Potential of CBD as Therapeutic for Horses

Potential of CBD as Therapeutic for Horses

CBD for pets is a rapidly growing category of products, so naturally, CBD is also given to larger animals like horses in the hopes it will keep them calm or reduce discomfort in joints. However, many questions remain because more research is needed. To assess the current information in this area, Heather Smith Thomas at Equus magazine discussed the use of CBD for horses with Joyce Harman, DVM. Dr. Harman is a holistic veterinarian and a recognized authority on alternative medicine and acupuncture for horses.

Much of what Dr. Harman said is similar to the information and advice given to humans who use CBD. For example, CBD for horses is extracted from industrial hemp plants, which are cultivated to have little or no THC but a high amount of CBD. These are the cannabis plant strains that are used to extract CBD for human CBD products and are cultivated in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill legally defines and separates marijuana from hemp.

CBD Potential Effects

CBD has no psychoactive effects, but it may have a calming effect. Dr. Harman said,

“Many horse owners and veterinarians have seen positive responses from animals during stressful periods. It helps with mental equilibrium.”

CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which researchers have found regulates several systems and functions, including mood, immune response, and pain sensation.

Dr. Harman makes it clear that the calming effects of CBD have not yet been proven through research but believes horses are good candidates for CBD clinical studies. Horses, especially equine athletes, experience a lot of stress due to confinement in small spaces, separation from social groups and being required to do things that are not natural behaviors.

Horses are also good candidates for using CBD to treat chronic discomfort. Dr. Harman believes CBD may help various equine health conditions and advocates for using it for horses that do not respond to traditional treatments.

CBD Quality Matters

There are three forms of CBD products currently administered to horses. If using powder, the recommendation is to use a CBD powder that is 100% hemp. Powders and pellets are easily added to horse feed. CBD oils are made with CBD extract and an essential oil and can also be added to feed or administered into the mouth. The recommendation is to start with the smallest effective amount of CBD for 7-10 days (approximately 25 milligrams) and determine if there is any improvement in the horse’s health condition. If not, double the dosage for seven days, and each week, increase it until reaching a max of 200 milligrams, staying at the dosage amount that produces the best results for up to a month.

Some of the same concerns people have about CBD products still apply. They include unclear FDA rules and regulations and the need for more research on potential side effects. It is always best to buy CBD products from companies with a good reputation and publish a Certificate of Analysis for each product. The CBD extraction process is also a consideration. Dr. Harman explained, “CBD can be safely extracted using carbon dioxide (CO2) or high-quality, organic ethanol. “The cheap way is to use some nasty chemicals like benzene. Your local gas station or convenience store might sell CBD, but you may get other chemicals.”


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