Quantcast
Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

CBD Oil, Dogs, Cancer: Why You Haven’t Heard More About It

Updated: August 12th, 2019

Summary

What about CBD oil dogs cancer? Do these things go together, or not?? Dr. Dressler weighs in.

Listen

I’ve been told some of the most common questions readers of this site and The Dog Cancer Survival Guide ask are about the intersection of three things: CBD oil, dogs, cancer.

  • Should I use CBD oil to help kill my dog’s cancer cells?
  • Would CBD oil help with appetite during chemotherapy?
  • What about for vomiting?
  • My dog is in pain…should I use CBD oil?
  • How about some of my own medical marijuana, can I use it with my dog?
  • Would CBD oil be good for life quality?

So let’s talk a little about hemp, marijuana, THC. CBD oil, dogs, cancer.

More importantly, let’s talk about why we’re NOT talking about them. Or more accurately, why you haven’t heard about these options from me or your own veterinarian.

Marijuana, CBD Oil, Dogs, Cancer

Marijuana products have been gaining a huge amount of attention in recent years.  And rightly so, since there has been an expansion in state-level legalization of marijuana and associated CBD products.

CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, an active substance found in marijuana plants. It usually doesn’t have any THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the major marijuana intoxicant. If it does, it is only trace amounts.

CBD oil is also extracted from hemp, a cousin of marijuana.

You probably know that marijuana is illegal at the federal level. But you may not know that hemp is also a problematic plant from the fed’s perspective. More on both of those later.

Now, on a state level, it’s a little different. As I write, thirty-three states have enacted expansive marijuana use laws. Ten of those states have even legalized recreational use, and ten more states may join them this year. With full legalization on the table, and expanding rapidly, the health benefits of marijuana are finally up for discussion.

And, of course, dog lovers want to know: can CBD oil (and other marijuana/hemp products) help dogs with cancer?

Dear reader, I’m not going to answer that very good question. Instead, I’m going to tell you why I won’t, and why your vet probably won’t either.

When it comes to marijuana and CBD, we’re in the Wild West.

Let’s look at why we are still in the Wild West when it comes to marijuana and CBD products in veterinary medicine.

Gagged and Bound by Federal Law

The first thing for you to realize is that there are some very sticky legal issues going on now for veterinarians.

If you’re the sort of person who gets mad about inefficient bureaucracy, take a few deep breaths now, because what I’m about to tell you often shocks readers.

What I Can Discuss with Clients

When I got my veterinary license over two decades ago, there were zero instructions for us about what to do, or even discuss, about things like CBD oil and medical marijuana.

Back then, those substances did not exist as medical options. They weren’t even imagined.

Today, its different (and not in a good way). Let me explain.

If I want to advise a client about whether to use plant-derived therapies for a pet’s health issue, I (almost always) can legally do so.

What I Cannot Discuss with Clients

There are other things, however, that I cannot discuss with you without risking my DEA license.

Fun Fact: I have a DEA License, not just a Veterinary License!

Yes, I have a license from the Drug Enforcement Agency. I must have one in order to prescribe and dispense medications in my veterinary hospital. Bet you didn’t know that your veterinarian may have been licensed by the DEA, as well as the state veterinary board!

So, in order to keep my license, I must follow all federal laws to the letter, because the DEA license is a federal license.

Marijuana is illegal at the federal level so I cannot discuss it with you. Not unless I want to lose the ability to prescribe drugs. Yes: by discussing marijuana products with you, I am risking losing the ability to treat animals in my practice with all OTHER drugs. That would basically put me out of business as a clinician.

Veterinarians are literally gag ordered when it comes to CBD and marijuana.

If that sounds insane to you, you are not alone. But it’s true. Veterinarians are literally gag ordered as to CBD or marijuana recommendations. I’m not a lawyer, but that sure seems like a First Amendment violation. Doesn’t it?

Not only are veterinarians disallowed from recommending medical marijuana or products derived from it, we can’t even recommend products from hemp!


Don’t despair: there is plenty Dr. Dressler CAN write about, and DOES write about, in his comprehensive book. You’ll learn the best information on supplements, nutraceuticals, diet, mind-body, and of course, conventional treatments!

Yes, That Includes Hemp Products!

Yes, it’s true. Hemp is a cousin of marijuana, and even though we use it to make rope, and it contains virtually no intoxicating substances, it’s illegal to sell or grow it until just a couple of weeks ago! Even now that it’s been legalized, it’s really unclear whether CBD oil extracted from hemp will be legalized as well.

The gag is so severe I’m not sure I am permitted to discuss the use of a hemp rope as part of, say, farm animal care.

Schedule One Substances …

That is not the only crazy aspect of this legal quagmire. The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) lists marijuana and substances from the plant (THC and CBD) as Schedule 1 substances.

What are Schedule 1 substances? Those with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”. You know, like heroin or LSD, which are also Schedule 1.

Keep in mind that crystal meth and cocaine are Schedule 2 substances … a notch lower in the existing legal framework.

Crystal Meth, Cocaine = Schedule 2. Marijuana, Heroin = Schedule 1.

Go ahead, take a sip of water and a few deep breaths. I’ll wait.

Since I can’t legally prescribe your dog heroin, I can’t prescribe CBD oil either.

It’s illegal to prescribe your dog heroin … and, CBD oil.

But I can prescribe pills that are part of the opioid epidemic. By the way, poppies are the original source of those opioids. And what else is derived from poppies? Heroin.

Are you shaking your head yet?

… And Yet Cannabinoids Are Patented.

Here’s another headscratcher: the United States Government owns patents for drugs using marijuana’s active molecules, specifically patent 6,630,507 , entitled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants”.

The patent’s language plainly states some medical uses of marijuana-derived compounds:

The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses …”

But don’t go away mad, because there is more.

Marijuana Drugs Already Approved – and Yet Illegal?

Truth is, the FDA approved marijuana-compound based drugs for international and domestic use. For example, Epidiolex addresses certain seizures in humans. That’s clearly a medical use of a marijuana compound. In the USA!

What the heck?

Since DEA’s Schedule 1 classification specifies that substances from marijuana legally have “no accepted medical use,” and since the United States Federal Drug Administration approved Epidiolex in June 2018, for medical use … Schedule 1 classification seems a wee bit problematic.

The DEA and the FDA should probably put their heads together on this.

At least the FDA thinks so. Consider the following quote:

This approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies. And, the FDA is committed to this kind of careful scientific research and drug development.”  FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD

In other words, the head of the FDA thinks medical applications for marijuana exist. But the DEA still thinks it’s worse than crystal meth, and as bad as heroin (a cousin to opiods, which are legal).

Dazed and Confused

The legal situation overall strikes me as just awful, confusing, and logically upside down.

Marijuana and CBD oil are illegal at the federal level. Meanwhile, they are legal in some fashion in some states. Who wins that argument?

When it comes right down to it, the feds do. And that’s why I and most veterinarians I know just don’t discuss these topics. If you feel frustrated, I understand.

I share your frustration. And I hope you understand our position.

There are countless manufacturers and forums operating in the gray area between legal and illegal advice. But we veterinarians are really unlikely to join you in that gray area. It’s just too risky for us.

Until this gets sorted out at the federal level, we are risking losing our business altogether. That’s a lot of people out of work, and a lot of pets without care. Even in states where marijuana and/or CBD products are legal. Not all veterinarians have DEA licenses, but it’s tough to ask any vet to skirt the law. I hope you understand.

The Future

Looking forward, I’d like to give you more information on CBD oil and marijuana products. But, as you can imagine, I really don’t want to have my drug license jeopardized, which means I need to proceed very, very cautiously.

Believe me, as the situation changes, I will be writing about it.



So, for now, for readers as well as any regulatory enforcement out there, for the official record:

**I am not advising people with pets to use marijuana or marijuana-related products for their pets**

Best,

Dr. D



Further Reading and References:

Many articles re: marijuana and medical marijuana at the paper of record: https://www.nytimes.com/topic/subject/marijuana-and-medical-marijuana

Hemp is now legal. That’s huge for the CBD industry, Chavie Lieber, Vox.com https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/12/13/18139678/cbd-industry-hemp-legalization-farm-bill

Marijuana is illegal under federal law even in states that legalize it, German Lopez, Vox.com, Nov 14, 2018, https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/8/20/17938372/marijuana-legalization-federal-prohibition-drug-scheduling-system

Drug Scheduling, DEA, https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling

First Amendment explainer, Cornell Law School, https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabidiol

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrahydrocannabinol

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp

State Medical Marijuana Laws, National Conference of State Legislatures, http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx

These States Are Most Likely to Pass Marijuana Legalization Bills in 2019, Marijuana Moment, January 28. 2019, Boston Globe https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/marijuana/2019/01/28/these-states-are-most-likely-pass-marijuana-legalization-bills/R6zJMBCjoCQ7HKSHV0mk3I/story.html

FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy, June 25, 2018, https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm611046.htm

United States Patent 6,630,507, Hampson, et al., Cannibinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants, http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6630507.PN.&OS=PN/6630507&RS=PN/6630507

Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

Leave a Comment





  1. Richard Davidson on July 29, 2019 at 12:20 am

    Hello Dr. Dressler. This is Richard Davidson. My dog is a jack russel cross. He’s 16 years old and has a possible diagnosis of bladder cancer. Up to a couple of months ago he would run around the yard full tilt like he was still a puppy. My vet is talking about putting him down. I dont wish to give up on him yet. I think he deserves better than that . Please help what do you suggest.

  • Brian Hunt on May 31, 2019 at 10:25 am

    Hi Dr.Dressler,
    I believe you are over worried about Cannabinoids and CBD Oil.. Cornell University has come out with their own CBD Oil as a cure for Osteoarthritis. It is very effective and has almost eradicated many cases of the disease. There are just too many prominent Veterinarians using Cannabinoids now. It will only be a moment in time before they are removed from the books as a Schedule 1 drug. This was a big mistake as they are wonderful medicines and have virtually wiped out many diseases such as Epilepsy and most seizures. They are effective in removing painful conditions such as Migraine headaches, inflammatory bowel disease and Fibromyalgia. They are the only cure for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease(C.O.P.D ) and Dr.Nathan Russo MD, Board Certified in Neurology has introduced them to Australia through a recent Medical Conference over there. Their value in Human Medicine is truly remarkable. We can virtually treat just about everything today, but not everyone has the understanding and knowledge that comes through a Cornell University education. We need to stack the FDA and DEA with Cornell trained people and then we may get something done. I did a Masters at Cornell but my Committee told me that I discovered new things and should have received a PhD. Anyway they concluded that a Master’s at Cornell was as good as a PhD any where else. I laughed! We published my Thesis in the J.A.V.M.A. I sent you something on the latest Cancer Cure. Merck found that the Benzimidazoles cure cancer just like they kill parasites by preventing their glucose uptake. Send me your email address and I will send you the scientific papers. I worked for Merck,Australia back in the early seventies before I went to Cornell on a full scholastic scholarship. I was involved in researching thiabendazole on worm parasites in sheep. At that stage we had not realized that the Benzimidazoles also destroy all forms of cancer in from 6 to 18 weeks. Truly remarkable!
    Cheers,
    Dr.Brian Hunt,
    BVSc (Sydney), (MS ( Cornell).

    • Molly Jacobson on June 2, 2019 at 10:32 am

      Hello Dr. Hunt! Thanks for your comment. As Dr. D points out, he is not really talking about what he thinks about CBD oil itself. He’s pointing out that here in the U.S. veterinarians who rely on the federal license to dispense drugs are in a gray zone, and that we need to get this straightened out so that we CAN hear from vets about the benefits and uses of CBD oil. Thanks!

      • Colleen on June 24, 2019 at 2:47 am

        I am a pet owner who started using higher doses of CBD 150mg per day and .25 mg of THC at night for our American Cocker, he has left Nasal Planum Melanoma with Left Mandibular Lymph Node Metastasis. the Nose tumor, very large and would bleed badly, puddles, and was using Surgifoam to control, was at the point of saying goodbye, when a week ago we started her on the above combination. I am confused but happily as the tumor in her neck is 1/4 the size and her nose seems to be “shriveling” up and it looks like rather than one massive tumor it is showing very defined but multiple smaller tumors and I am seeing more skin around them and they are so dry and smaller, it must be the Hail Mary move of the CBD as that is the only thing we did and it is amazing the difference in a week and NO bleeding, none at all and her energy is over the moon, and this is the weirdest part, well one of them, her eyes had this gray haze, they told me she had cataracts, well her eyes are almost back to their dark brown color. Not sure who to connect with to help me understand what may happen next, do the tumors fall off, no one seems to be able to say. Any shared knowledge would be so very appreciated.

  • Monica on January 30, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    I truly appreciate the knowledge you generously share with all of us going through this disease called Lymphoma! I rented your book from the library and read everything I could learn to give by girl the best possible quality of life. She was adopted at 7-8 and she is now 12. I am overwhelmed with vet visits every two weeks but have had great success for 7 months on CHOP. She fell out of remission this week but L-asparigin and Cyclo together seemed to have done their job. The nodes have shrunk. You have taught me to accept the new reality day by day. And the support and information you share has been of great comfort in this scary time. Thank you for holding my hand in the dark and steadying the way.
    In gratitude.

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on January 31, 2019 at 6:58 am

      Hello Monica,

      Thanks for writing, and for sharing your story with us– it sounds like your girl has an amazing guardian looking out for her!

  • Ellen on January 29, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    I’m confused since CBD oil, hemp, is legal in all 50 states. Business is booming for treatibles, hempworx, hempmypet, and others. The legality is not unclear.

    If Dr. D wants to learn and research further prior to discussing with patients, or doesn’t believe in its efficacy, that’s a different story and should be stated as such.

    • Molly Jacobson on January 31, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Ellen! Molly here. As Dr. D clearly states above, and the supporting articles attest, the federal status of hemp oil is not at all clear. You are correct, it is legal to BUY in all 50 states, but the ability to sell/grow is only legal at the Federal level as of late 2018, and the details of that legislation do not exactly make clear how the law will be enforced. One thing is clear, though: the FDA specifically does NOT think that CBD is now “legal” at the federal level. As reported by MarketWatch, CBD oil remains a drug ingredient that requires approval. The fact that it is being sold and marketed just means businesses are taking risks if they make health claims about their products.
      https://www.marketwatch.com/story/cbd-and-hemp-are-now-legal-in-the-us-so-what-does-that-mean-for-pot-companies-2018-12-20
      https://www.marketwatch.com/story/despite-hemp-legalization-fda-will-still-consider-cbd-products-illegal-2018-12-23
      https://www.forbes.com/sites/monazhang/2018/04/05/no-cbd-is-not-legal-in-all-50-states/#466d900f762c

      For this reason, Dr. D is specifically NOT addressing CBD’s medical applications in this article. While he does point to some of the benefits already known by the federal government itself, and provides links so people can do their own research, he doesn’t say that it is or isn’t helpful. He can’t.

      The reason he can’t is because at the federal level, the legality remains murky and uncertain, and he doesn’t want to risk losing his license. This article is bringing attention to the incredible risk vets and other health professionals face as they talk about options with their clients about hemp and marijuana products. Until it’s legal at the federal level, Dr. D just isn’t willing to risk his business and the livelihoods of the many who depend upon him. The issue of whether CBD “works” or not, and how to use it, is not addressed in this article because to do so would be risky for him personally and professionally. This must be straightened out at the federal level before practitioners can really feel safe talking about these products. As Dr. D points out, other plant-derived products are not illegal for him to discuss, but his DEA license explicitly precludes him discussing any product derived from hemp or marijuana. Sigh.

      Dr. D isn’t saying he doesn’t know enough or doesn’t believe in it. He’s saying he can’t discuss the topic.

      As you point out, and as he points out in the article, there are lots of places to learn more, and there may even be veterinarians who do not have public platforms that might be willing to discuss this topic with clients. It’s just not going to happen here until this gets straightened out at the federal level. It’s truly unfortunate, isn’t it?

      • Ellen on January 31, 2019 at 4:37 pm

        Hi Molly, thank you for responding. It’s very unfortunate. I find it hard to believe that businesses actively advertise and sell their product, making good money, and have no fear of this murkiness of its legality. I will present this question to the ones with whom I do business. Perhaps that loophole is that they’re not actually manufacturing it? On the other hand, companies in CO manufacturer it, and sell it. They’re proud of their extraction process.

        Thank you for providing this information, and I truly hope it’s cleared up soon so the doc can move forward without fear of sanctions.

        ~ Ellen

        • Molly Jacobson on February 1, 2019 at 9:43 am

          The approval at state level, and the steady progress toward federal approval of growing hemp, has definitely opened the market up. It used to be that you could not buy CBD oil products at all, unless they were from a foreign country. But even that was risky — I used to buy a CBD oil product from a company in Holland, and they had to shut down because it was so difficult to deal with the individual states on collecting money for what here was an illegal product. Even now that it is legal to grow hemp in the US, finally, whether someone can sell the product without the FDA getting involved is still iffy, because the applications of CBD oil are obviously medical in nature. Even walnut manufacturers have received warning letters from the FDA for telling folks about their food’s health benefits! https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704541304575099381776520388

          I do not mean to imply that any company that sells or makes CBD oil products is breaking the law. I’m just saying that the law is murky and giving advice about how to use these products to treat disease is exactly what the FDA does NOT want people to do. And as Dr. D points out, when something is considered illegal at the federal level, and legal at the state level, the feds win in a fight. Since the FDA itself has decided CBD and marijuana likely have medical use, no wonder we’re all confused!

          In the end, what Dr. D is trying to do in this article is explain why some vets refuse to even discuss these topics with their clients. It’s not necessarily because they are close-minded, or haven’t done any reading in the last decade … it could be because their families, and the families of their employees, depend upon them. Thanks for understanding!

  • Robert Silver on January 29, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Dr Dressler must not be aware of the recent passage of the Farm Bill 2018 which removes the controlled substance status of CBD derived from hemp. Additionally it is our First Amendment rights as veterinarians to reduce harm in our patients by discussing the risks involved with the use of THC, which is Federally illegal but which is available to our clients to give to their dogs and cats without having the benefit of professional veterinary advice. In spite of the warnings by the AVMA and state associations, there has not been a single enforcement, other than a warning letter in any of the 50 states over this issue.
    CBD and THC have had numerous studies supporting their effective use in the cancer patient both for their anti-neoplastic, anti-angiogenic and anti-metastatic effects as well as their ability to reduce the adverse side effects associated with cancer therapies and cancer itself.
    Dr Robert Silver DVM, MS

    • Molly Jacobson on January 29, 2019 at 11:10 am

      Hello Dr. Silver, thanks for weighing in! Dr. Dressler is in no way ignoring the weight of the evidence for medical applications. Dr. Dressler also included the link to the many articles on the NYTimes site about the use of these products as his first link, too. https://www.nytimes.com/topic/subject/marijuana-and-medical-marijuana. Readers have the right to explore the topic and talk about these things with their practitioners, of course, and their practitioners have the right to discuss them as they see fit.

      Dr. Dressler also refers (indirectly) to the Farm Bill, pointing out that hemp was made legal just weeks ago in the body of the article. A link to a Vox.com explainer is included in the Further Reading and References section of the article. It’s the second link in the list, and here’s the link again: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/12/13/18139678/cbd-industry-hemp-legalization-farm-bill. As reported in the article, the legal status of CBD oil or other hemp products is still unclear, although of course I personally hope, as I’m sure any reasonable person does, that these products become fully legalized.

      And while you are correct, the First Amendment SHOULD protect veterinarians, as Dr. Dressler also points out, the reality is that the risk is real. Warning letters are scary for many veterinarians, of course, because it indicates that law enforcement officials have been monitoring and will continue to monitor that veterinarian in the future.

      Dr. D’s main point is that he personally is not going to risk his DEA license, and to explain to the many people who read this blog the reasons behind that decision until the Feds get their act together.

      I will also make sure that links to relevant articles in the list at the end are inserted into the body of the copy, just to be clear. Thank you so much!

      Molly Jacobson

  • […] Nutrition Blog: Three Tips About Medical Cannabis for Pets Our Pet’s Health: CBD Oil for Dogs CBD Oil, Dogs, Cancer: Why You Haven’t Heard More About It Consumer Reports: How to Shop for CBD Consumer Reports: Should You Try CBD for Your […]

  • Tripawds on January 29, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Excellent, helpful insight Dr. D, 3-paws up for setting the record straight. We WILL be sharing this as often as we can within the Tripawds community. Thank you so much.