14 Mar CBD for horse pain: How does it work?
Effective arthritis treatments for horses with joint pain and inflammation
Written by Zia Sherrell and reviewed by our qualified expert, Paul Holmes, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs Manager at Naturecan, BSc Medicinal and Biological Chemistry, Member of UKAS/FSA CBD Food Product Approval Expert Group
- Arthritis is common in horses and is involved in up to 60% of lameness cases
- CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-intoxicating natural compound from the hemp plant
- Studies show that CBD may improve pain and inflammation in horses
- CBD is safe for horses, although competition rules prohibit its use.
We expect a lot from our horses. Across the world, horses are beloved companions, valued workers, necessary transportation, and competitive athletes. With the high-level performance we expect from them, it’s no surprise that their joints suffer.
Unfortunately, arthritis is one of the common horse illnesses, especially as they age. Arthritis is an unwelcome diagnosis, no matter the horse’s discipline or occupation.
Perhaps your horse is showing signs of lameness or stiffness. You might have noticed that your once forward-going steed is now much more reluctant to leave the paddock, stumbles over trotting poles, or loses footing on downhill terrain.
Another tell-tale sign of arthritis in horses is that they lie down less frequently because it’s increasingly difficult and painful to stand up again. They don’t get the same quality of sleep when they doze on their feet, and eventually, can develop a form of narcolepsy and collapse when they are extremely sleep-deprived. You can tell if your stabled horse has been lying down at night by looking for traces of bedding on their backs or mane.
Following a diagnosis of equine arthritis, your veterinarian may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone. These medications are expensive and can cause worrying side effects.
If you’re searching for arthritis treatment for horses to ease your horse’s pain and mobility issues, you may consider natural options like CBD.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a plant oil made from hemp, a strain of cannabis. It’s gaining popularity for human and animal use because it’s non-intoxicating, and research shows it may relieve pain and inflammation.
You may be sceptical of herbal remedies, but CBD could help support your horse’s health. Read on to find out more about using CBD for arthritis in horses.
Arthritis or osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative joint disease that causes pain and inflammation. As the inflammation increases, it damages the protective cartilage that covers the ends of bones within the joint capsules. The cartilage thins, and the cells that make new cartilage begin to die. As the cells die, they release enzymes that cause further inflammation, and bony growths may develop.
Without the protective cartilage coating, the bones begin to rub together, causing friction and further deterioration. The joint cannot function as it should, which causes the horse considerable pain and reluctance to use the limb.
Although arthritis can develop in any moving joint, the knees, fetlocks, hocks, and stifles are the most common horse joints that vets diagnose with arthritis. Less commonly, the spine, hips, and occasionally the jaw’s temporomandibular joint can be affected.
Classic signs of arthritis include swelling due to excess joint fluid, heat, pain and lameness, stiffness, and reluctance to move. The joint may even appear deformed because of bony growths. Affected joints may make noises like popping, grinding, and cracking called crepitus.
Horses of any age can develop arthritis, especially following an injury or trauma. However, the condition becomes more common as horses advance in years.
If your horse has arthritis, it affects their working performance and can lead to uncharacteristic behaviour as they struggle with the pain.
How many horses suffer from arthritis?
Arthritis in horses is all too common. Some research estimates that up to 60% of equine lameness is related to arthritis.
In a study of racehorses that evaluated 50 animals, a third of the 2 and 3-year-old horses had some evidence of damaged cartilage and arthritis in specific joints.
Equine arthritis is widespread and can devastate a horse’s career. Conventional treatment is expensive, not consistently successful, and may have unpleasant side effects, leading more owners to turn to natural, affordable treatment approaches.
Arthritis risk factors
Arthritis may seem inevitable as, across most species, old age brings some form of stiffness and joint problems. Age-related arthritis is a by-product of an active life that may be easy to manage with dietary supplements or occasional prescription medicines.
If arthritis develops following trauma or injury, it can be more of a challenge, particularly if joint deterioration starts early in life.
Arthritis risk factors include developmental orthopaedic disease (DOD). DOD consists of various bone and joint abnormalities that can occur as the young foal grows, affecting the cartilage, joints, or bones.
Genetics may play a role in DOD as warmbloods, quarter horses, and standard breeds are more susceptible.
Bone and soft tissue injuries may increase the risk of arthritis. The massive increase in inflammation following an injury can destroy cartilage and pave the way for arthritis to develop. Additionally, musculoskeletal trauma can contribute to arthritis as the horse puts pressure on other limbs to compensate for the injury.
When horses are extensively trained before they reach physical maturity, cartilage is still forming and cannot withstand the level of stress. Once the cartilage is damaged, arthritis can develop.
How CBD could help your horse
People have been using cannabis as medicine for thousands of years, and more recently, CBD is garnering attention as research elucidates its full potential.
To illustrate, a 2021 study confirmed that horses tolerate CBD with no adverse events. Another 2020 study using CBD oil for horses with pain and anxiety showed promising results. The researchers noted reductions in pain levels and stress with the hemp extract.
Although studies on horses are scarce, other animal studies have demonstrated that CBD could decrease the pain response in mice with arthritis. It may also enhance the healing of fractures through improved collagen cross-linking.
A 2018 study also had promising results using CBD in dogs with osteoarthritis. More than 80% of the dogs in the study treated with CBD exhibited significant improvements in their pain levels and quality of life.
Also worth noting is that because CBD is a natural product and non-intoxicating, the researchers reported no significant side effects in the dogs. The paper concluded that twice-daily CBD enhances the comfort and activity levels of dogs with arthritis.
How CBD works in your horse’s body
CBD can help horses with arthritis and degenerative joint disease by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Evidence indicates that all animals, including humans and horses, have an ECS. Your horse’s body naturally produces endocannabinoids, which are bioactive substances unrelated to cannabis use.
The ECS is central to maintaining essential systems in the body, such as regulating sleep, pain, and appetite. It’s also key to a healthy immune function and homeostasis, which is the state of balance.
CBD interacts with the receptors of the ECS called cannabinoid (CB) receptors. We currently know of two types of CB receptors: CB1, in the brain and central nervous system, and CB2, in the liver and immune system.
CBD can help support these receptors and the natural functioning of the ECS, which may nurture your horse’s well-being.
CBD products for horses
When you choose CBD products for horses, you have the option to use both topical and oral products in an effective double-pronged approach.
You can find tailor-made veterinary CBD oils created exclusively for horses. When you administer these oils orally, they may have a healing effect throughout the body. Additionally, you can help manage your horse’s arthritis using topical CBD to apply to painful, stiff joints or wherever your horse has pain and inflammation.
Using CBD directly to the skin allows you to target the plentiful CB receptors, delivering healing effects where your horse needs it the most. Topical CBD application enables you to bypass the digestive and circulatory systems and target the source of pain.
To help you support your horse’s natural recovery and optimize their well-being, Naturecan’s pet experts have formulated Topical Horse Pain Relief Gel with all-natural CBD and Devil’s Claw.
Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a desert-dwelling plant native to South and Southeast Africa. Rather poetically, it’s named after the tiny hook-like spines that cover its fruit like miniature devils’ claws.
Devil’s Claw has a long history as a traditional medicine for pain, inflammation, liver and kidney problems, malaria, and an ointment to help heal sores and skin problems.
Research has suggested soothing effects of Devil’s Claw. One four-month study compared Devil’s Claw supplement and diacerein, a leading European pain-relieving medication commonly used for osteoarthritis. In the 122 participants with knee and hip osteoarthritis, researchers found that a daily dose of Devil’s Claw relieved pain as effectively as diacerein. Additionally, the participants who took Devil’s Claw experienced fewer side effects and needed less pain relief during the study.
Naturecan’s Topical Horse Pain Relief Gel has a light, nongreasy texture that allows you to massage the gel into your horse’s skin effortlessly. Use the gel on arthritic horse joints, stiff muscles in the back or quarters, or damaged tendons and knocked cannons.
You can apply the Topical Horse Pain Relief Gel in a thick layer and cover it with a stable bandage for the lower limbs. Your horse will begin to benefit as soon as the pain relief gel meets the skin, thanks to its rapid absorption.
If your horse has had sensitivity to other topical ointments or creams, consider doing a patch test before using the gel on a large area.
It is very important to bear in mind that if you compete, both the US Equestrian Federation (USEF) and the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) prohibit CBD and Devil’s Claw.
Choosing a quality CBD product
It’s essential to buy any CBD product from a reputable company. At Naturecan, we are committed to safe and stringent testing, so you’re guaranteed premium hemp-derived CBD.
Because hemp is related to cannabis, pet owners may have concerns about Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. This compound produces a high sensation, which can be fatal to cats and cause significant trauma to dogs and horses.
To ensure CBD is safe for your pet, always check for a third-party Certificate of Analysis (CoA). This document must state that the THC levels of any CBD product are < 0.1%. However, as there are no global standards for THC testing, you should exercise caution.
Check the CoA for the date and THC levels. Note the laboratory’s name, as on the second page, there should be certification confirming it is an ISO 17025 certified lab.
You can also check online here: Search PJLA’s Listing of Accredited Labs (pjlabs.com)
In addition, you can search for the UK labs via the UKAS website: Search Accredited Organisations – UKAS
All third-party testing labs should have this accreditation, but very few do. At Naturecan, we adhere to the highest standards to ensure we meet and exceed your expectations.
Disclaimer: There is currently insufficient evidence to support the use of CBD in the condition(s) mentioned above and this text by no means reflects recommended uses. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional if you are taking prescribed medication or are thinking of using CBD for your condition.
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