As the use of medical cannabis and CBD oil has become more widespread, people have turned to this natural remedy to treat the symptoms of cancer in their beloved pets. A quarter of all dogs will have cancer before the age of 10. However, if cancer in a dog is caught early enough, it may be treatable. The good news is that CBD oil can help pet parents deal with cancer in their dogs and ease the dog’s discomfort.
What Cancer Is
Cancer happens when cells in the dog divide and multiply too quickly. This creates growths or tumors. This happens because of genetic mutations in the cells that cause the cell’s growth to be unregulated. There are a few signs of cancer in dogs that dog owners should be aware of:
- A wound that does not heal or go away
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Abnormal bleeding
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Lameness or limping for no apparent reason.
- An abnormal lump, especially one that seems to be changing
Many times, dogs will not show any of these signs during the early stage of cancer. Because it can be difficult to find a tumor on a dog, it is recommended that all dogs see the vet at least once a year for a physical examination.
When many dog owners hear that their furry friend has a tumor, they start to panic. However, a tumor in itself is not necessarily a problem. A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells in the dog’s body. If the tumor is benign, it is not cancerous and will not spread. However, some tumors are malignant, which means they are cancerous and can spread.
It is usually difficult to see a tumor on a dog, especially when the dog has much fur. Generally, tumors are discovered when the owner is petting the dog, or when the dog goes to the vet.
There are several different types of tumors a dog may have. Some of them are more serious than others.
- Lipoma: These harmless tumors are made up of fatty skin cells. Pet owners do not need to be concerned about them unless they are causing the dog problems.
- Papilloma: A Papilloma is a wart in dogs. They are not cancerous, but they can cause problems for a dog with chewing and eating.
- Cysts: While cysts are generally benign, they can sometimes be harmful. They are filled with fluid, and sometimes they can be a sign of cancer.
- Mast Cell Tumors: This is a type of skin cancer. Mast cells are in areas that are close to the surface of the skin, such as the nose, skin, and mouth. Their location determines how severe the cancer is.
- Osteosarcoma: This is the most common type of bone cancer in canines. While any breed of dog can have bone cancer, larger breeds most often get it. This cancer may eventually require amputation of the affected limb.
- Hemangiosarcoma: This is the most malignant type of tumor, and it is an extremely aggressive form of cancer. Because it usually begins in the heart or spleen, it is usually at an advanced stage before it is discovered.
How Cancer Is Treated in Dogs
By itself, CBD and medical marijuana cannot get rid of cancer in canines. Cancer requires one or more treatments:
- Surgery: This is the most common treatment and the first step in treating cancer in dogs. This is especially effective if the tumor is only in one part of the body, and the vet can remove the entire tumor.
- Chemotherapy: Similar to the treatment used in humans who have cancer, chemotherapy for dogs involves powerful drugs that kill the cancerous cells. Dogs may receive pills or injections directly into the tumor. The good news is that dogs generally do better with chemotherapy than humans do.
- Immunotherapy: In this form of cancer treatment, antibodies are used to stimulate certain parts of the dog’s immune system to fight cancer. It works because cancer often sends signals that suppress this system. Immunotherapy counteracts these signals. This is considered a very safe way to treat cancer in canines.
- Cryotherapy: If the tumor is small enough, a vet may choose to use extremely cold temperatures to kill the cancerous cells. This treatment works best on superficial areas, and so it is most often used in areas such as the eyelids, the skin, and the mouth.
- Radiation Therapy: If surgery cannot remove the cancerous cells, a vet may recommend also using radiation therapy. In this treatment, the vet will use carefully targeted radiation to destroy cancerous cells in the area. This can either destroy cancer or significantly shrink the tumor, depending on its size.
- Palliative Care: Sometimes, a form of cancer – such as hemangiosarcoma in the heart or spleen – is too advanced to treat. In this case, the vet will work with the pet owner to manage pain in the animal. Palliative care is offered as the dog nears the end of its life. This can involve low doses of radiation to help reduce pain and bleeding. CBD oil can also offer relief from pain to dogs with cancer.
A vet will work with the pet owner to determine which treatment or treatments will be the best for the dog that has cancer. The vet will decide which treatments are best based on factors such as the type of cancer, where it is located, and how advanced it is. These treatments are needed to fight cancer itself because CBD will not kill the cancer cells.
However, cannabis oil can be used to help treat other problems that come with cancer.
What CBD Oil Is
CBD comes from the hemp plant. It is only one of many cannabinoids found in the plant. A cannabinoid is a substance that is specific to the cannabis plant, and there are more than 60 of them in the marijuana plant. However, CBD is by far the best-known one. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a person to experience a feeling of being high. This means it is legal across the United States.
The CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant and added to a carrier oil – usually hemp oil. Some CBD products that are especially for dogs have coconut oil instead, which can be easier on the digestive system. It usually comes with a dropper to allow for precise measurements of the CBD. This tincture can be added to a dog’s food at mealtimes.
Some CBD oil is full spectrum, which means it contains all the cannabinoids that are naturally found in the cannabis plant. Some research shows that this may be more effective than isolated CBD. This is because of something called the entourage effect. The entourage effect means that each cannabinoid works with the other components to produce an effect that is stronger than if any one of the components was working by itself.
The Endocannabinoid System in Dogs
Like humans and other vertebrates, dogs have an endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system consists of receptors for cannabinoids that the body naturally produces. The receptors are tiny proteins that are attached to different cells throughout the body. Different stimuli cause the responders to react.
The ECS regulates everything from mood to pain to inflammation. It also maintains homeostasis by sending signals to the body that make sure it does not go too far in one direction or another.
Benefits of CBD for Canine Cancer
While a dog is going through treatment for its cancer, it may suffer from several problems related to cancer and the treatments. These problems range from loss of appetite to pain to nausea.
Endocannabinoids and Cancer
Even though CBD cannot cure cancer by itself, it may be able to help the body fight off cancer. While no studies have been done in dogs as of now, there are several studies that look at how the ECS can help fight cancer. One study in humans found that the endocannabinoid anandamide can help reduce how quickly cancer grows, spreads, and survives. The study looked at how anandamide can help reduce breast cancer, partly because anandamide enhances the response of the immune system. It can also help reduce depression and anxiety.
CBD helps anandamide stay active in the ECS for a longer period of time. This makes anandamide more effective.
Many times, dogs with cancer do not eat as much food as they need. Treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation may account for this loss of appetite. It is also possible that cancer itself causes the dog to be less hungry. The good news is that CBD is known for stimulating the appetite.
One reason that CBD may stimulate the appetite is that it boosts anandamide. Anandamide binds to the CB1 receptor, which is responsible for regulating the appetite.
Cancer in dogs can lead to chronic pain or long-term pain. Cancer that is spreading is especially likely to cause pain. This may be caused by cancer growing into nearby tissues. As the tumor becomes even larger, it can begin to put pressure on the surrounding area. Some types of cancer tumors can even release chemicals that cause pain in the area.
Dogs may also feel pain from some of the cancer treatments. For example, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can all cause pain while they are treating cancer.
While more research is needed, CBD oil can help reduce pain from cancer in canines. One study showed that CBD helps reduce pain by targeting certain receptors in the body. CBD can also change the way the brain reacts to pain by lessening it.
CBD is also effective at soothing joint pain. Cancer in the bones can cause pain in joints near the affected area. CBD will target the dog’s pain receptors to provide relief.
Dogs that are going through chemotherapy treatments may experience nausea because of the powerful drugs. One study showed that CBD could help reduce both nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. CBD will likely work the same way in dogs.
Dosage of CBD
People who own dogs should consult with their dogs’ vets to determine the dosage of CBD that is right for their dogs. The right dosage will be determined by several factors, including the dog’s weight, the desired result of the CBD, and the dog’s breed.
Generally, the smaller the dog, the smaller the dose of CBD should be. For example, small dogs, such as Yorkshire terriers, should only start with one milligram of CBD per dose. On the other hand, larger dogs, such as rottweilers, can handle 20mg to 45mg of CBD per dose.
Usually, dogs should have about one milligram to 5mg of CBD per 10 pounds of dog weight in each dose. It is a good idea to start out on the smaller end of the range and gradually work up if the CBD does not seem to be working. It usually takes about half an hour before the CBD will start working in dogs.
Companies that sell CBD for dogs will generally give a recommended dose for each product. It is important for owners to monitor their dogs closely while giving CBD, especially for the first several weeks.
Side Effects of CBD
Like any cancer treatment, CBD comes with its side effects. Pet owners will usually not have to worry about these effects, but they may be noticeable if the owner accidentally gives the dog too much CBD. Having too much CBD is extremely unlikely to lead to long-term side effects in the dog. However, a few temporary effects that dogs may experience from CBD include:
- Dry mouth: CBD can sometimes reduce how much saliva is produced. Owners can tell if their pooch is experiencing this effect because the dog will be more thirsty.
- Drowsiness: Because CBD has a calming effect, the dog may feel so calm that it will be sleepy.
- Lack of coordination: A dog that is extremely drowsy after taking CBD may appear to be more clumsy than usual.
- Lower blood pressure: Sometimes, CBD can cause blood pressure to drop slightly. This may cause the dog to feel lightheaded.
Tips for Purchasing CBD Products
Because CBD is gaining so much popularity, there are more products out there than ever before. It can be difficult to find the right product to use. There are a few tips pet owners should follow when choosing CBD oil for dogs.
Cheapest Is Not Always Best
When it comes to CBD, it is important to choose one that is high-quality and free of toxins. With CBD, people often get what they pay for, and lower-priced options may contain toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals, or herbicides. Often, organic CBD oil is the best choice because it does not contain these toxic substances.
Purchasing CBD for Dogs
While CBD for dogs comes in many forms, such as treats, it is usually best to stick with the oil form. When a dog is just starting out taking CBD, the owner does not know what the ideal dose will be for the dog. Later on, as cancer progresses, the dosage may need to be adjusted further. Dog treats make it more difficult to adjust the dog’s dosage. They contain a premeasured amount of CBD, but if the dog needs to take more or less CBD than is in the treat, it is difficult to get a precise amount.
The exception to this will be if cancer or treatments have made a dog a picky eater. In this case, the dog may not eat food if it has CBD oil on it. Choosing dog treats here would be the best option.
Research the Product
Reputable CBD manufacturers will send products off to a third-party lab to be tested for toxins. If they have done this, they should be able to provide potential buyers with a certificate that says what is in each product. Cannabidiol products for dogs also should not contain any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the psychoactive element of the marijuana plant, and it is what gives users a feeling of being high.
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve and set out guidelines about CBD, studies in humans suggest that it may be effective on the ECS system. While it cannot cure cancer in canines, it can help alleviate the symptoms that come with cancer and its treatments. There is also some early research that CBD may help the body fight off cancer.