The focus of palliative care is to ensure pets, and their owners, achieve the best possible quality of life including preventing or easing physical pain and alleviating emotional distress.
As we care for dogs at the end stage of life, it is not unusual to see a range of illnesses and symptoms arising in one patient. Attempting to treat each issue with traditional pharmacological treatments can be exhausting for the dog, and increase the risks of polypharmacy.
The focus of palliative care is to keep on ensuring that pets, and their owners, achieve the best quality of life possible. Our aim is to prevent and ease physical pain where feasible and alleviate emotional distress – for both the pet and their family.
Enhancing quality of life
Using CBD for palliative care can reduce the need for polypharmacy and enhance a dog’s quality of life and comfort as they decline or experience a terminal illness.
Dr Rebecca Dowling BVSc from Sunset Vets Palliative and End of Life Care works in palliative care for animals and has been prescribing CBD oil to her animal patients who are nearing the end of life. Her main purpose for using CBD is to alleviate pain with the secondary benefit of anti-anxiety. She believes it provides improved quality of life at the end of life and it’s easy to administer.
When asked how she has found CBD’s comparable symptom relief to other conventional medications she notes: “It has varied between dogs, but generally I would say it has been as good or better than conventional medications. But I have not given it alone – all my patients are on other medications and supplements as well as the CBD.”
Research on the use of CBD in palliative medicine
CBD oil’s application in palliative care is based on how it helps manage common issues that affect dogs as they reach the end of their lives. This includes:
- Cannabinoid therapy can reduce inflammation which triggers a pain response. A common cause of chronic pain in declining dogs is osteoarthritis. A randomised placebo-controlled, owner-blinded trial was conducted which saw dogs receive one of two treatments for osteoarthritis: CBD oil (2 mg/kg) or placebo oil every 12 h. Each treatment lasted for 4 weeks with a 2-week washout period.
- Clinically, canine brief pain inventory and Hudson activity scores showed a significant decrease in pain and an increase in activity with CBD oil. The veterinary assessment showed decreased pain during CBD treatment.
- Research shows that cannabis extracts exhibit anti-cancer properties, and this has been highlighted in studies on both canines and humans – including this recent study. CBD can promote apoptosis, reduce tumour cell proliferation, and improve response to some chemotherapeutics and radiotherapy.
- CBD has also proven beneficial in reducing some of the symptoms associated with cancer. Through various pathways, compounds found in cannabis can help manage pain, reduce nausea (including chemo-induced nausea), improve appetite, allow improved sleep quality, and reduce depression.
Prescribing CBD as part of palliative treatment
In the canine cancer study mentioned above, CBD significantly reduced canine cancer cell proliferation far better than CBDA across five canine neoplastic cell lines when treated with concentrations ranging from 2.5 to 10 μg/mL.
When we look at the full spectrum of studies on the use of CBD in treating different health conditions, it’s been shown CBD is well tolerated in doses as high as 10-20mg/kg/day. However, at CBD Vets Australia, we always recommend the “Start Low and Go Slow” protocol. CBD is reported to have a biphasic dosing curve, meaning there is a sweet spot where the dosage is just right. If you go beyond that point, then the benefits can be lost.
Careful monitoring is required and, for more sensitive or fragile patients, it is generally advised that the dose only be raised in small increments. The only circumstances in which the dose may be accelerated are in cases where patients are experiencing a lot of pain or are facing euthanasia.
Please contact us at [email protected] or (02) 8294 9303 if you would like more information or training in prescribing legal CBD for pets. We’re here to help.
We also offer prescribing webinars, so please email us if you’re interested.