection. This is very rare, however.
- Neuropathic pain (also known as “nerve pain”).
Note that the extent of side effects your dog experiences during chemotherapy varies.
Rosie was quite healthy when she first began treatment.
However, she still experienced some occasional adverse effects, mainly a loss of appetite (which also caused her to lose a bit of weight).
A few days after her treatment she’d also be slightly lethargic and just seemed generally “under the weather.”
These symptoms were temporary, however, and far less intense than I expected.
In fact, in my research of cancer, cancer treatment, and CBD, I learned that there is a major difference between human and veterinary chemotherapy.
According to Dr Patty Khuly, an award-winning vet and author, veterinary chemotherapy is inherently designed to be palliative.
Human chemotherapy, on the other hand, is most often designed to be a definitive treatment and effectively “cure” someone of their condition.
Hence, veterinary chemotherapy is much less intrusive, and administered in a way that is designed to improve your pets well-being while minimizing side effects.
So, Can CBD Help Treat Cancer In Dogs?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural compound derived from cannabis and hemp plants.
There is a solid body of research that shows that CBD can help both humans and animals deal with various types of cancer.
First of all, CBD has been shown to manage the symptoms of cancer as well some of the possible side effects of treatment.
Secondly, preliminary evidence also shows that CBD can help fight the development and spread of certain types of tumors.
CBD Can Help Manage Symptoms Caused by Cancer
The biological system responsible for mediating the effects of cannabinoids like CBD is the endocannabinoid system (or ECS).
Research shows that this system is involved in managing a wide variety of bodily processes, including everything from pain and inflammation to memory and metabolism.
By stimulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD can have a wide variety of medicinal benefits.
CBD has also been shown to help curb other gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and nausea.
In doing so, CBD can also indirectly help animals and humans gain back their appetite, which they may lose due to their cancer or treatment.
Remember, while most pet owners imagine chemotherapy to be as tough for their pets as it is for humans, this often isn’t the case.
However, it’s not unheard of for pets to deal with some side effects following their treatment.
If that’s the case for your pet, you may find that CBD can help them deal with some of these side effects.
CBD May Fight the Growth and Spread of Cancer Cells
A growing body of recent research shows that CBD (and other constituents of cannabis and hemp plants) can help fight the growth of various types of cancer.
Before I continue, remember that these studies are still preliminary, and most of them have been conducted on lab rats or test-tube models of cancer.
Hence, it is still too early to to refer to CBD and other cannabis medicines as “cancer cures.”
Nonetheless, the results so far are promising.
Two studies (published in 2012 and 2014) by a team of researchers from the University of Naples, Italy, and the University of Aberdeen, UK, tested the effects of CBD-rich cannabis extract on colon cancer.
The researchers replicated a model of colon cancer both in vivo in mice and in vitro.
They found that the CBD extract had clear anti tumor effects and counteracted the effects of azoxymethane, a chemical used to induce cancer in biological research.
In 2013, for example, researchers from the Department of Experimental Medicine at the University of Camerino, Italy, also found that CBD could help slow the development of brain tumours.
They found that CBD not only slowed the growth of new cancer cells but also helped make existing cells more vulnerable to chemotherapeutic drugs.
Numerous other studies have shown similar results on all kinds of other cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, bladder cancer, and many more.
For a comprehensive list of studies on CBD and cancer, click here.
Using CBD to Treat Cancer in Dogs
While the results I briefly discussed above are really promising, it’s really important to remember that this is all still considered preliminary research.
And even though respected bodies (like the WHO, for example) have accepted CBD as a therapeutic agent for some diseases, it is still too early to make concrete conclusions about CBD’s role in treating cancer.
Nonetheless, it’s also important to notice that a variety of pet owners (including myself) have had great experiences using CBD to treat our pets.
As I mentioned above, CBD helped my Rosie maintain a healthy appetite, and also helped her deal with the pain and inflammation caused by her hip dysplasia.
That’s because dogs have the same endocannabinoid system as humans, meaning they benefit from CBD in much the same way as we do.
Nonetheless, dogs are more sensitive to CBD and cannabinoids, meaning they’ll usually need smaller doses than a human.
Here are some tips to dosing CBD for your dog:
CBD Dosage for Dogs With Cancer
As a pet owner, you’ll always want to pay close attention to the dosage recommendations of any new supplement or medicine you use on your pets.
And the same goes for CBD.
The exact dose of CBD your dog will need in order to help them deal with their condition will vary.
If you’re using a CBD oil, I generally recommend a dosage of between 2-4 drops administered 2-4 times daily.
These are general figures and will vary depending on the age, size, and breed of your dog, as well as its condition and the strength of the oil you’re using.
If you’re using CBD treats or capsules, on the other hand, the dosage will vary further depending on the strength of the individual product.
Hence, always make sure to follow the dosage instruction of the product you’re using.
Are People Successfully Using CBD to Treat Cancer in Dogs?
Many pet owners use CBD oils, treats, and capsules on dogs with cancer.
Some pet owners use CBD to help their pets deal with symptoms of their condition as well as side effects of treatment, while others also use it to attempt and slow the growth/spread of cancer.
As I mentioned, I also used CBD on my Rosie and was astounded by the results.
Picking the Right CBD Product for Your Dog
If you’re interested in trying CBD for your pet, you’ve probably realized that there’s a wide variety of products out there.
I’ve currently used both Canna-Pet and King Kanine products and can highly recommend both, especially their CBD oils.
When administered under the tongue, these oils offer the fastest relief from symptoms.
For more information about my experience with these products, take a look at my detailed overview of King Kanine which is currently my number 1 recommendation.