Dogs have never been more cared for. With pups living longer lives, the senior dog population is increasing—that means rates of canine cancer are increasing, too. Can owners turn to CBD oil for help?

What does the science say?

Studies are only now gathering pace

Researchers are testing CBD’s ability to slow cancer progression in humans and rats:

  • In human and mice models of cancer, CBD treatment has been associated with cancer cell reduction in studies of leukemia, colon cancer, and breast cancer, among others.

  • Researchers believe that CBD may protect DNA inside cells from oxidative stress (a key cause of age-related cancer).

  • A 2018 study found that radiation therapy alongside CBD dosing was more effective at killing cancer cells in mice than radiation therapy alone. In the future, this may allow veterinary oncologists to reduce the amount of radiation used on dogs with cancer.

  • A similar recent study found that mice treated with a combination of CBD and gemcitabine (a chemotherapy drug) lived almost three times longer than those treated with gemcitabine alone.

Researchers are also exploring whether CBD could replace traditional medications used to combat pain and other symptoms:

  • A 2002 study on rats and a 2019 study on humans suggest that CBD reduces nausea and vomiting, and stimulates appetite. These findings may apply to dogs who experience nausea or food avoidance due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or cancer.

  • A 2010 study suggests that a combination of opioids, NSAIDs, and cannabinoids can work in cooperation to have a greater pain-relieving effect than traditional medication alone.

When it comes to CBD’s potential as a primary cancer treatment, further research is definitely needed—including studies involving dogs. But the observed effect of CBD on cancer symptoms suggests there’s good reason to believe CBD will soon become a mainstream tool in the fight against canine cancer.

Cancer treatment takes different paths for every dog and owner, but for a growing number of pet families, part of that journey now includes CBD. Here are the products that earned a top score in our review.

How are owners of dogs with cancer using CBD right now?

CBD is minimizing reliance on drugs

Owners are taking advantage of the benefits of CBD to cut down on their dogs’ need for pain management medications. For dogs experiencing intense symptoms, those living with long term cancer, and those with inoperable diseases, CBD helps keep pups happy and active.

Because CBD helps to reduce pain and inflammation without the risk of adverse effects, many owners and veterinarians recommend it in conjunction with pharmaceutical drugs for:

  • managing the pain of dogs recovering from surgery
  • Alleviating irritation and discomfort caused by radiation therapy
  • Reducing vomiting and stimulating appetite in dogs undergoing chemotherapy

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The most common canine cancers

Any tissue or organ in an animal’s body can develop cancer, but dogs (and certain breeds of dog) are more susceptible to a few specific types of disease:

The most common canine cancer symptoms

Despite older dogs being at higher risk, cancer can occur in dogs of any age. The Veterinary Cancer Society estimates that around 25 percent of all dogs will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.

Thankfully, most of these cases will be highly treatable, especially when diseases are discovered at an early stage.

A key part of early detection is about close observation by owners—keeping an eye out for possible warning signs can make a big difference in your dog’s prognosis.

Visual clues include

  • abnormal lumps, cysts, or swellings in your dog’s skin
  • weight loss
  • tender spots in their mouth (which cause wincing, food avoidance, or chewing only on one side of the mouth)
  • sores that don’t seem to be healing, bleeding, and discharge from orifices.

Other behavioral clues

  • difficulty moving bowels and urinating
  • difficulty swallowing or constant swallowing
  • continuous panting or difficulty breathing
  • suddenly avoiding family members and other pets
  • lethargic behavior
  • tense, restless, or aggravated behavior (suggesting the presence of underlying pain)

Any noticeable change to a pet’s physical appearance, behavior, or daily habits should warrant a call to the vet.

In most cases, what looks worrying will turn out to have a simple cause and solution. But in more serious cases, it’s worth repeating: early detection can seriously help your pet’s recovery.

The tail end

CBD can’t replicate the effects of established cancer treatments, but it is becoming a more mainstream part of canine cancer treatment plans.

That’s because CBD has been found by owners and researchers to reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, pain, and nausea. This helps dogs better cope with the disease, and may even slow cancer progression.

Treatment Options

Cancer in dogs is treated on an individualized basis, and is dependent upon veterinary and owner preferences, breed, age, type of cancer, and advancement of the disease. Often, a treatment plan will include a detailed course of medications and involve more than one kind of therapy. The most common canine cancer therapies are:

  • surgical intervention

  • Radiation therapy

  • chemotherapy, and

  • immunotherapy

The primary goals of treatment are to halt cancer growth, send tumors into remission, and ultimately eliminate all cancer cells. At the same time, your vet will also introduce a secondary set of treatment goals designed to maintain quality of life and combat cancer symptoms, as well as any negative side effects from therapy.

This is where CBD oil enters the picture. For dogs living with cancer over an extended period, including those whom the complete elimination of cancer is not possible, CBD and other supplemental treatments provide a vital way of keeping things as normal as possible, allowing our four-legged friends to continue doing all of the things that make a dog’s life the best of all possible existences. Supplemental cancer therapies include:

  • herbal remedies

  • lifestyle changes

  • pain medication, and

  • CBD Oil

1. CBD May Help Reduce Tumor Size and Growth

Initial findings suggest that CBD may act to directly limit the growth and spread of cancer cells. While this topic has yet to be explored in detail for dogs, CBD has been linked to helping mitigate cancer cell growth and even kill cancer cells in human and mice models of cancer.

CBD treatment and cancer cell reduction has been associated in studies of leukemia, colon cancer, and breast cancer, among others. It’s thought that CBD may act to suppress cell growth through a variety of mechanisms, including protecting DNA inside cells from oxidative damage, which can lead to cancer cell formation.

Other studies are suggesting that CBD may increase the efficacy of existing treatment plans when used as a concurrent supplement. A 2018 study showed that radiation alongside CBD dosing was more effective for killing pancreatic and lung cancer cells in mice than radiation therapy alone.

If substantiated, CBD should allow veterinary oncologists to reduce the amount of radiation used on dogs with cancer, thereby reducing adverse side effects on the healthy surrounding tissues.

A similar recent study found that CBD helped augment chemotherapy treatment in mice with pancreatic cancer. Specifically, data showed that mice treated with a combination of CBD and gemcitabine (a chemotherapy drug) lived almost three times longer as those treated with gemcitabine alone.

When it comes to CBD’s potential as a primary cancer treatment, further research is of course needed. But if preliminary findings are anything to go by, then there’s good reason to believe CBD will soon become a mainstream tool in the fight against canine cancer.

2. CBD Helps Minimize the Harmful Side Effects of Other Treatments

Beyond directly reducing tumor growth, CBD plays a wider and far more well-established role in helping dogs through the difficult side effects of chemotherapy and radiation—as well as the upset of a cancer diagnosis.

CBD will help to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as help with nausea and appetite, which is why many owners and veterinarians alike will recommend CBD in place of traditional pain medication. Pharmaceutical pain drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can sometimes cause unwanted side effects in dogs, especially in the gastro-intestinal system, making them a double-edge sword in many cases. Opioids, on the other hand, have a deserved reputation for fast tolerance formation and a potential for overdose.

Even when used in conjunction with traditional medication, studies have shown that CBD can work to enhance the power of pills, while at the same time doing away with the nausea and loss of appetite that can affect many dogs undergoing treatment.

At its worst, nausea can lead to strong food avoidance, weakening pups at the very moment they need to be at their strongest. CBD has been shown to help prevent nausea and vomiting for chemotherapy patients, not only in humans, but also in several different animals. The intestines are full of endocannabinoid receptors and transmitters (the receptors to which CBD binds), allowing CBD to get to work throughout the GI tract.

Of course, veterinarians should have the final word on all matters related to your dog’s health. But as an owner, you’re also in a position of knowledge when it comes to the needs and wellbeing of your pet. Given the wealth of anecdotal and scientific research showing CBD to be an effective and safe option for dogs, you may want to consider making CBD oil part of a holistic cancer treatment plan—one which will give your four-legged friend the best quality of life alongside more invasive interventions.

Summary

  • More dogs are living for longer, which means higher rates of cancer—especially skin, bone, and blood cancers.

  • Treatments for the major canine cancers are well established and effective. However, some therapies carry negative side effects, and not all cancers are operable.

  • For dogs living with cancer, the benefits of CBD dosing are fast gaining an impressive reputation.

  • A wide body of scientific and anecdotal evidence supports the use of CBD for reducing inflammation, anxiety, and nausea—all common side effects of cancer treatment.

  • More recent research indicates that CBD may even play a role in directly reducing the growth of tumors.

  • CBD can play a key role in a cancer treatment plan, but it is not a substitute for other treatments. Always consult your vet.