Hemp-derived CBD may help treat cancer in dogs and cats, while easing symptoms and treatment side effects.
The cannabis industry is exploding in both the US and Canada. It’s not surprising, since people and companion animals alike are being helped thanks to the therapeutic effects of the cannabis plant. In this article, I will outline the benefits and practical applications of using cannabis in cats and dogs with cancer.
Let’s start with the basics
The cannabis industry is rich with confusing scientific terminology. It’s important to understand the differences between marijuana, hemp, CBD and THC in order to ensure your dog or cat is getting a safe and effective product.
- CBD (cannabidiol): A component of the cannabis plant that does not cause a “high”. CBD is generally derived from the hemp plant, but can also be derived from the marijuana plant.
- THC (tetrahydrocannabinol): This component of the cannabis plant is psychoactive and causes a “high”. THC is federally illegal in the US, though is legal for recreational and medicinal use in several states, as well as in Canada.
- Cannabis: This label is used for both the marijuana and hemp plant. These plants look identical but vary in the amounts of THC and CBD they contain.
- Marijuana: This type of cannabis plant contains high levels of THC and low levels of CBD, and will cause a “high”. In the US, it is currently illegal at the federal level, but it is legal in some states and in Canada.
- Hemp: This plant contains high levels of CBD and low levels of THC. To legally be classified as hemp, it must contain less than 0.3% THC. Therefore, this plant cannot cause a “high”. Hemp is now federally legal thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018.
In summary, CBD products are generally hemp-derived, do not cause a “high”, and are legal at the federal level. While marijuana may have medicinal applications for animal cancer patients in the future, this article will focus on hemp-derived CBD.
4 ways that CBD can help dogs and cats with cancer
CBD can be useful both in the treatment of cancer, and for the many symptoms that accompany conventional cancer treatments. It has shown to kill certain cancer cells and stop the growth of blood vessels to tumors. CBD may also have antioxidant properties and can help slow down tumor progression. In addition, new studies suggest that CBD may help chemotherapy work more efficiently in people with cancer.
Studies have shown that CBD can kill certain types of cancer cells.
The cannabidiol component is not the only part of the cannabis plant that may be useful for fighting cancer. Hemp extract is also rich in other natural compounds, such as terpenes and flavonoids. Limonene, a terpene found in hemp, has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Flavonoids, such as luteolin and kaempferol, are found in hemp and have been shown to cause disruption to cancer cells. When selecting a CBD product for your dog or cat, look for a full spectrum or broad spectrum hemp extract.
Here are four ways that cannabis can support animal cancer patients:
1. Stimulates appetite
It can be difficult to keep your dog or cat eating when he has cancer; as well, many types of cancers cause weight loss. Maintaining body mass can be crucial for the longevity of your animal, yet the symptoms of cancer combined with the side effects of some medications can cause nausea and low appetite. It was previously thought that THC provided most of the appetite stimulation associated with the cannabis plant (consider the “munchies” that people get when using marijuana) But full spectrum hemp extract that’s rich in CBD can also help decrease nausea and increase appetite.
2. Helps treat tumors (when applied topically)
CBD may offer benefits with applied directly to tumors. Studies have shown that it can kill certain types of cancer cells. Cannabis extract may also speed wound healing while decreasing pain, which may be beneficial for skin tumors that become open wounds. While there are no current studies investigating the topical treatment of cancer in dogs and cats, there is no known harm in applying hemp extract to tumors.
3. Manages pain
Cancer pain can be severe, especially when the tumors are associated with bone. CBD has been shown to decrease pain and inflammation. It should not be used on its own for pain management, but it can be added to a more traditional drug regimen. While more studies are required, there have been no reports of interactions between CBD and other drugs when treating pain in dogs and cats. Higher doses of CBD (2 mg/kg to 3 mg/kg twice daily) may be warranted to help manage cancer pain.
4. Can reduce side effects of chemo and radiation
A few studies suggest that the use of CBD during chemotherapy and radiation may help reduce side effects and even have a synergistic effect. However, more studies are needed to confirm this benefit for dogs and cats.
Before using CBD with your animal, whether or not he has cancer, discuss it with your veterinarian, and be sure to do your homework and find a high quality hemp-derived product formulated for dogs and cats. Using the right product in the right way (see sidebar above for tips on dosing), can help treat cancer in companion animals, while alleviating symptoms and treatment side effects.