CBD oil is a popular supplement for people. But the all-natural extract is also an excellent wellness product for animals, too. Many consumers think the benefits of the potent plant are limited to typical pets, such as cats and dogs. However, it also has the potential to be help horses with wellness and to treat some conditions naturally.
What is CBD?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is an extract from the hemp plant. Over the past decade, hemp-derived products have been growing in acceptance. In 2018, when the U.S. passed legislation legalizing the cultivation of the plant, the popularity exploded.
Hemp isn’t new. Civilizations have been cultivating the versatile plant for over 10,000 years1. People have been growing it since at least the early 1600s in North America. Hemp has thousands of potential uses that vary from processing the stalk and stems for the fiber to utilizing the seeds for animal feed with high protein content. Additionally, the plant matter can be used as a biofuel and for animal bedding.
Hemp’s potent compounds are found in the stalk, stem, leaves, and flowers. However, when cultivating hemp for CBD, most of the phytochemicals are concentrated in the plant’s flowers.
Is CBD Safe for Animals?
Yes—There are no reports of adverse reactions for any animal, including horses, to CBD products. If you’re concerned about the safety of hemp products, speak to your veterinarian. They may not be able to give you a specific product or dosing information. Still, they can advise you about the potential side effects and any interactions if your horse is already taking medications or supplements.
Is Hemp the Same as Marijuana?
No—Hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant and contain many of the same compounds. But the hemp plant includes less than 3% THC2. These low levels of the psychoactive phytochemicals aren’t enough to produce a “high” and are 100% safe for your horse.
How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?
CBD is unique because it interacts with the endocannabinoid system. Also known as the ECS, it’s a complex cell-signaling system found in the body of all mammals. Scientists were able to verify the existence of the ECS in the early 1990s3. The system helps maintain balance throughout the body. All people and animals with a backbone have the system, whether or not they use hemp. CBD and the other phytocannabinoids in the plant also activate and interact with the ECS.
It includes endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. The body produces endocannabinoids. They activate the cannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the body. Researchers have confirmed two primary cannabinoid receptors, the CB1 and CB2. These are located in the skin layers4, immune cells, fat tissue, bones, skeletal muscle, blood vessels, and all internal organs. After they’ve completed their tasks, the enzymes breakdown the cannabinoids.
The discovery of cannabinoid receptors in all areas of the body helps explain why the benefits of hemp are so widespread.
Why Give Horses CBD Products?
Much like people and other pets, like cats and dogs, CBD has the potential to help with several conditions. The most common reasons why people and horses take CBD is to reduce anxiety and stress and reduce pain5.
It may help with chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis or laminitis, which are common in horses as they age. Additionally, it has the potential to help horses healing from injuries. By reducing the discomfort, it may also reduce the time it takes to recover. Shorter healing times can improve your horse’s mood and enhance their overall health.
As mentioned, stress and anxiety are typical problems horses face. Kimberly Guay, a professor at Tarleton State University in Stephenville that specializes in how stress affects animals, (regarding CBD), explains6,
“The anecdotal evidence is incredibly strong … and if there is a chance to mediate stress, then I’m all for it.”
Guay continues to clarify the current treatment for stress, and behavioral issues for horses include the use of confinement and sedative drugs. These medications can harm the horse’s balance and ability to regulate body temperature.
Another reason that CBD may benefit horses is the nutritional value. A full-spectrum hemp extract is rich in omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids and several vitamins. These all help support healthy cardiovascular, skin, and respiratory function7. They may also reduce joint, back, and muscle discomfort and promote overall positive wellness.
Along with essential fatty acids, the hemp plant is high in fiber. Similar to people, a high-fiber diet helps horses maintain a healthy weight and digestive function8.
Is it Legal to Give my Horse CBD?
The legality of CBD for pets, including horses, falls within a gray area of the law. While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp cultivation across the U.S., it didn’t specifically include selling or administering the popular cannabinoids to pets or farm animals. Horses fall under both categories. In addition, states, not the federal government, oversee veterinary licensing and restrictions. Each state has different regulations regarding treatments and supplements for animals.
For show and competition9 horses, it may be illegal to administer CBD. Check with each equine organization before starting your horse on any supplements, including hemp extracts.
What Type of CBD Products are Available for Horses?
The two most common ways to give your horse CBD are oils, also known as sublingual tinctures, and infused in pellets. Another option is a CBD topical application. These are slaves or creams that you can rub into sore muscles and joints for fast results that don’t require ingestion or digestion. Topical CBD often is combined with other natural ingredients that improve the texture, aroma, or may also help with muscle aches, such as aloe vera10 and turmeric11.
What are the Differences Between Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate CBD?
CBD is one of 54512 known phytochemicals found in the hemp plant, which includes at least 100 cannabinoids, approximately 145 terpenes, and a combination of phytonutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.
Unfortunately, among all the compounds is THC. As mentioned, THC contains psychoactive properties. Although 3% isn’t enough to cause people and animals to get “high,” the compound has been a point of contention between lawmakers, scientists, and consumers for several decades. To appease those concerned with the minute amount of THC, brands have developed broad-spectrum CBD products that go through another process to remove the THC. The process still leaves behind 544 beneficial compounds.
Another option is the CBD isolate, which is a 99.9% pure CBD that’s in a crystalline form. Most experts recommend a full spectrum or broad-spectrum product to get all the phytochemicals for the full benefit of the plant. This is also known as the “entourage effect13,” which suggests that the plant compounds work best together.
Can I Make CBD Oil for my Horse?
If you have the ingredients, the time, and patience, yes, you can make your own CBD oil for your horse. Unless you have supercritical C02 extraction equipment, you can’t make the exact oils found online or in the store. However, you can still make a quality oil safely. It just will take a little longer than it does for brands that manufacture the products.
- ¼ to ½ ounce CBD-rich hemp flowers
- 8 to 12 ounces of high proof alcohol (Everclear or pure grain)
- Spice grinder
- Cheese Cloth or a fine mesh strainer
- Three wide mouth canning jars with lids
- Paper funnel or paper filter
- 1- or 2-ounce amber glass bottles for the final product
Step 1- Grind the flower.
Step 2 – Decarboxylate the flower by spreading it evenly on a baking sheet. Put it in the oven at 230°F/110°C for about 40 minutes.
Step 3- When cool, place the decarboxylated or activated hemp flower into the mason jar, cover with the alcohol or oil, and seal it.
Step 4- Store it in a dark, dry area and shake it every 2-3 days. If necessary, add more alcohol or oil to keep the flower covered.
Step 5- Separate the plant matter and liquid using the cheesecloth or strainer. You may need to let the final product sit overnight again and restrain 23-hours later for a better-quality oil.
Step 6- Use the funnel to transfer the extract into the amber glass bottles and store it in a dark, dry location.
You can substitute the alcohol with the same amount of vegetable glycerin. For instructions specific to glycerin, follow the directions at ProjectCBD14, a leading educational source for hemp and CBD.
Keep in mind that the only CBD oil you can make without professional equipment is the full spectrum.
Does CBD Oil Have Any Side Effects?
CBD oil has a few mild side effects for humans. These include15,
- Gastrointestinal issues (diarrhea and nausea)
- Dry mouth
Additionally, CBD products can interact with some medications, such as blood thinners. Some studies show it may cause liver damage16 for humans in extremely high doses.
One of the biggest concerns for humans and animals taking CBD is quality. The market is flooded with products that have no government oversight. Independent reviews of popular CBD brands have found complications with purity and misrepresentation of cannabinoid levels. While a lower than advertised amount of CBD is safe for your horse, even if it’s reducing the effectiveness, it’s not cost-effective.
However, high levels of THC, the psychoactive compound found in low levels in the hemp plant can be dangerous to animals. To stay within the safety and legal guidelines, hemp-derived products can’t contain more than 3% THC. In these small amounts, it poses no danger to people or pets.
For the best results, when purchasing CBD products online or through a local distributor, thoroughly review the brand before buying it. Hemp is a hardy plant that quickly absorbs chemicals from the soil around it. This is an excellent characteristic that benefits farmers. It lets them include it as a rotational crop that cleans their fields. Still, it also makes any oil derived from the land unsafe.
As you can imagine, if cultivators use harmful chemicals to grow their plants, the roots will also absorb into the stalk, stems, leaves, and flowers, contaminating the hemp. While farmers can use these herbs for fiber, they should never use it for CBD extracts or animal feed and bedding. The safest hemp grows in clean soil without chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. In addition to products purposely added to cultivate plants, the ground can already have contamination, such as heavy metals. These are dangerous to ingest for people and humans.
How Much CBD Should I give my Horse?
CBD dosing is a gray area. Unlike other supplements, the daily serving isn’t one-size-fits-all. Experts can only give recommended amounts based on weight and the condition. These doses can vary greatly depending on the product’s potency and the reason why you’re giving your horse the hemp extract.
For example, you would give them a larger serving for sleeping better than you would for reducing anxiety. But for pain, the dose would be somewhere between the amount for sleeping and the serving size to relieve your horse’s anxious reactions.
Dr. Karen Gellman, DVM, Ph.D.17 recommends that horse owners pay close attention to the method of delivery. In fact, she suggests rubbing a CBD oil tincture into their gums because of bioavailability.
Cannabinoids are fat-soluble, which is why manufacturers infuse the compounds into a carrier oil. These can absorb into the gums in as little as 5 minutes, providing relief for anxious behaviors, stress, and pain.
When you offer the dose through treats or on top of a meal, the absorption rate is much lower, causing you to lose as much as 80% of each serving through the metabolism process in the liver. Also, it’s harder to measure how much of the dose they receive when it’s administered through food.
Additionally, when CBD products go through the digestion process, they take longer work. The average onset is 45 to 90 minutes, but it varies by the horse’s digestive system.
Dr. Gellman recommends 20mg to 30mg for anxious actions or stress and 50mg to 60mg for pain issues. In comparison, when discussing hemp extract doses for people, experts recommend you start low and go slow. The same advice can work well for horses too. Begin with 20mg daily and slowly increase until you see the best results.
If you’re using a store-bought CBD oil designed for horses, use the weight chart available with the product or consult your local veterinarian.
While research is ongoing, there’s more than enough available to show that CBD oil can improve the quality of life for your beloved pets, including horses. Whether you’re looking to reduce their muscle and joint pain, ease discomfort from cancer treatments, or relieve anxiety and stress, the popular hemp extract may be the answer. To determine if CBD is right for your horse, speak with your veterinarian. Although he or she may be restricted by what they can recommend, they can still advise you of any adverse issues you might encounter with daily supplemental use.