By Jamie M., CCBD Shift Lead

If you’re a pet parent, there may be good news on the horizon: the University of Guelph, Ontario has taken its first steps toward finding out if cannabis can benefit our furry friends – particularly in difficult-to-treat diseases like bladder cancer. 

While studying potential anti-cancer benefits of cannabis is still in its infancy for pets and humans alike, it isn’t by any means a new or cutting edge exploration. Other countries – including Canada, Israel, and Bosnia, and many more – are already making progress toward getting answers. In fact, a 2019 study published in the Journal of Basic Medical Sciences deemed that “cannabinoids were able to effectively modulate tumor growth in different in vitro (in a laboratory environment) and in vivo (in a living organism) cancer models.”

Right now, Professor Sam Hocker of the University of Guelph is heading a three-year study to explore how cannabis may help treat dogs with bladder cancer. Focusing primarily on CBD, Professor Hocker and his research team hope to determine if non-intoxicating CBD does, in fact, kill cancer cells – and if so, to then figure out how the mechanisms work, how to best harness them, and how to most efficiently begin creating medications. Professor Hocker hopes that by understanding how bladder cancer responds to this treatment, he can give both pet owners and veterinarians the answers they are eagerly awaiting.

Bladder cancer in pets is notoriously hard to treat. Though it is rare (responsible for approximately 2% of cancers among dogs), it’s so challenging to remove surgically that chemotherapy remains the only viable option. The results of chemo treatment are highly variable and extremely costly, leaving most pet parents with no viable options. 

Although anecdotally, cannabis (and specifically CBD) have reached legendary status (examples include Rick Simpson’s claims of having cured melanoma with his own RSO, and Tommy Chong’s claims of curing his prostate cancer), none of those claims can be scientifically backed … and research is just too new to support or reject claims such as these.  

However, thousands of clinical studies are underway worldwide in both humans and animals –  and the initial results are promising:

  • There are a few noteworthy veterinary studies that are slated to conclude in 2020 that are currently seeing success with CBD.
  • The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is investigating the effectiveness of cannabinoid therapy to relieve pain and joint-immobility issues in canines.
  • An equine study in Israel is studying the effects of CBD on horse skin, which has already shown in one case to have improved skin health of a horse beyond the capabilities of treatment with steroids.

Since the beginning of the medical marijana era, using cannabis for pets has been a divisive subject, and most vets will not recommend any administration of cannabis or the non-psychoactive CBD to any animals. Since dogs especially can have a toxic and fatal reaction to THC (because dogs have a much higher number of cannabinoid receptors in their brains than humans), many vets are understandably reluctant to say yes to any cannabinoid until science gives them the reassurance that they are first doing no harm … which is why the increasing number of scientific studies looking into the effectiveness of using CBD to treat a variety of companion animal ailments is particularly exciting news for pet parents!

Local and Anecdotal:  

I don’t have scientific evidence. But I do have a story from my own experience with one of my own beloved pets:

Last year, my 14 year old black lab suddenly stopped eating for a full day. The next morning, I took him to the vet, only to find out that he had a grapefruit-sized tumor in his abdomen. Obviously, I was devastated and was immediately told by my wonderful vet that at his age, there was literally nothing we could do but make him comfortable and try to get him to eat.        

The vet gave my long-time companion a prognosis of 1-2 weeks, and prescribed an appetite stimulant, which we administered immediately in the vet’s office. Several hours passed, and he had still snubbed all food temptations … I feared his time had come.

On a whim, I decided to run out and purchase some CBD oil to try (at that point, I’d heard some whispers about its potential canine benefits for tumor growth and appetite … what did I have to lose?). I administered a full dropperful, because I wasn’t messing around!

Did the tumor shrink? Did CBD just stimulate his appetite? I don’t really know what happened, and have no scientific proof  … but what I can tell you is that I had my doggy back to his old self for almost an additional 3 months of quality time with his family. 

So pet lovers – please stay tuned about the potential for CBD to treat our furry friends. CBD veterinary studies are underway right now, and answers are coming. And that should give both pets and their owners a greater sense of comfort in the future! 



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