How can CBD be beneficial for horses?
- Horses experience chronic pain and medical conditions, such as arthritis, gastric ulcers, laminitis, anxiety, obesity, and more.
- Research has shown that CBD Oil possesses beneficial health properties such as anti-inflammation, pain relief, anxiety inhibition, and more(1).
- The Endocannabinoid system (ECS), which interacts with cannabinoids like CBD, is present in all mammalian life(2).
- Only a few CBD studies were conducted on horses as subjects.
- However, most human and animal studies conclude that CBD is effective in lessening inflammation and pain experienced by those with arthritis(3).
Why Horse Owners are Turning to CBD Oil for Horses
CBD research on both animals and humans have revealed its therapeutic properties, providing anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, anxiety-inhibiting benefits, and more(4).
CBD, a type of cannabinoid found in the Cannabis sativa plant, is also being tapped as an alternative treatment for horses.
Its therapeutic properties can inhibit the chronic pain, arthritis, laminitis (hoof inflammation), ulcers, and anxiety experienced by horses.
Horses and humans as a species are not alike.
However, a study conducted on horse genomics (domestication) showed that over 130 genetic horse traits were similar to humans.
Similar traits shared included muscle disorders, allergies, and even asthma.
Researchers then concluded the traits ideal as models for studying similar human conditions.
The way orthopedic disease and certain cancers affected the horse’s body was also crucial in understanding how it affected humans as well(5).
On a similar note, researchers also commonly used horses as models for studying musculoskeletal diseases and arthritis in humans(6).
Their articular cartilage (the tissue between joints) is the most similar to humans.
However, there exist few cannabinoids (chemicals like CBD found in the Cannabis sativa plant) studies conducted on horses.
Most of the research available instead tested humans and other animals such as mice, rats, and pigs.
The majority of information available to date, from horse owners who personally administered CBD products like pellets and tinctures to their equine (horse) mammals, is anecdotal.
Stories of horse owners using CBD Oil as an alternative treatment are prevalent. These pet owners resorted to using CBD Oil when no other treatment or medication was useful for their horses’ ailments.
Despite the positive feedback, individuals must consult veterinarians before administering CBD to their horses.
Pain, Inflammation, and Arthritis in Horses
Horses have large bodies, making them prone to inflammatory diseases like arthritis, which often leads to lameness in horses.
Degenerative Joint Disease or arthritis occurs when there is swelling in the joints. Aside from swelling, its symptoms also include pain, stiffness, and the inability to move for longer distances.
As early as 2000, a study conducted on mice revealed that CBD was able to effectively block the progression of arthritis(7).
They discovered that the mice’s joints were protected against severe damage and that CBD was capable of blocking a rise in tumors.
The researchers concluded that its immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties had a potential anti-arthritic effect in the mice, and possibly other animals as well.
Another study also utilized CBD as an alternative treatment for reducing inflammation and pain-related symptoms experienced by rats(8).
Researchers noted that existing arthritis treatments often produced side effects because of the active ingredient content and the way these are administered.
According to them, CBD possessed the capacity to reduce inflammation without causing adverse side effects.
The results indicated that applying CBD topically (on the skin) had a potential for providing relief from arthritis pain-related behaviors as well as inflammation with no side effects.
However, horses are large animals with long generation intervals (average time from the birth of one generation to the birth of the next), and they are not the ideal species model for studying human physiology and health conditions(9).
One significant study tested horses’ response to cannabinoids as an alternative treatment for long-term osteoarticular diseases(10).
Osteoarticular or rheumatic diseases are common amongst horses. It is characterized by various medical issues concerning bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, tendons as well as joint inflammation.
This disease is commonly treated with steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory therapy.
Researchers proposed that using cannabinoids could potentially provide equine pain relief for rheumatic diseases, as well as osteoarthritis.
They concluded that cannabinoids were effective in remedying pain experienced by horses with arthritis.
Another cannabinoid study conducted on a 4-year-old horse mare also showed promising results(11).
For 5 weeks, the horse was reported to have a marked sensitivity when touched near the shoulder region. It was diagnosed with mechanical allodynia (pain experienced with a light brush stroke).
The mare was first given regular pain treatment, with no signs of improvement. It was eventually administered with cannabidiol orally, with a dosage of 250mg twice daily. After 2 days, the pain was resolved.
Horse Anxiety and Depression
Horses are also known to experience anxiety and depression. Horse owners and trainers are a constant witness to this behavioral issue.
Studies show that horses become depressed in confined domestic settings and harsh conditions(12).
Anxiety is also often experienced by horses in training(13).
CBD is known to have positive effects on lessening psychotic, anxiety, and depressive behaviors in existing animal models(14).
Gastric Ulcers and Digestive Issues
Horses also suffer from digestive issues, especially gastric ulceration (stomach ulcers).
One research found that even foals (young horses) were prone to developing high stomach acidity levels immediately after birth(15).
Various literature suggests that horses in training were most susceptible to developing ulcers, with a 70%-95% prevalence rate(16).
It could even be as high as 100% when data is filtered only to those actively racing.
Performance horses were also among those evaluated in the study. Active show horses had a 58% prevalence rate, endurance horses (used for long-distance racing) had 93% during competition season.
49% of horses who were known to have colic (abdominal pain) were also diagnosed with gastric ulceration.
Humans and various animals from mice to horses have CB1 receptors.
CB1 are cannabinoid receptors and are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is integral in regulating many of the bodily functions, from pain to appetite and even memory.
CB1 can reduce the contractions of muscles found in the gastrointestinal tract(17).
There are no studies on the treatment of gastric ulcers using CBD. However, certain cannabinoids are CB1 receptors.
These receptors activate CB1. When CB1 is activated, it is able to lessen gastric acid secretion.
Obesity and Appetite Control
Horses are also subject to metabolic disorders. A key characteristic in Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is insulin resistance resulting in obesity.
Both obese horses and ponies diagnosed with EMS were most susceptible to laminitis, another painful equine medical condition(18).
Research also suggests that cannabinoids play a crucial role in obesity(19).
A study done on mice suggests that administering a CBD2 receptor agonist could reduce body weight gain even though food intake will not be reduced(20).
CBD is a CB2 receptor inverse agonist, which could also explain its anti-inflammatory properties(21).
Similarly, obesity is often underlying for inflammatory and metabolic diseases(22).
How CBD Oil Works to Help Horses
Cannabinoids, including CBD, work in a similar process throughout all mammals and vertebrates, hence the beneficial effects of CBD on horses(23).
When CBD interacts with the body’s ECS, the therapeutic effects are activated through the binding of receptors.
Both are located in the mammalian brains, nervous systems, and tissues connected to the immune system(24).
CB1 receptors modulate motor regulation, memory, appetite, pain, mood, and sleep(25).
On the other hand, CB2 receptors are located in the immune system and its related processes.
When triggered, CB2 receptors trigger responses that lessen inflammation, pain, and damage to tissues.
The interactions of CBD with CB2 receptors are behind its anti-inflammatory processes(26).
Cannabidiol (CBD) is only one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant.
CBD Oil is extracted from the hemp plant, a variety of Cannabis sativa.
Unlike THC, CBD does not have psychoactive effects and does not give its users a high(27).
Despite CBD’s similar function in all mammals, its target receptors may differ between humans and animals like horses(28).
Even if the targets are similar, the duration of binding and its affinity to bind may be distinct from one another.
This may affect CBD’s overall effectiveness, and results may vary between humans and animals alike.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Horses
- The ECS, which is responsible for regulating cannabinoids like CBD, functions similarly in all mammalian life(29).
- Administering controlled CBD may be safe for both humans and animals(30).
- CBD has an excellent safety and side-effect record for both humans and animals despite their wide variety of dosages(31).
- Several animal studies show positive effects from CBD treatment for arthritis and inflammation, often common ailments plaguing horses.
- Many CBD Horse Products exist on the market, from pellets to pastes.
- CBD is known to interact with other medications taken alongside it(32).
- CBD cannot be taken for horses while in competition, as announced by FEI (International Federation for Equestrian Sports) and USEF (United States Equestrian Federation). One of the competition rules include horses having to take drug tests to ensure that they did not previously take cannabinoids(33).
- CBD Studies done on animals reported side effects like reduced fertility, altered cell function, and inhibition of drug metabolism and transporters(34).
- Prices for CBD Horse Products can be prohibitive.
How CBD Oil Compares to other Treatment for Horses
Studies have shown that cannabinoids like CBD can be a good anti-inflammatory treatment for osteoarticular diseases found in horses(35).
The current therapy is steroids-based and produces adverse side effects.
Improper use of corticosteroids (class of drugs that reduce inflammation) often results in laminitis, infections, and further injury to horses.
Despite this, CBD Oil is not a miracle cure for horses’ diseases. It can only alleviate some of the symptoms (pain, inflammation).
Consulting with a veterinarian before using CBD products for horses is still a must.
How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Horses
When choosing CBD products for equine care, horse owners can pick between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate CBD.
Full-spectrum contains the most number of cannabinoid strains, from terpenes, flavonoids, to compounds and minerals such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. This provides the “entourage effect.”
Broad-spectrum, on the other hand, is similar but except it being either THC-free or having less than 0.3% THC.
CBD isolates are pure CBD Oil.
Not all CBD products are the same. However, horse owners should only purchase high-quality products to ensure the safety of their horses and for maximum effectiveness.
When choosing the CBD for horses, consider the following:
- Before making a purchase, review the legal stipulations applicable to CBD in the state that it will be bought and used.
- Look for companies with high ethical standards, good manufacturing practices (cGMP), COA (certificate of analysis), and third party lab certificates of analysis available for every batch of oil.
- Look for product reviews and customer testimonials.
- Prioritize purchasing GMO-free, organic hemp-derived CBD Oil products from legitimate sellers and brands.
- Make sure to check if the CBD products are tested and confirmed to be contaminant-free from pesticides.
- Search for CBD Horse Products that use CO2 extracted technology. This method allows for the safe and clean extraction of all essential cannabinoids, terpene oils.
- Make sure the brand has sufficient animal expertise to be manufacturing CBD products for horses.
- When buying from a physical store, check if it is officially authorized by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on administration and dosing.
- Consult with a veterinarian before administering CBD as a treatment for ailments the horse may experience. These may be clinical signs of a severe disease.
CBD Dosage for Horses
There is no exact CBD dosage standard for horses.
Many sources claim that the key to determining the proper dosage for horses is through its weight.
However, due to the lack of studies published on the equine pharmacokinetics (movement of drugs in the body) of CBD, it is impossible to estimate.
The best course of action would be to check the product’s proper dosage instructions. The manufacturer should always provide these.
If the instructions are uncertain, consult with a veterinarian first to ensure the horse’s safety.
The best way to introduce CBD to horses is to give small doses every few days. Slowly increase only when the desired effect has been reached.
How Horses Can Take CBD Oil
Different forms of CBD products for equine administration are available on the market.
CBD Oil tinctures also exist for horses. Oil drops and sprays are administered sublingually (under the tongue).
Balms, on the other hand, are applied topically on the horse’s skin.
CBD Horse pellets are also among the most popular because of how easy they are to administer. Infused with CBD, individuals may feed it directly to horses.
Powders also work in the same manner. They are mixed with grain and fed to the equine mammals.
Syringes, on the other hand, may contain CBD Oil or paste and are also applied sublingually.
Some individuals also feed CBD-infused treats to their horses. These take slower to take effect but are sufficient for reducing anxiety and emotional distress in horses.
Most of the available studies on CBD’s therapeutic properties were conducted on humans and other animals (mice, rats, pigs) subjects.
Only a few CBD studies utilize horses as subjects.
Most of the positive feedback on CBD for horses is anecdotal. However, research has shown that the ECS functions in the same manner as all mammalian life, and so may provide positive health benefits for horses as well.
There is potential in using CBD as an alternative treatment for horse’s common health issues like arthritis, laminitis, gastric ulcers, colic, and anxiety.
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- Raudsepp, T., Finno, C.J., Bellone, R.R. and Petersen, J.L. (2019). Ten years of the horse reference genome: insights into equine biology, domestication and population dynamics in the post‐genome era. Anim Genet, 50: 569-597. doi:10.1111/age.12857
- McCoy A. M. (2015). Animal Models of Osteoarthritis: Comparisons and Key Considerations. Veterinary pathology, 52(5), 803–818. https://doi.org/10.1177/0300985815588611
- Malfait, A. M., Gallily, R., Sumariwalla, P. F., Malik, A. S., Andreakos, E., Mechoulam, R., & Feldmann, M. (2000). The nonpsychoactive cannabis constituent cannabidiol is an oral anti-arthritic therapeutic in murine collagen-induced arthritis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97(17), 9561–9566. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.160105897
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- Sánchez-Aparicio, P., Florán, B., Rodríguez Velázquez, D., Ibancovichi, J. A., Varela Guerrero, J. A., & Recillas, S. op. cit.