Cannabis could be used to treat bladder cancer in dogs, Guelph researchers say

Sam Hocker with the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph is looking at the efficiency of cannabis in treating bladder cancer in dogs. He hopes his research will help pave the way to possible alternative pet therapies to the disease.

Sam Hocker hopes research will pave the way to a possible alternative to treat cancer in dogs

The Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph will be conducting a study over the next three years to find out if cannabis could be used to treat bladder cancer in dogs. (Yulanda Luka)

Guelph researchers hope to find out whether cannabis can be used as a possible treatment for bladder cancer in dogs as part of one of the first studies exploring the subject since legalization.

Over the next three years, Sam Hocker and a small team of researchers with the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph will look at what effects cannabidoil has on cancer cells, as well as the effects it can have on chemotherapy and radiation therapies in dogs.

"We really don't have a lot of evidence in dogs at this time to say, is this going to work? And in these different ideas of treatment in cancer or other aspects," Hocker said.

His research will look at whether potential anti-cancer properties of cannabidiol can kill cancer cells and if so, how.

Hocker said he chose to study cannabis as a potential treatment to bladder cancer in dogs because in his experience, the disease is "very frustrating" to treat.

He said bladder cancer is a very invasive disease in dogs and is also fairly resistant to most treatments. Hocker said veterinarians can't surgically remove the tumour like doctors can in human medicine.

"We don't have a lot of good therapies to provide long term outcomes for these patients," he said.

"From my stand point, if we're going to tackle a cancer, let's tackle one that's frustrating for us."

Carol Beauparlant, a vet technician and cannabis counsellor at Dunville Veterinary Clinic, urges pet owners to talk to their vet if they are using cannabis products on their pets. (Mark Buckawicki, CC0 1.0)

Increase to harm reduction

Kadri Uukkivi, co-owner Dunnville Veterinary Clinic (DVC), says the study is an important step in veterinary medicine and could open up more opportunities for alternative pet therapies and medicine in the near future.

"It's going to put us one step closer in getting products on the market that we can legally prescribe and recommend, which we can't do at this time," she said.

Most importantly, Carol Beauparlant, a technician at DVC and who is the clinic's cannabis counsellor, said the study would also help increase harm reduction among owners who already use cannabis products to treat other illnesses in their pets.

"We're providing harm reduction by talking about it," she said.

"We want them to be open about what they are doing and what they are choosing [to use] on their pets and we need to give them the right guidance on the safety of using it and how it could potentially benefit their pet."

Beauparlant adds there continues to be a stigma with cannabis use, even if it's used on pets, and urges owners to talk to their vets if they are using cannabis products on their pets.

"Get over the stigma. The stigma needs to stop," she said.


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