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When anyone in your family is diagnosed with cancer, the first question that comes to mind is often about what can be done. The same is true when the family member is your beloved cat. With veterinary care that’s better than ever, more owners are choosing to treat their cat’s cancer. Even better, more and more cats are surviving with their cancer diagnosis.
That’s where cannabis comes in. Cannabis can help ease many of the symptoms of cancer in humans as well as cats.
How Can Cannabis Help Cancer Patients?
At this time, there’s no scientific research on cannabis as a treatment for cancer or its symptoms in cats. However, according to the American Cancer Society, different compounds in marijuana can help soothe different symptoms for human patients. There are also mounting anecdotal claims about cannabis soothing the symptoms of cancer for cats. Cannabis and its different compounds can help treat the symptoms of cancer for humans in many ways:
- THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) helps relieve pain and nausea. It also reduces inflammation.
- CBD (Cannabidiol) helps treat seizures, reduce anxiety, and reduce paranoia.
- CBD can also reduce pain and inflammation.
- A few studies in humans have found that smoked marijuana and dronabinol can help treat nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients.
- Inhaled marijuana can also help treat pain caused specifically by damaged nerves.
- Smoking marijuana also helped increase the appetite of HIV patients in a human study.
- There is no research showing the effects of marijuana or hemp oil for cancer patients in humans or other animals.
- Some recent research has shown that THC and CBD may slow growth or even kill cancer cells in lab dishes – but studies on human patients have not shown that cannabis alone helps treat cancer.
CBD does not cause a high – only THC does that. In fact, products made with less than 0.3% THC are legal in all 50 states. These products can still be helpful for cats with cancer.
In fact, most vets recommend avoiding products with larger amounts of THC for pets. As anyone who’s visited Colorado or California could tell you, being high isn’t always comfortable. This is especially true for a cat that doesn’t know what’s going on. Getting your cat high is not the point of using cannabis for their cancer symptoms.
Barriers to Cannabis as a Cancer Treatment for Cats
Drug regulations make it extremely difficult to conduct clinical trials with cannabis-based drugs for humans or cats. Much of what we know about how cannabis can help cats with cancer is either anecdotal or extrapolated from research done on other animals.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no recognized medical purpose. Research on Schedule I drugs is incredibly restricted. This is at odds with the 30+ U.S. states that have legalized marijuana for various medical purposes. More research on the benefits of marijuana for cancer patients, including cats, is almost certainly to come.
This lack of research means that it’s hard to say exactly what cannabis can do to help your cat with cancer. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), simply says that there needs to be more research on marijuana for helping pets.
Some vets still only see marijuana as a toxic plant. Its use as a pain-easing, nausea-reducing drug is still seen as fringe. A 2012 study from two emergency clinics in Colorado found that marijuana toxicosis cases quadrupled after the state legalized marijuana. In short, it’s no surprise that many vets are still leery of using marijuana to help cats with cancer.
How Can I Find a Cannabis Product that’s Right for My Cat?
As with any medical question, your best bet is to start with your vet. Explore your options and see what your vet is comfortable with. If your vet is familiar with cannabis, great! If not, try to respectfully ask about cannabis for treating your cat.
If your vet is resistant to the idea of cannabis, try to figure out why the vet doesn’t think cannabis is right for your cat – your vet is the expert, after all. If you still disagree, you’ll probably be able to find a vet nearby to guide you through the process of finding the right cannabis product for your cat’s cancer.
When looking at cannabis products for your cat, there’s a lot to consider:
- Avoid products that have a high THC content, as this can give your cat a scary and unwanted “high.”
- Check for other ingredients, especially if you’re using a cannabis product that’s not made specifically for cats. Fewer ingredients generally means there’s a lower chance of your cat reacting to the drug.
- See if there’s a “guaranteed analysis.” This will let you know that the company tests its products to ensure they actually contain what they say they contain.
- Look at the growing practices for the marijuana. Was it grown with lots of pesticides?
- Find out if the extraction method used might leave other chemicals in the final product.
The bottom line is that we don’t know for sure if cannabis really helps for cats with cancer. There are a lot of anecdotes pointing towards cannabis helping cats with cancer, but there is no research yet. Research on humans has shown cannabis can help alleviate pain and nausea, but we can’t say for sure that the same is true for your cat. If you chose to try cannabis for your cat, be sure to carefully find a product and dose that makes your cat comfortable without overdoing it.
Have you used cannabis to help out your cat with cancer? We want to hear your stories!