Can CBD Help Your Horse?
What Is CBD For Horses?
CBD products have become increasingly popular in recent years for its numerous health benefits for humans and animals alike. CBD is one of the active compounds found in hemp, making it an all natural alternative to many of the traditional pharmaceuticals we tend to end up giving our companions. It's sourced naturally, works naturally, and has little to no side effects for most horses.
CBD works by stimulating your horses Endocannabinoid System - or ECS, for short. This system is found in all kinds of animals and is responsible for regulating things like mood, sleep, appetite, the immune system, and more. CBD products act like vitamins, stimulates this system by promoting homeostasis throughout your horse's system. There's even acknowledged research by the National Cancer Institute regarding CBD and its benefits.
While there is still a stigma lingering around CBD products, research is helping to change the mainstream attitude towards this compound, bringing its benefits to people and pet owners of all walks of life. It has numerous health benefits, like reducing inflammation, improving mood, and mollifying anxiety, and could potentially have preventative effects on certain diseases. While most of the research on CBD is still new, each year brings new discoveries and results that fortify it as a significant and beneficial medical asset.
Is CBD Oil Legal?
A common concern that pet owners have when first considering CBD is how legal it really is. The terms hemp, marijuana, and cannabis are all used interchangeably, which can make it difficult to understand the differences between the three. Cannabis is the parent term for the plant, meaning that marijuana and hemp are different strands of the cannabis plant.
Marijuana is the plant the majority of people initially think of. It's used as a recreational drug throughout the world, and while likely on its way to becoming legalized in the United States, it is still illegal throughout most of the US. The compound in marijuana that gives it its psychoactive properties is THC. THC gives the user what is known as a "high," and it's the compound that has given the plant its infamous reputation.
Hemp, however, is a strain of this plant that contains less than 0.3% THC - meaning it has no psychoactive properties. Hemp is legal throughout all of the United States, which is why you've likely seen hemp products in your local grocery store. Since hemp has no psychoactive properties, the CBD compound can be extracted from it without any of the typical side effects, making it completely harmless for most human and animal consumption.
How Does CBD For Horses Work?
CBD works for horses much the same way that it does for humans, cats, dogs, and all other mammals. The simple explanation is that CBD works by stimulating your horse's ECS system, which regulates biological balance throughout your animal. This system was discovered in the late 1980s and was named after the cannabinoids that led to its discovery.
The ECS system has receptors throughout the nervous system and in most major organs. These receptors regulate various factors of your horse's health and are usually stimulated by natural endocannabinoids like anandamide. The compounds found in cannabis (like CBD and THC) have a natural reaction with this system, creating physiological responses. The responses in horses to CBD include regulating the immune system, improving appetite and memory, reducing pain and inflammation, and so on.
According to a study that was done in 1999, cannabinoids have a broad role in various parts of the body's natural functions. There was strong evidence supporting the fact that CBD helps to regulate pain, motor function, and memory, with little to no side effects. While this study was primarily conducted on lab animals, the results have far-reaching implications for mammals as a species - including your horse.
How Is CBD Oil For Horses Made?
The manufacturing process for CBD varies depending on the target user and the manufacturer themselves. When it comes to animals, all CBD products should be derived from hemp - not marijuana. THC - only found in the marijuana strain - is toxic to many animals and can give the user psychoactive effects. It's important to always purchase your CBD products from a well reputed and pet-centric CBD manufacturer.When sourced properly, CBD is removed from hemp plants using a solvent. A solvent is simply a substance that is fed through the plant, extracting the natural compounds as it goes. One of the best solvents to use is olive oil since it's natural and non-toxic. After the solvent has made its way through the plant, it is extracted and made into CBD Oil for Horses. This oil can be sold on its own or implemented into other products, like pet treats or salves.
The main difference between CBD products - aside from the product itself - is the concentration of CBD. Higher purity oils mean that your pet will receive a stronger dose of CBD per drop of oil. For horses, this concentration needs to be higher than other animals since they are so much larger.
Benefits Of CBD For Horses
The benefits of CBD are broad and ever expanding. We're constantly learning of new benefits that it can have for ourselves and our animals. These benefits range from everything, including a mood booster and a potential way to treat cancer. It's important to keep in mind, though, that CBD hasn't been proven to cure anything yet. It's merely a way to treat chronic conditions or give your horse's general health a boost. You should never use CBD in place of vital medication.
CBD can be especially beneficial to horses, more so than most pets. This is because unlike your dog or your cat, your horse is much more likely to undergo high levels of stress, anxiety, and emotional distress. Travel, competitions, shows, training; all of these things take a toll on your horse's health. This is why many horse owners often ask themselves, "How do I keep my horse healthy?"
Horses are also at high risk for developing arthritis. This is due to their natural athleticism and large stature. Both of these things cause wear and tear on your horse's joints. Fortunately, CBD is an excellent way to prevent arthritis and reduce the effects of it after it's developed. It naturally reduces inflammation - the leading cause of arthritis - and manages pain through ECS stimulation.
Whether it's due to arthritis, an injury, or simply old age, CBD is an excellent alternative to traditional pain medications. Horses are especially susceptible to chronic pains because of their high levels of activity and general size. A slight misstep, amateur rider, or an accident in a competition can cause your horse to develop injuries and chronic pain.
The good news is that CBD is an all-natural painkiller with little to no side effects for most horses. The ECS system helps regulate pain throughout the body, and when supplemented with CBD, naturally reduces the activity of the pain receptors in your horse. The same goes for inflammation; it promotes homeostasis throughout the immune system, reducing the inflammatory response.
This is an especially important side effect of CBD if your horse is on NSAIDs. NSAIDs have long been prescribed to humans and animals alike. However, in recent years there have been studies linking it to gastrointestinal issues like ulcers, and in some cases can cause vital organs to fail. CBD performs the same function as NSAIDs with almost no negative consequences, making it a great alternative to traditional medicines if your horse struggles with chronic pain.
Inflammation is a medical term that gets thrown around a lot, but what exactly is it?
It's an immune system response designed to destroy foreign bodies in your horse's system. When it works the way it's meant to, it is a powerful and vital function of the immune system. The problem is that oftentimes the inflammatory response is triggered by something other than a foreign body, like exercise, stress, and injury.
When this happens, the inflammatory response is sent to get rid of foreign materials. But since there are no foreign bodies, the immune system ends up attacking your horse's body - typically the joints. This is why inflammation is so prevalent in horses.
While short term inflammation isn't likely to cause significant damage, over time it can wear out areas of your horse's body. This is where CBD comes in. Because CBD has natural anti-inflammatory properties, it can manage inflammation early on, preventing any serious damage from ever occurring. Not only that but if your horse already has damage from inflammation (usually in the form of arthritis) CBD can slow down the advancement of further damage.
Perhaps its most well-known benefit, CBD is a great way to help manage anxiety in people and animals alike. While anxiety is becoming less and less taboo to talk about in the mental health sphere, many don't realize that your pet is just as likely to struggle with anxiety as you are. Travel, changes in the environment, abusive histories, and natural predispositions can all lead your horse to be more anxious than normal.
While not life-threatening, anxiety can severely impact your horse's quality of life and their ability to perform in competitions. Horse's are some of the most emotionally complex animals that humans regularly interact with, making them a prime target for the development of emotional health problems, like anxiety, depression, and stress.
CBD reduces these conditions through its interactions with the ECS system. If your horse has to travel frequently and finds the experience upsetting, you can give them a small dosage of CBD before and after to help calm their nerves. Additionally, if your horse regularly competes in shows or races, CBD can be a great tool for reducing their pre-event nerves. Arena anxiety is a common problem among horses, and fortunately, CBD is able to treat it naturally and healthily.
Horse's are known to have frequent problems when it comes to their digestive system, particularly in the form of ulcers. This is due in part to their dieting routines as well as the levels of stress and exercise they tend to experience.
A horse's stomach is divided into two portions, the upper and the lower. The upper portion is poorly protected against stomach acid, while the lower portion is coated in thick mucus that is almost immune to your horse's stomach acid.
The reason the upper stomach isn't so well protected against stomach acid is because of grazing. In the wild, a horse would graze constantly throughout the day, neutralizing the stomach acid as it's produced. When kept as companions, though, horses typically end up on a feeding schedule of once or twice a day. While this gets them all of the necessary calories they need, it means that for the better part of the day, your horse's stomach is full of acid that it simply isn't capable of handling without a neutralizer.
Stress and overexercise can also lead to the development of gastrointestinal issues in horses. Thankfully, while common, these issues are entirely preventable. Aside from keeping your horse on a grazing-style diet, you can use CBD to increase their appetite and alleviate issues like inflammatory bowel disease.
Treatment of Cancer Symptoms
While the research is still ongoing, there are strong indications that CBD may be able to prevent and subdue cancer. In some studies, the compound was shown to induce cell death in cancerous cells.
Even though the idea of CBD curing cancer is exciting, it isn't proven by any stretch of the word. It still has a long way to go before it can be considered a true alternative to chemotherapy and surgery.
That doesn't mean that CBD can't help cancerous horses, however. In fact, many of the symptoms of chemotherapy can be managed through the use of CBD. Pain, a weakened immune system, stress, and other side effects of chemo can all be reduced through regular CBD use.
Maintaining a strong immune system throughout a cancer diagnosis is especially important since ailments can cause serious complications for horses with cancer. If your horse has been diagnosed with cancer, it might be worth consulting with your vet about using it alongside traditional cancer treatment. That said, you should never use it as an alternative to prescribed cancer treatment, and if your vet is against it, then you should listen to their advice and hold off on CBD administration.
Even if your horse doesn't have any current health conditions, CBD can still be beneficial to their health and daily routine. Similar to taking a vitamin supplement, CBD promotes homeostasis throughout your horse's body, keeping them happy and healthy. Getting your horse's system used to CBD is also beneficial because, in the event that you do end up having a need for it later on in their life, they'll already be accustomed to taking the supplement.
Not only is CBD great for keeping your horse's health in good shape, but it also has a preventative effect on many common diseases, like arthritis. Making CBD a part of your horse's normal routine early on in their life can ensure that their health remains stable when they start to enter their later seasons.
Administering CBD To Your Horse
Dosage is by far the most complex aspect of introducing CBD into your horse's daily routine. Luckily, the side effects of CBD for horses are extremely minimal, so the risks of overdosage are very small.
If available, the best person to consult about CBD dosage for your horse is a local holistic vet. They can look into your horse's lifestyle and individual needs, and come up with the most accurate dosage possible. Your horse's weight is the biggest determiner of what kinds of dosages your horse will need, and most CBD products will have directions on the label.
While there are different kinds of CBD products available, the best ones for horses are almost always in oil form. Because horses are so large, they need higher concentrations of CBD that treats and salves simply can't provide. You can give your horse their daily CBD dosage orally or by adding it to treats/food that they enjoy.
Is CBD Safe For Horses?
CBD is by far one of the safest supplements you can give to your horse. The most severe side effects of CBD are lethargy and drowsiness, and this is usually only when administered in extremely high dosages. For the most part, there is little to no risk in giving your horse CBD.
That said, you should always consult with your vet first before giving them any new form of medication. This is especially true if your horse is already on any prescription medications, as mixing medicines can lead to unpredictable results. It's also important to make sure that you only by CBD from responsible sources and that the company always provides a certificate of analysis. If CBD is sourced improperly, it can contain traces of THC that are too high for a horse to handle without experiencing psychoactive side effects.
So long as you are a responsible pet owner, however, there's no reason your horse shouldn't be able to enjoy the many health benefits of CBD products.
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade
Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.
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