Given that CBD oil has plenty of benefits for humans, it isn’t too much of a surprise that it may be helpful to your canine companion, too – especially if they’re battling cancer.
With a lack of formal studies on how CBD affects dogs with cancer, you may be wondering: how does CBD oil work, and is it something you should give a dog dealing with cancer? Below, there’s an in-depth guide on the ins and outs of CBD oil for dogs with cancer.
(Note: Content in some of our articles refer to medical conditions in dogs; you should always consult a veterinarian when seeking medical advice.)
(Articles may contain links from affiliate partners. Please read how we may earn a commission.)
Cancer in Dogs
Cancer can be a broad term, and it doesn’t always look the same in canines as it would in humans. From tiny spots of skin cancer to fast-growing tumors, here’s what you need to know.
How Common is Cancer in Dogs?
Unfortunately, cancer in dogs is almost as common as cancer in people. Not only do six million canines get a cancer diagnosis every year, but estimates show that 1 in 4 dogs will get cancer in their lifetime. That number rises to close to 50% for dogs who are over the age of 10.
Although those statistics may seem bleak, the good news is that half of the canine cancers can be treated if they’re caught early enough.
Types of Cancer in Dogs
Like humans, cancer encompasses a wide variety of cancer types, and not all of them have the same treatments. Some of the more common types of cancer include:
- Bladder cancer
- Bone cancer
- Breast cancer
- Liver cancer
- Mast cell tumors
- Prostate cancer (dogs are the only nonhuman species that can develop prostate cancer)
- Oral melanoma
- Stomach cancer
- Soft-tissue sarcoma
- Testicular cancer
- Thyroid cancer
Like human cancers, canine cancer is staged from stage 0 to stage IV to identify how much the cancer has spread.
Signs Your Dog Might Have Cancer
Cancer symptoms can vary based on the type of cancer and the stage that it’s in, but if you see one or more of these symptoms, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your vet:
- Abdominal distention: If your dog’s stomach or belly suddenly seems larger or distends, this could indicate a mass in the abdomen or unusual bleeding. Your vet will most likely run an ultrasound or radiograph to diagnose what’s going on.
- An enlarged lump: Whether it’s an unusual mole that keeps getting bigger or a lump that won’t stop changing shape, your dog should get a biopsy to ensure it’s not cancerous.
- Chronic weight loss: If you haven’t placed your dog on a diet and you’re noticing weight loss, you should get them checked out. Weight loss doesn’t always mean cancer, but it can be a symptom.
- Chronic diarrhea or vomiting: Diarrhea or vomiting that seems to be ongoing could indicate a tumor in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Cough: A cough doesn’t always mean cancer, but a dry, non-productive cough can be a potential sign in older pets.
- Lameness or limping: One symptom of bone cancer in older pets is unexplained lameness or limping, especially in large and giant dog breeds.
- Oral odor or smell: If you notice that your dog has bad breath, they may just need their teeth cleaned, but it’s also a symptom of oral tumors.
- Straining/unable to urinate: Straining while urinating, pain, or even bleeding can be signs of a UTI, but in rare cases, this can be a sign of bladder cancer.
- Swollen lymph nodes: Lymph nodes are located throughout your dog’s body but behind the jaw or knee. Enlarged lymph nodes can sometimes be a symptom of a specific type of cancer, lymphoma.
- Unexplained bleeding: Whether your dog is bleeding from their mouth, nose, or genitals, you should get any unexplained bleeding checked out immediately.
Although these symptoms don’t always equal cancer, and they may not be the only ones you see, it’s always a good idea to schedule a vet appointment as soon as possible if you notice one or more of them.
Diagnosing and Treating Your Dog
Diagnosing cancer will often depend on the type of cancer your vet suspects that your canine has. For instance, gastrointestinal cancer may be detected by an ultrasound or radiograph, while they may biopsy skin cancer.
Vets may often run multiple tests so they can determine how much the cancer has spread and come up with a treatment plan for it. Treatment options are also vast, and depending on the severity of the cancer, some vets might recommend you to a veterinary oncologist for treatment after they make a diagnosis.
According to Dr. Diane Brown of the AKC Canine Health Foundation, “Options may include surgical treatment, combination therapy of surgery and chemotherapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy alone, and immunotherapy.”
Chemotherapy and radiation, two common treatments for canine cancer, happen a little differently with dogs than in humans. Your vet may recommend an injection, pill, or an IV for chemotherapy, but your dog will need to go under anesthesia for radiation therapy.
Keep in mind that treating cancer is a multi-faceted approach, and your vet may also prescribe pain medication to keep your dog comfortable during treatment. And, in some cases, your vet may suggest using CBD oil along with other treatments – but we’ll get into that below.
CBD Oil for Treating Dogs with Cancer
Since it’s still a relatively new concept, not all vets may suggest using CBD oil to help with your dog’s cancer unless you bring it up – but there is evidence to suggest that it could help.
CBD Oil is Not a Cure for Cancer
Before discussing how CBD oil can help, it’s important to note that it’s not a cure for cancer or a substitute for actual treatment options. When it’s used in dogs with cancer, CBD oil supports other treatment options, but it shouldn’t be used on its own.
Some CBD manufacturers may try to imply or market their CBD products as cancer cures, but these claims are false and irresponsible.
Can CBD Oil Help Dogs with Cancer?
When it’s used in combination with other treatment options, like chemotherapy or surgery, CBD oil may be able to help dogs with cancer – in a couple of different ways:
- Helps inflammation and pain: Treating a dog’s pain throughout cancer treatment is almost as important as treating the cancer itself. Studies suggest that CBD may be able to help your canine’s pain on its own or even enhance the effectiveness of other pain medications.
- Can support anti-tumor medication: Surprisingly, research has shown that CBD oil can have anti-tumor effects in certain cancers such as breast cancer, leukemia, lung, or colon cancer. In addition to its own anti-tumor effects, it may even increase the effects of other anti-tumor treatments your dog is taking.
- Boosts the immune system: Your dog’s endocannabinoid system and immune system are closely related, which is why it’s not a huge surprise that research shows CBD oil may be able to boost the immune system by reducing oxidative stress.
- Helps with nausea and appetite: One of the most common side effects of cancer treatments for dogs is nausea and a loss of appetite. CBD oil has shown benefits for increasing your dog’s appetite and reducing nausea.
- Improves canine sleep: CBD oil promotes better “wake time” during the day, which may seem counterintuitive to a good night’s rest, but it’s not. With better “wake time” on CBD oil, dogs may have better rest when they do sleep.
Do Veterinarians Recommend CBD for Cancer in Dogs?
Not all vets may suggest CBD oil as a natural remedy to give your dog, but as more research is done on the topic, more and more vets are enthusiastic about the role of CBD in cancer treatment. As mentioned, CBD oil isn’t a cure for cancer, but it does show potential for reducing cancer pain, improving appetite, and even fighting off tumors.
Before you give your dog a dose of CBD oil, speak to your vet about whether it’s the right choice for your dog’s treatment plan.
CBD oil is increasingly recommended by veterinarians for a host of other issues as well, including arthritis, epilepsy, seizures, and separation anxiety.
About CBD Oil
Although we’ve discussed the role of CBD oil for dogs with cancer, here are a few other facts about CBD oil.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and then diluting it with either hemp seed oil or coconut oil. Keep in mind that medical marijuana and CBD oil are not the same – CBD does not contain any THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
CBD works by affecting the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is something that both humans and dogs have.
Is CBD Legal?
While it is derived from marijuana, CBD oil contains no more than 0.3% of THC, making it federally legal.
Recommended CBD Oil
We have used CBD oil from holistapet.com with good results. It is formulated specifically for pets and contains 0% THC. Manufactured in the U.S., it is 100% organic, contains no GMO or additives, and is vegan. We recommend purchasing it in dropper bottle form, where it can easily be given directly on the dog’s tongue or onto food.
Regardless of where you get your CBD Oil, make sure you find a product that has been tested by a third-party and comes with a Certificate of Analysis (COA). This COA will detail how much CBD and THC the product contains and list any test results for contaminants, pesticides, and so on.
CBD dosing for dogs is a little different than humans, but if you’re purchasing CBD oil that’s made for dogs, the manufacturer will usually include dosing guidelines on the back of the bottle.
Dosing can often depend on your pup’s weight as well as other medical issues that they may have.
How is CBD Administered?
For dogs, CBD can be administered in a couple of different ways. Many companies make CBD oil in the form of tinctures, topical treatments for skin, and even dog treats or chews. We have found that the CBD oil in dropper bottle form provides the most accurate dosing.
Are There Any Risks?
Like any natural remedy, CBD oil can come with a few unsavory side effects, such as dry mouth, lowered blood pressure, or light drowsiness. Not all dogs may experience these side effects, but the higher the dose, the more likely you will see one or two of these issues.
While giving CBD oil for dogs with cancer won’t cure them of the disease, there is considerable anecdotal evidence that it may help alleviate cancer symptoms as well as support other cancer medications. Talk to your vet about how CBD oil may help your dog with cancer.