CBD and Horses: Benefits, Dosages, and More
Written by Jason Brett
Edited by Cathy Rozyczko on
January 5, 2022
If you spend a lot of time with horses, then you know that they are incredibly intelligent and sensitive animals. Unfortunately, this heightened sensitivity means our equine friends can also be vulnerable to a variety of health issues.
Throughout their lives, horses may experience anxiety, stress, digestive issues, and chronic inflammation and arthritis.
Though nothing replaces tender care and experienced veterinary assistance, many horse owners are exploring the potential benefits of CBD oil for common ailments in horses.
By interacting with a horse's endocannabinoid system, CBD hemp oil may help ease anxiety, soothe digestive complaints like leaky gut and gastric ulcers, and even provide some relief from arthritis pain.
Benefits of CBD Products for Horses
One of the many cannabinoids sourced from the hemp plant, CBD oil’s therapeutic effects have been extensively studied in humans and other mammals. Unlike THC, another well-known cannabis plant compound, CBD sourced from industrial hemp plants is non-psychoactive, non-addictive, and generally seen as safe.
Though much more research is needed, anecdotal evidence from horse owners — along with CBD's positive effects on other animals— shows promising potential for CBD for horses. Let's take a closer look.
CBD Oil for Arthritis and Inflammation in Horses
Unfortunately, horses are quite susceptible to common inflammatory conditions, especially as they age. Some of the most common include:
- Laminitis — A painful inflammatory condition of the hooves
- Desmitis— Inflammation of the ligaments
- Arthritis — Inflammation of the joints (commonly affects the knees)
Various studies have looked at CBD's effects on easing pain. For example, studies have demonstrated that CBD can block pain from osteoarthritis in rat subjects.
When applied topically, another study showed that CBD can reduce local inflammation associated with arthritis-related pain.
Even better, research indicates that CBD may soothe chronic pain without causing the adverse effects linked to other pain killers, which gives it exciting potential for horse owners.
CBD Oil for Common Digestive Issues in Horses
In some horses, stress can contribute to immune system dysfunction and painful digestive issues. Stressed horses are very vulnerable to gastric ulcers, which occur when stomach acid erodes the lining of the stomach.
In fact, these painful gastric ulcers (which can also form as a result of dietary and feeding issues) affect up to 60% of show horses.
Evidence has demonstrated that CBD lessens gastric secretions, which highlights its potential for easing digestive issues in horses.
Many horse owners turn to CBD to help with other digestive concerns like leaky gut and appetite regulation. For stressed horses with digestive issues, CBD's ability to ease anxiety may indirectly support healthy digestion.
CBD Oil May Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety in Horses
Like us, horses are sensitive and can experience stress and anxiety. Various events— like being confined in a stall, traveling a long distance, or starting a new training regimen— can produce anxiety in horses. Common behavioral signs of stress include:
- Cribbing or wall-kicking
- Weight loss
- Bolting or bucking
- Digestive upset like diarrhea
- Teeth grinding
- Trembling or fast pulse
Studies have shown that CBD may help reduce stress and anxiety in animals. Additionally, some CBD products for horses are combined with hemp seed oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids that support the nervous system to reduce stress. If CBD oil works to ease stress in your horse, then you should be able to see positive changes in behavior.
How CBD Works in Horses
Just like human beings, horses have an endocannabinoid system in their bodies that regulates various functions— from sleep, to mood, to immune function, to digestion, and beyond. Known for its ability to promote homeostasis (or balance) in the body and mind, receptors in the endocannabinoid system respond chemically to cannabinoids like CBD. The body contains two main cannabinoid receptors:
- CB1 receptors can be found in the central nervous system and brain, and regulate blood pressure, anxiety, and intestinal permeability.
- CB2 receptors are found throughout the body and correspond with immune system function.
Though CBD doesn't directly bind with CB1 or CB2 receptors, it's capable of indirectly impacting them to influence inflammation, pain perception, and anxiety. By promoting overall health and well-being through its interaction with these receptors, hemp CBD oil can produce exciting benefits for pets, from soothing joint pain to decreasing anxiety.
Dosage for Equine CBD Products
When using CBD oil for horses, it's important to keep the proper dosage in mind. Due to their size, horses have a slower metabolism than other animals like dogs, cats, and human beings. Because of this slower metabolism, equine systems don't require a very high dose of CBD for their body weight in order to feel the effects of CBD.
According to Equine Wellness Magazine, an appropriate dosage for most horses is 20-30 mg CBD for anxiety or stress, while a dose of 50-60 mg is more appropriate for horses with chronic pain. Many CBD products for horses will recommend a twice-daily dosing.
Safety Tips for CBD and Horses
As with anything you give your horse, start with a low dosage to see how your horse reacts. Because other cannabis compounds like THC haven't been shown to be safe in horses, it's a good idea to look for 0% THC products (i.e. CBD isolate or broad spectrum CBD) to be on the safe side.
Though more studies are needed to find out how a horse would react to receiving too much CBD, studies have suggested that a human being would have to ingest 20,000 mg of CBD within a short time frame to experience toxic effects. If you're administering a CBD oil tincture, carefully read and follow the dosage instructions given to avoid a dosing error.
Make sure to talk to your veterinarian if your horse is currently taking any medications to ensure that the meds won't interact poorly with hemp extract products like CBD.
Finally, it's important to keep in mind that the US Equestrian Foundation currently bans the use of CBD in racehorse competition.
Top Equine-Specific CBD Products
Interested in exploring the natural benefits of CBD for your horse? Here's how to get started with CBD:
- CBD tinctures for chronic pain and digestive ailments. If you're looking for CBD oil for horses that suffer from chronic pain or gastric ulcers, then you might want to consider using CBD tincture drops that will be quickly absorbed to promote quick relief.
- CBD edibles and pellets for overall well-being. For overall anxiety relief and well-being, edible CBD horse treats and pellets can be a great way to promote a long-lasting, slower-acting sense of overall calm. (However, tinctures are also a great choice for anxiety in horses.)
- CBD topical ointments for inflammation. Topical anti-inflammatory ointments, creams, and CBD massage oil can be used directly on areas of pain, tenderness, or inflammation.
What to Look For
Because dosage requirements for horses are very specific, it's a good idea to seek CBD products that have been specifically designed for horses. Look for products that have received independent third party laboratory certification to ensure purity.
When using CBD for pets, pay close attention to how your animal reacts to each dose. As always, if you have any questions on CBD's safety for your horse, consult with your veterinarian.
+ 7 sources
World Health Organization. “Cannabidiol (CBD) Critical Review Report.” WHO Jun 2018.
Philpott, Holly T et al. “Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis.” Pain vol. 158,12 (2017): 2442-2451. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001052
Hammell, D C et al. “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis.” European journal of pain (London, England) vol. 20,6 (2016): 936-48. doi:10.1002/ejp.818
Russo, Ethan B. “Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain.” Therapeutics and clinical risk management vol. 4,1 (2008): 245-59. doi:10.2147/tcrm.s1928
Scott R. McClure, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVS, Diplomate ACVSMR. “Equine Gastric Ulcers: Special Care and Nutrition.” American Association of Equine Practitioners 2016.
Gyires, Klára, and Zoltán S Zádori. “Role of Cannabinoids in Gastrointestinal Mucosal Defense and Inflammation.” Current neuropharmacology vol. 14,8 (2016): 935-951. doi:10.2174/1570159x14666160303110150
Guimarães, F S et al. “Antianxiety effect of cannabidiol in the elevated plus-maze.” Psychopharmacology vol. 100,4 (1990): 558-9. doi:10.1007/BF02244012
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