Does CBD Work for Dog Lymphoma?

  • CBD may be promising in the treatment of canine lymphoma, a blanket term for cancers that affect the lymphocytes or the white blood cells that fight infections in a dog’s body(1).   
  • An in-vitro study has found that CBD can induce the death of cancer cells in lymphoma(2)
  • Another study outlines CBD’s anti-cancer properties, including its ability to help inhibit rapid cancer cell production. The study also reports that CBD helps clean out damaged cells so the body can regenerate healthy cells(3).
  • The use of CBD may alleviate the symptoms of various dog lymphoma types. However, further research is needed on CBD’s effect on the lymphoma types themselves.  
  • Before using CBD products in the treatment of dog lymphoma, pet owners should consult with their veterinarian or oncologist first. 

Why Dog Owners Are Turning to CBD for Dog Lymphoma

Dog lymphoma pertains to various cancers involving the lymphocytes, which are infection-fighting white blood cells found throughout the body(4)

Currently, there is no cure available for canine lymphoma(5). However, treatments may help enhance a dog’s quality of life. 

Chemotherapy, the most usual treatment, can be highly toxic to the body and can cause several complications in dogs(6)

According to Dr. Meghan Burns, DVM, treatment for cancer in dogs should not take a “one-size-fits-all approach.” If oncologists avoid this type of approach, they can recommend therapy or a combination of therapies more customized to the condition(7).

“The veterinary profession needs to do a better job of defining cancer from a genetic perspective. Transitioning from a blanket treatment approach based on tumor-type to a more precise method based on the exact disease a patient has on a genetic level is paramount,” Burns said.  

Compared to humans, dogs tolerate chemotherapy better. Canines rarely suffer from hair loss and feel ill during the said treatment(8).

Though these are not observed in all dogs undergoing treatment, diarrhea, vomiting, and decreased appetite are the most common side effects of chemotherapy(9).

The problem with this treatment is that a dog’s cancer has a high chance of relapsing because lymphoma cells eventually develop more resistance to repeated chemo(10).

Because of some of these reasons, dog owners are turning to alternative treatments, such as cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD is the non-psychoactive component of the Cannabis Sativa plant.

A 2018 study says that CBD is effective in inducing cell death in diffuse large b-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)(11). The study also indicates that CBD reduces the chances of a DLBCL relapse. 

However, in vivo studies are necessary to know if the results are going to be the same for patients with lymphoma.

DLBCL is the most common lymphoma type in dogs(12)

How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Symptoms of Lymphoma in Dogs

According to a 2016 study published in the journal OncoTargets and Therapy, CBD has an extensive range of anti-cancer properties(13). These include CBD’s contribution to the death of cancer cells (apoptosis) and induction of the body to regenerate healthy cells by cleaning out damaged cells (autophagy).

The study also discussed CBD’s ability to help inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and it will help reduce the spread of these cells (metastasis). Researchers have also found that CBD can stimulate an immune response against cancer. They have also discovered that CBD can inhibit tumor growth(14)

Though the research was conducted in mice, a study suggests that CBD may have the same efficacy in humans and all types of animals except insects. The study discusses how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) works the same way, regardless of species(15)

The ECS helps in the regulation of mood, appetite, memory, and immune system responses. Cannabinoids like CBD interact with the ECS to help enhance its functions in the body. 

Veterinarians have identified over 30 types of canine lymphoma with varying symptoms, aggressiveness, and survival rates. The primary types of lymphoma include multicentric lymphoma, alimentary lymphoma, mediastinal lymphoma, and extranodal lymphoma(16).

CBD for Multicentric Lymphoma

80 to 85% of dog lymphoma cases are identified as multicentric lymphoma. This type of lymphoma affects lymph nodes throughout the body(17).  

Lymph nodes filter body lymph so that they can identify and fight diseases and infections(18).

Lymph is defined as clear fluid traveling through the lymphatic system. 

The symptoms of this kind of lymphoma include swelling, fever, lethargy, weakness, anorexia, and dehydration(19).

CBD may help with this type of lymphoma because it has anti-inflammatory properties(20).

CBD for Alimentary Lymphoma

This type of cancer affects the gastrointestinal tract(21). Common symptoms are intestine-related, including vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss(22)

Research shows that CBD can help manage nausea and vomiting because of its anti-emetic properties(23).

Studies have also shown that CBD offers pain relief, such as the alleviation of abdominal pain(24)

CBD for Mediastinal Lymphoma

This type of canine lymphoma is rare. It affects lymphoid organs found in the chest like the thymus and lymph nodes(25).

Symptoms include difficulty breathing because of the accumulation of fluid in the chest or the presence of a large mass within the chest, increased urination and thirst, as well as swelling of a dog’s face or front legs(26).

Though research has yet to be made on the efficacy of CBD for mediastinal lymphoma, reports suggest that CBD improves lung function and inflammation(27).

CBD for Extranodal Lymphoma

Extranodal lymphoma is a rare type of dog lymphoma that affects organs that are not part of the lymphatic system, like the eyes, kidneys, lungs, skin, and even the nervous system(28).

The symptoms vary and depend on which organ is affected. Cutaneous lymphoma, for instance, is characterized by raised nodules or scaly lesions(29).

Lymphoma in the nervous system could result in seizures, while bone lymphoma can cause pain or fractures.

Depending on which organ is targeted by extranodal lymphoma, CBD may have a cure for it.

CBD has been found to alleviate seizures(30). It also has analgesic properties that might help in the treatment of pain(31)

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Lymphoma in Dogs

Pros

  • Several studies in humans and animals outline CBD’s potential benefits in the treatment of dog lymphoma symptoms. The ECS is universal to all species except insects, so the cannabinoids that may work for one species are highly likely to be effective in another. 
  • Chemotherapy, the usual treatment for lymphoma in dogs, may have eventual adverse effects on these pets. CBD, meanwhile, generally has an excellent safety profile in canines. The most common side effects are lowered blood pressure, dry mouth, and drowsiness(32)
  • CBD is non-addictive, so dog owners should not worry about their pets developing a dependence on CBD. Research has shown that CBD even helps attenuate addictive behaviors(33).
  • Research suggests that CBD can be used as a complementary therapy for dogs with cancer(34).

Cons

  • Further research is needed on CBD’s effect on lymphoma types themselves, not just its therapeutic effects on lymphoma symptoms. 
  • The United States (US) Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of CBD products in pets and other animals(35). The US FDA also recommends that pet parents should discuss more appropriate treatment options for their pets. 
  • Federal and state laws prohibit veterinarians from advising pet owners to give their pets CBD. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, veterinarians cannot “administer, dispense, prescribe, or recommend Cannabis or its products for animals(36).”
  • Despite some studies suggesting that CBD may complement cancer therapies, some studies report the opposite. A study in 2018 reveals that the use of CBD combined with chemotherapeutic drugs significantly reduced their efficacy compared to their viability when they were individually administered to the test subjects(37).

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Lymphoma in Dogs

Aside from chemotherapy, veterinarians prescribe alternative treatments like antibody therapy and transplantation to treat canine lymphoma. 

In treating lymphoma, monoclonal antibodies help the immune system identify which cells are cancerous so that the immune system eliminates these cells quickly(38).

According to Mayo Clinic, monoclonal antibodies are molecules produced in laboratories. They serve as antibody substitutes to enhance, restore, or mimic the immune system’s attack on cancer cells(39).  

Antibody therapy can be used as a complementary therapy in lymphoma, but it cannot replace traditional chemotherapy(40).

Veterinarians also prescribe bone marrow and stem cell transplants in dogs who have lymphoma. However, bone marrow transplants, although cost-prohibitive, have been found to be successful only in a small number of cases(41)

Transplantation is an expensive option for pet owners. Compared to bone marrow procedures in humans, bone marrow matching in dogs is not as advanced. 

According to a review of animal and human studies, CBD, like antibody therapy, has immunosuppressive properties that may help treat dog lymphoma(42)

Compared to treatments like bone marrow and stem cell transplants, CBD is more cost-efficient. 

How to Choose the Right CBD Oil for Lymphoma in Dogs

Before purchasing CBD oil, dog owners should be aware of the different types of CBD oil. They are full-spectrum CBD oil, broad-spectrum, and isolates.

Full-spectrum CBD oil makes use of all the components of a cannabis plant. It is composed of trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), flavonoids, fatty acids, terpenes, and essential oils. 

Some dog owners prefer full-spectrum because it can produce an entourage effect, an occurrence when all the active ingredients synergize to give maximum therapeutic effect to the dog. 

It is important to note that this type of CBD oil has THC, which may cause psychoactive effects in some pets. Avoiding THC when possible is strongly advised.

For pet owners who want to play it safe, broad-spectrum CBD oils contain all of the ingredients of a full-spectrum oil except for THC. However, some pets may be allergic to other ingredients of the hemp plant. 

Those who are seeking to use CBD in its purest form may purchase CBD isolates, as they only have isolated cannabidiol.

When buying CBD oils for pets, pet owners should only use high-quality products. Here are some guidelines before making a purchase:

  • Choose only high-quality CBD oils for dogs. These are free from genetically modified organisms and are usually organic and derived from hemp. 
  • Ascertain that the manufacturer of the CBD oil is credible. For more information on a CBD brand, pet owners can check the internet for a variety of reviews from trusted sources. 
  • Research on a product’s extraction method. Products that employ CO2 extraction are considered high-caliber and safer. 
  • Look for a product’s certificate of analysis. These are certifications from third-party laboratories that verify the potency and claims of a product. 
  • Dog owners should stick to the dosing instructions from the manufacturer. Before administering to their pets, the owners should also consult with their veterinarian.

CBD Dosage for Dog Lymphoma

There is no standard CBD dosage chart for lymphoma in dogs. It is advised to administer small doses of CBD to a pet initially. If no adverse effects are observed, the dose may be increased gradually. 

The use of CBD tinctures (droppers) is recommended to ascertain consistent and accurate dosage. 

More massive dogs require more amounts of CBD.

It is also advisable to use a journal for logging the dog’s CBD dosing, reactions, and behaviors while on CBD. These details can then be shared with the dog’s veterinarian.

How to Administer CBD for Dog Lymphoma

There are various CBD product formats available to pets. The most common are CBD oil, CBD dog treats, capsules, and topical preparations like sprays. 

Usually, CBD oils have different flavors to appeal to a dog. If the dog dislikes the taste, pet owners can opt to mix the oil with food or dog treats. 

CBD oils can also be used during pet massages. This is especially helpful to more senior dogs who are experiencing chronic pain due to age.

CBD tinctures are highly recommended because the dropper allows pet owners to have more control over the amount of CBD they administer to their pets. For more efficacy, CBD dog tinctures may be applied under the tongue (sublingually). 

If the pet is uncooperative, CBD dog capsules may be used. Like CBD oil, its contents may be sprinkled into a dog’s food.

CBD dog treats are also highly popular among pet owners. Aside from being appealing, treats are also convenient and are more likely to be consumed by dogs.

CBD topical formulations like creams, balms, or salves can be applied to dogs, especially if there is a specific body part of the dog that needs to be targeted.

Understanding Dog Lymphoma 

Dog lymphoma affects the lymphatic system. It is composed of the lymph, the lymph vessels, and the lymph organs.

As mentioned, the lymph is the fluid that travels through the lymphatic system. The lymph vessels carry this fluid through the body. The lymph organs, meanwhile, include the spleen, appendix, thymus, and the tonsils.

According to Dr. Catherine Barnette, DVM, lymphoma is common in dogs. It is usually diagnosed in middle-aged and more senior dogs(43)

Some dog breeds are more likely to develop lymphoma. These include Golden Retrievers, Bullmastiffs, Boxer dogs, Saint Bernards, Basset Hounds, Scottish terriers, Bulldogs, and Airedale terriers.   

Canine lymphoma has unknown causes. However, some factors may influence its development in dogs, like bacteria, exposure to chemicals, viruses, and strong magnetic fields(44)

Lymphoma can be diagnosed through biopsy. It is a procedure that entails removing a piece from a lymph node or an organ affected by cancer. Larger biopsy samples guarantee a more accurate diagnosis. 

Another way for veterinarians to diagnose lymphoma is through a fine needle aspirate. Veterinarians perform this procedure by inserting a needle into a dog’s enlarged lymph node or another organ(45).

The insertion of the needle allows veterinarians to take a small number of cells and examine this sample to see if they are cancerous cells that could indicate lymphoma. 

Aside from these, veterinarians also conduct bloodwork screening to check a dog’s health. Usually, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are included in the examination. 

To check a dog’s internal organs, veterinarians also perform serum biochemistry on some dogs. 

Serum biochemistry tests involve the chemical analysis of blood serums. 

Conclusion

Lymphoma can have detrimental effects on a dog’s life. Veterinary medicine has yet to find a cure for dog lymphoma. Chemotherapy, the usual treatment, can only do so much in curing cancer in dogs. Usually, relapses occur because the dog’s body grows immune to the therapy.

Chemotherapy, though more well-tolerated by dogs than humans, may also cause adverse reactions long-term. Thus, pet owners have turned to CBD in the treatment of canine lymphoma. 

Enough research has been done on CBD’s ability to alleviate lymphoma’s different symptoms. However, further studies need to be conducted on CBD’s therapeutic effects on the different types of dog lymphoma. 

The US FDA has not approved CBD use in pets. Before adding CBD to a pet’s lymphoma treatment, it is best to first consult with a veterinarian. 


  1. Burke, Anna. “Lymphoma in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2016, www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/lymphoma-in-dogs-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment/.
  2. Xu, Sophia. “Does CBD Induce Apoptosis in Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma?” The Young Researcher, 2018.
  3. Pyszniak, Maria et al. “Endocannabinoid system as a regulator of tumor cell malignancy – biological pathways and clinical significance.” OncoTargets and therapy vol. 9 4323-36. 18 Jul. 2016, doi:10.2147/OTT.S106944
  4. Burke, A. 2016 Nov. 6. op. cit. 
  5. German, Alex. “Lymphoma in Dogs.” PetMD, 14 Feb. 2010, www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/cancer/c_dg_lymphoma?page=2.
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Burns, Meghan E. “The Latest in Treating Canine Lymphoma.” Veterinary Practice News, 26 June 2017, www.veterinarypracticenews.com/the-latest-in-treating-canine-lymphoma/.
  8. Barnette, Catherine. “Lymphoma in Dogs.” vca_corporate, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/lymphoma-in-dogs.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Purdue Veterinary Medicine. “Canine Lymphoma.” Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, www.purdue.edu/vet/pcop/canine-lymphoma-research.php.
  11. Xu, S. 2018. op. cit. 
  12. Parry, Nicola M. “An Update on Canine Lymphoma.” American Veterinarian, 4 Oct. 2016, www.americanveterinarian.com/news/an-update-on-canine-lymphoma.
  13. Pyszniak, M. 2016 Jul. 18. op. cit. 
  14. Ibid. 
  15. Silver, Robert J. “The Endocannabinoid System of Animals.” Animals: an open-access journal from MDPI vol. 9,9 686. 16 Sep. 2019, doi:10.3390/ani9090686
  16. Burke, A. 2016 Nov. 6. op. cit. 
  17. Barnette, C. op. cit. 
  18. National Cancer Institute. “NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.” National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/lymph-node.
  19. Burke, A. 2016 Nov. 6. op. cit. 
  20. Nagarkatti, Prakash et al. “Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs.” Future medicinal chemistry vol. 1,7 (2009): 1333-49. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93 
  21. Barnette, C. op. cit
  22. Burke, A. 2016 Nov. 6. op. cit
  23. Parker, Linda A et al. “Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids.” British journal of pharmacology vol. 163,7 (2011): 1411-22. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01176.x
  24. Vučković, Sonja et al. “Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 9 1259. 13 Nov. 2018, doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.01259
  25. Barnette, C. op. cit
  26. Burke, A. 2016 Nov. 6. op. cit
  27. Ribeiro, Alison, et al. “(PDF) Cannabidiol Improves Lung Function and Inflammation in Mice Submitted to LPS-Induced Acute Lung Injury.” ResearchGate, Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology, Oct. 2014, www.researchgate.net/publication/267735571_Cannabidiol_improves_lung_function_and_inflammation_in_mice_submitted_to_LPS-induced_acute_lung_injury.
  28. Barnette, C. op. cit
  29. Burke, A. 2016 Nov. 6. op. cit
  30. Silvestro, Serena et al. “Use of Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Efficacy and Security in Clinical Trials.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 24,8 1459. 12 Apr. 2019, doi:10.3390/molecules24081459
  31. McGill University Health Centre. “Cannabis pain relief without the ‘high’: Mechanism of cannabidiol for safe pain relief without side effects.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181024163625.htm>.
  32. Kriss, Randa. “CBD Oil For Dogs: What You Need To Know.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 27 Oct. 2019, www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/cbd-oil-dogs/.
  33. Prud’homme, Mélissa et al. “Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence.” Substance abuse: research and treatment vol. 9 33-8. 21 May. 2015, doi:10.4137/SART.S25081
  34. Johnson, Jon. “CBD for Cancer: Possible Benefits, Side Effects, and More.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 19 Mar. 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324745.
  35. “What to Know About Products Containing Cannabis and CBD.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 5 Mar. 2020, www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis#:~:text=The%20FDA%20has%20not%20approved,treatment%20options%20for%20their%20pets.
  36. Burke, Anna. “How to Talk to Your Veterinarian About CBD Oil.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 17 Oct. 2018, www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/talk-veterinarian-cbd-oil/.
  37. Strong, Tori, et al. “Synergistic Effect of Cannabidiol with Conventional Chemotherapy Treatment.” Blood, American Society of Hematology, 29 Nov. 2018, ashpublications.org/blood/article/132/Supplement%201/5382/265911/Synergistic-Effect-of-Cannabidiol-with.
  38. Burns, M. 2017 June 26. op. cit. 
  39. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Monoclonal Antibody Drugs for Cancer: How They Work.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/monoclonal-antibody/art-20047808.
  40. Burns, M. 2017 June 26. op. cit. 
  41. Ibid.
  42. James M. Nichols and Barbara L.F. Kaplan.Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.Mar 2020.12-31.http://doi.org/10.1089/can.2018.0073
  43. Barnette, C. op. cit
  44. Purdue Veterinary Medicine. “Canine Lymphoma.” Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, www.purdue.edu/vet/pcop/canine-lymphoma-research.php#:~:text=What%20causes%20lymphoma%20in%20dogs,of%20this%20cancer%20remains%20obscure.
  45. Barnette, C. op. cit
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